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Gentle Giant - Acquiring the Taste CD (album) cover

ACQUIRING THE TASTE

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.23 | 980 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

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5 stars Delicious!

An absolute masterpiece!

Aquiring the taste is, er, well worth it. The standard of muscianship is exceptional, not just technically, but creatively as well. This extends right across the spectrum from originality in melody and approach to prog rock music as well as in arrangements and execution. Pratically flawless for what it is.

"Pantagruel's Nativity" - Immediately we are thrown stright into Gentle Giant's unique sound world; somewhat on the "soft" side in terms of overall timbre and feel, but with a decided driving rock undertone. Talking of timbre, all kinds of musical textures come "out of the woodwork" and produce a wonderful ebb and flow in the music conjouring many a mood - the appropriateness of which baffles me a little on occasions, but really, when it's of this quality, I don't care too much.

The lyrics appear to be written in a style that was inspired by the great Oratorios of Handel, Purcell et al - I'm particularly thinking of "Acis and Galatea" somehow. The comparison is probably valid, as the story of Gargantua and Pantagruel originates in the 16th century.

The similarities end there, as Gargantua and Pantagruel are the central characters (giants, co-incidentally), in five books by the Franciscan Monk Rabelais, that were banned by the Catholic Church. Due to the nature of some of the language, the term "Rabelaisian" has come to denote launguage that is coarsely satirical and "robustly" bawdy. The 5 books concern themselves with the story of the hunt for the holy bottle and the Abbey of Theleme - a kind of Utopia, whose motto is "Do What Thou Wilt".

The vocal delivery is in a somewhat precious manner - but works very well to convey the mystical overtones. The vocal harmonies are incredible, and remind me of Queen to a large extent.

"Edge of Twilight" is fantastically atmospheric and aurally descriptive, with a beautiful percussion middle "8".

"The House, The Street, The Room" features vocals that remind me of Peter Gabriel, but with Queen-like harmonies. OK, I know that this album predates Queen's debut by 2 years... :0). The shifts in texture from keyboard to percussive to full rock with "phat" bass, wah-wah driven guitar that deliberately avoids blues scales, and thick Hammond with rotatiing Leslie... surely a proghole's wet dream? Around 5:30 is a very interesting instrumental coda, based on ideas derived from serialism.

Continuity is provided into the title track, which continues the exploration into serialism - but avoids total serialism or musique concrete, preferring instead to drift closer to tonality and hint at jazz.

Then it all darkens into a heavier rock vein, and again I am strongly reminded of Queen, this time even more so, in "Wreck", which builds up a superb groove before dropping into a light harpsichord/violin section - all with a strong nautical flavour, it must be observed. This piece is the first time I have been aware of standard song structure on this album. The wonderful mediaeval flavoured middle "8" performed as a recorder/wind ensemble is particularly notable.

Brass kicks off "The Moon is Down" in a laid-back jazzy mood, which progressses along with an almost random feel, but using vocal motifs that remind me of a band... now which one... tip of my tongue... begins with "Q"...

Around 2:30, this drops into a smooth groove, but GG decide not to keep us here, moving onwards instead to odd keyboard layers before slowing it down for some Mellotron magic. The lyrics sum it up well: "There's a chaos of visions and voices The moon is down".

Black Cat continues the dark (as in dark night) feeling, and GG produce a number of instrumental techiques that are evocative of cats, pizzicato followed by bowed violins, subtle wah-wah on the guitar. A number of key signatures are passed through rapidly and the pristine execution leaves the piece feeling entirely natural as it meanders out of the groove and into an orchestral section that pushes at the boundaries of tonality, whilst maintaining the cat leitmotifs providing a perfect continuity. When the groove returns, the cat impressions returned by the instruments become ever more uncanny, adding a touch of genuine humour.

The cats appear to start "Plain Truth", until the big riff kicks in. Qu...? :o)

I might be reminded of a certain slightly controversial prog band, but let's get this clear; GG are far more adventurous in terms of musical exploration, if less adventurous in pushing at rock's extremes. In other words, the focus here is not on a single category of music, more an attempt to fuse as many categories as possible into a brand new rock-flavoured category. And it has to be said that Gentle Giant succeed spectacularly.

To file this under "Symphonic" is misleading, as 1) most bands that seem to typify "Symphonic" tend to be somewhat simplistic in comparison to the aural feast that GG provide and 2) It's just not symphonic. Well, sometimes GG's music is symphonic, but most of the time not.

Why do I persist in considering an album in prog terms?

Hello!!!!

This is ProgArchives.

Therefore, each album must be considered in terms of progressive music. I see King Crimson's "In The Court..." as the benchmark - the widely recognised first Prog Rock album and a masterpiece of the genre.

"Acquiring The Taste" far exceeds that benchmark. If there were 6 stars, that is what I would give it.

If you're exploring progressive rock, you need this album to help you understand what Prog Rock is, and to understand what a masterpiece is. You don't have to like it, just understand it. And that, my friend, may take you a very long time indeed.

Certif1ed | 5/5 |

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