When Norman Connors made the transition from jazz albums to commercially successful R&B-oriented dates, the drummer found himself being lambasted repeatedly in jazz press (something Roy Ayers, Patrice Rushen, George Duke and George Benson could also relate to). Myopic jazz critics trashed Romantic Journey simply because it contains so much R&B/pop, as opposed to judging its merits as an R&B/pop-oriented album. Though not as strong as its predecessor, You Are My Starship, this decent offering has its strong points, including Philip Mitchell's vocal on the haunting "Destination Moon" and Eleanore Mills' performance on a likable cover of the Stylistics' "You Are Everything."
In the mid- to late '70s, Michael Henderson had a reputation for being a quiet storm-oriented singer. R&B fans associated him primarily with romantic material, whether it was with Norman Connors ("Valentine Love," "You Are My Starship," "We Both Need Each Other") or on his own ("At the Concert," "Take Me, I'm Yours," "Be My Girl," "In the Night-Time"). But the success of the quirky "Wide Receiver" in 1980 reminded Henderson's admirers that he was also quite capable of delivering an aggressive funk jam. Nonetheless, romantic soul ballads and slow jams remained a high priority for him, and they dominate 1981's Slingshot (which was originally released on vinyl LP by Buddah before being reissued on CD by The Right Stuff in 1995 and Funky Town Grooves in 2011).
Essential: A masterpiece of progressive rock music.
Admittedly, many prog rock fans with otherwise excellent taste in music find Gentle Giant rather hard to get into. Their music certainly is challenging, and very varied in flavour. At times it evokes Medieval music, at other times there are a cappella vocals delivered in a quasi-“round” format, in company with passages that veer from moments of delicate beauty to “rocking out.” All of these musical paths, and more, are often explored within the space of a single song. (Of course, that could be part of a generic description of progressive rock.) Gentle Giant have an inimitable style that is difficult to categorize; they must be heard to be understood. Perhaps only those with the most open musical minds will find them at all accessible. Certainly, though major players of the 70s prog scene, “Giant” never fully rose above their cult status to approach the popularity and critical acclaim of contemporaries like Genesis, Yes, ELP, Pink Floyd or Jethro Tull. (Though Gentle Giant don’t really sound like any of those heavyweights, their music bears a somewhat closer resemblance to that of ‘Tull, than any of the others mentioned.)