The latest addition to the current programme of remixed Gentle Giant albums by Steven Wilson is Interview which was the band’s eighth album and came out in 1976 which was around the same time that punk rock erupted, talk about chalk and cheese!
I know that Interview is not held in the same lofty regard as records like Octopus, In A Glass House or Free Hand but just maybe this newly refreshed work will be enough to elevate an often overlooked classic. I have a particular fondness for Interview as I saw the band on the subsequent album tour in 1976 for which I paid the princely sum of £1 and the sheer quality, professionalism and level of musicianship on displayed quite simply blew me away in a way that no other band has ever done since. I had never witnessed so much diversity and levels of musical talent and, yes, the band can be challenging but the effort of studying, listening and absorbing the music is just so rewarding. Now, we all know the album in very great detail and the history of the band is so well recorded meaning that there is no need to repeat anything here other than to advise what you get on this exciting new release.
There are several versions to consider including stand-alone CD, 180g vinyl (including limited blue vinyl) and a stunning CD/Blu-ray package. The CD and vinyl only have the Wilson remixed versions but it is the Blu-ray which is going to be the real treasure as it will have the newly remixed album in Dolby Atmos and 5.1 surround sound and stereo along with the original 1976 quad mix and an instrumental mix too. There are also promised animated visuals for each track which should prove to be interesting. Only the download version of the new remaster was made available for review so comment cannot be made on the extra versions but I’m as excited as anyone else to get my hands on the Blu-ray.
In my humble opinion, Interview was already a masterpiece and you sometimes wonder if you should make changes to something that was already damn near perfect but the progmeister has only gone and done it again with his deft and sympathetic touches increasing the clarity and separation between voices and instruments so that this is the clearest and most sonically perfect version you will ever hear. The integrity of the original mix remains intact but it now seems smoother and more defined.
Times were changing in 1976 and Gentle Giant was never a band to stand still so what they put out with Interview is very much a statement of where the band was and how it felt at the time. They were angry, cynical and maybe even a little jaded with the whole business and this very much comes out in the music that they offered up for us and, as usual, there was plenty of variation and differing styles seamlessly joined so that moments of reggae could be enjoyed alongside touches of proto-punk aggression and all with the delightful vocals including the a cappella vocal passages that have influenced so many musicians. The music is stunning, complex and both delicate and aggressive in equal measures and is a perfect statement of where the band was in 1976 having come off the back of an extensive tour for Free Hand. As usual, Derek and Ray Shulman, Gary Green, Kerry Minnear and John Weathers combined to create a body of work that very few musicians could even envisage let alone play and sometimes you simply must concede that you are in the presence of genius. The Sounds journalist Phil Sutcliffe plays the part of interviewer for the record although these are only cameo incepts and never detract from the music but do provide a little light relief.
If you are new to Gentle Giant then Interview may not be the best album to start and I would recommend Octopus for that but please follow the progression within the band’s sound from 1970 to 1980 and you will find music and a love that stays with you forever. We lost Ray Shulman earlier this year so this album brought me many smiles and a few tears but he and the band have left a legacy that will last forever.
Interview (Steven Wilson Remix (2023)
- Interview (6:52)
- Give It Back (5:09)
- Design (5:00)
- Another Show (3:29)
- Empty City (4:37)
- Timing (4:34)
- I Lost My Head (6:59)
- Dolby Atmos Mixes
- Album Mixes (96/24 Stereo LPCM), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 96/24 5.1 LPCM)
- Instrumental Mixes (96/24 Stereo LPCM)
- Original 1976 Quad Mix (DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 96/24 4.0 LPCM)