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Gentle Giant - Acquiring The Taste CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant

Eclectic Prog

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Founding Moderator
3 stars Not only is this album much better than even most GG fans would claim, it is one of the most best examples of the progression of a band's music. GG is less interested in any "cohesion" than in stupidly happy experimentation. And that is exactly what they do here: within the loose "song structure," they spend the entire album experimenting with sounds, ideas, rhythms, atmospheres, etc. In this regard, Acquiring the Taste is a perfect "stepping stone" between their first eponymous album and Three Friends, on which they first start to develop a truly cohesive sound, and a "direction."
Report this review (#6015)
Posted Tuesday, January 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Good + really, kind of lost among their great first half dozen recordings, not quite developed entirely in the direction that they would take, pretty interesting and this must've been very cool to discover back then. Recommended to not just GG fans, but not the first you'd want by them either.
Report this review (#6016)
Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars 3,5 stars really!!!

Well if GG never got any success (commercial or critical) in their own country, it might be a bit their own doing, with their cocky and overly elitist attitude bordering on provocation (get back in your crib Mr Johnny Rotten) towards the establishment. The overly superior tone and borderline pretentious text inside the album, the rather ugly cover depicting ass-licking towards the music industry as well as the very-related album title did not go unnoticed by all the "establishment» who clearly chose to give the album the silent treatment, maiming the band were it hurts most: exposure and therefore sales.

Another factor for the lack of success (at least on the home front, because on the Continent, they will gain a solid cult following) is that the music is anything but easily accessible due to rather wild, unexpected, opaque, oblique, obscure - and dare I say obtuse? - musical choices , that seems to complicate - sometimes needlessly - their songs. From the clumsy Moog intro of opening track about French language "founding father"(Rabelais) characters (see Cert1fied and Cortese's reviews for more details) to the Generator-less VDG mating with Hendrix wah-wah sounding-finale, everything spells un-commercial, adventurous, odd and rather quaint, but there is a sheer brilliance coming through this Oeuvre. I find some tracks to be relatively aimless (notably Edge Of Twilight and its intrusive percussive break and Moon Is Down) and so odd in construction that they remind me a bit the sloppy songwritings of KC's SABB album: I like to be surprised in the music I listen to but I also expect it to roll around naturally, not taking non-natural twist for the sake of it. Wreck and Black Cat are your typical GG tracks that we are so accustomed to and their unique renaissance-influenced vocals being now firmly established. One of the risk of being groundbreaking is that sometimes your work can sound incredibly outdated and in this case is the title track with its clumsy Moog playing (only Emerson had mastered the Moog synth at the time). The last track being sometimes superb, sometimes very awkward especially with the pedal effects, it serves as a fitting outro for this difficult but indispensable album.

If I sound harsh on this album, it is because while re-writing this review (it paled in comparison to my fellow colleague reviewers), I found most a bit over-ecstatic about this album.

Report this review (#6020)
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Generally, I would categorize GENTLE GIANT as a pretty light hearted band, with the exception of "Acquiring the Taste". On this release, GENTLE GIANT turned out a much darker album, which over the years has caused room for debate. A lot of GG fans seem divided on this album... I am certainly on the pro side here as this is one of my GG top picks. According to the liner notes: "We have recorded each composition with the one thought - that it should be unique, adventurous and fascinating." And this statement is so very true. "Acquiring The Taste", the band's second album, plunges them even further into dark yet classic GG formations of complex structures, challenging time signatures and odd vocal and harmonic characteristics.
Report this review (#6021)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars To me, this is a classic album. My favorite, for 2 reasons: the cover art is intriguing and provocative, with a nice touch of humor. Second, the content is a real treat. It's like having a tour guided by the hand of a victorian house decorated with large drapes in dark red satin. This is an album for after dawn. The music is mathematical, as always, but closer to contemporary music because of the weird percussion. When did you know a band (or someone) that really likes Rabelais's work? They get a real kick about Gargantua and his son, Pantagruel. This is a sign of nerdness, and to be clearer, a sign of weird (but tasty) progressive rock. No offense nerds, just don't skip too much showers.
Report this review (#6022)
Posted Tuesday, March 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another must have... The first step ahead, even though this album sometimes is a bit prolix and too much experimental... but for instance the exceptional Pantagruel's Nativity alone, makes this album worth checking out, as for its huge versatility and impact too... without regarding of their usual strange mix of such classic rock (sometimes reminding me of some material from JETHRO TULL) along with the Medieval Experimental breaks through!! It was a controversial album, according to the particular opinion of some lovers of Classic "Bombastic Prog" in the vein of ELP,who have always criticized them, but to me- by forgetting only a few prolix parts- this is an example of their great versatility, combined with some fresh original ideas.

Recommended, as rightly the first step ahead, although better things had to come after!!

Report this review (#6023)
Posted Thursday, April 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was about to begin this review by saying, "One of their best albums..." when I realized how useless of a statement that would be -- ALL of their core albums are "one of their best albums!" So, I guess I mean to say, this is "really really" one of their best albums. A quantum leap from their debut, which is also great, Acquiring The Taste is immediately Gentle Giant in full flavor. The vocal work throughout is astounding: their later "jigsaw puzzle" approach has not yet flowered, so instead we get... harmonies! Sometimes beautiful, sometimes disturbing and discordant, the band experiments with effects and chords to deliver a vocal album like no other, without even mentioning the insanely experimental music itself. And speaking of the music itself, it is out of a dream. Haunting, chilled, often subtly dark... little of their "hyperactive musicality" that would rear its head later can be found here. Even when it does (such as in "The House, The Street, The Room"), it is a subdued hyperactivity, melding subtly into the mesh of sounds and never clobbering you over the head like, say, "Cogs In Cogs" (from The Power and The Glory). That said, there's a reason why this album is many fans' favorite. With the radical evolution into mad musical scientists lurking a few releases down the road, I am forever grateful that we also have this much different side of Gentle Giant to endlessly delight in.
Report this review (#6024)
Posted Saturday, April 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The group's second album lays it out in the liner notes: "We have recorded each composition with the one thought - that it should be unique, adventurous and fascinating". Although they'd come closer to that lofty goal on subsequent records, you can hear the various magical elements that make up GENTLE GIANT's best work coalesce on this effort. The complex vocal harmonies found here are some of the band's most ambitious, while medieval interludes and unexpected musical shifts (in keys and meters) make their appearance.

Produced by Tony Visconti (again), "Acquiring The Taste" does feature a sludgier attack than later albums, at times suggesting KING CRIMSON or even BLACK SABBATH (though much lighter on their feet than the latter). Wisps of mellotron can be heard in the opening "Pantagruel's Nativity" while heavy saxes lurk in works like "Edge of Twilight". Filled with dark and portentous sounds, "Acquiring The Taste" might be initially off-putting to listeners enamored of GG's more limber arrangements, but as the album progresses the band seems to visibly lighten up. The playful interaction on "The House, The Street, The Room" is one example of this, though its ending is as heavy as anything they've recorded (recalling the apocalyptic sounds of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR). Using a similar musical theme, "The Moon Is Down" adopts a lighter approach, showcasing the interweaving of sounds from Kerry MINNEAR, Gary GREEN and Ray SHULMAN that otherwise seems to exist only in fits and starts.

Given a little time, "Acquiring The Taste" will work its way under your skin like all good GENTLE GIANT albums do. Some of the songs will strike you immediately (e.g., the brilliant "Wreck"), others may take more time. If it all sounds like Gentle Generator rather than the GENTLE GIANT of "Octopus", I say more power to them.

Report this review (#6025)
Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Acquiring the Taste" is the first gentle Giant masterpiece, putting a special emphasis in the gentle side of this prog giant after its impressive namesake debut. Addtionally, there is also a simultaneous emphasis on the eerie side of prog, which gives the album an extra experimental essence: this album is designed as a real acquired taste, but again, it is not overtly impenetrable - simply put, it is there to be grasped by the bold listener's ear and heart, and thatt is a demanding task. By the way, let me add that this was also the first CD I purchased, but by then I already was a GG fan, so I knew what I was supposed to expect: odd yet attractive compositions, massive use of challenging counterpoints, odd tempos and dissonances, impressive choral arrangements, ultra-varied musical ideas. Though admittedly "Acquiring the Taste"'s fire does not match that in "Three Friends" or "The Power and the Glory", nor is it as appealing as "Free Hand", it sures encapsulates and incarnates the most exquisite expression of GG's prototypical finesse and sophistication. Well, actually the first 8 years in the band's gigantic career has been nothing but a spectacular display of finesse, but it's fair to say that the "Acquiring the Taste" repertoire reaches absolute heights and never gets a milimeter down from its impossible standards. The captivating ellegance of 'Pantagruel's Nativity', the eerie mystery of 'Edge of Twilight', the picaresque impressions of 'The House, the Street, the Room', and the blues-tinged ambience of 'Plain Truth', all these are handled with limitless good taste and immaculate mastery. By now, GG is a band that has achieved the plain maturity of their own signature sound. The melancholy ambience of 'The Moon is Down', with its lyrica lreflections about the passing of the day, comes as a clever contrast to its more upbeat predecessor 'Wreck', which combines pirate chant and Renaissance chamber with absolute fluency and catchy enthusiasm. Immediately after, 'Black Cat' provides a succession of awesome string ensemble parts in a jazz-oriented context: those string parts are sweet during the sung parts, disturbingly dissonant during the odd instrumental interlude. Nothing left to say but... this album is a masterpiece!!! No effort should be spared in order to acquire the taste to enjoy it properly, with the heart and the mind.

Report this review (#6028)
Posted Monday, July 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This represents GG second album and it's definitely a masterpiece. Their music is much mature than the debut album. Most of its music is continuous (not "discrete"). It's much melodious as well:

"Pantagruel's Nativity" : GG classic with nice melody, continuous music, stunning lead guitar and great vibraphone. The inclusion of brass / woodwind instruments have enriched the song. "Edge Of Twilight" is an avant-garde music with short vocal line at intro part. It's a dark music. "The House, The Street, The Room" is an uplifting track with great melody; opened with excellent bass line and vocals. What a wonderful song is this one! I also like how they perform singing together. The exploration of strange sounds happen in the middle of the song followed by fascinating lead guitar solo. Wow!! It rocks!

"Acquiring The Taste" is a short explorative track to welcome the next track. "Wreck" is my best favorite of this album. Great singing, great lead guitar and very dynamic. It has a good melody that I tend to emulate while enjoying the track. The sound of violin, mellotron and clavinet are excellent. WRECK is GREAT! It's a classic!!!

The rest of tracks of this album are all excellent : "The Moon Is Down", "Black Cat" and "Plain Truth". "Plain Truth" is really a wonderfully crafted composition. I love it very much and .. it's strategically positioned at the end of the album to ensure the ultimate satisfaction of its listeners. Brilliant decision! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Unfortunately, this band does not exist anymore and .. even worse that there is very unlikely that they would do a reunion. Too bad .. - Gatot Widayanto (not a big fan of GG, but I love some of their albums), Indonesia

Report this review (#6029)
Posted Tuesday, July 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
4 stars A great album. I hav been a fan for awhile, and purchased many of their albums before this one. Not that that really maked a difference. ANyway, all the songs are good except for the moon is down and the edge of twilight. The album is much more violiny than any other ones they have, a downside a think. Still a good album that will fit into any collention.
Report this review (#6031)
Posted Sunday, October 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Adventurous, epic and interesting! "Acquiring The Taste" is a great 2nd album from Gentle Giant. The music is very original, challenging and highly interesting. The album has a dark feeling to it, IMO, but that only makes it even more personal. For a 1971 album, this work is truly astonishing and creative, even more creative than most Progressive Rock albums at that time. The only flaws is "Wreck" which is a good track, but not up to pair with the rest of the album, In my opinion. If you liked their debut or Octopus, get this one too, you'll not regret!

Favorite tracks: "Pantagruel's Nativity", "The House, The Street, The Room", "The Moon Is Down", "Black Cat".

Report this review (#6032)
Posted Sunday, November 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars How is it possible not to like GG???? It's simply the BEST BAND EVER!!!!!! Seriously, what band did what GG did in therms of melody, complexity, arrangements, instrumentation, crazy vocals, and, of course, weirdness??? ACQUIRING THE TASTE proves it, as it's their best album, and possibly the BEST ALBUM OF ALL TIMES! "The Moon Is Down" is a fantastic wind instrument work, one of the best! "Pantagruel's Nativity" is a fine moment of glory, another classic! What can I say about "Wreck"? Amazing tune! Weird and estrange "Edge Of Twilight"! "The House, The Street, The Room" - my God, is this a band or a divine miracle? Simplicity and eficiency it's the title track's last name, "Acquiring The Taste" "Plain Truth" it's Gary Green's peak. Finnaly, "Black Cat" it's Phil Shulman's turn! After GG, everything that you'll listen will be almost dull and meaning-less.
Report this review (#6033)
Posted Saturday, December 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Excellent! My favourite album on the symphonic phase of the band, the album title says everything, here they are really acquiring their taste musically. They started to experiment and move forward into progressive but without lost harmony and following the symphonic line yet. This is why, if you liked GG's first album and you're getting used with the band style... YOU MUST ACQUIRE THE TASTE WITH THIS!!!
Report this review (#6045)
Posted Wednesday, December 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
Report this review (#6035)
Posted Friday, December 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one of those albums that just gets better and better each time I listen to it...I guess that is the case with most very good albums. This one never seems to be as popular as other of Gentle Giant's works, probably due to the amount of synthesizer they use, especially on the opening track, Pantagruel's nativity. It helps in appreciating this song to have a background on Gentle Giant's other music. I am completely in love with the use of the flutes here. Come to think of it, I love flutes in progressive rock in general. Almost all of the great bands in history have incorporated flutes into their music.
Report this review (#6036)
Posted Saturday, January 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars There is a big change here compared to their first album. "Acquiring the Taste" is the first incursion into the marvelous world of progressive rock. Nevertheless, the hard rock dimension is still very present, especially on "Pentagruel's Nativity": the floating keyboards on this track combined with the powerful rythmic guitar are really a unique tour de force! Gary Green's very loud and razor guitar sets the rythmic hard rock tendency, even having some wah-wah effects. There are tons of miscellaneous instruments: vibraphone, celesta, harpsichord, cowbells, saxes, tympani, maracas, trumpet, clarinet, tambourine, gong and triangle among others. Surprisingly, many bits are more floating and more mellow than ever here: the album is often quite relaxing compared to the nervous "Octopus", "Power & Glory", "Free Hand" and "Interview". "Wreck" has many musical styles involved: medieval, baroque, symphonic, hard rock, it is very impressive! "The Moon is Down" is my favorite one: the instrumental parts are absolutely varied, complex, cute, subtle and very progressive. "Black Cat" has some interesting wah-wah effects, imitating a cat meow! "Plain Truth" has nervous wah-wah violin parts, reminding VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR. "The House, The Street, The Room" has a powerful hard rock combination of intense wah-wah guitar solo and dirty distorted organ. Finally, the last track, "Acquiring the Taste", has a very symphonic Italian prog sound of the 70's, like BANCO's "Traccia 2".

