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Gentle Giant - Acquiring the Taste CD (album) cover

ACQUIRING THE TASTE

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.23 | 978 ratings

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Rhyme Drag With Drag
5 stars 'Acquiring the Taste?' eh? Well, they knew they were onto something. Distinctive, tasty and well- catered for by the individual gifts of the group members.

I'll admit, I've read books and articles on the subject, and I still haven't a clear idea what makes a piece of music 'progressive' (or perhaps more significantly, NOT progressive). 'Acquiring the Taste' is not as wiry and jaggedly difficult (in a satisfying way!) as, for example, a later concept work such as 'In a Glass House', however it is perhaps its equal in an entirely different field. More accessible than that later record, that does not make this any less essential. Surely one of the most distinctive, confidently different albums of 1971 (and considering that places it alongside 'Pawn Hearts', 'Alpha Centauri', 'Fragile', 'Satori', 'Tago Mago', 'Who's Next' et al. part of me feels I should just end the review at that), this combines the laid-back drifting melodicism of their debut with a newer, slightly more dissonant and electronic edge.

The tunes are still fantastic, but the dynamics are enhanced (There are more gloriously unorthodox hooks - and they are still HOOKS - in 'Pantagruel's Nativity' than in most of the above albums' entirety). Production is masterly throughout: listen, for example, to the reverse- symbal percussion and chilling synth interludes of 'Edge of Twilight' which manages to be spacious, atmospheric, complex, pretty, co-ordinated, loose, ghoulish, catchy and weird all in one ultra-tight package. The singing is lush throughout - the descending counter-melodies of 'Pentagruel's chorus pretty much floored me first time I heard them - such 'gothic' beauty that harks right back, as if uninterrupted, to a very medieval music tradition.

And thats the confounding thing. This isn't archetypal "prog" (i.e. what plagues the mind of the uninitiated, or just uninterested when they think of the term). Yet, like many of its weird and wonderful contemporaries, it has a foot in the door of every 'searching' music style the band could soak themselves in. It could be considered "classical" rock but it shirks the obvious influences, going simulataneously back to the heart of plainsong and keening in on the rhythmic base of the 'minimalists' (though, admittedly, this influence is more readily apparent on later works) and the tonal experiments of the likes of Ligeti. There's jazz too - it stops, starts, jars, soars and floats on the buzz of the 60s new breed. Folk? 'Wreck' could be 'Steeleye Span' or 'Pentangle' if it weren't so harmonically dexterous and unpredictable (there goes the "jazz" again). The result is something... new and fresh. Still. nearly 40 years on. Like the very best British prog, it seems to point the way forward to a new and entirely idiosyncratically British compositional language. One that somehow, sadly, got misunderstood by too many people.

Hmm... 'way forward'? 'idiosyncratic'? ...is THAT what progressive means? Well, I'll be jiggered!

1971 was a wondrous, tangental, experimental year for Western music, and this is one of its crown jewels.

Rhyme Drag With Drag | 5/5 |

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