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Gentle Giant - Acquiring the Taste CD (album) cover

ACQUIRING THE TASTE

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.23 | 984 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Gentle Giant's sophomore album was a definite step forward from the raw potential of their debut LP the previous year. Right from the start, in the swelling guitar and Mellotron chords of the album opener "Pantagruel's Nativity", the music is clearly more relaxed and confident, at times even playful ("The House, The Street, The Room" was an embryonic Gentle Giant classic.)

The band was still polishing its craft, however. Too much of the songwriting ("Edge of Twilight"; "The Moon is Down"; "Wreck") sounds like a forced attempt to break free of the aesthetic straightjacket left behind by the commercial success of Simon Dupree and the Big Sound. The learning curve was obviously a steep climb: compare the labored percussion break in "Edge of Twilight" to the more organic collective drum bashes of later concerts.

Maybe they were simply trying too hard. Look at the total number of instruments employed on the album: I count forty altogether, not including vocal duties shared by five of the six band members, and additional contributions by a couple of guests. In retrospect all that versatility effectively camouflaged some incredibly skillful playing, equal at times to any of Prog's more celebrated virtuosos.

Any attempt at a cohesive style was still a work in progress, but these guys could really play. Ray Shulman in particular was a bass guitarist of astonishing talent and invention, and hardly a slacker on his electric violin either: check out the instrumental breaks in "Plain Truth" for example. The weak link in the otherwise well-forged musical chain remained drummer Martin Smith ("...quite fiddly", was the band's hindsight assessment). But he was at least rising more to the challenge here than on the band's debut album.

For a long time I considered this the most difficult record in my collection, and if anything it's even less accessible today. Derek Shulman would later say, "It turned out surprisingly well but it was definitely our weirdest" (for the true Proghead that's of course a point in its favor). The album title is all too appropriate, but the group wasn't making it easy at the time, for their fans or on themselves.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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