My rating: 4.5/5

Report this review (#6038)
Posted Tuesday, February 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is album is another absoloute masterpiece, I'm quite shocked to see Gentle Giants albums see such low marks, even if you don't enjoy the music it is undeniable that this group were an extremely talented bunch of musicians, as close to modern musical genius as I've heard. This album has quite a dark feel to it and is another insight to the massive array of musical moods, quirky patterns and timings. This sort of music is a challenge to listen to and I wouldn't want it any other way, what's the point in have music if it's catchy and gets boring after a few listens? With this you must concentrate on the music with an open mind, listen to it by yourself either loud or with headphones (and a spliff if you enjoy that sort of thing) and I can almost guarantee you'll enjoy it more everytime you listen to it (and with any other Giant album from their first to Interview) and eventually you might grow to love it.
Report this review (#6040)
Posted Thursday, February 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I listen and listen this album again really amazed of it.I know all GG albums and in my opinion is really their best.The music flows ceseless like in a poem and all what to do is to devour it. Some passages are really brilliant ex. "wreck".A must listen album.
Report this review (#6042)
Posted Sunday, March 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Great album by Gentle Giant. Even genial in the composition of the tracks. The work is opened by the electric sweetness of "Pantagruel's Nativity" and after this other seven great progressives songs. The work is really one of the masterpieces of any progman. The level of this release is five stars, surely. So I recommend highly this "Acquiring the Taste" to anyone who likes '70ies prog music.
Report this review (#6046)
Posted Tuesday, March 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm only 18 years old, but for a long while now I've been into prog-rock and let me tell you, Acquiring the Taste is a true masterpiece. Living here in the US it's hard to find all these great CDs at the stores, but lately I've been going to this local underground music store and I came across an entire GG section. I was so excited. The 1st GG album I bought was their debut album and I found that one in Canada. So when I saw the others here at home, I said these are coming home with me today. I have no regrets whatsoever. So to anyone who's looking for good medieval/heavy/dark/melodic/trippy/and extremely progressive rock, buy this album and all the other GG albums ASAP. You won't regret it!
Report this review (#6047)
Posted Wednesday, April 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars An excellent introduction to the music of Gentle Giant. The music is very original and accessable, not as complex as the later albums. This album is however much more experimantal then "In A Glass House" and "Three Friends"( Wich are excellent albums). If anyone would like to get into Gentle Giant I recommend you start with this album. For those of you already familier with there music who have not obtained this album, what are you waiting for?
Report this review (#36534)
Posted Wednesday, June 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gentle Giant is for me really an acquired taste, as was KC and VDGG, with which this band has several elements in common. Some slow paced jazzy experimental music, with some more rocking elements interwoven through it. One of the best things about GG are the vocal harmonies, and the rhythmic structures that create a great base for melodic experimentation with sax, violins, piano and some guitar. Hardly any solo's are played, instead the band as a whole try to make a cohesive symphonic effort.

Acquiring the taste is a little bit better than their debut, but it takes a couple of spins before you will hear the intrinsic beauty of some of the songs, it doesn't keep my attention through out the album though, a problem I have with most GG albums for that matter.

1. Pantagruel's Nativity (6:50) Soft dark symphonic synthesisers introduce a soft vocal and rhythmic accoustic guitar, a bit dark sounding, with the sax providing some nice melodies. after some 2 minutes the song becomes a bit more heavy, mostly carried by the vocals, and understated rhytmic guitar. a good song, but it does take several listenings to really apreciate all the musical aspects of this almost perfect song.

2. Edge Of Twilight (3:47) A King Crimson (ITCOTCK) like soft ballad, always nice to hear, with some nice drumming and keyboards in the middle. 3. The House, The Street, The Room (6:01) The best song from this album I think, again soft passages are alternated with a more forcefull rock approach, great bass-line, and fabulous symphonication of guitar and keyboards. great song, with an hypnotising end section.

4. Acquiring The Taste (1:36) a short instrumental, some nice moments, but not really special. 5. Wreck (4:36) another typical GG vocal harmonie on a strong heavy rock groove, lots of interesting passages, especially the keyboards and the guitar shine on this song. 6. The Moon Is Down (4:45) This song starts very slow, and kind of boring, but it develops greatly into a more energetic light song (light as opposed to the more dark sound of most of the other songs on the album).

7. Black Cat (3:51) Classical inspired song, great moments, with restrained rhythms and nice play of classical instruments, really soft and smooth, I like it. 8. Plain Truth (7:36) Steady rocker, with typical GG guitar, which reminds me a bit of Early Jethro Tull, probably the most easy song to get into, nice but not really special.

An improvement on their debut, but not quite there yet, after this GG will get better, so this is a good album for their fans, but for newbies not the place to start with GG I think. 3,5 stars, and a positive recomendation for all fans.

Report this review (#38493)
Posted Monday, July 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This band for me has an aquired taste. It is very unique and creative, making it very strange. Unfortunately, I do not enjoy it as much as others do.

1. Pantagruel's Nativity : One of the best Gentle Giant songs in my opinion. It is a perfect introduction to the band, since it shows their talents in strange instrumentation, vocal harmonies, and the hard rock electric guitar riffs typical of them. 8/10

2. Edge Of Twilight : A song that is not memorable at all. It is a pointless avant-garde jam with no direction. The drumming at the middle is good though. 4/10

3. The House, The Street, The Room : It has a good melody and alternates between soft and hard passages, but the middle section doesn't do anything for me, until that mean guitar blows me away. 6.5/10

4. Acquiring The Taste : a short short with good keyboard playing. 6/10

5. Wreck : "Hey Hey Hey hey .. Oh no!" that's a great vocal hook! The song is a very dynamic one with good singing and lead guitar. It is for me one of the highlights of the album. 8/10

6. The Moon Is Down : not very energetic and can be a little boring, but then the pace picks up and turns into a nice soft rocker. 6/10 7. Black Cat : A not so interesting track, it is soft and classical, but tends to bore me a bit. 4/10

8. Plain Truth : A solid closer with a similar style as the opener. Vocal harmonies are plenty, soaring riffs, and classical influenced music make this song. 6.5/10

This is a more accessible Gentle Giant release ... but it is not as strong as Free Hand and Three Friends in my opinion.

My Grade : C-

Report this review (#42591)
Posted Friday, August 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the first Gentle Giant album I really get in. the music on ''Acquiring The Taste'' is... tasty. The riffs are very good and there's a pop sound very present, that you might not find in the followings GG's. By the way the originaly is always there. The experimentals interludes are intelligents and adds A LOT to the soungs. They make Acquiring the Taste a GG album. Don't miss this one. A perfect mixt of mysterieusity, originality and catchy sound. ****.Exelent.
Report this review (#44033)
Posted Tuesday, August 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars As a newcomer to Gentle Giant's music I have found this album to be a particularly wonderful introduction. The brother's Schulman and their cohorts put together a finely tuned and well crafted second album. Every song is a creative force in its own unique way that allows the listener a fresh experience upon every hearing. The opener Pantugruels Nativity is a wonderful way to begin the album and projects a full, rich atmospheric tone that haunts the soul and enlightens a keen mind with its dark vibrance. Other key tracks are The Moon is Down and Black Cat, the latter brings a jollyness to the dark, thought- provoking mood of the rest of the album.

Honesty, the album should be listened to moreso as one whole song. It's not necesarilly a concept album but certain themes and sounds appear at different times throughout that paint a unified picture. For example, the singers in the band have voices that are full and powerful and convey a specific mood to each piece. Each song has the correct singer for that song and this is very important because the human voice is the most diverse and beautiful instrument. Overall, It is a captivating picture that should be given time and repeat listens in order that it may fully be seen.

One last note is the final song Plain Truth. This is a song that I do not care for mainly because it is too repetitive in its nature. However, it does fit the rest of the album and is not a completely bad song, though I feel it does lack the eloquent construction of the other tracks.

This one is a treat. One to really soak up!

Report this review (#44161)
Posted Wednesday, August 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The second work released in 1971 "Acquring the taste". Masterpiece into which extraordinary idea and sound are packed. The ensemble becomes a style that runs to not a usual performance but and the free jazz and the avant-garde music. It is an album like the work of art exactly made. The opening number of fantastic ensembles symbolizes this work.
Report this review (#44560)
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.5 Stars

Despite the rather Rolling Stones-ish album cover, 'Acquiring The Taste' saw Gentle Giant moving beyond anything familiar and conventional. After the first album's heavier adventures (still a prog album, and still one of their best), 'Acquiring The Taste' firmly established that G.G. was off on a trip of rock experimentation that wouldn't slow down until 1978 or so.

The wide variety of instrumentation, and they way the instruments are represented (through some really inventive studio work and a nice warm recording), immediately sets this album apart from its less layered predecessor. Adding to the wide spectrum of instrumentation, the variety of vocal approaches is also pleasing. The dark melancholy of "Black Cat" and the eerie "Edge Of Twilight" offer some of the album's more esoteric journeys. But it's "Pantagruel's Nativity" and especially "The House, The Street, The Room" that offer quintessential Gentle Giant. Myriad mood shifts, a variety of vocal textures, inventive arrangements, virtuoso musicians playing to the strength of the song, polyrhythms, unpredictability...all the band's treasured hallmarks are here. And the raw, guitar-centered aspects of their first album remain intact, as heard amidst "Wreck", "Pantagruel's Nativity" and "Plain Truth" (seriously ballsy, edgy violin by Ray Shulman on that last one!). Every song in its place, every one fascinating.

Still early in their development, Gentle Giant were already playing very mature, intelligent music. I even find it more enjoyable than some of their key mid-'70s albums. The songs flow smoother than some of their later compositions, and Derek Shulman's voice doesn't sound strained, as it often would on those later (still amazing) albums. 'Acquiring The Taste' may lack that certain "good enough to die for" element inherent in perfect 5-star albums, but it comes close enough.

Report this review (#45074)
Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Their target: ".to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular". Risk avoided!

Historic album from Gentle Giant! The compositions are really adventurous and fascinating, both equilibrated and extreme.

I was initially captured by the allusive cover.just turn it back too see the Gentle Giant's humour! The arrangements are all conducted by the well known master hands of this unrepeatable band! Only have to say this is not the most accessible of their albums, being "darker" than the masterpieces Octopus and In A Glass House. I don't know if it depends on something then happened to the band or on a particular difficult period. anyway there's a lot of imagination and excellent ideas!

Pantagruel's Nativity is one of my favourite GG songs ever, with that stunning weaving of electric guitar, keyboards, trumpet and good viber. "Gargantua and Pantagruel" is the title of the famous book (four books really) written by François Rabelais between 1535 and 1550. Great masterpiece of satire and comicality! The first LIBER is about the adventures of the giant Gargantua, from his infancy and education. The second tells the story of his son Pantagruel during his studies at the Paris University with the friend Panurge (remember Octopus ?). In the third these two giants debate on the marriage advisability. The fourth Liber is about the sea-expedition of the two friends to the land of Paperfigues and Papimanes (Protestants and Catholics ?). A fifth book was published posthumous in 1562-64 and there's doubt on its authenticity.

To all who loves this literature I can recommend Baldus, written by Theofilus Folengus alias Merlin Cocai in 1520. It's a masterpiece for all the lovers of (comic) macaronic latin ("dog" latin) and tells the story of giants Baldus, Cingar, Margutte, Morgante, all friends who passed the time stuffing theirselves in the taverns, scuffling, seducing women.

Edge Of Twilight is a somehow darker composition with some misterious feeling while The House, The Street, The Room is one of the best here with catchy bass guitar and sudden hard guitar work! Acquiring The Taste is a sort of experimental short instrumental song preceding the second highlight of the album: the energizing Wreck! (one of the best GG tracks ever!). The Moon Is Down is good particularly in its second part. Black Cat features remarkable violin and absolutely no boring slow rhythm! Plain Truth is the third memorable contribution from this excellent 1971 album.

What could I say more? Not a masterpiece at the level of Octopus and In A Glass House but surely one of the best Gentle Giant's recordings! Not for GG novices though!

Report this review (#48633)
Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
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?


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.

Report this review (#49496)
Posted Friday, September 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
Marc Baum
5 stars After the promising debut, it was on Gentle Giant to take a big step into the direction of something unique, unusual and a kind of acquired taste. The band mention in the booklet of "Acquiring The Taste":

"Acquiring the taste is the second phase of sensory pleasure. If you've gorged yourself on our first album, then relish the finer flavours (we hope) of this, our second offering.

It is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular. We have recorded each composition with the one thought-that it should be unique, adventurous and fascinating. It has taken every shred of our combined musical and technical knowledge to achieve this.

From the outset we have abondoned all preconceived thoughts on blatant commercialism. Instead we hope to give you something far more substantial and fulfilling. All you need to do is sit back, and aquire the taste."

That is a idealistic statement, to show how Gentle Giant matured to this point. All that you'll find on this album are unique arrangements, bluesy outblasts and even anthemic ("Wreck") hard rock enthusiasm, in a strong progressional structure, on which the songs are based. The single songs sound all very different and are full of a fascinating atmosphere, which makes out the unique style of Gentle Giant on their adventurous observation "Acquiring The Taste", which was a clear big step up from their very good debut. I won't describe the songs in particular and take myself a big distance to rate them separately, because I see the whole record as one big journey, that YOU, the listener must take, over and over again, to really understand and love it.

Very big parts on here are experimental, but never went too far to lose the line, to understand the music. "Aquiring The Taste" is total unique and they never did something similar again on one of their later records. This record is musical genius - just read the horde of instruments the band plays on "Acquiring The Taste", what brilliant musicians they were! You need for sure an acquired taste to love all the music on here, but I will guarantee, that you will get addicted after some spins of "Acquiring The Taste" in your player and you understood the music on "Acquiring The Taste" as that what it is, a magical journey by GG, who were about to claim other, different dimensions on their followed records.

I want to give a whole-record rating for "Acquiring The Taste": 9.5/10 points 9.5/10 points = 93 % on MPV scale = 5/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music

Report this review (#52131)
Posted Monday, October 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This was a very pleasant surprise, as what is frequently regarded as a "transitional" album turned out to be quite possibly Gentle Giant's greatest, most consistent effort. "Acquiring the Taste" features superb compositions which easily overpower the occasional dull moments found on the album; hether any elements of what would become known as the "classic" GG sound still have to be refined holds significance only stylistically, with no effect whatsoever on the musical content.

The opener, "Pantagruel's Nativity", is probably the best track on the album (don't worry, the rest of "Acquiring the Taste" still has a whole lot to offer) A dark, ominous atmosphere reigns through most of the song, with eerie vocal sections and intricate, somewhat Black Sabbath-esque guitar riffing .

"Edge of Twilight" is guided by an interesting, quite awkward (to sing!) vocal melody over intriguing tonality changes. Like it's predecessor, it's dark and haunting, and almost equally good.

"The House, The Street, The Room" sees the band exploring their hard rock tendencies to great effect. The powerful riff driving the song once again wouldn't have been out of place in a Black Sabbath song, except that it's far more sophisticated than any of Tony Iommi's creations, with sweet classical interludes providing an ideal contrast . Further into the track, we hear Kerry Minear expanding the possibilities of the main riff by extending each note to a major chord (this is how it sounds to my inexperienced ears anyway) on the organ; the song concludes with a quiet, but characteristically chaotic instrumental outro.

The title cut is a short but stunning instrumental track, as the group serves up unexpected dissonances and lovely melodies side by side in what is one the boys' finest statements as composers.

"Wreck" has to be the weakest song on the album. For the most part, it's pretty standard blues rock (although of a more refined variety), and while there are nice classical interludes in between the straightforward verse parts providing some refreshment, I can't say it measures up to the rest of the record.

The album get back on track with"The Moon is Down"; GG's inherently complex compositional style, sweet vocal harmonies (albeit with slightly irritating "twists") and plentiful fantastic segments drawn from a variety of styles make this another standout.

GG's classically-orientated string section figures prominently on "Black Cat", supplying great melodies to the main motive and captivating dissonances during the typically weird-sounding section in the middle, the result being another strong musical statement.

The album ends on a hard rock-orientated note in the form of "Plain Truth", which does provide some great riffs, but pales a bit when compared to the album's highlights. Had there been less repetition and some trimming done to the impressive, but rather boring jam session , the track would've worked better, but it's still a solid addition to this outstanding album.

Drawing the conclusion, this is the best GG album I've heard so far, as it surpasses all of their other efforts that I'm familliar with from just about any point of view. In fact, it is this album that has made me a serious fan of the band.


Report this review (#60988)
Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars G.G. is my new favourites! I'm glad that I gave their albums the time that they require. I've had two albums with G.G. for a long time, but never really appreciated them. Now I have all of their classic albums and I just love them. "Acquiring the taste" is more mature than the raw debut, but doesn't reach the same hights as the ones that were still to come (but not many albums do). The complexity and the oddities that forms the sound of G.G. are very exquisite. I think this band had a totally unique style and presented the best series of albums in prog-history. This band is for sure giants, it's a shame though that their masterpieces "...GlassHouse", "Power...", "Octopus" etc. don't reach higher grades than they do. At least one of these should be top 5. "Acquiring the taste" is however one of the classic G.G. albums that I don't give five stars.
Report this review (#63640)
Posted Saturday, January 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This particular album is not as bluesy, (yet there's a few bluesy moments) and not as heavy, (yet there's a few heavy parts) as their debut. What you do get is the beginning of their classic sound, tight playing that begins to get razor-sharp and delicate harmonizing that only they can do. To me, what seperates this album from the rest of their efforts is the sheer number of instruments they use. Almost everything except for the kitchen sink. Maybe not as classic as "Freehand" or "In A Glass House", etc., but you will come away knowing that there's not another band on the planet that can sound like they do and do it well. 4-stars!
Report this review (#73768)
Posted Saturday, April 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
Peter Pan
5 stars This is a review of the remastered edition of "Acquiring the Taste" published in 2006 by Repertoire Records.

