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Gentle Giant - Acquiring the Taste CD (album) cover

ACQUIRING THE TASTE

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.24 | 986 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
4 stars As the band is so eager to tell you themselves in the liner notes, the second Gentle Giant release "(abandons) all preconceived thoughts on blatant commercialism," and given that the debut wasn't exactly seeped in commercialism, that should tell you something. This is a much more difficult album to get into than its predecessor, but for whatever reason time has improved my attitude towards it substantially, so it gets the same rating. There's a substantial increase in dissonance and complexity, not always for the better, with a virtual elimination of the cute melodies that made so much of the debut enjoyable, but there are plenty of passages that are just as entertaining as the best stuff on the debut.

The album also features, in many ways, the best production that would ever be found on a Gentle Giant album, providing an incredible atmosphere in places that the band never even approached attempting again. The first two tracks are particularly impressive in this regard, and get the album off to an amazing start that largely carries the rest (in terms of giving this album such a high rating). "Pantagruel's Nativity" is beyond amazing, combining occasional ghostly synth lines with Phil's unbelievably beautiful voice (or is it Kerry? Gah, I can't tell those two apart) with a perfect guitar line over lovely mellotrons, then bringing in all these 'melting' group harmony lines with an abrasive guitar line and running through all sorts of nice variations of these parts (I'm especially fond of the echoey xylophone). Its seven minutes seemingly pass by in a heartbeat, with every idea fleshed out as much as it deserves but not overstaying its welcome, even if the song barely has any 'conventional' structure. Of course, the following "Edge of Twilight" has even less of a structure, but this one definitely can get by on atmosphere alone. A nice echoey Phil vocal, a clarinet occasionally mirroring it, some bizarrely processed soft vocals augmenting the sound at times, a cute dose of harpsichord and other things, before becoming dominated by some random tympanis are what you'll find here, one of the most perfect musical manfiestations of twilight imaginable (the other, naturally, is "Twilight Time" by the Moody Blues).

None of the other tracks come close to those, but some are quite good. The great production of those tracks makes an appearance in the middle of "Wreck" - that part from 1:52 to 2:10 or so, coming back around 3:45, with that incredibly echo-laden guitar part that fades off into the horizon at just the right times, with just the right amount of mellotron underneath - and helps transform a good pirate-themed track into a near masterpiece. Yeah, it's a generic piratey track at heart, but the lyrics aren't at all stupid, and the clever use of recorders in the breaks between alternating piratey vocal melodies definitely gets my approval. "Black Cat" is also a well-produced little 'ditty,' with all sorts of eerie guitar effects alternating with plucked violin strings alternating with vibes alternating with ... whatever. It gets a bit overboard with dissonance in the middle, but only a bit, and the way the plucked strings manage to emerge from all the random string scrapings once more playing the melody is a nice touch.

Of the other four tracks, I'd say that "The House, The Street, The Room" is the most enjoyable, combining a fairly intense vocal line with a good main riff, eventually culminating in a solid, lengthy guitar solo in the middle (over the riff played on distorted organ). The 30- second blurb where they just play every instrument in sight for a second or two is kind of lame, but it kinda reminds me of being in a dark room and crashing into everything you don't want to find before finding what it was you're looking for (ie in this case the guitar).

The other three tracks, unfortunately, aren't that great. The title track is just there - it's not long enough to be totally offensive, lasting only a minute and a half, but it seemingly serves no purpose except for the band to say, "Hey, you know how we can make dissonance interesting? Well, we're just as talented at making it boring as hell!" "The Moon is Down" isn't much either, except for a decently pretty (in parts) mid-section, and the closing "Plain Truth" (7-1/2 minutes, nyarrgh) is about twice as long as it should be, serving only to let Ray wank along on his electric violin. Ehn, if I want to hear an electric violin do weird things, I want it to be entertaining, like in the band's own "River" or in, I dunno, "The House I Used to Live In" off of Frank Zappa's Burnt Weeny Sandwich (my favorite Zappa album, you see) - here, there's too many parts that just seemingly have no purpose.

Still, weak ending or no, it doesn't mitigate the jaw-dropping start. Had they managed to keep up the pace of the first 30% of this album all throughout, this might be one of my favorite albums of all time - as is, I'll just have to be content with saying it's very, very good overall. Even if it's frustratingly inconsistent, as are most GG albums.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |

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