Gary Green - guitars; Kerry Minnear - keyboards, cello, vocals; Derek Shulman - vocals, saxophone; Ray Shulman - bass, violin, vocals; John Weathers - drums, percussion, vocals
From a musical point of view, Gentle Giant had the potential to pick up right where the Peter Gabriel-led version of Genesis left off when the frontman left the original lineup in 1975. Unfortunately for Gentle Giant, complex British progressive rock had already peaked and was on its way down, popularity-wise. This, plus the fact that Gentle Giant had never presented an intricate theatrical side to their live show, kept them out of the same league of Genesis, Yes and ELP. Still, the group maintained a loyal and enthusiastic cult following, as this show, recorded for the King Biscuit Flower Hour at New York's Academy of Music Theater, makes apparent.
The group never had a hit single, but they did build up a pretty strong presence on FM radio between 1971 and 1976 as one of Britain's top musician-driven groups. Blending a quirky mix of modern hard rock and medieval Euro-classical stylings, Gentle Giant brought a refined sense of musicianship to rock 'n' roll, with odd tempos, bizarre key changes and intricate, layered, classically-influenced harmonies. As the group gradually built their following both in Europe and the States, the music became more commercialized. They had pockets of success on FM radio playlists around the time this recording was made.
Gentle Giant developed out of Simon Dupree and the Big Sound, a British R&B/rock band in the mid-1960s that contained Derek, Ray and Phil Shulman. The three musical brothers eventually left in 1967 to explore psychedelic and more adventurous rock, and therefore formed Gentle Giant in 1969. After releasing a few albums only in England that didn't do too well, the band eventually landed on Columbia Records and released a self-titled third album that received substantial notice from critics and fans of the growing contemporary progressive rock movement spearheaded by Yes, King Crimson, ELP and others.
This recording, made after Phil Shulman had left to pursue a career as a teacher, was made on the tour promoting Giant's 1974 release, The Power and the Glory, an ambitious progressive rock concept album about powerful and corrupt governments (the album was rumored to be inspired by the Watergate scandal, although the band denied this at the time).
Gentle Giant's popularity began to decline after this tour, and although they released several more albums, by the early 1980s the band had split up. Ray Shulman became a successful U.K. record producer, and Derek Shulman became a label executive, and eventually President of PolyGram in the U.S. (he signed an unknown act in 1983 named Bon Jovi). Over the better part of the past decade, Gentle Giant has released a number of live recordings from their years together as a band.