You will hear this album as if you hear it for the first time. Digital remastering has been done in a marvellous way and made this very jewel shine more than it ever did. All instruments sound so clear and separate as if the band had been in a modern studio just yesterday. (Only the vibraphone in "Pantagruel's Nativity" turns out to sound somewhat blurred compared to the original vinyl LP.) On my stereo I can hear absolutely no band hiss or at least none that is distinct from the hiss of the amplifier at high volume.

The music of this album is fresh and exciting as it has ever been. Once again and even more than before on vinyl the remastered production reveals the beautiful arrangements, the mastery of each of the six musicians and their perfect collaboration as a band.

"Acquiring the Taste" was cutting edge at the time it was originally produced - in 1971 - speaking in terms of popular music and recording techniques. It's innovative blend of rock, blues, jazz, classic and medieval music is unreached.

The remastered edition gives extensive chance to study the complex structure of this album and the playing of the different musicians. Basses can be heard more clearly than on vinyl. And especially the invaluable contributions of guitarist Gary Green stand out more clearly than before - the experts always knew the important role of this fine member of the band.

The music is real art. Each track is a masterpiece on its own. No other album of Gentle Giant with the exception of "The Power and the Glory" was as avantgardistic and adventurous as this one. Though the concept album "Three Friends", the follow-up to "Acquiring the Taste", was the most coherent and maybe the best album of Gentle Giant.

My favourites are:

- the opening track "Pantagruel's Nativity" with a unique atmosphere that only Gentle Giant could produce and which I would call "Swinging Electronic Middle Ages";

- "The House, The Street, The Room" with the extraordinary introducing riff;

- of course "Wreck", the still breathtaking hymn to all wrecked sailsmen, in which bass, guitar, synth and voices produce a thrilling sound that makes you nearly see and feel the "boiling hell" of the roaring waves;

- "Plain Truth", where Ray Shulman lets its electric violin howl and cry only to let the band break in with an existentialistic chorus: "You stand and wonder / Just let it warm your skin / Take all the living / Live life and let it win / Plain truth means nothing / Cry, laugh and cry again / You question answers / Born, live and die, Amen".

The cover in the so-called digi-sleeve format has been carefully reproduced and mimics the originally fold-out cover. It contains a little poster with the lyrics in magnified text size and a story of Gentle Giant. The "Repertoire" lable states this edition has been limited to 3000 copies and promises a corresponding certificate on its web site.

Can't believe, not 25 but 35 years ago now...

Report this review (#74470)
Posted Sunday, April 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars There is a big change here compared to their first album. "Acquiring the taste" is the first incursion into the marvelous world of progressive rock. Nevertheless, the hard rock dimension is still very present, especially on "Pentagruel's nativity": the floating keyboards on this track combined with the powerful rythmic guitar are really a unique tour de force! Gary Green's very loud and razor guitar sets the rythmic hard rock tendency, even having some wah-wah effects. There are tons of miscellaneous instruments: vibraphone, celesta, harpsichord, cowbells, saxes, tympani, maracas, trumpet, clarinet, tambourine, gong and triangle among others. Surprisingly, many bits are more floating and more mellow than ever here: the album is often quite relaxing compared to the nervous Octopus, Power & glory, Free hand and Interview. "Wreck" has many musical styles involved: medieval, baroque, symphonic, hard rock, it is very impressive! "The Moon is down" is my favorite one: the instrumental parts are absolutely varied, complex, cute, subtle and very progressive. "Black cat" has some interesting wah-wah effects, imitating a cat meow! "Plain truth" has nervous wah-wah violin parts, reminding Van Der Graaf Generator. "The House, The Street, The Room" has a powerful hard rock combination of intense wah-wah guitar solo and dirty distorted organ. Finally, the last track, "Acquiring the taste", has a very symphonic Italian prog sound of the 70's, like Banco's "Traccia 2".
Report this review (#78425)
Posted Wednesday, May 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I can't fathom out it: why people's musical tastes differ so much. How come at the time of writing this, this album is on the 99th place of the general ranking of this forum - after all we are supposed to be the discerning, progressive listeners... Ahead of it there are a lot of bands that I haven't heard of, not to mention the heap of sub-standard pop. Yet this is THE album.

To me, Acquring The Taste is the most influential rock album ever. It was the landmark, the milestone, the starting point, you name it. With the (in)famous declaration in the sleeve text, the band make it clear that they didn't want to associate themselves or their music with any specific style. They wanted to find their own path, and boy did they manage to do that!

I am not going to go into details of the songs, because there are a few who have masterfully done it before me. All I can say is that I can't find a single error or shortcoming on this album. All songs are masterpieces in their own right, but still I have to say that my favourites are Pantagruel's Nativity, The Moon Is Down, Wreck and Black Cat, and also The House, The Street, The Room and Plain Truth, and even The Edge of Twilight and Acquring The Taste. Shit... that was all the eight tracks. ;)

The power, the finesse, the thought, the plainly super musicianship, the compositions, the wit of the lyrics, the overall feeling is second to none. To me, this album shows the way. It is on par with the likes of Rite of Spring or Firebird, Eroica or the 9th. I never give five stars to albums that I think are brilliant unless they have changed my way of thinking as a human being, but I have to say that I have truly acquired the taste.

Report this review (#79342)
Posted Thursday, May 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Recently I obtained copy of this disc from Repertoire in glorious mini lp sleeve format and it is superb any way you llook at it.Last couple of years Repertoire has blessed us with numerous reissues of classic swirl Vertigo stuff in mini lp sleeves,reproducing cover arts to the tiniest of details and with unbeliveable remastered sound,courtesy of Eroc (ex- Grobschnitt drummer).Acquiring the taste is one of these sonic masterpieces.Although I don't consider this album to be best of GG (In a glass house takes the prize),this one for sure is the second best.Musically speaking,this is probably most challenging album GG ever made and it definitely represent commercial suicide for the band,which is openly stated on album cover,but that is the reason this band is so adored by fans world wide.There is nothing new I can say about musical content that has not been said before,so get rid of your old copy and buy Repertoire reissue,NOW!

Report this review (#79542)
Posted Saturday, May 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This CD is the dreariest GENTLE GIANT-album, I think. It is usually calm (with the exception of "Wreck" and "Plain Truth") and it sounds very medieval (especially "Wreck" and "The Moon Is Down"). AQUIRING THE TASTE is characterised by great musical works (just see "Aquiring The Taste", the short, but ingenious title track, or the contrapuntal flute part in "Wreck" which has great lyrics by the way). Actually it is the chill-album of GENTLE GIANT. The outstanding songs are in my opinion "Pantagruel's Nativity" (with a fantastic, short intro), "Wreck" (which sounds a bit like a sailors song; you can here a lot of folk music influences here), "The Moon Is Down" (a medieval masterpiece with lots of saxophones) and the very rocky "Plain Truth" that contains a wonderful violin-solo. Though AQUIRING THE TASTE doesn't seem to have that much power as some other GENTLE GIANT albums, it is definately a very good album!
Report this review (#88430)
Posted Tuesday, August 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a difficult album to review for me, since it is hard to really explain why I like it so much. It is (not counting Playing The Fool, the live album) my favorite Gentle Giant album. But it took quite a while to reach that status. Oddly enough, some of their more praised albums (Free Hand, Octopus) are actually far more accessable. There is a strangeness to this album that I have not encountered anywhere else before. I think that is probably what makes it stand out for me. The fact that is it unique in their discography.........and they are a pretty unique band in general. The first track is really the best for me, especially the multi-part vocal section in the middle of the song which is far more eerie and forboding than any other times they use this technique. Plus, there is an excellent guitar solo by Green, notable for being one of his best so early in his and the bands career. Edge of Twilight took a while to get a handle on, as it does seem to meander a bit. But repeat listens will reveal an interesting structure and form to this song. The moon is Down is a similar example of this, which still having its own identity as a song. Black Cat is a quite interesting, almost jazzy number. The title track will come across much better on the live album when played by two acoustic guitars. The House.... and Wreck are more typical GG numbers, but still quite interesting. The final track is something of a reminder of the more forceful and immideate first album, while still have some oddities to help it fit in with this album. An excellent number that came off well live (if you have heard the bootlegs that it is found on and can get past their poor sound).

All in all, I can only award this 5 stars, as it is my favorite album amoung albums that all push up on the 5 star mark. A truely innovative and unique band who's like I have never encountered before or since. And the same is true of this album.

Report this review (#88500)
Posted Wednesday, August 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This sophomore effort from the band finds them trying some new things, stepping out more.

The first song "Pantagruel's Nativity" is a gorgeous track with mellotron and vocals within the first minute. Some beautiful sax and trumpet in this one. Pretty good guitar solo too after 2 minutes that has an edge to it. Love the vocal harmonies that follow. A vibes solo 3 1/2 minutes in followed by a good guitar solo.Themes are repeated. Just a priviledge to listen to this melancholic song. "Edge Of Twilight" is a dark and restrained song in every way. "The House, The Street, The Room" gets quite heavy with organ, bass and drums, and the guitar is fantastic. And as usual with GENTLE GIANT the vocal harmonies are stunning. I like when it turns pastoral then after 2 1/2 minutes the guitar and organ come in ripping it up. Killer section. Great tune !

"Acquiring The Taste" is a short and pastoral instrumental. I really like "Wreck" as it's all about the vocals and mellotron. A deep heavy sound to open before those vocals join in. Flute and a lighter sound after 3 minutes then mellotron and guitar take over. More mellotron on "The Moon Is Down". A mellow intro as vocals come in. I really like the instrumental section that comes in when the vocals stop. It settles again before 4 minutes as vocals return. "Black Cat" is both jazzy and catchy.The violin is a nice touch. Cool song. "Plain Truth" opens with violin as spoken words come in ordering some food of all things. It then kicks in with vocals.The violin shines on this track.

This is a real solid release, certainly no sophomore jinx here. Favourite song for me is "Pantagruel's Nativity".

Report this review (#95263)
Posted Friday, October 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A bold statement.

Many artists try different ways of "sticking it to the man". GG was one of the early pioneers of this, and it hurt them monetarily and fame wise, but sticking to your guns was never easy. GG could have been silent and giving, going the path to fame that many other lesser progressive bands found. Acquiring the Taste forever black labeled them to a sub group of Prog.

A definite improvement from their first release, this is significantly more quirky, proggy, and enjoyable. My favorite is The House, The Street, The Room, with one of my favorite guitar performances, melding perfectly with the backing music. It's also very dark, which is good, to see a sinister GG. The popular Pantagruel's Nativity is not as good as others would make it out to be, but still a strong track. Wreck is also extremely strong with a good influx of vocals. The Moon is Down is perhaps the weakest track here, with too many "niceties" to it. The album closer is also a shocker, with unexpected format and style, but most of this album is very exploratory, or was so for its time.

This was quite easy for me to get into, given my more extreme taste in music, but for those with a more popular taste this would not where I would start with GG. A must have for the GG fan and should easily fit inside your top 5 favorite GG albums. Another great work from '71.

Report this review (#99480)
Posted Sunday, November 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars To sound strange, is not enough - maybe that's the lesson Gentle Giant learned after their debut. This is the band's second release and to those, who know the first and third, there's not much more to say. Imagine a mixture of the best of "Gentle Giant" and the worst of "Three Friends" und you get an idea what "Acquiring the Taste" is like. The songwriting is better than on the first album but to me the music still sounds as "to be devoloped", so I wouldn't call this one of the "real" Gentle Giant dics. You can listen to the song "Wreck" on the Gentle Giant page pf porgarchives. In my taste "Pentagruel's Nativity", "The House The Street The Room" and "The Plain Truth" are better than that song. The album also has a very strange track, called "Edge of Twilight" that sounds to weird for my (and I guess, some other's) ears.
Report this review (#100728)
Posted Tuesday, November 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here begins an impressive streak of reliable progressive albums by Gentle Giant, the masters of concise songwriting and performance. The arrangements are not yet as intricate as they will come to be on future albums and still feature a lot of open space, yet these spacy intervals can be said to be one of the strengths of "Acquiring the Taste" - the second track ("Edge of Twilight") in particular is bathed in reverberation and the track is no less cohesive for it.

All the signature sounds of GG are on offer here - musical pretenses towards both classical and medieval folk, (in the case of "The House, The Street, The Room", both appearing in the same song) harmonious and often stepping, round-style vocals, the use of unconventional instruments not usually associated with rock music (in particular, the melody played on timpani during "Edge of Twilight" is this reviewer's favourite part of the album) and general evidence of musical skill far above their contemporaries.

The joy of Gentle Giant is that you can recommend them as a starting point into the nebulous world of progressive rock to fans of wildly differing genres of music. They may not be as twee or as instantly catchy as the more urgently symphonic bands but it's this subtlety that makes them appeal to real music lovers. Spread the love!

Report this review (#109905)
Posted Wednesday, January 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Acquiring the Taste" is my favourite Gentle Giant album. Here they reach their creative peak with surreal soundscapes, extreme dynamics and excellent song writing, but the gold is in the arrangements. It leaves behind the unprofessionalism of the first album but without the pretentiousness or simpler sound of the coming albums.

Everybody's playing on this album is top notch, Kerry is incredible with the keyboard sensibility and odd timings, placements and arrangements. But it works great here. Gary Green is screaming on "The House, the Street, the Room" when he pulls of an excellent distorted solo. Grandpa Phil Shulman is featured to great effect in his vocal harmony and wind instruments, he is a big part of what made Gentle Giant's earlier records so much better in the progressive and musical sense, the later albums like "The Power and the Glory" or "In a Glass House" can sometimes feel cold without his unmistakable presence.

Aside from this album containing some of the best songs of their discography, it also has a real "Concept album" feel to it, even though as far as I know it isn't. There is a large dark atmosphere to the sound, ominous but not negative or evil. "Plain Truth" is one of the best Giant tunes, and every song on this album is excellent besides the sub par "Wreck".

Great album, the cream of the GG crop and a perfect example of their signature quirky and experimental progressive rock.

Report this review (#111938)
Posted Monday, February 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gentle Giant is certainly a band that I had to acquire a taste for. I vividly remember the first time I had ever heard their music when I listened to the Octopus album from start to finish. I was so bewildered by the intricate music. layered vocal harmonies, odd rhythms and melody lines. While my first taste was not good, I was intrigued. But over time, I have grown to really enjoy this band and their quirky music. With that introduction, allow me to turn my attention to their second album, Acquiring the Taste.

The album art is stunning in its innuendo, making it perhaps one of the more controversial covers. The band appears to want to prove a point and will use the music as well as the cover art to get its message across.

As much as I enjoy Gentle Giant and their unique style of musical expression, I never fully embraced the music on this particular album and consider it to be my least favorite of their first eight albums (Gentle Giant through Interview). Each good song (such as the opening track of "Pantagruel's Nativity") is followed by a forgettable song ("Edge of Twilight"). This disjointed feeling carries throughout the album, leaving me less than enthusiastic to give the album a full spin when there are so many albums out there that I feel are more consistent from start to finish.

Now don't get me wrong, this is a good album with such highlights as the aforementioned "Pantagruel's Nativity" along with "The House, The Street, The Room", "Wreck", "Black Cat" and "Plain Truth". However, with other tracks being somewhat drab, I will always prefer listening to one of the other Gentle Giant albums.

