In 1970, the brothers Shulman founded progressive rock band Gentle Giant. Derek was the lead vocalist and played alto sax and bass, Ray sang and played bass and violin, and Phil handled the saxophone and added vocals. The rest of the band included Kerry Minnear on keyboards, who came straight from the Royal Academy of Music. Gary Green, a musician with a blues background, became the guitarist. Martin Smith was on drums.
Malcolm Mortimore replaced Martin Smith in late 1971 and was Gentle Giant’s drummer for the “Three Friends” album. John Weathers joined the band in 1972 and was the drummer featured in the “Octopus” album. The European edition of “Octopus” featured artwork by Roger Dean while the USA edition showed an octopus in a jar design created by Charles White.
Gentle Giant’s use of complex classical chord and time patterns, together with rock, blues, jazz and Early Music melodies and themes, set them apart from other progressive rock groups of their time.
Playing the Fool, the band’s official live album, was the last progressive rock-era album. Like other progressive rock acts, Gentle Giant switched to a pop direction in subsequent albums.
In 2012, EMI released the 4-CD boxed set I Lost My Head: Chrysalis Years 1975 – 1980, an anthology that includes Gentle Giant’s Chrysalis albums with bonus tracks.
Live At The Bicentennial , released in 2014 contains live recordings made at Calderone Theatre and Hempstead, New York in 1976.
British musician and producer Steven Wilson remixed Gentle Giant’s “The Power & The Glory” in 2014 and “Octopus” in 2015. The Steven Wilson remix of Octopus entered the BBC Rock charts at 34 in November 2015. “Everyone in the band is delighted to hear that the music that we created in 1972 seems to be even more popular in 2015,” said Derek Shulman, former lead vocalist and North American chairman of Frontiers Records. “To see Octopus in the top 40 is such a pleasant surprise. Steven Wilson remixed the music in 5.1 with his usual respect and care. All the Gentle Giant team especially want to thank the old and new fans for keeping the music we created years ago still vital today.”
In 2017, Gentle Giant was inducted into Portsmouth Guildhall’s Wall of Fame. Phil, Derek and Ray Shulman, plus keyboardist Kerry Minnear appeared in person and were inducted by area media personalities Adrian Collis and Geoff Dorsett of Express FM’s Monday night Soft Rock Show. Gentle Giant’s lead signer Derek Shulman said, “This city is where we started it all, in fact memories of starting and ending the band are all about Portsmouth. We all went to school here, it’s where we made our lives. It’s an honor.” The British southern port city and naval base is where Gentle Giant and (their first band) Simon Dupree & The Big Sound were formed.
On September 29th, 2017 Gentle Giant released “Three Piece Suite.” It’s a specially curated selection of songs and compositions from the band’s first three albums (Giant, Acquiring the Taste, Three Friends) presented in both 5.1 surround sound and stereo. There are nine tracks from the albums, plus a pre-debut song, remixed by Steven Wilson. The choices were determined by the limited availability of multi-track master tapes from the era. Only a few songs from each album are known to exist as multi-tracks, with the rest presumably lost. Steven Wilson explained: “To create the new mixes, I used Logic as the software and Universal Audio plug-ins, which provide emulations of classic analog outboard effects, channel strips and old mixing desks…I used these tools to clean things up and bring out some more clarity, detail and definition in some of the instrumental interplay. There was never a question of trying to outdo the original mixes, but offer different perspectives on them.”
Gentle Giant’s Three Piece Suite includes the songs “Giant,” “Nothing At All,” and “Why Not” from the first album Giant; “Pantagruel’s Nativity,” “The House, The Street, The Room” from the second album Acquiring The Taste; “Schooldays,” “Peel the Paint,” “Mr. Class And Quality,” and “Three Friends” from the album Three Friends completes the list of the original recorded material.
Gentle Giant (Vertigo, 1970)
Acquiring the Taste (Vertigo, 1971)
Three Friends (Vertigo/Columbia, 1972)
Octopus (Vertigo/Columbia, 1972)
In a Glass House (Vertigo/WWA, 1973)
The Power and the Glory (Vertigo/WWA/Capitol, 1974)
Free Hand (Chrysalis/Capitol, 1975)
Interview (Chrysalis/Capitol, 1976)
Playing the Fool – The Official Live (Chrysalis/Capitol, 1977)
The Missing Piece (Chrysalis/Capitol, 1977)
Giant for a Day! (Chrysalis/Capitol, 1978)
Civilian (Chrysalis/Columbia, 1980)
Live At The Bicentennial (Alucard Records, 2014)
Three Piece Suite (Alucard Records, 2017)
I Lost My Head: Chrysalis Years 1975 – 1980 (EMI, 2012)