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Gentle Giant - Acquiring the Taste CD (album) cover

ACQUIRING THE TASTE

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.24 | 986 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review 58, Acquiring The Taste, Gentle Giant, 1971

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Acquiring The Taste is perhaps the most aptly-named album I've ever come across. Initially I was drawn to the album by Wreck, and that, The House, The Street, The Room and the minimalistic Plain Truth were the only things I initially enjoyed. Most of the album, particularly The Moon Is Down, caused me no end of confusion and I simply didn't get it. However, after a large number of listens, the tables have turned. The entire album, Plain Truth excepted, has grown on me enormously, leaving Plain Truth looking quite stranded in quality. The sole exception is the title track, a moog solo, which still hasn't really caught on. So, hardly the most accessible barrage of every instrument the band-members could find, but nonetheless top notch and damn interesting stuff.

Pantagruel's Nativity is one of the more obviously awkward pieces, complete with Gentle Giant's standard deep harmonies and odd vocal deliveries, as well as some wailing saxes that take a little getting used to. Nonetheless, the piece as a whole is overwhelmingly clever and a serious grower. A weird synth (I think) initiates the piece with a melody which will later be picked up by the saxes. Very precise acoustics come in, and a well-directed 'rhythm section' (the term is completely inappropriate for Gentle Giant, to be honest) also gives the piece's feel of delicacy. Mellotron features in both its more common soundscape and more unusual note-form. Some delicate vibes add to the piece's eclecticism, while a stellar guitar solo edging on the violin sound at times gives a touch of contrasting rock-based music. All the above, however, is merely a meaningless list of features. The real distinction for this piece is how incredibly precise all the playing feels, and the depth of the vocals and arrangement of all the instruments. On first impressions, it may seem odd to open with such an inaccessible piece, but after enough acquisition time, it really does pay off.

Edge Of Twilight leaves behind basically all elements of rock. Trembling vocals and shimmering instruments contribute to the edgeless feel of the song, with blurred basslines and percussion parts. Kerry Minnear probably gets an award for sheer number of instruments played by anyone who isn't Mike Oldfield in this song, taking over with aptitude on e-piano, organ, harpsichord and moog as well as a variety of percussion during the trembling, tense percussion section, which fades back brilliantly to the shimmering main theme. Lyrically and musically experimental and interesting.

The House, The Street, The Room is one of the album's few pieces that might be love on first listen. As well as the shouted bluesy vocals and superb lyrical content, the piece features some of the deepest bass and most bizarre drumming on the album. As ever, a huge variety of keyboard sounds makes their appearance without impacting on the role of Gary Greene's guitars. During a frantic, slowly-building instrumental section, Paul Cosh makes an appearance on trumpet, before Gary Greene thunders in with one of my all-time-favourite guitar solos, writhing with a perfect link to the lyrical material. Thick organ drones behind it, as the piece drives on to the final verse. An incredible rock piece as well as an eclectic and experimental one. Quiet and loud used perfectly.

Acquiring The Taste is the only one I haven't really got yet. Though enjoyable and good fun, it's still a multi-layered moog solo, so suffers from the relatively trite NES sound. Good fun, but not stunning.

Wreck is, at the time of this review, available on this site as a sample, and was the main reason that this album was my introduction to Gentle Giant. It has the vocal versatility and range of loud and quiet present in the rest of the material here, though at its conclusion it relents from the band's stated aim a little. As always, we have a lush range of keyboards, neat bass-lines, and solid, interesting percussion. Ray Shulman's violin, both clean and more edgy, is another fairly crucial component. Of especially stunning value is the instrumental break (with a gorgeous bit of moog and piano interplay). Another piece with excellent lyrical content, coincidentally, and one which relates very neatly to the instrumental content. My only nitpick is that the concluding fade feels a little lacking in imagination, in the context of such a bizarre album.

The Moon Is Down was a piece that I positively hated initially, but has since become a favourite. After an atmospheric sax intro, heavy harpsichord moves in with the harmonised vocals. However, the verses are merely a prelude to the gorgeous instrumental section, featuring uplifting sax, organ throbs, precise guitar choices, and a swelling mellotron. A return of the verses with a slightly darker feel provided by the drums leads us onto the beautiful piano outro. Has to be heard to be understood.

Black Cat is mostly driven by violin and Gary Greene's wah-wah guitar, again, it relates perfectly to the lyrical content, with a quirk and mystery neatly handled. It features a fairly odd string quartet at one point. We get all sorts of percussion, as well as some winning cat-calls, and the piece as a whole is very satisfying and most decidely prog.

Plain Truth is perhaps the album's most minimalistic and standard piece, with only the standard piano-bass-drums-guitars-vocals and a maraca and an electric violin. Ray Shulman's violin-work is superbly handled, and all the other contributors take their parts very adequately. A slowly-building break with a constant guitar part, cleverly building bass and splintery violin slowly leads us towards a return of the verses. It's slightly unfortunate, perhaps, that this was chosen for the closer, as that really does highlight the not-quite-hammering-home nature of the repeats of the first couple of verses towards the end (even if there are some clever piano touches thrown in). A pseudo-blues conclusion rounds off the album nicely.

All in all, not perfect, and I'd probably fall just short of calling it a masterpiece. However, there is a hell of a lot of top notch material in here, and I'd wholeheartedly call this essential for any prog collection. Very interesting, and possibly the most obvious example of an album that needs a little time to appreciate.

Rating: Four Stars +. I.e. Four Stars, but unmissably interesting.

Favourite Track: The Moon Is Down

TGM: Orb | 4/5 |

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