Report this review (#113204)
Posted Thursday, February 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gentle Giant is a band that it's just about impossible not to love, and this album is just another reason why. I'm not talking about music here (not yet, anyway), but just the very nature of the band. With a name like Gentle Giant, I'm automatically intrigued, and with album covers showing octopi in a jar, I knew this was a band I'd have to learn to love (which I indeed did). The cover and title of this album, however, really take the cake. Showing someone tonguing another person's posterior region (unclothed), saliva dripping off the tongue and all, and then giving it a title like Acquiring the Taste is as good a definition of brilliance as there ever has been (and probably ever will be). The title and cover art are both referring to the music industry, as if to say that they'll just have to get used to what Gentle Giant was doing. I'm reminded of a quote from the Kurt Vonnegut book Cat's Cradle, only furthered by seeing the picture of the giant on Gentle Giant's debut album (and on Three Friends). I can just imagine this giant on these pictures (and Gentle Giant themselves) "grinning horribly, and thumbing [its] nose at You-Know-Who." In the actually case of the book, you'll have to read to find out who "you-know-who" is (no, it's not Voldemort), but here I'll just out and tell you that "you-know-who" is the music industry (a best that certainly deserves its fair share of nose-thumbing).

The funny thing is, the first time I heard the opening of Pantagruel's Nativity (online somewhere), I thought it was pure crap and ended up not buying the album for quite some time. Silly, silly me. Because, you see, this may well be my favorite Gentle Giant album of them all (though several others, such as the eponymous debut, Octopus, In a Glass House, and The Power and the Glory run it close). It's strange and inventive, fun and hard-rocking, full of great vocal harmonies, and as intelligent as they come; it is, in short, everything I look for in a Gentle Giant album. As far as the music goes, this album is among their most inventive and boundary-pushing (and, given that it's Gentle Giant we're talking about, that's saying something). It's not like In a Glass House, where they try and see just how complex they can make their music, but is rather their attempt to see how strange and crazy they can make hard rock (which, at that time, was their base style of music, one which they worked off of perfectly).

I've been making a bit of point in this review of focusing on Gentle Giant's penchant for strangeness, so it might be a good idea at this point in the review to make a note of Gentle Giant's greatest strength (in my eyes, of course). Gentle Giant, strange and crazy as they were, were always able to make this strangeness catchy and accessible. They proved that bands could challenge the standards of music without compromising the accessibility of their music. This is the case in all of their albums I own, from the debut (with such killer songs as Giant and Alucard) through Octopus (full of fun and jazzy tunes that seem harmless while still being just as inventive as you could wish for), continuing on with In a Glass House (with some of the greatest musical "hooks" I know condensed into one song in the title track), and finally ending with Free Hand (not my favorite of Gentle Giant's albums, but still proving that complex and challenging music could be accessible). I would just like to point out that I own all the albums up through Free Hand, and even the ones I didn't mention prove the point just as well as the ones I did mention.

All that said, this album is one of their less accessible efforts (though it's still not impenetrably dense as one might expect from music as insane as this), but is ultimately among their most rewarding (or close to). The base of the music, as I pointed out earlier, is hard rock, but it's fairly soon into the album when we realize that this isn't your standard hard rock band. The opening of Pantagruel's Nativity is enough to show this, helping the song build up to a rocker, but still absolutely insane, and dripping with mellotron. Even on the closest track to boring old hard rock, Wreck (which may be my favorite on the album), is sufficiently inventive and crazy to please all Gentle Giant fans. Other songs, such as Black Cat, break out of hard rock mode entirely with stunning violin work, a softer mood, and an irresistible atmosphere.

I would hate to have to choose a favorite Gentle Giant album, because that would imply that some of them are not up to the same level as the others, even when I love them to death. I will say, however, that if I were put in a life or death situation where living hinged upon my picking a favorite Gentle Giant album, Acquiring the Taste would garner serious consideration, along with Octopus, Gentle Giant, Three Friends, In a Glass House, and The Power and the Glory. A simply stunning band, and, in my mind, the finest band ever to come out of Great Britain, who released one of their career peaks on just their sophomore effort (though that shouldn't come as too big a surprise, given that they had already released one career peak with their debut), and who would have many more in the future. This is an album that is essential for anyone who likes inventive and crazy music or who likes Gentle Giant (though the two go hand in hand), and really ought to be owned by anyone who likes progressive rock. A premier album by a premier band, and highly recommended.

Report this review (#115886)
Posted Wednesday, March 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars You can't go wrong with GENTLE GIANT in the early to mid 70s ... as long as you are prepared to tolerate playful experimentation, not all of which comes off.

'Acquiring The Taste' is GENTLE GIANT'S definitive musical statement. It's neither their best album nor my favourite of theirs, but it does set out their stall. 'Here we are,' they say, 'doing what we want to; and we don't care whether you like it or not.' A laudable attitude. However, many reviewers make it sound like GENTLE GIANT fare is all but indigestible. It's not. It is, in fact, fairly easy listening: simple tunes, a slightly baroque, pastoral feel, the use of diverse instruments inviting comparisons to a chamber orchestra, instrumental noodling, overlain with harmonising and sometimes dissonant vocal styling. Lovely. There's nothing as difficult or discordant here, for example, as you find with COMUS or HENRY COW - or anything involving MIKE PATTON.

GENTLE GIANT are one of those groups by which people measure themselves. Look at me, I'm clever enough to like this music, what a smart boy I am. Snobbish, in other words. You can see it in reviews of this and other GG albums - probably in this review too. It probably accounts for the abundance of 5-star ratings. But then we progressive folk are like that.

So ... is this album any good? Yes. 'Pantagruel's Nativity', 'Wreck', 'Black Cat' and 'Plain Truth' are straightforward 70s progressive rock, though at the upper end, demonstrating excellent compositional and performance skills. These songs have real hooks. There are some seriously good instrumental parts, especially the rhythm and wah-wah solo part central to 'The House, The Street, The Room'. The other tracks are more experimental, but still worth a listen. I note that STEVE HILLAGE must have had a good listen to 'Edge of Twilight', as he stole - sorry, sampled - the mid-song glissade for his SYSTEM 7 track 'Interstate'. This is typical: GENTLE GIANT has influenced a generation of music makers. SPOCK'S BEARD it the most obvious, but by no means the only, example.

Definitely a fresh sound, and not an acquired taste. All but the least experienced progressive listeners should be immediately rewarded by this album.

Report this review (#117287)
Posted Wednesday, April 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Uneven album.

Gentle Giants second album is and uneven affair. Acquiring starts of good with a King Crimson type track in Pantagruel's Nativity. It got a nice riff that repeats itself through the song. And thats what I feel this album is, lots of nice riffs filled in with some unfocused melodies.

Wreck is an example of an uninspired track where the chorus "Hey, Hey Yeah! Hold On!" is repeated way to many times. After I have finished listentnig to this album I feel nothing

In the liner nots one can read "It is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular", and this statement sounds like an defensive.

Its not a bad record, but it aint that great either.

3 stars

Report this review (#118585)
Posted Monday, April 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the latest album that i bought. These albums were pretty difficult to get 30 years ago and it is still a challenge to find them.

To like this album, you have to listen to it many times in order to get used to it. It is some of their earlier work and it seems that the band was still looking for the kind of music they were going to play, so the music is pretty weird on this one. Pantagruel's nativity and Wreck are perhaps the most interesting tracks on the album, but still, we are really far from other albums like "Octopus" or "In a glass house".

For any new gentle giant fan, it's worth to give it a shot.

Report this review (#123270)
Posted Thursday, May 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars aquiring the taste is a dark album. The night is a reoccuring theme, death, the birth of monsters,'s all there! pantagruel's nativity is a haunting song with some playfull trumpet and keyboard in the intro. Edge of twilight is awesome...unlike anything you've's like a wierd journey through the night, you'll see what I mean. The house, the street, the room is a favourite of mine. It has a crazy melody and one of the wierdest instrumental complicated odds n' ends passages i've ever heard. It's absolutely awesome! Very gentle giant. Aquiring the taste is a wierd, yet charming little keyboard piece. Wreck is a classic, epic with medieval interludes. The moon is down is creepy and dark, similar to edge of twilight. Good vocals. Black cat is is slinky, like a black cat, and slightly disturbing. Plain truth starts off with a dumb intro in my's the one song here I don't care for. I wish they had stopped with black cat, it would've been a five then! It starts with wah violin and someone talking, but I couldn't tell what they were saying. The song really just does nothing for me and with the weak should have been left off the album! This album is a very good gentle giant album. It's also very dark in a way that I like. Listen at night, especially the edge of twilight, the moon is down, and black cat. 4.5/5. This is gentle giant exploring the disturbing depths of madness and the night! Get it!
Report this review (#126098)
Posted Sunday, June 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Let me start first by stating that I haven't yet heard their first one yet, so I don't know how this one compares to it. THIS ALBUM WORKS! While they didn't quite have the atmosphere of King Crimson, the twisted complexities of Jethro Tull, or the conceptual prowess brought forth by Genesis, Gentle Giant worked hard at what they did, and did it well. This album is very good. It isn't a masterpiece, but then again, Gentle Giant never made 'masterpieces'. They just made very small, very good albums that were appreciated by their fanbase. I have no personal favorite Giant album yet, but this one is up there.

'Pantagruel's Nativity' starts off very nicely with dreary synths that give way to haunting guitar flourishes and Kerry Minnear's beautiful vocals. I prefer Minnear's parts over Shulman's most of the time because Minnear always seems to carry the haunting, beautiful melodies that hold emotional resonance. The harmonies all blend into one another, and the sound quality isn't very good, but the words don 't need to be heard to get the general mood of the piece.

'Edge of Twilight' is haunting and should be listened to after dark. There is a lot packed into this song. The lyrics work perfectly to convey a certain daunting mood. 'Mystical figures under the silence of light', and Minnear plays beautiful tone percussion after each verse.

'The House, The Street, The Room' is one of my favorties, because it flows very nicely, and has an excellent solo from Gary Green and twisted verses with very fragmented words that can be interpreted in several different ways.

'Acquiring the Taste' closes the first side, and once again Minnear produces a beautiful piece by way of the Moog. Short, concise, and timed just perfectly.

'Wreck' is my personal favorite here, and jumps out at you on first listen. The caterwhaling 'hey hey hold on' sections and the off beat drumming produce a very intense picture of a sea storm in your mind. This piece contains a fake ending, and also a beautiful middle section sung by Minnear that I really love.

'The Moon Is Down' is also an excellent piece. Haunting (there's that word again!) saxaphones fade in, followed by mysterious words and creepy chantings of the song's title by Minnear. The breathtaking beauty of the 'they live in my dreams' part is not to be missed.

'Black Cat' is a little more conventional than the rest, and is dated but is still very enjoyable in it's own right. It's just repetitive, and could be a little shorter.

'Plain Truth' has always been a personal favorite of mine. Gary Green orders chips (with extra tomato sauce) from Wimpeys at the beginning of the track amidst swirling violin work from Ray. The group bursts into the main riff, and a long solo follows. An excellent closer.

It's dated in production, and nowhere near as epic as a lot of the work being put out by other prog heavyweights, but it's diverse enough to be consistently entertaining all the way through. It's better than 'Three Friends' in my opinion, and is a good purchase if you're getting into Giant.

Report this review (#126659)
Posted Sunday, June 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Aquiring the Taste is Gentle Giant's second album, and probably their most ambitious. The album is aptly titled, as one will truly need to acquire the taste in order to truly appreciate it. That being said, I would only reccomend this for seasoned Gentle Giant listeners. It opens with the beutiful "Pantagruel's Nativity", featuring excellant singing by Kerry Minnaer. "The Edge of Twilight" follows, and again Kerry delivers haunting vocals, with some interesting instrumentals thrown in. The next two songs, "The House, the Street, the Room" and "Aquiring the Taste" are much weaker. The next song, "Wreck" is interesting; I see it as a drunken sea shanty with medieval undertones. It's a good song, and Derek's vocals are particularly strong. What follows is one of my all-time favorite Gentle Giant songs, "The Moon is Down". It begins with great vocals, and contains a stunning instrumental passage that gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. "Black Cat" has its moments, particularly the introduction, but overall it's one of the weaker songs on the album. The final track,"Plain Truth", is forgettable; there's nothing really compelling in it musically or lyrically.

This could have been a 5 star album, but due to the presence of some weaker songs, I can only give it 4 stars. Overall, however, it is a phenomenal work that belongs in every prog fan's collection

Highlights: Pantegruel's Nativity, The Moon is Down, the Edge of Twilight, Wreck

Lowlights: The House, the Street, the Room; Plain Truth

Report this review (#132935)
Posted Monday, August 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars At the early stages of their career Gentle Giant worked more as a studio band than a live act, focusing on writing material and developing further their style.In late-March 1971, after some live dates in the UK, the band plays outside the island for the first time in a 10-days tour next to Colloseum, mainly in West Germany.By their return they finished the recordings of their sophomore album ''Acquiring the taste'' at the Advision Studios in London.The album was released in mid-July for the UK market and a couple of weeks later marked the first ever US product for Gentle Giant, as the album was released in the USA on Mercury Records.

The hard work in the studio translated into a stunning, full-blown Progressive Rock album, where the bluesy and Classic Rock vibes of the previous release have totally evaporated and have given their place to a magnificent mix of Classical Music, Jazz and Folk, performed on rock instrumentation.The band has put up series of outstanding, extremely tight arrangements, where the mighty Mellotron meets the rural flutes, where the depressive strings meet the energy of electric guitars, where the dreamy horns meet the symphonic side of music.Moreover Gentle Giant have fully developed their genuine polyphonic harmonies with strong connections to the Medieval trobadours or the Gregorian chants.Musicianship is simply outstanding, passing from orchestral underlines with perfect use of analog keyboards and strings to jazzy interludes with horns and sax in evidence and folky soundscapes with emphasis on acoustic strings and flutes.Intelligent enough, the band never abandoned its rockin' roots and all tracks contain impressive drumming, throbbing bass lines and scratching electric guitar-power next to the familiar sound of the Hammond organ.The result was a shocking album, full of original ideas, complex structures and solid performances, all together mixed in incredible music arrangements.

No question, this is a Progressive Rock classic.Intricate, adventurous, delicate and genuine, worked carefully till' the last detail.Label this one as a masterpiece of music in general...4.5 stars upgraded.

Report this review (#144582)
Posted Sunday, October 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Acquiring the taste indeed.

With their second album, the band started their chain of masterpieces; which "Acquiring The Taste" certainly is.

I don't know where to start. This album is coherent, track after a track is telling us stories, the overall mood is slightly dark. The vocal harmonies are showing the edge of insanity. The songs are patched with great melodies. Sometimes synth drones are slowly descending, shifting the whole song key almost without noticing - you only notice a slight shift inside your brain. Great vibraphone moments. Great violin moments. How did they manage to play all those instruments? They're able to raise the song on another level so subtle: "Black Cat" is going to an extreme - varying from a violin solos with a firm background to a moment where, suddenly you realise you are listening something dissonant and avangarde.

"The Moon Is Down" contains some great delay effects (best after Jean-Luc Ponty) - and the guys know when too keep it simple when necessary. Synth timbres are astonishing - they're able to sound like a wind singing instead of howling, it's really difficult to describe.

The record is 36 years old right now - and it doesn't sound dated at all. There are some Hammond organ sounds in "The House...", but they sound weird and out of the box. This record is ahead of it's time - but there is no musical style yet that will absolutely verify it. We have to wait for another geniuses to be born. In a meantime, we have an extraordinary story, so unique and powerful that the word "masterpiece" is becoming a misnomer.

Report this review (#148190)
Posted Tuesday, October 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Not often do I absolutely love an album after the first listen, especially a prog one, but this gem is an exception. The title reigns true; this album gave me a taste of Gentle Giant's peculiar style and I loved every minute of it. A well balanced mix of everything that makes Gentle Giant one of the most satisfying prog bands to listen to, including the vocal harmonies, some great instrumentation that never bores, and some well thought out straight up rock songs. If you are unsure which album to start with out of the Gentle Giant collection, I would say pick this one. It may not be their peak musically but this album marks the start of some great experimentation and is an essential listen. My picks are Black Cat, Pantagruel's Nativity, and Plain Truth.
Report this review (#149511)
Posted Thursday, November 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Giant's second album is a lot better effort than the first one, but they don't really quite nail the high point yet (Octopus was still to come, and that's often reffered to as their magnum opus) however this album offers extreme satisfaction for a REAL proghead. This music is as progressive as prog rock will be. But that is also what makes this album a bit tough to digest at first.

