The Missing Piece (Steven Wilson Remix) by Gentle Giant

Release date: March 29, 2024
Label: Alucard

Their ninth album is often under the radar as Gentle Giant were moving away from their complex arrangements in which they were known for. The Missing Piece marked a turning point for the band as they were taking the aspects of pop and punk rock by poking fun at the genres with a slice of lemon. This was at the time the band had finished their tour promoting the Interview album and went to the studio in the Netherlands at Relight Studios in May of 1977 before its original release on the Chrysalis label on August 25th that year.

Yes, the progressive rock and hard rock genre were the target of the so-called rock critics who tried to derail it as they started to embrace the Punk scene and put down Yes and ELP to shame. But Gentle Giant were different from their fellow comrades. The Missing Piece which was a follow-up to the Interview album, saw the band going into a new direction.

They can’t just be a prog-rock band 24/7. As I’ve mentioned earlier, they wanted to do something different by diving into the pool to see what they can do. And with Steven Wilson’s return to the Giant’s kingdom by giving The Missing Piece a new stereo mix, Dolby Atmos sound, and 5.1 surround sound, it is time to give this album the proper recognition it deserves once more.

In the 2014 liner notes for the reissue of The Power and the Glory written by Sid Smith, in honour of its 40th anniversary, Steven described how much not only the music meant so much to him, but how he would create the puzzles to bring the new mixes to life. “You can now hear in each corner of the room there’s a little bit more about how all those instruments and pieces come together to create the overall musical picture”.

And with The Missing Piece, the jigsaw itself is finally completed with Wilson’s incredible mixes to make the album come to life. With its crazy punk-rock antics by poking fun at the genre with ‘Betcha Thought We Couldn’t Do It’ to the homage of Julian Lloyd Webber’s ‘Variations 1-4’ and The Doors’ L.A. Woman-era by sailing across the classical turns bluesy romp on ‘Mountain Time’ with incredible female backing vocals, Giant are having a blast.

 

The sing-along complex composition of ‘Two Weeks in Spain’ with Derek’s cockney accent, makes it a perfect breather for the band to clear their heads and spend those wonderful days in Europe’s Iberian Peninsula. From the melodic punch between Weathers and Ray’s bass, followed by Gary Green medieval-pop complex textures, and Minnear’s road-runner like keyboard work, the band are having a ball with the opening track.

You can tell those complex’s still have that energy juice inside of the band members before going into the Asylum Records years of the West Coast Reggae sound with a bit of a Ragtime approach from Kerry’s piano on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ Minnear sings this time on ‘As Old as You’re Young’ which is a nod to their Glass House years as they continue where ‘Experience’ had left off as they return back on the complex time signatures with a medieval twist.

With ‘Winning’ it starts off with some crazy percussion intro between John Weathers, Ray Shulman, and Kerry Minnear, details a man’s life trying to start his own city in the middle of an island, but it comes with dire consequences from being successful and having fame written all over his forehead. The outtake itself has a rhythm machine to get us some detail on where the band wanted to take the composition into the next logical step.

‘For Nobody’ closes the album by going back into the Power and Glory-era and ‘The Noonward Race’ from The Mahavishnu Orchestra as Gentle Giant rev up their engines towards the rhythm sounds which they use in ‘Cogs in Cogs’ and carrying that Zappa torch with a stamp of approval from the Grand Wazoo himself. The Missing Piece remains an unsung opus that Gentle Giant had unleashed before closing up the ‘70s and finishing up 1980 with their last two albums; Giant for a Day and Civilian.

All in all, it’s great to see this album getting some attention thanks to Wilson’s sublime remix. It’s very much a rebirth by giving The Missing Piece acknowledgment that it properly deserves for 2024.

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