Weathers On Record: Classic Giant Tracks, 1972–77
by Will Romano
To connoisseurs of daring first-wave progressive rock, Gentle Giant was hugely important—as awe-inspiring, in its own way, as ELP, Genesis, and Yes. Here we look at some of longtime GG drummer John Weathers’ great performances. (You can read Weathers’ full story in the January 2010 issue of MD.)
In a rare moment of chest-thumping prog, on the instrumental track “The Boys In The Band” Weathers beats out unison rhythmic patterns, matching the band’s intricate melodies. Later he engages in a brief but riveting rhythmic convo with guitarist/percussionist Gary Green and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Kerry Minnear for the album closer, “River.” On this track Weathers blows through a plastic tube inserted into his rack tom vent to achieve ascending drum notes.
In A Glass House (1973)
Arguably, no prog drummer laid it down with more precision, pocket, and force than Weathers. Starting at 2:22 on “The Runaway,” he shadows the bass line (and other musical elements) with a Spidey-like sense of anticipation and hypnotizes with an infectious pattern. In “Experience,” a triple-time feel gives way to an old-school 4/4 backbeat.
The Power And The Glory (1974)
The Weathers groove machine is stuck in the “on” position as the drummer spits metallic hi-hat accents on the hellish/jazzy “Proclamation” and stabilizes odd-time patterns for the puzzle-like “Cogs In Cogs.” Other notable tracks: “Valedictory” (for its R&B-style drum intro), “Playing The Game,” “No God’s A Man,” and “The Face.”
Free Hand (1975)
In addition to powering the driving, syncopated rhythms of “Just The Same” and “Time To Kill,” Weathers demonstrates how well he’s listening by taking cues from the knotty piano and electric guitar leads of the title song and expertly shuffling through the genre-hopping “Mobile.”
One of the oddest releases in a catalog chock full of musical left turns sees Weathers unexpectedly tackling reggae (“Give It Back”) and parading through the counterpoint-heavy “Design” with marching-band aplomb. Although the drummer is all over the bass line on “Another Show,” finding the 1 isn’t easy.
Playing The Fool: The Official Live (1977)
Much like Giant’s melodic raison d’être, the band’s group drum solos featured interlocking and simultaneous patterns, such as the multi-percussionist attack (aka “five-man drum bash”) of “So Sincere.” Also check out “Excerpts From Octopus.”