Medieval-esqué melodies, very intricate melodies, and perhaps the most unusual chord progressions ever. Dare to listen? Right by Pantagruel's Nativity one can sense the uniqeness that Gentle Giant had. The playing is top-of-the-line throughout the entire album, and not for one moment will you get bored, since the Giant tends to shift chords and melodies more often than a race-car driver shifts gears.

There's a lot of variety on this album, from the gloomy darkness of Edge of Twilight, with it's spooky vocals to the sing-a-long ''Heeey-yay-eh, hold on!'' in Wreck and to the lengthy, rocky guitar solo in The House, The Street, The Room. These songs are all lovely rides through a quite different area in prog. This is not like Yes, or King Crimson. This is not even in between. At points however one feels that there is just too much going on for the bands own good. Among the great tracks are also some mediocre songs, such as The Moon Is Down (one which I'm not very fond of) or the title track.

A very solid effort by a very, very unique band. I find it to be full of extremely great musicianship, but it's also crammed with moments of pure self-indulgence. Extremely complex, no doubt. But that doesn't neccesarily make it a really great album just because it's prog. 3 stars. Thank you for reading!

Report this review (#151610)
Posted Sunday, November 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, as the tabloids would say : "Phew, What A Scorcher!". I was totally astonished by, and besotted with, this album though I resisted the temptation to buy another GG album for 2 years - so I'm obviously not very bright! The love affair begins with that first four-note motif in "Pantagruel's Nativity" and then becomes more torrid, ( Ohh!, the harmonies! ) - it's another one of those Gentle Giant songs ( alongside "I Lost My Head", "Peel the Paint", "His Last Voyage" ) that I could happily listen to a 72-hour remix of. "The Edge of Twilight" and it's companion piece, "The Moon Is Down" are simply stunning, affecting, other-wordly ... while "Plain Truth" is a good rocker, crowned by Ray's wah-wah violin solo. I mean, people say this album is pretentious. Well, all art is pretentious isn't it? But does anybody heckle Leonardo over that pretentious chiaroscuro gimmick in the Mona Lisa?! Did anyone niggle Bach about why there had to be so many Golberg Variations?! This is, for me, the apotheosis of prog rock.
Report this review (#153236)
Posted Friday, November 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Acquiring the Taste" is the 2nd full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act . The album was released through Vertigo Records in July 1971. The lineup who recorded the debut album is intact, but there´s been little time for lineup changes as there are only 7˝ months between the release of the band´s debut album and "Acquiring the Taste". "Acquiring the Taste" was produced by prolific producer Tony Visconti.

While the debut album was both an adventurous and progressive blues tinged rock album, "Acquiring the Taste" takes the band´s progressive and experimental ideas a step further. As always the multi-instrumentalist nature of most of the members of Gentle Giant, provides the music with a rich flavor of sounds and possibilities. In addition to regular rock instrumentation of guitar, bass, drums and vocals, the music on "Acquiring the Taste" also features electric piano, piano, organ, mellotron, vibraphone, Moog, piano, celeste, clavichord, harpsichord, tympani, maracas, cowbells, alto & tenor sax, clarinet, trumpet, claves, violin, viola, electric violin, Spanish guitar, tambourine, 12 string guitar and organ bass pedals. The many different instruments are integrated succesfully in the band´s eclectic progressive rock sound, which one moment will sound like you are listening to a medieval group playing on a market square and the next moment will have you think that Gentle Giant is a hard rock act, and the next will have you think of jazz rock, classical music, avant garde rock, blues or progressive rock. Needless to say the music is very eclectic in nature but fortunately also very cleverly composed with rearranged recurring themes, intricate rhythms, and also delivered with what sounds like comfortable ease.

...and I haven´t even begun to mention the vocal part of the music yet, and that is yet another great asset to the band´s sound. Most lead vocals are sung by Derek Shulman who has a rough hard rock type delivery, but all tracks feature elaborate choirs, harmony- and backing vocals and many tracks also feature the delicate and high pitched lead vocals of Kerry Minnear.

While Gentle Giant are certainly more skilled than your average music group, and they have no problem flashing those skills whenever they get the chance, a lot of the band´s charm stems from the fact that everything they do is delivered with a tongue in cheek humour, that works really well for them. They strike just the right balance between pretentious virtuosity and oddball humour. Tracks like "Pantagruel's Nativity", "Wreck", and "Edge of Twilight" are absolutely brilliant to my ears but the whole album is entertaining on so many different levels.

"Acquiring the Taste" is not an easy album to get into. Because of the eclectic nature of the music it requires many spins and an open mind, but if you´re prepared to invest the time needed and is able to appreciate an album that shifts musical style and direction often and sometimes in a bit inconsistent fashion, "Acquiring the Taste" might prove to be your poison. It´s certainly both well produced, well played, and very cleverly written, and a 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating isn´t all wrong.

Report this review (#160930)
Posted Tuesday, February 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars While it's always nice to try out a 'new' band, I really had some doubts when it came to Gentle Giant. But with all the praise they seem to get around here I decided to plunge into uncharted territory. If King Crimson sometimes appear to be inaccessible, this is a band that can take up the fight.

Complex arrangements, vocally and musically, with dashes of a breathtaking amount of instruments requires utmost attention from the listener, especially if one has the ambition to grasp the whole load of nuances, counterpoint melodies and classical parts of the album. It's surprising indeed to actually find a bluesy guitar in the mix, especially on Plain Truth, a clear statement of the band's past. Altogether, it's both amazing and frightening when you sit back and realise the brutality of the members shared musical knowledge and talent, and how that actually translates into incredibly focused, dense and pin-point compositions compared to much of the material the colleagues of King Crimson puts out. How do you perform this live?

Sticking to KC comparison, where their experimentalism often points forward into uncharted territory, Gentle Giant instead tackles much of the music past. There's room for touches of baroque, medieval pipes, sinister modern classical compositions and what I can only categorise as traditional British songs. Not being more than vaguely familiar with the boundaries and trademarks of all of the above, it's something that still shines through as moderately correct. You get the point. But naturally there's place for the rock in 'progressive rock' as well. Thick guitar and bass catches you unaware at times, and so do great solos and the loved wall-of-sound organ. Gentle Giant is truly eclectic.

It's a darker effort altogether, somehow invoking images from Edgar Allan Poe's novels, as there often is a disturbing and fore-boding feeling to the songs. Gentle Giant has a way of telling stories, captivating, and a great asset to accompany the music. But it never tips over the edge, and in the end, copious instrumental onslaught considered, it remains a quite subtle achievement.

Already a favourite of mine, this album isn't flawless. It gets just a little too much! Self-indulgence is an ugly word, but so far the only ones in the same league as GG is...ELP. And just as with them, the intricacy, pompous arrangements and the will to do their own thing is an exhausting experience for a listener, even if it gives me great pain admitting it. I enjoy this album most when listening to one song at the time, now and then, or when I'm in my most restless or curious mood. Some albums aren't just made to comfort us, but actually demands something in return.

Effort, and perhaps a little spirit of adventure.


Report this review (#166004)
Posted Monday, April 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Giant's second studio release.

I'm having a difficult time rating this album because I came to it after listening to everything else that GG did(up to Free Hand). Comparing Acquiring The Taste to the records that followed makes it look pretty bad. The band tried way too hard to be unique and avant-garde and most of the record sounds contrived. I'm all for meter and key changes, but when they happen so haphazardly and mechanically, I tend to cringe.

This record lacks LIFE(SOUL if you prefer). It is well-thought out, on a technical level, but nowhere did the band think of including passages that would touch the heart.

Progressive music is incomplete if it fails to stir BOTH the mind and the heart. This record only touches the former. If you are a Vulcan then this may be your cup of tea and will provide hours of listening pleasure as you dissect all of the nuances of the weaving in and out of the instrumentation.

On the positive side this record is much more progressive than The Giant's debut release; if that is really important to you.

Perhaps if I'd listened to this one before having listened to all of the ones that followed it I'd be able to give it a higher rating. But 2.5 STARS is as high as I'll go, rounding off to THREE STARS(and that's a BIG STRETCH).

If you haven't listened to GG yet and are thinking about taking the Giant plunge I'd suggest you start chronologically through their catalog. You may enjoy the first two albums all the more if you do it that way. BUT, be forewarned: if you start with anything after the first two(up to Free Hand) then these may seem pretty bad by comparison.

Report this review (#167670)
Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
TGM: Orb
4 stars Review 58, Acquiring The Taste, Gentle Giant, 1971


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

Report this review (#177028)
Posted Wednesday, July 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Taste: Acquired

Boasting a bizarre and somewhat disturbing picture and the name Gentle Giant on the cover this is an album which has likely put off and turned on many buyers over the years. Those who know the band for their intense experimentation with music and harmonies are likely to be drawn to this album at the mere sight of it while more innocent listeners might be turned away. For the latter half of the people in the former sentence (of which I was one once) I say only this: fear not! For this album is excellent! No doubt that the Giant will always be an acquired taste (as the title would suggest) and stepping into their music without the right expectations may leave your head spinning, so if you're new to the band, make sure you find something that you really like about them before passing judgment. For some that thing may never be found, but in general there's something to like for everyone.

This particular album stands out in the Gentle Giant catalog for many reasons. Since it's so close to the beginning of their career they're still trying to do something waaay out there (and they always would, but here in particular it seems). This album is far and away from their very blues oriented debut, and this one is highly progressive in a traditional sense, with that Gentle Giant experimental twist, but of course. The songs are fairly long on the album, meaning that the songs get a chance to develop, but unlike their first album, the long songs are a sonic bombardment instead of drawn out, quiet songs. While a silent moment does split the final song, Plain Truth, its incredibly fast and heavy opening and closing still make it into one of the biggest standouts on the album, the moment of silence only adds to it. The opening Pantagruel's Nativity is another longer piece and another incredible standout thanks to it's delicate voicing and emotional guitar riff which is repeated for added effect. Even this one piece (the guitar riff) is a catchy enough hook to make you want more immediately off the first listen, and that's something not a lot of bands are able to do. The aggressive The House, The Street, The Room is the other longer piece on the album, this one more in the way we're used to by Giant, but simply heavier.

The shorter songs on the album are absolutely great. The Edge Of Twilight is a slower, more quiet song that makes use of some great voice effects that make for a very haunting song (as the title would suggest). Wreck is a truly sea-worthy song with it's melodies and tale of sunken ships - a very malicious and excellent tune. The Moon Is Down is another soft song which doesn't really have anything going for it - that is until the amazing sax solo nearing the end which makes it likely the best short song on the album.

This was the first Gentle Giant album to really pique my interest in the band, as it is strangely accessible. Experimental enough to be incredibly interesting, but not so much to be pretentious, melodic enough to make you want to come back for more, yet complex enough that with every listen it becomes more and more fascinating. Still, their ways are strange, and you might want to be expecting that if you're a newcomer to the band. As for the rating, this one is going to have to get 4 lickable peaches (I'm pretty sure that's what that is...) out of 5. Recommended for anyone looking to get into the band, and anyone who already knows how good they are but doesn't have this album yet.

Report this review (#181832)
Posted Friday, September 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars If Gentle Giant (the album) was a very good, unique and strong start, and still you can pick up some of their early influences, then Acquiring The Taste is totally original (or almost). Certainly the band made no concessions to commercialism or fashions at all. Those intricated harmonies, shifting moods, sudden tempo changes, creative instrumentation and absolute awesome vocal arrangements put the band in a league of their own. The music could be as dense and chaotic as so many groups that have decided to sound differently, no matter the costs. Unlike most of them, though, GG came up with a coherent whole. Their tunes may be very complicated, but still they are enjoyable to the ear.

One of the reasons they succeed where so many others have faiked (before and after) may be the fact they were really creative, skilled and inspired players and songwriters. The chemistry between those guys is one of those rare case when all the members are parts of a very whole: even if each one of them is a virtuoso, none seems to overshadow the others. Besides, they actually come up with SONGS, not a mere bunch of notes and nonsense lyrics. Unlike so many peers, GG knew when to be simple (Yes! I said simple in the case of a GG album!).

Production is only adequate (although the mix seems to be right). Highlights are many since the CD has no fillers, but the very progressive The Moon Is Down and the light Black Cat are both personal favorites. Pantagruel's Nativity and The House, The Street, The Room are the most well known songs from this CD, and are also very good.

Even if Acquiring The Taste is not their best and probably their least accessible, the music inside is powerful, interesting and, if you listened with atention, very rewarding. Maybe a little too intricated for the newbie, it is nevertheless one of the classic GG albums every proghead should own. Talk about originality!

Report this review (#186676)
Posted Wednesday, October 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gentle Giant is a band that gets two extreme opinions out of most people. They are certainly very talented musicians, and take the idea of making complex rock music to its most extreme. This causes some people to love them, and some to hate them. I personally think that most of the time they make very good music, with a tendency to go overboard at times on complexity. And as for this album, I promise it's better than its cover.

The album starts off with Pantagruel's Nativity, one of my favorite songs on the album. It opens with a synth line that invokes thoughts of the sun rising. Kerry Minnear's soft, high voice contributes vocals and the song settles into various solos over a horn riff. Edge of Twilight is a shorter song featuring more of Minnear's vocals. The House, the Street, the Room is a heavier song and has Derek Shulman on lead vocals instead. At times his voice can get very grating, but he does okay on this song. The song's middle section is jazzy, with a lot of piano and saxophone, until Green comes in with a blistering guitar solo. One of the most interesting songs on this album though is Wreck. I hear it often criticized as too simple and monotonous, a lame attempt to be heavy. (These same people later complain that Gentle Giant has a habit of being too prissy and gentile at times. I wish they'd make up their mind.) Personally, I absolutely love Wreck. It's got the the lyrics of a pirate song, and a Black Sabbath-like riff you can almost headbang to. If this doesn't prove that Gentle Giant can rock with the best of them whenever they want to, I don't know what does. Black Cat is where they all get out the instruments that are non-standard to rock music and jam away, with a very dark, slinky feel to it. Plain Truth is another heavier, more straightforward song, with the electric guitar and violin layed on thick.

This is a very good album, but would probably not be the best place to start with Gentle Giant. While they would eventually put out better, this is Gentle Giant at their darkest, and possibly most abstract.

Report this review (#202028)
Posted Saturday, February 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Acquiring the Taste is the second album by Gentle Giant and first I've ever heard. This is an album about which could be said very much. It's extremely avantgarde and experimental album. Much more, than the debut homonymous album. This is the biggest difference. But definitely, here we have more complex and profound work, full of tempo shifts and unclear ideas until your (probably) 6-7 listening of the album. The truth is, that Acquiring the Taste stays incomprehensible until you get into it fully with your senses.

The Medieval influence is much bigger than on the first album; the blues and jazz are much less here; and, of course the progressive manner is much more and here is the beginning of folk rock experience for the band. I'm not sure is this good or bad, but if you aren't familiar to this album and you want to be, you have to change your philosophy of music. You can't hear something even little close to that on the radio or TV. It's completely different from everthing commercial.

It's very hard to rate this unique album. It contains clear dose of music, but it contains flaws, too! When I have to rate this album I feel the same like when I rated Meddle by Pink Floyd. This comparison is little strange, but I shall explain... With both I want to rate them as masterpieces, but something stops me and I can't. Probably in both cases the reason is one clumsiness I found in them... Oh they are 1971's releases both. What a coincidence. Surely very close to masterpiece work we have here... Significant step forward from the debut album. 4.3 stars

Report this review (#208371)
Posted Monday, March 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I really liked this album

This album, like the previous, shows the band is capable of creating a very unique style. Renessaince and Medieval folk influences are present here, but also impressionistic influences. There are even avant-garde influences here. My favourite piece is 'the Moon Is Down'. The only piece i liked slightly less than the rest (which doesn't mean it's a bad piece) is 'Edge Of Twilight.' After several listens you might not be able to say that you understand the complete album, but the music sounds still very pleasant to the ear. I understand why some people have a hard time getting into this, though.

The music tastes like a dish with 20 kinds of vegetables, 15 kinds of meat, 10 kinds of fish, 5 kinds of patatoes and rice and 30 kinds of herbs, which still tastes very well. It tasted like a great album, but not their best.

