Gentle Giant - OctopusConsidered one of Gentle Giant's most accomplished and accessible releases, their 1972 Octopus blended the band's bountiful imagination with strong melodies. Steven Wilson once again is back at the helm and has created an all new surround sound mix of the entire album which also includes a 15 minute live performance of excerpts from Octopus all in 24bit / 96kHz PCM and in DTS Master Audio 5.1 surround sound.

The best deal is the Blu-ray as it contains instrumental mixes of 5 of the original 8 tracks from the album in 24 bit / 96kHz PCM, and a flat transfer of the original mix of the album directly from the original quarter inch tape.

One thing is for sure, Gentle Giant lends themselves well to surround sound with nice counterparts that embellish the vocal melody and their highly progressive rhythm. With the core bass and drums hitting from the front speakers and lead vocals emanating from the center, this leaves ample room for guitars, keyboards and additional vocals to fill the four corners of the room. Wilson masterfully uses the soundstage on the acapella intro to “Knots” by splitting two vocals between the left and right front channels, while anchoring the remaining two parts in the rears.

But Gentle Giant is much more than the core instrumentation of a rock group, with strings, brass and winds that are essential to their unique sound. Strings are tastefully placed both up front and from the back channels on the second track “Ranonteur, Troubador,” completely filling the soundstage. The snare drum extends deep into the front channels as it rolls out its hits, these are just a few of the many examples of the awesome immersive surround mix that listeners will discover from their sweet spot.

Yes, the transfer is excellent and sound quality fantastic. Too bad the source tapes contain flimsy drums, most apparent on the opening track “The Advent of Panurge,” but don’t fret they do improve and on the closing track “River” gives the drums a new lease on life with nice movement from the front to rear channels as the song explodes prior to the sizzling guitar solo.

Tagged on at the end is a really nice excerpt from Octopus taken from their performance at the Calderone Theatre, Hempstead, NY in discrete surround sound. The transfer of the original 1972 mix is top notch, as expected, yet lacks in dynamics and range very opposite from the multi-channel remix which exceeds at both. Of course for the purist who doesn’t want any of the modern digital toys touching the mix, this transfer is likely the best available, once again making the Blu-ray the perfect choice.

Surely this is a must have for all progressive rock fans and a required addition to any surround sound collection. When an amazing album becomes available in surround sound and is mixed by the master of 5.1, you simply don’t want to miss it. Of course, the bulk of my readers most likely have it already! Do you?

  • CD / Blu-ray with 24/96 5.1 surround sound mix.

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