top of page

Gentle Giant - Gentle Giant

On November 27, 1970, the debut album "Gentle Giant" was released.

What does "Gentle Giant" have to do with the hit song "Kites" from the debut album of "The Tractor's Revenge", to "Bon Jovi", "Panthera", Elton John, and Shlomo Gronich? Stay tuned and you will find out:

"Gentle Giant" was formed in 1970 by three brothers born to the Jewish Schulman family from Glasgow, Scotland. The eldest. Phil Shulman, was born in 1937, Derek Shulman was born in 1947 and the younger Ray Shulman was born in 1949.

The brothers grew up in a musical environment. Their father was a trumpet player and gave music lessons and performed in clubs so the house was regularly full of musicians. The influence of the environment led the three boys to learn to play different instruments as self-taught, with the parents pushing and encouraging them to practice playing regularly.

It turned out that the three brothers came out as multi-instrumentalists singing and playing on a wide variety of musical instruments, brass instruments, such as trumpet and clarinet saxophone (Phil, Ray and Derek), through strings such as violin, guitar and bass (Ray and Derek), keyboards (Derek) and even Percussion and drums (Ray and Derek).

The first band in which brothers Derek and Ray were involved in, was "Vox Shadow". They formed it when Ray was 14-year-old and Derek was 16-year-old. The band went through several incarnations through the "Howling Wolves", the "Road Runners" and later after the joining of brother Phil "Simon Dupree and the Big Sound".

The three brothers in the band "Simon Dupree and the Big Sound" were briefly joined in 1967 by a young keyboardist named Reginald Dwight who would later adopt the stage name Elton John. He even offered them his original material, even the song "Your Song" but they politely declined it.

The band released one album and managed to produce a hit called "Kites", which more than three decades later will receive a Hebrew version and will appear on the debut album "The Tractor's Revenge".

But despite the successful single, the brothers, whose music flowed through their veins, were looking for something more challenging, so the band disbanded in 1969, when the other three began planning the next project in their fevered minds. The "Gentle Giant" band formed in 1970.

You must have noticed that the band's name is a kind of an oxymoron, which shows a certain contrast that exists in the music that this very special ensemble produces. On the one hand melodic, soft, delicate, and caressing, and on the other hand dynamic, tough and frenetic.

To realize their vision, the three brothers added other musicians who were carefully examined and matched in their level to their perfectionism. Gary Green on guitars, Kerry Minnear on keyboards, cello, bass, vibraphone, and xylophone, and Martin Smith who played with the band also in the previous lineup on drums. In addition to the various instruments played by the Shulmans, all three brothers served as lead singers/background vocalists, as well as keyboardist Kerry Minnear. This shows the importance of vocals in this band, which sometimes serves as an additional instrument adding to the variety of instruments the band plays.

This is a completely different band from the previous pop-rock-psychedelic line-up of "Simon Dupree". It combined progressive rock, jazz, psychedelia, and experimental rock that included complex compositions. The music created by the band was not always easy to digest, but was certainly highly regarded by critics and fans of the Progressive Rock genre, influencing many artists such as "Dream Theater", "Spock's Beard" and even Israeli artists such as Shlomo Gronich, Yoni Rechter, Shem Tov Levy and more.

The band's debut album was recorded in August 1970 at "Trident" Studios in London's Soho district. The position of producer was given to Tony Visconti, who is known, among other things, from the productions he made for David Bowie, "T Rex", Iggy Pop, and others. Tony also played flute on the album and also wrote the story that appears on the inside cover about the "giant" whose character is painted on the front cover. Visconti ended the giant's story with the words: "This is the story ... maybe you think it's a fantasy, but the music is like that too" ...

Indeed, the music on this album is a kind of "fantasy". From the first sound of the Hammond organ that opens the song "Giant", to the last note in the instrumental section "The Queen", which is an adaptation of the British anthem that precedes that of "Queen" from the album "A Night At The Opera", we are in a kind of magical and imaginative musical journey. A variety of instruments and styles that blend into a legendary creation.

The genius and perfectionism of the Shulman brothers and their friends cry out between the notes, sounds, and voices of this magnificent album. The complexity and contrast between the soft and caressing and the tough and powerful of "The Gentle Giant" are already evident in the opening song "Giant" which is an example of the band's sound signature.

This musical "roller coaster" continues throughout the album, with the magical and melodic "Funny Ways", through the psychedelic and experimental "Alucard" (inverted Dracula) which is full of brass instruments that remind us at times of "VDGG" and scary and creepy singing, The Waltzy "Isn't It Quiet and Cold?" with its string instruments, the amazing "Nothing at All" whose vocal harmonies initially correspond with those of "CSN" and "Why Not?" The rocker in which Derek and Minnear share vocals.

This album is the first shot of this so unique band. An album that set a very high standard in terms of the level of playing, complexity, and composition of the band members, a standard that will continue to rise in future albums.

Unfortunately, this band has not survived more than a decade but it has released 12 albums, most of which are really great. After the disbandment of the band, Derek Schulman will move to the organizational and managerial side of music and will be responsible for signing artists like "Bon Jovi" and "Panthera" and more on recording contracts.

For Listening: Spotify, Apple Music

Follow us on Facebook or Subscribe to our website

"Face/Off" - Israel's Rock Blog & Podcast


Enjoying the Blog? Subscribe to get it right to your mail!

Thank you !!

bottom of page