Report this review (#212047)
Posted Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Strange, bizarre, fascinating music. Gentle Giant. Avant-grade progressive rock band. Music on Acquiring The Taste is quite close to what Van Der Graaf Generator did at the time. I'm also finding a bit of what Jethro Tull did on their famous Passion Play release. But in opposite to VDGG Gentle Giant decided for hard rock guitars here and there. So it's the image of this album. Intelligently arranged avant-grade progressive music with hard rockish edge. That's why I like this album better than other Gentle Giant releases. Because it's their heaviest effort. Pentagruel's Nativity sounds like something good for the reckoning day. It's pure apocalypse words can't describe. It starts very gently but fast becomes gloomy hard rockish piece. The thing that's really amazing on this album is that mix of very gentle sounds and hard rock tunes. The House, The Street, The Room is possibly the best song on this record. It contains all the greatest elements that are characteristic for progressive rock. It's someting like Van Der Graaf Generator (with different vocals) mixed with little classical tunes (like taken from Chopin) and gloomy hard rock in vein of Jethro Tull's Passion Play heavier moments. Compared to that song Wreck seems to be lighter and definitely not so fetching. Still good one though. Plain Truth is very interesting jazz rock tune with elements of rock and roll. More vocal oriented Moon Is Down fits for this release as well. I really like this song. I highly recommend this album because it's very original, weird and fascination music. Prog fans probably won't ask 'what's this?' but even they can be surprised at some moments. This is one of those albums you have to hear before you die.
Report this review (#214645)
Posted Sunday, May 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This is actually my lowest rated Gentle Giant album from their solid seven album-streak (starting with the debut and all the way to Free Hand). But don't let that discourage you since this album is still better than anything else that you will hear from 99,9% other bands out there!

Wreck is my personal pick from this album since this is the first time that Kerry Minnear takes over the lead vocals in the middle of the tracks which results in a mellow bridge to section in contrast to Gary's guitar solo. Later Derek returns the song to a rockier style, just like he later will do on Way Of Life from In A Glass House or On Reflection from Free Hand. The Moon Is Down is a song that only began appreciating recently and it has now become one of my top ten Gentle Giant favorites. This is definitely a mighty achievement considering that all of their early albums are completely flawless and only can be distinguished from one another in comparison to each other.

Acquiring The Taste is another excellent release from one of the genre's strongest bands and I would recommend it just as much to beginners as I would to those who have already acquired their taste for Gentle Giant's music.

***** star songs: The House, The Street, The Room (6:01) Wreck (4:36) The Moon Is Down (4:45)

**** star songs: Pantagruel's Nativity (6:50) Edge Of Twilight (3:47) Acquiring The Taste (1:36) Black Cat (3:51) Plain Truth (7:36)

Total rating: 4,39

Report this review (#214704)
Posted Sunday, May 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars I acquired this album only after becoming exceedingly familiar with the band's more heralded works, and I played it after a long, unexplainable period of not indulging in any Gentle Giant. Upon removing the cellophane wrapper and playing it, a weird wave of nostalgia washed over me. Certainly, this album is not as polished as later releases, nor is it quite as powerful as my personal favorite albums in lyric or in music, but that doesn't mean I think any less of this reminder of a happy and wonderfully progressive band.

"Pantagruel's Nativity" Hearing this first song was like hearing from an old friend, as Kerry Minnear's soft vocal penetrates the opening synthesizer and riff. It's contrast with Derek Shulman's heavy, downward vocal bends is not as stark as it would be on future albums, but I think I like that just as much. The acoustic guitar and trumpet are a key, if subtle component to the sound.

"Edge Of Twilight" The panning harpsichord and gorgeous sounds that spiral in and out gave me complete pause the first time I heard it. It is followed by a slightly avant-garde battering of percussion, with timpani, snare rolls, and xylophone. The breathing waves of sound over Minnear's voice lend to the pleasing atmosphere.

"The House, The Street, The Room" Bass and piano begin this somewhat darker number. Shulman's boisterous voice, with a sharp reverb, shout the words just before Minnear slips in with a small line. I love the happy bass riff that follows. A weird brass section jumps in, and Gary Green breaks it up with a ripping guitar note followed by a rowdy, biting solo.

"Acquiring The Taste" The title track is a short, keyboard-based instrumental.

"Wreck" This song has a call and response verse, with the lead singer voicing one line and a primitive chorus crying out the wordless same answer. Minnear, as usual, represents the gentler side of Gentle Giant, singing rapid lines over a graceful harpsichord. Green follows a lovely flute and harpsichord interlude with a brief, wailing guitar part.

"The Moon Is Down" Lovely vocals ebb and flow like the tide. A great bass riff speeds up to usher in the instrumental section that features Phil Shulman's saxophone and some sprightly keyboard.

"Black Cat" I definitely love the bluesy main riff over which Minnear almost whispers over. The violin joins in at times, and Green's guitar just hangs out in the background, adding additional vibrancy to this exceptional track. A string section interrupts the flow of the piece, followed by another odd section laced with diverse percussion instruments. Plucked strings play the main riff while a gorgeous violin soars over it.

"Plain Truth" For the final song, the band puts together a moderate rocker, with Shulman singing a descending vocal melody and lots of guitar and violin interplay. It has something of a "prison blues" feeling in the middle, with Cajun-like violin in the middle (or what sounds like violin fed through some weird effects), which concludes Gentle Giant's second album alongside a raucous ending courtesy of drummer Martin Smith.

Report this review (#228945)
Posted Wednesday, July 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
3 stars Impressed by the good impression that "Three Friends" made on me after years of being unable to understand what people see on this band, got "Acquiring the Taste", the other GENTLE GIANT release I was missing, placed it on my car's CD Player with great hope, but even when I don't believe it's remotely as good as the next album, has some great tracks.

In a couple of songs from their second release, GENTLE GIANT abuses of the excessive complexity with little melodic support and tries endless "variations on the same themes" that after two or three repetitions bores me, no matter how many different arrangements they make, the central theme seems too limited to repeat it so many times.

"Pantagruel's Nativity" starts promising, with a beautiful introduction that leads to a delightful melody with very interesting vocals, for a couple of minutes this is enough to keep my interest specially for the use of wind instruments and a distorted guitar section, but then, they come over and over to the same theme with some variations, but the lack of energy and the monotonous melody makes me want to skip to the next song to see if the seeds of "Three Friends" can be found in this album.

With great hope I start listening "Edge of Twilight", sadly I can't say anything better than in the previous track, again the song seems lack of enthusiasm, what makes it boring, yes, it's obvious all the members of the band are very skilled and the music is well elaborate from a technical perspective, but the guys seem to play by inertia, and never transmit any form of energy.

"The House, The Street, The Room" starts mysterious and a bit haunting, but at last I find some intention of transmitting something to the audience, the Baroque instrumental sections are rich and interesting, while the vocal and choirs are impeccable, even the weird parts make sense in the context of the song, and the guitar is simply outstanding...A very high point.

When I read the name "Acquiring the Taste" I believed that the title song had to be one of the best.....I believe I was wrong, this short interlude with Medieval atmosphere has no head or feet, hank God it only lasts 1:40 minutes and is followed by the good "Wreck", again the band shows enthusiasm and a good balance between melody an experimentation, the vocal works and the violin are just perfect, yes it's dissonant, but it's coherent and the instrumental passages are explosive, another good moment.

The first half of "The Moon is Down" is so repetitive that I was ready to press the skip button, but suddenly the Jazzy instrumental begins and we are fore a different reality, the perfect musical sense, rational changes and the unpredictable structure make of this song worth to listen.

"Black Cat" reminds me of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA (at least during the intro), a good reason to follow it with interest, when the vocals enter seems like it will be another repetitive and boring song, but I'm wrong, I must say it's not my cup of tea because again they lost me in the complexity of the track, but at least they are not boring, the violin saves the song.

The album is closed by the best song, "Plain Truth" sounds like a fusion of JEAN-LUC PONTY and VAN DER GRAFF GENERATOR with Blues and a touch of Hard Rock, the fluid violin based Jazz sections and the energy similar to Hammill and company are blended with great skills, despite both styles could seem contradictory, something only excellent musicians can do. This guys saved the excellent material for the end.

As I said on the review I made of "Three Friends", will never be a fan of GENTLE GIANT, because their music doesn't make produce the same emotion I feel with other bands, but I can't do less than admire the skills of this members or deny I enjoyed most of this album.

Now, it's not easy to rate this album, because despite some songs are brilliant, others make me want to turn off the stereo, despite this facts, I believe "Acquiring the Taste" is above the average, but not enough for 4 stars, so I will have to go with 3 that would be 3.5 if the system allowed it.

Report this review (#238745)
Posted Friday, September 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars For me Gentle Giant is one of these bands that have the minimalistic sound that others wants to find... progressive pop rock ballads quite rhythmic, soft, sour, smart, very minimalistic and simple , sounds and melodies that are linked on... The album traverses upon a mix of genres like folk, jazz and guitars, mandolins, flutes, violins, bassoons, trumpets, the sound of moog synthesizer, the organ in church, the voices in chorus, harps, all that is Acquiring the Taste, with a sense of epic, mysterious and long intrumental parts Gentle Giant offers one of the best albums you listened to eclectic minimalist prog.
Report this review (#242959)
Posted Sunday, October 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars "Acquiring the Taste" was my first taste (pardon the pun) from Gentle Giant, and that was almost two years ago. And since then, I have kept coming back to it with a certain degree of earnestness each time. Often eclipsed by Gentle Giant's later works (such as "Octopus", "In a Glass House", and the like), one may quick to shrug it off as just a decent album made by a band that was still searching for their own, unique sound. But really, it's more than that.

Now, "Acquiring the Taste" is not a masterpiece either, at least in my book. There are still some qualities that prevent the album from the 5 star rating, even a rating of 4 stars. It sounds unbalanced and inconsistent, with the first two songs starting things off very well but then steadily heading towards a decline with "The House, The Street, The Room" and the instrumental "Acquiring the Taste". These two lack the punch that "Pantagruel's Nativity" and "Edge of Twilight" have, but they are still pretty neat songs.

The second half of the album picks up steam but does not quite get to the level of the first two songs. The best songs from this half are "The Moon is Down" and "Black Cat", with their eerie, yet pleasant atmospheres. "Wreck" features a great chorus to sing along to and "Plain Truth" ends the album on an admirable note, with its almost country-sounding feel.

"Acquiring the Taste" may not be worthy of the fourth star in my opinion, but it has served as a good enough album to discover more of Gentle Giant's exciting discography, which I do not regret in the slightest. Not exactly essential, but one should definitely check it out at least once.

1. "Pantagruel's Nativity" - 8.5/10

2. "Edge of Twilight" - 8.5/10

3. "The House, The Street, The Room" - 7.5/10

4. "Acquiring the Taste" - 6.5/10

5. "Wreck" - 7.5/10

6. "The Moon is Down" - 8/10

7. "Black Cat" - 8/10

8. "Plain Truth" - 7.5/10

62/8 = 77.5% = 3(+) stars

Report this review (#251989)
Posted Saturday, November 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a Gentle Giant for those who have a keen ear or open mind to experimentation. There's a feeling of ''uncertainty'' in the compositions; many times, it's hard to guess where a song is going like on ''The Moon is Down'' but it's well worth sitting through to get to the good meaty parts.

It's an album that you really need to have listened to it in order to understand how it works. If anything, Gentle Giant know how to use dynamics to lull the listener into a false sense of security. Take the middle of ''Pantagruel's Nativity''; it goes into a soft, tranquil thing after the first main idea, then the guitars and drums explode without really giving a warning. Maybe that other prog bands do this too, but Gentle Giant knows how to keep a theme going properly so that these sudden transitions are effective.

There's plenty of atypical music here from the plinky ''Black Cat'' to the sea shanty of ''Wreck''. Even a song like ''Plain Truth'', one that sounds like a plain country-rocker, has its offbeat moment in a wah-fed violin solo at the beginning and end. Only ''The House, the Street, the Room'' doesn't do anything for me. It's a cerebral album that's well worth the bashing at.

Report this review (#253564)
Posted Sunday, November 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars Gentle Giant has long been one of my favorite bands. And this is one of my favorite Gentle Giant albums. And I pity the poor folks who just can;t get into this type of music. But they can have their Genesis & Dream Theater, I'll take GG.

Classic Gentle Giant music is like an intricate puzzle, where each instrument plays an essential piece, and you can't get the full effect without hearing it in it's entirety. Many instruments, even percussion, share in playing pieces of melodic and harmonic themes, creating an effect that few bands could ever match, none could perfom consistently.

And on this album, the Giant explored and experimented with many styles of music, from the electric madrigal of Pantagruel's Nativity, to the eerie soft ballads Edge Of Twilight and The Moon Is Down, both of which diverge into some beautifil weirdness. They even play with a sea shanty on Wreck.

If you haven't ever heard Gentle Giant, this is not a bad place to start. Be prepared for eargasms.

Report this review (#256450)
Posted Wednesday, December 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gentle Giant - Acquiring the Taste (1971)

After Gentle Giant's great début it was time for some new experiments. On the inlay of the original vinyl is written a massage to every-one who bought the record: This is our artistic vision and we haven't searched for consensus concerning the musical needs of the record purchasers. This alone is a nice statement and truly prog.

On the second album Gentle Giant sounds less cohesive then on the already not to cohesive début. Some consider this a problem, I find it to be an artistic way of being naive and thus very interesting to listen to. The band experiments with symphonic rock with wind sections, heavy organ sounds, violin with wahwah, intelligent composition, epic structures, time signatures, changing instruments with fade-in-fade-out effects, vocal harmonies, synthesizers and a lot more. Writing it down it became an amazing list to achieve on just one album. Here lies the strength of Gentle Giant, much experimentation on different musical parameters: atmospheres AND technical approaches.

Stand-out songs for me are the following tracks. Pantagruel's Nativity is a symphonic masterpiece with some bombastic symphonic moments, very special and intense dis-harmonic vocal harmonies and great wind sections. The composition is very inspired and vocals are great too.

The House, The Street, The Room is a great aggressive track with some inventive harmonic findings. The heavy organ and bass sound give the track a nice vibe.

The Moon Is Down is a great serious ballad type of song with progressive timing and very interesting vocal harmonies. The emotional feel of the track is very strong for such an sophisticated composition.

The album its only weakness lies in the two lesser songs on the end. Though Black Cat and Plain Truth aren't bad, they lack the original and perfect composition and feel of the other tracks of the album.

Conclusion. A great Gentle Giant record that shouldn't be skipped by any-one at all. As most albums of GG it has even a unique sound among their other albums and it's a truly progressive album that shows new things, both technically and atmospheric. A very very big four stars this one.

Report this review (#260688)
Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Acquiring the Taste is an eccentric album. The album carries jazz and psychedelic influences as a whole, but it's hard to nail this album down into one single category; hence the eclectic prog thing. If I could use one word to describe the atmosphere of Acquiring the Taste it would be mysterious. Plenty of soft vocal harmonies, ethereal guitars, puzzling lyrics, a dazzling array of unconventional instruments and playing styles make for an other worldly experience. Gentle Giant can be hard to penetrate at times, but if you are willing to sit down and give Acquiring the Taste the attention it deserves I thing you'll be rewarded by an unique musical experience which will hopefully have you wanting more.

Pantagruel's Nativity and Edge of Twilight are the two leading tracks, both fit the general description of a constantly changing "psychedelic mystery jazz." No choruses here, no rocking out. Plenty of instrumental work spliced in between some of the gentlest singing this side of Jon Anderson. Skipping ahead a little bit is the short Keyboard instrumental. It belongs in this crowd. It only manages to stay focused likely because it was too short to support a drastic mood shift.

Preceding the track Acquiring the Taste is The House, The Street, The Room. I separate it from the rest of the forerunners because it is distinctly bluesy-er. It doesn't go as far as the next track but it has a few rough edges. It does still have some wacky instrumentation.

Wreck is the white sheep on an album full of black sheep. It is an exceptional hard rock song. It is indelibly the work of Gentle Giant however. I highly recommend this track to progressive rock fans, but it easily bridges the gap towards the more conventional sound. (Crossover Hard Rock?)

