I was gonna make a post comparing BOD and TKOS, but I found it hard to come up with proper matches for the shorter tunes. All I had was the following 3:
"The Doorway" VS "Harm's Way"
"Walking On The Wind" VS "The Good Don't Last"
"Time Has Come" VS "Flow"
And in that case, I'd have to give all 3 matches to the BOD tracks. I really do enjoy HW and TGDL, but the other tracks are just slightly better, and in the case of the third match up, it's almost a tie, but I gave the edge to THC.
As for the 4 shorter tracks on each album, I'd say "Thoughts" and "Waste Away" are both better than 3/4ths of the TKOS shorter tracks, with "June" being the one out. I'd take "June" over "Waste Away", and I'd say it's just as good as "Thoughts".
I do agree that opening their sophomore effort with a cover is strange, but I had no idea it was a George Harrison song until a year or two after owning the album (despite it being noted in the liner notes). It's such a good cover, though, and they really take the song in a new direction with the added bits.
To me, the shorter tracks on BOD have more individuality and character than the ones of TKOS. The epics really stand out to me, but the shorter tracks are a bit same-y, although I will give props to their choruses, as they're pretty good. "Cakewalk" and "Strange World" are great pop-prog tunes with hooky choruses, and "Madness" is just crazy!
On BOD, though, I do enjoy how different each of the 4 shorter tracks are - you have a unique cover, the crazy Gentle-Giant-inspired piece, the acoustic guitar solo effort (in the vein of Steve Howe), and a solid rock tune.
I don't know...maybe I'm just over-analyzing things. Both albums are great collections of 7 great songs, and they're BOTH steps up from their debut (which was already amazing as it was!), so both albums pretty much win.
DFN, on the other hand, is a different story. They brought in another side-long epic (which hadn't been done since their first album), and it's good, but it doesn't feel as smooth as "The Water". I think if it had been released as ONE track, rather than indexed into 7, it may have been better received AS an epic, and not viewed as a suite of 6 songs, 2 of which are just repeats/reprises of earlier songs, so really, there's only 4 unique ideas/songs in the epic!
As for the other tracks on DFN, "The Gypsy" and "Crack The Big Sky" stand out to me, as does the title track, but the four shorter songs (again with the four shorter songs!) are a bit hit-or-miss for me. It's almost as if Neal/SB were getting better at the epics but just phoning in the shorter pieces to fill out the album. "Skin" is alright, and "Gibberish" brings back more of that GG-feel, but the other two are just OK in my ears.
I think they found the perfect balance on V, crafting 2 wonderful epics, and 4 well-thought-out shorter songs (again, four!). V is one of their best albums, and probably the one I would recommend to new fans the most. There's pop, prog, rock, epics, ballads, everything! And, for me, each track is familiar after many listens. I don't go "How'd that song go again?" because each one has character and stands out among it's fellow album-mates.