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Gentle Giant - Acquiring the Taste CD (album) cover

ACQUIRING THE TASTE

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.23 | 965 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Pnoom!
3 stars Gentle Giant is a band that it's just about impossible not to love, and this album is just another reason why. I'm not talking about music here (not yet, anyway), but just the very nature of the band. With a name like Gentle Giant, I'm automatically intrigued, and with album covers showing octopi in a jar, I knew this was a band I'd have to learn to love (which I indeed did). The cover and title of this album, however, really take the cake. Showing someone tonguing another person's posterior region (unclothed), saliva dripping off the tongue and all, and then giving it a title like Acquiring the Taste is as good a definition of brilliance as there ever has been (and probably ever will be). The title and cover art are both referring to the music industry, as if to say that they'll just have to get used to what Gentle Giant was doing. I'm reminded of a quote from the Kurt Vonnegut book Cat's Cradle, only furthered by seeing the picture of the giant on Gentle Giant's debut album (and on Three Friends). I can just imagine this giant on these pictures (and Gentle Giant themselves) "grinning horribly, and thumbing [its] nose at You-Know-Who." In the actually case of the book, you'll have to read to find out who "you-know-who" is (no, it's not Voldemort), but here I'll just out and tell you that "you-know-who" is the music industry (a best that certainly deserves its fair share of nose-thumbing).

The funny thing is, the first time I heard the opening of Pantagruel's Nativity (online somewhere), I thought it was pure crap and ended up not buying the album for quite some time. Silly, silly me. Because, you see, this may well be my favorite Gentle Giant album of them all (though several others, such as the eponymous debut, Octopus, In a Glass House, and The Power and the Glory run it close). It's strange and inventive, fun and hard-rocking, full of great vocal harmonies, and as intelligent as they come; it is, in short, everything I look for in a Gentle Giant album. As far as the music goes, this album is among their most inventive and boundary-pushing (and, given that it's Gentle Giant we're talking about, that's saying something). It's not like In a Glass House, where they try and see just how complex they can make their music, but is rather their attempt to see how strange and crazy they can make hard rock (which, at that time, was their base style of music, one which they worked off of perfectly).

I've been making a bit of point in this review of focusing on Gentle Giant's penchant for strangeness, so it might be a good idea at this point in the review to make a note of Gentle Giant's greatest strength (in my eyes, of course). Gentle Giant, strange and crazy as they were, were always able to make this strangeness catchy and accessible. They proved that bands could challenge the standards of music without compromising the accessibility of their music. This is the case in all of their albums I own, from the debut (with such killer songs as Giant and Alucard) through Octopus (full of fun and jazzy tunes that seem harmless while still being just as inventive as you could wish for), continuing on with In a Glass House (with some of the greatest musical "hooks" I know condensed into one song in the title track), and finally ending with Free Hand (not my favorite of Gentle Giant's albums, but still proving that complex and challenging music could be accessible). I would just like to point out that I own all the albums up through Free Hand, and even the ones I didn't mention prove the point just as well as the ones I did mention.

All that said, this album is one of their less accessible efforts (though it's still not impenetrably dense as one might expect from music as insane as this), but is ultimately among their most rewarding (or close to). The base of the music, as I pointed out earlier, is hard rock, but it's fairly soon into the album when we realize that this isn't your standard hard rock band. The opening of Pantagruel's Nativity is enough to show this, helping the song build up to a rocker, but still absolutely insane, and dripping with mellotron. Even on the closest track to boring old hard rock, Wreck (which may be my favorite on the album), is sufficiently inventive and crazy to please all Gentle Giant fans. Other songs, such as Black Cat, break out of hard rock mode entirely with stunning violin work, a softer mood, and an irresistible atmosphere.

I would hate to have to choose a favorite Gentle Giant album, because that would imply that some of them are not up to the same level as the others, even when I love them to death. I will say, however, that if I were put in a life or death situation where living hinged upon my picking a favorite Gentle Giant album, Acquiring the Taste would garner serious consideration, along with Octopus, Gentle Giant, Three Friends, In a Glass House, and The Power and the Glory. A simply stunning band, and, in my mind, the finest band ever to come out of Great Britain, who released one of their career peaks on just their sophomore effort (though that shouldn't come as too big a surprise, given that they had already released one career peak with their debut), and who would have many more in the future. This is an album that is essential for anyone who likes inventive and crazy music or who likes Gentle Giant (though the two go hand in hand), and really ought to be owned by anyone who likes progressive rock. A premier album by a premier band, and highly recommended.

Pnoom! | 3/5 |

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