The Moon is Down returns us to the psychedelic motifs. I feel like I should be sitting in an eggshell chair wearing Austin Powers' get up when I listen to the first half. Around the midpoint things get a little livelier. The tempo quickens the mist lifts a little and a groovy keyboard led psychedelic jam session ensues only to be dragged heavily back down. This is one of the best tracks on the album.

Black Cat is highly evocative of the titular feline; silken and smooth and punctuated with the staccato cat moving deftly about. This too is a highlight of Acquiring the Taste.

The close of the album brings us back to the hard rock of Wreck. Plain Truth isn't quite as conventional in sound, but it's chorus like is easy to get behind. Plain Truth is the longest Track on the album, as a result Gentle Giant as plenty of room to experiment. Following the harder rocking into is soft jazzy jamming which culminates in a triumphant return to hard rock by about the three quarter mark. The last minute of the album is devoted to a warbling guitar solo.

Acquiring the Taste is not a hard rocking party album, some parts of it might qualify if you going to a fairly chic affair. This album doesn't really stay in one place for too long though. It is sophisticated and deserves to be given your concentration. You will not be disappointed. I give it an easy four stars out of five. Maybe even four and a half but that doesn't exist here at PA.

Report this review (#274373)
Posted Friday, March 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Gentle Giant's second album is a solid confirmation of the qualities displayed on their debut. The band added a whole layer of sonic sophistication to the already high compositional standard they had achieved.

Especially the weird ambience appeals to me. Gentle Giant build very haunting and creepy atmospheres, using uncanny harmonic lead vocals and unusual tonalities. Edge of Twilight is a great example and dwarfs recent imitations such as last year's Maudlin of The Well album Part The Second. Not much groundbreaking about that one if you hear Gentle Giant next to it.

But there's a 'but'. There's something about this music that leaves a studied and slightly artificial taste in my mouth; it never feels spontaneous or emotive like other eclectic prog icons such as King Crimson and VDGG do. I think the accent is too much on musicianship, composition, harmony and formal perfection. All of those are perfectly valid angles to create superb prog, but for me the result lacks the passion and spontaneous creativity to make it come alive.

Certainly 4 stars as far as I'm concerned. Superb, unique and mesmerizing music, but no heart.

Report this review (#280377)
Posted Monday, May 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hypnotism.

This album has answered my question why so many are so fanatic in their adulation of this band. Some of them have even tattooed Gentle Giant on their necks and upper body. Although I am not on my way to the nearest tattoo parlour, I understand their sentiments. This album has made me understand them.

The music is quirky, twisted, melodic and hypnotic at the same time. After the Zeuhl like opening of the first song Pantagruel's Nativity, it takes of into an almost Canterbury Scene landscape before Gentle Giant establish their own identity. And for the first time, I can now put words into what Gentle Giant is really doing. Their sound is a mix of Canterbury, Symphonic and pastorial folk music. Add some hints of Zeuhl, Jazz and RIO too and you get Gentle Giant. Maybe some of my Gentle Giant tattooed friends would disagree, but that is what I get out of their sound.

But most of all, Gentle Giant has included some truly great songs here. Pantagruel's Nativity has already been mentioned. Actually, it is a bit unfair to single out more tracks here. I think they are all great tracks. Which makes an album I will enjoy to my last ever breath. Yes, I have decoded the Gentle Giant code and I now "get it". A truly brilliant song is missing from this album and that's why I am not going fully potty with the stars. But this is indeed a very, very strong album which is an excellent addition to everyone's collection.

4.5 stars

Report this review (#284694)
Posted Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Anyone hungry for an apple?, me neither.

Much of this album, starting from that impossible-to-miss cover and somewhat arrogant mission statement, seems to be seeking attention. Not so much the low-self-esteem type, but more that I've-got-the-goods and you just can't help but notice variety.

I suppose if you're setting out to create unique music, why not go all out? Gentle Giant seem to have accomplished their mission, yet in so doing fall just short of creating a masterpiece. That said, there is plenty to taste with this album.

First of all, just a look at the instrument list screams progressive rock. If that looks like variety, then the music is even more varied than that. I'm not sure where the donkey's jawbone comes into play, but I'm sure they played it on par with Samson himself. Some of this variety, such as in Edge of Twilight, is so subtle, and I have to crank up my volume past normal levels just to hear some of the intricacy. It's really amazing how much they put into this album, particularly considering the year: 1971. Tons of different keys, lots of multipart vocal harmonies, plenty of guitar texture, and even a judicious sampling of strings, winds, horns and percussive instruments. It's not all great, but I respect them the effort put into it.

Highlights for me are Pantagruel, Twilight, Wreck and House (Plain Truth is also a nice, straightforward rocker, but probably not on par with these others). Pantagruel is just great prog, moving between dreamy and heavy, with great melodies and story. Twilight is so spacey and...well...different that I usually pick up something new to enjoy each time through. House is one of my favorite rockers by the Giant: the attitude during the instrumental break is almost palpable, and it's so strangely counterbalanced by the noodling. Just great pieces, all of them.

Overall, Acquiring the Taste is without a doubt a fun, creative and certainly challenging album. Pantagruel and House rank in my top ten Gentle Giant tracks, and this probably enabled the band to continue their anti-establishment leanings. Fortunately for all of us proggers, these leanings often led to unique musical treasures.

Report this review (#285327)
Posted Sunday, June 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars GENTLE GIANT was one of the most important rock prog band in the 70's.With this second album the band is more experimental and dissonant but always elegant and melodic in some tunes. It was time for some new experiments, the second phase of sensory pleasure.The best tracks are in my opinion "pantagruel's nativity",edge of twilight,The intense ballad "the moon is down".But the whole lp is unique without frontiers,with all the band's trademarks: medieval vocals,rock,jazz.this is new contemporary prog with its complex structures and inventive arrangements.All the songs are full of strength,but also extreme and equilibrated. Acquiring is a new progressive rock level,a sort of little fascinating challenge..MUSIC FOR HEART AND MIND.....
Report this review (#287629)
Posted Sunday, June 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
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'? 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.

Report this review (#287679)
Posted Monday, June 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#288796)
Posted Thursday, July 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars The masterpiece of the prog godfathers. A really good album for people that have already started in prog rock and that wants more weirdness in their music. The album is really ecletic as there is some blues influenced music with some classical and medieval music, a bit of jazz and a bit of Oriental influences. The album is what the Gentle Giant wanted to be the strangest album that a man can see in his like and they used of their incredible musicianhood to build foggy themes with spectral backgrounds. The first songs have no connection with reality and are rather psychedelic. Try it if you can and I hope you Aquire the Taste.
Report this review (#300912)
Posted Wednesday, September 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars I would have loved to have heard this album when it first came out. I'm sure there wasn't much around to compare it to. This is a band that did not show it's infuences at all. This album was more experimental and 'progressive' than the self titled debut. From the liner notes: "It is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular." It goes on to say: "From the outset we have abandoned all preconceived thoughts on blatant commercialism." Goals achieved. Produced by Tony Visconti(who is best know for working with David Bowie), this album has something that is sadly lacking in a lot of prog....a funny cover!(it's really an apple, or a pear or some kind of fruit).

So you get your English folk music mixed with hard rock mixed with jazz mixed with classical and so on. On the last song "Plain Truth" GG sounds like a mix of Kansas and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but before either band had released an album. "Black Cat" sounds like a Isaac Hayes song that for some reason has an avant-classical section spliced into the middle of it. Brilliant. The riffs on "The House, The Street, The Room" and "Wreck" are just more proof to me that in the early '70s, 'progressive rock' and 'heavy metal' had a lot of similarities. Most of the time I cannot tell who is singing but Derek Shulman doesn't sound as prominent here as he is on later albums. Lots of different instrumentation here used to good effect. I miss Phil Shulman's presence in later albums. Here he is an integral part of the music and it seems that after he left the band's sound became more technical and cold.

Gentle Giant were one of the first bands to ever use the Moog synthesizer. It is used on their debut but here it is used much more. In fact, the title track is nothing but Moog. On this album they not only have their own unique sound but all the compositions have a life of their own. By the time of say, Free Hand, it seemed like they were starting to repeat themselves. Most of the members are multi-instrumentalists and helps add to the strength of Acquiring The Taste: it's diversity. This may or may not be a good place to start with Gentle Giant, but nonetheless deserves 5 stars for it's consistency, good production and overall ahead-of-it's-time-ness.

Report this review (#304329)
Posted Friday, October 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars As I have written in my review of their debut, GG is not one of my favourite bands. This one is the first album I have bought from their repertoire, and when I read the (short) liner notes, there is only one consideration left: over pretentiousness.

Make up your own mind "Acquiring the taste is the second phase of sensory pleasure. If you've gorged yourself on our first album, then relish the finest flavours (we hope) of this, our second offering". Well, well, well! I guess that even ELP wouldn't have written this (even if they have thought of).

In terms of music, I don't dislike the opening track "Pantagruel's Nativity" which shows some heavy aspects (even doom ones ŕ la Sabbath) as well as very dark moments. The whole of this album though is pretty indigestible to my ears.

It is just a confirmation of the second paragraph from the liner notes I have already mentioned: "It is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular". I bet you!

Loudly, unstructured and experimental during "The House, the Street, the Room", it is a real hard time to live for me. Actually, this album is not at all for my taste: but this is only a description of my own and truthful feel.

I understand that most of the people from this site (I only represent one per cent of the reviewers with this rating) might think differently. Still, this album is rather difficult to approach. Later ones will get a better score, but this "Acquiring the Taste" is just scoring two stars on my musical scale.

Report this review (#308502)
Posted Saturday, November 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Review #11 Gentle Giant's 1971 album "Acquiring The Taste"

I think this is the first GG album I owned. I bought it second hand just in case it was bad. I'd heard a bit about them but did not know what to expect. In a nutshell just because a band deliberately goes out with the premise that "...It is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular. We have recorded each composition with the one thought - that it should be unique, adventurous and fascinating..." doesn't mean that it is/was any good. And to me it wasn't good, I felt it was in the "bad" category and am glad I bought it second hand. Not a good start in my appreciation of GG.

There are moments but as a whole "Acquiring the Taste" sounded and still sounds (to me at least) an attempt to be elite at the expense of musicality and harmony and it grates on me. I still do not listen to it much. I have a soft spot for "The Moon is Down" and can sit through and hum along to "Plain Truth", which is the least experimental of all the tracks on "Acquiring The Taste". The rest I can take or leave.

I can appreciate the band's quest for a unique sound but if it's no good, it's no good. Things were to change markedly however in their next half a dozen or so releases.

I still haven't acquired the taste nearly 40 years after its release. An untastey 2 stars from BarryGlibbster.

Report this review (#393692)
Posted Friday, February 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rarely a band, especially a band such as Gentle Giant, is able to create an album that can truly change you. This second album of the band can be very easily considered one of the best prog rock album ever made, a masterpiece of rock music that is very, sadly underrated. In fact, "Acquiring The Taste" has to be in my opinion considered one of the greats of progressive, like "Dark Side Of The Moon", Selling England By The Pound", or "Close To The Edge".

While the first, impressive debut was just a naďve, courageous but not too quirky attempt to approach to new musical horizons, this second album is a perfect definition of experimental music, a master work that has no defect whatsoever, and can be compared only to a few albums. Dark, strange, mysterious, bizarre, epic, triumphant, "Acquiring The Taste" has a much wider set of influences, much more than the debut; from classical music, Gregorian Chants, improvisation, jazz, to medieval folk music, hard rock tastes, blues feelings, experimental music, and even some orchestral approaches (especially in the ryhtmic section). This is all thanks to the musicians, who had already proven themselves even with the debut, reaching their highest peak here. Only in the semi masterpiece "In a Glass House", or in "Free Hand", the band will be this good.

"Acquiring The Taste" is a portrait of a small town, quiet, but unnervingly tensed, weakly illuminated by a dawn sun. A mystic, cerebral, poetic tale, where all the songs flow like the chapters of a book, each song telling thousands of stories, all equally fascinating and intriguing.

From "Pantagruel's Nativity" to "Plain Truth", all of them are unpredictable, fascinating and truly masterful. The creepy and eerie "Edge Of Twilight", the alarmed "The House, The Street, The Room", to then the furtive sounds of "Black Cat", the calm, relaxed mellotron of "The Moon Is Down", or the already mentioned "Pantagruel's Nativity", all of them an essential listening.

An album that rarely finds comparison, like I previously said, an absolute masterpiece that ought to have more recognition.

Report this review (#394050)
Posted Friday, February 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars With this album many people acquire their taste for that signature Gentle Giant sound. A sound that blends genres like there's no tomorrow, with a constant alteration between thick and thin, loud and quiet, major and minor. Tasty, indeed.

The number of instruments used on this record is close to the number in a medium-sized orchestra. They are not used by mere amateurs. Integral parts of the compositions are played on orchestral, exotic and synthesized instruments in addition to those found in any rock band, often playing short interludes and switching between each other. The resulting music has some of the widest range of timbres you will ever hear in one place. Compositionally, it is also very expansive, incorporating simple melodies into various themes with differences in rhythm or pitch; some are blues riffs, others medieval chants, others jazzy melodies. The band are able to filter all this into succinct and interesting songs that are progressive but surprisingly accessible.

'Pantagruel's Nativity' kicks off the album with a laid back, cool feel. Simple vocals are accompanied by mellotron chords and licks of flute and trumpet, before sharp guitar riffs lead into Gregorian chant-like harmonies. A vibraphone solo with sax backing makes way for more guitar, and the sections are then reversed. This is an example of the seemingly chaotic styles that adhere this album, but the song is so easy to listen to, and rather groovy too. Other highlights for me include 'The House, The Street, The Room', which has similar juxtapositions of rock and baroque, and 'Wreck', a folk-rock exploitation of the sea-shanty with a tune that most radio stations would welcome. 'Plain Truth' is also a great funky closer, with electric violin playing blues licks.

Gentle Giant's music is not simple by any means, but it is one of the best examples of succinct and clever blending of styles on this entire website. The compositions are tight and in control, but with enough room for improvisation. The band's lack of mainstream success says a lot about the general public's taste..... acquired or otherwise.

Report this review (#409091)
Posted Monday, February 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was never a fan of Gentle Giant (nor will be) because I could not bear their complex sound and I knew dissonant.But they had something good to offer me, and that "something"is "Acquiring the Taste ".

Oh dear, I can not believe this album is the Gentle Giant.The sound is very different from "Octopus","The Power and the Glory" or "Free Hand"(well, it is also jarring and confusing at times).With this album I could understand why the vocals of GG are so acclaimed.I do not like the voice of Derek Schulman, but when the vocals come into harmony ... oh, my God.

While the other three albums just one or two tracks stood out, here are just one or two other dispensable.The other are wonderful.

4 stars

Report this review (#418657)
Posted Sunday, March 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one Evil sounding album, a very dark mood pervades this experimental masterpiece. This my first exposure to this band, so ultimately it took a while to shake of the perplexity at latter albums, though i have grown to love them as well, This Album has a fatter guitar sound to me, Is fatter the word ? well, I get more of Black Sabbath Iron Butterfly vibe out of this Guitar sound, That's where the comparison starts, Black cat Chills me to the bone every time, I fully understand why big time GG fans complain about this album, It really is a stand alone album, To me it feels closer to King Crimson , but On it's own it is a Masterpiece. Why this is not rated in the top 10 of all time astounds me,This is as good as Van der graaf Generator's God bluff , And my favorite GG, Octopus a close second.
Report this review (#426438)
Posted Friday, April 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gentle Giant was, in my opinion, the pinnacle of creative progressive rock writing. All of their albums showcase fantastic musicianship riddled with unique elements that make Gentle Giant stand out greatly in the progressive rock world. Acquiring the Taste is a good album, but a lot of the material on this album didn't really stick with me or stand out much, and it seems like at this point Gentle Giant were still developing their signature sound.

The musicianship here is super tight, which is a given, because this is Gentle Giant after all. All of the elements from the most popular Gentle Giant albums are here, but the songwriting is a bit lesser of quality than it would later become. Lots of interesting and beautiful melodies emphasized by compositional complexity and avant touches make up the music on this album, but the only track that stood out to me was the opener, "Pantagruel's Nativity". However, this album is always good to throw on to listen to the slightly under-developed Gentle Giant trademark style.

Report this review (#429411)
Posted Friday, April 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gentle Giant's second album is the album that contained the famous liner notes on the inner gatefold. We have recorded each song with one thought - that it should be unique, adventurous and fascinating. is the motto found in the notes, a motto they used for most of their career. These words truly inspire me, and I believe anyone who sees themselves as a prog artist read these notes, for they are the formula for any good progressive music. Gentle Giant aren't just talking the talk though, all the songs here are definitely unique, adventurous and fascinating. Some songs are better than others though, and we shall see why.

The album starts with the symphonic Pantagruel's Nativity, a song based on Rabelais' story of giants. This track is very good, with quite complex parts, but it's a little bit slow, and not quite as gripping as Giant from the debut album or indeed The Advent of Panurge from 'Octopus' based on the same story.

The next song, Edge of Twilight, is a very creepy affair indeed. Strangely, it starts with the lyric The moon is down, which is the name of another track on the album. Just listen to the song and hear how creepy the chorus is, and the instrumental that follows. Not a bad song at all.

The House, The Street, The Room is the best track on the album for me. The verses are great, but the instrumental is simply astounding. Firstly there is a quiet section with many different instruments doing a little riff, and this is very complex indeed, and your not sure what to expect next. This crescendos into one of the best guitar solos in Gentle Giant history. Few bands understand the power of having an 'air guitar' moment in their song, but this song will have you shredding in no time. As an added bonus, the guitar solo is entirely in 6/4!

The title track, Acquiring the Taste is a short Moog instrumental. There is some exceptional playing going on here, but this track isn't really for me. On many CD editions, the first few seconds of this track are marred by an awkward pitch bend. Watch out for this!

Wreck shows that Gentle Giant were being serious when they said 'unique'. This song is basically a souped-up sea shanty! I pushed to enjoy this track, and eventually I found I quite liked this track, but the incessant yelling of Hey-yeah-yeah hold on! may be offputting to some. An interesting experiment indeed, but it's a good thing they didn't repeat it.

The Moon Is Down is a melancholy track, with some beautiful harmonies. The instrumental changes the track completely, with a faster pace and a lighter atmosphere. Certainly 'fascinating'! It's amazing to hear just how many sounds a single band can create!

Black Cat is a lot more fun. The verses are set over a very cool groove, and the atmosphere just feels perfect for the lyrics. The instrumental shows the band being unnecessarily complicated (which is a good thing), and playing perfectly in time with mostly string instruments. A neat song.

Plain Truth is a sprawling rock song mainly based around the electric violin. That's about all there is to this piece really. This song expressly showcases Phil Shulman's electric violin skills, which have to be admired. Otherwise, this piece is not particularly complex.

In my opinion, what Gentle Giant gained in complexity and creativity for this album, they lost also a little in entertainment. These songs are all great compositions, and masterpieces in their own right, but the collection does not live up to all the hype it seems to get. Still, just for tracks like The House, The Street, The Room, and to enjoy another slice of Gentle Giant's spectacular catalogue, I fully recommend this album.

Report this review (#430936)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Mainly noted for its success in developing the band's sound - as well as including a wonderful little prog manifesto in the liner notes - I think Acquiring the Taste also deserves plaudits for the band's achievement of producing technically complex and challenging music whilst also showing an adept command of emotional mood and atmosphere. From the eerie air of tracks like Edge of Twilight and The Moon is Down to the triumphant declaration of Plain Truth, the band show a command of tone and songwriting that many others would kill to possess. All the band members play at their best on this album, but I want to give particular praise to Ray Shulman's violin work, which is particularly effective on the likes of Plain Truth, and Kerry Minnear's keyboard work, which hooks you right at the start of the opening track and doesn't let you go throughout the album.

Acquiring the Taste is a true classic, and a major step up from the debut; whereas the band's first album retained some link to other current rock trends, with this effort the band created their own sonic universe, one occupied by nobody else.

Report this review (#479232)
Posted Saturday, July 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars While a very enjoyable softer, more melodic, bluesy side of GG is present here, something about the sound recording--especially the vocals and drums--turns me off. Still,there are some great songs here--some of GG's most accessible ones, too.

Five star songs: "Pantagruel's Nativity," "Edge of Twilight," "The Moon Is Down," and "Black Cat."

"The House, The Street, The Room" (6/10) is, to my tastes, just a bit too pretentious, over dramatic, even silly.

"Plain Truth" (6/10) is interesting for its bluesy violin and Jethro Tull-like feel but it is, in the end, too straightforward rock'n'roll and not one of my favorites.

All in all a good album with some great songs and poor engineering choices (IMHO). 3.5 stars marked up for the fact that GG is so very much in a league all their own. Supreme craftsmen and innovative composers of the highest caliber.

Report this review (#483150)
Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gentle Giant's goal is revealed in this record: It is their goal to expand the frontiers of contemperary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular. Well, I quess they have achieved some popularity at Progarchives at least!

After a keyboardintro the first couplet starts with a acoustic guitar. The next couplet a flute and trompet are introduced. And than the catchy guitarriff with great time intervals is introduced followed by melancholic vocals; a xylophone solo followed by a guitarsolo. Than another couplet and it goes on and on. There happens so much it is difficult to notice everything. Pentacruel's Nativity is a great opening track indeed!

Edge of Twilight is a bit sinister and slow track. The are almost spoken out whispering. I like the drumsolo combined with a xylophonesolo in the middle.

In the next song "The House, The Street, The Room" each couple starts like as hard-rock song and then changes into pscyhedelic. After two couplets an avant-garde solo is to be heard whereafter a hardrock guitar solo with wah-wah pedals kicks ass. This may be one of the heaviest moments of Gentle Giant! Another couplet ends in some avant garde and the song is over.

Side one ends with the titletrack which is an instrumental one: a nice symphonic prog piece. For so far this record is worth five stars!

Wreck is a seaman folksong in a gentle giant sauce: it really works! The Moon is Down is another slow song. This works good for the variety and the balance of the record. Both songs offer great solo's. Black Cat the second slow song in a row has some good violin parts.

This albums ends with Plain Truth which is a bit heavier. While this is a good song I would have wanted an even better song for ending this record. Now I'm in a doubt for giving this work a four or five starrating and so I'll give it 4,5 stars.

Report this review (#490233)
Posted Monday, July 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars As I've said in my review about GENTLE GIANT "Gentle Giant", the "seeds" of their next albun "Acquiring The Taste" was launched partially in the Track 5 "Nothing at All" of the first albun. I've said that due to the melancholic theme in the opening of this track and their sequence where appear a heavy riff. In "Acquiring the Taste" the track 1 " Pantagruel's Nativity " bring to us an overture with a very similar "atmosphere" with 12 strings guitar, mellotrons and a soft vocal with leads the track to an eletric guitar "eruption riff", following a melody played by flute and trumpet and again the "eruption riff" and the music return in cycles and for the first time arises one of "trade marks" of GENTLE GIANT'S style : the counterpoint vocals, another detach is the vibraphone solo by Kerry Minnear. In the track 3 "The House, The Street, The Room" a new heavy riff makes the "scenery" to "Derek Shulmann's vocals in their main theme and the track climax is the hallucinating Gary Green's wah-wah guitar solo. The track 5 "Wreck" have another heavy riff . The track 8 "Plain Truth" is another heavy theme where the great attraction is theRay Shulmann's wah-wah violin solo . In spite of themes such track 2 " Edge of Twilight" and the track 6 " The Moon is Down" with more classical/medieval music "flavor', I think "Acquiring the Taste" is the more "close" heavy-prog work form Gentle Giant. My rate is 5 stars !!!
Report this review (#525538)
Posted Saturday, September 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars GENTLE GIANTS "Acquiring The Taste" was my second record of theirs. The record feels very experimental but at the same time, it sounds like they know exactly what they wanted and they pulled it off flawlessly. One of my favorites by Gentle Giant.

"Pantagruel's Nativity" starts it all off with a creepy intro building up into an acoustic/vocal melody. The falsetto vocals are really nice in my opinion. I really like the electric guitar interludes in this song. One of my favorite tracks on the album. 10/10

"Edge of Twilight" begins with an eerie, "the moon is down". Another creepy oriented song. Classic GENTLE GIANT vocal work. I really like the way they did the snare; it starts off in the left ear and goes through your head, hitting in your right ear. Pretty clever for the 70's.. 10/10

"The House The Street The Room" breaks the pattern a bit, starting off more peppy and louder vocals. Some cool Crimson-esque instrumental improvs, and a ripping guitar solo about halfway through. This is one you just have to experience yourself. 9/10

"Acquiring The Taste" is a short but sweet interlude. Some experimental keyboard work; it's a bit all over the place though..Definitely an 'Acquired Taste'. 6/10

"Wreck" is a more rock oriented GIANT song. I love the warm sounding bass in this song and the "Hey Yeah Yeah, Hold On" vocals. Very unique song. 9/10

"The Moon is Down" is a very mellow, chill song.Another one of my favorites. The vocals are very experimental in the way they are mixed. I really like the instrumental part on this song. Essential GENTLE GIANT song. 10/10

"Black Cat" is extremely catchy. It can get stuck in my head for days and days. Loving the overlapping vocals, which are very reminiscent of "An Inmates Lullaby".

"Plain Truth" kicks off the end of the album with a nice guitar riff that reminds me of something Hendrix would do. Great vocals as usually with beautiful guitar riffs and off sync drumming. A great end to an absolutely masterful album. 10/10

"Acquiring the Taste" is most definitely an acquired taste, but any prog lover should appreciate this album. It's experimental, melodic, creepy, and full of amazing prog moments. Gentle Giant has a very distinct sound, and are beginning to find direction with this album. An essential album.

Overall, 5/5

Report this review (#567731)
Posted Monday, November 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Expanding the frontiers of contemporary popular music.

Gentle Giant are into full experimental adventurous mode with their second album "Acquiring the Taste" and it is a pleasurable journey for any prog fan. The music is chaotically weird and has a slice of humour that is absurdly infectious. The fast tempo xylophone tinkling and horns battle royale on 'The House, The Street, The Room' is a case in point, and even more astounding is how it suddenly launches into a blazing wah-wah lead guitar solo and an ominous time sig with bass, keyboards and drums. This builds into a crescendo, a key change and a new verse. The vocals throughout the album are first class from Derek Shulman. The song goes back to fiddle, trumpet, xylophone and dissonant avant 12 string acoustic and plink plonk plucking at the end on clavichord and celeste.

The liner notes spell it out; "it is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular. We have recorded each composition with the one thought ? that it should be unique, adventurous and fascinating. It has taken every shred of our combined musical and technical knowledge to achieve this." And furthermore, "we have abandoned all preconceived thoughts on blatant commercialism." The adventurous approach to this music is a trademark of GG who would be known for their technical complexity and whimsical style. One never knows where the music will go next and it is a wild ride when the Giant are firing on all 4 cylinders. There is much to recommend and it continues non stop on this classic album.

'Pantagruel's Nativity' is one of the greatest GG songs and opens the album in a blaze of glory. The rhythmic changes and the melodies are killer. 'Edge Of Twilight' features some swishing harpsichord that pans from left to right speaker casuing vertiginous effects. It features a terrific medial section with sporadic kettle drum pounding and timpani with snare, as a xylophone plunks a series of notes. Kerry plays moody Mellotron and Moog synth.

'Wreck' is a fun ditty with sea faring style where Shulman sings a line which is responded with "heyeheh hold on". It is reminiscent of sea shanties like 'Blow the Man Down'. 'The Moon Is Down' begins with pastoral woodwind and then beautiful harmonies sung in an odd meter. This one has a nice bassline from Ray and his brother is fabulous on tenor saxophone. The time sig changes cadence and the harpsichord and keyboard join to create some awesome melodies. The sax solo is jazz fusion style and very welcome as is the plinking nimble fingering of guitar.

'Black Cat' is very memorable and ultra bluesy augmented by Minnear's quiet vocal tones. There are many layers of music here such as violin, guitars, claves and percussion. The violins give the impression of a cat sneaking around the halls looking for its prey. The rattle percussion and strings are effective and atmospheric. There is even the use of a donkey's jawbone according to the liner notes. The multi layered harmonies are mesmirising and typical of how Gentle Giant would continue on subsequent albums.

'Plain Truth' rocks along well with guitar and violin slugging it out. There is a great riff in 6/8 and some terrific violin with wah-wah guitar. The sigs are all over the place and then it settles into quiet guitars breaking until bass comes in and some hi hat percussion work, followed by wah- wah trilling on violin strings, then a stronger beat flows into the main motif and riff.

Every track is a genuine progressive musical excursion of unmitigated virtuosity, and the Giant are at their best here. They would continue in this vein on subsequent albums and produce some of the best albums of the 70s. This is really where it all started for the ingenius Gentle Giant and many did indeed acquire the taste.

Report this review (#628013)
Posted Tuesday, February 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#630069)
Posted Saturday, February 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The best that Gentle Giant has to offer,

For diehard GG fans, this is a real treat. The musicianship, the songwriting, the vocal harmonies, everything is perfection in this album.

Pantagruel's Nativity is probably one of their best songs. The richness of it is just unbelieveble. It can be very heavy but at the same time very soft and very mediaval. This song has the same intensity than a battle.

Edge of Twilight is weird but even then, it is a real treat on the album. Very haunting and very dark, it can be a real nightmare for many people who haven't heard the album.

The House, The Street, The Room has the same effect than the previous song. It's just even more intense. This song is probably my second favorite from this album.

The title track is a great short keyboard interlude.

Wreck is another great track. With it's incredible structure, it would be anthemic if people knew more about GG.

The Moon is Down is the most beautiful song on the album. Just perfect.

Black Cat is a little similar to EOT in terms of darkness, but it has more instruments and it has a good time signature.

Plain Truth is like a jazz song with a blues rock song and a lot of jamming mixed together. A great way to end this album.

This is a masterpiece. But it's not the first album of Gentle Giant you should listen to. Listen to the debut album, Three Friends, Octopus and Free Hand before. And then you'll agree that it's a masterpiece. That's my advice.

Report this review (#743409)
Posted Monday, April 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one of my favorite albums by Gentle Giant (the other favorites being almost every one they've made). This is different from the others, because it is way more symphonic, dark and a more studio experimental album. The songs are more quiet. Each member played a lot of different instruments on the same songs. If you're a Gentle Giant fan you probably know that all members play a lot of different instruments. Gary Green played some strange instruments on Black Cat (donkey's jawbone and cat calls) They didn't play many of the songs on this album live.

The albums opens with a masterpiece, Pantagruel's Nativity. It starts quiet, with high- pitched vocals and mellotron. Then the song gains power with a guitar riff. Then the choral section comes in. Gentle Giant did a lot of great vocal arrangements. Then Kerry Minnear's vibraphone solo comes, and then a guitar solo from Gary Green, who actually is a fantastic guitar player.

Then comes Edge Of Twilight which is a horror-like song. Very good and thorough arrangement. Great reverb effects and there's a reverse effect on the snare drum.

The House, The Street, The Room is also a great song. It has a very fun section right before the guitar solo. Many different instruments almost playing solo on top of each other. Then the guitar solo which is one of Gary's best solo's in my opinion

The title track is very short. It's an instrumental featuring only Kerry Minnear playing the moog. Great little piece, not dark as the rest of the album.

Wreck has a very catchy main riff and verse, and the song then segues into a baroque-inspired section.

The Moon Is Down is probably the most beautiful song Gentle Giant ever recorded. It opens with a saxophone intro by Derek & Phil Shulman. Then Kerry's first Harpsichord chord comes and the song begins. There is a lot of cool tempo-changes in this song.

Black Cat

This is the weak track in my opinion, but it has a very fun middle section with strange time signatures and instrumentation.

Plain Truth

In this song they showcase Ray's violin skills! I think there's even some Cry Baby involved with the violin intro.

This album is highly recommended, and different from the rest of Gentle Giant's repertoire. Gentle Giant is probably the best prog band ever!

Report this review (#814873)
Posted Monday, September 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gentle Giant "Acquiring The Taste", my favorite album of all times, one of the things that got me into prog. The album starts the new experimental Gentle Giant, it was their second album which was released at 1971. The album was a new start for the band and they risked all of their popularity to make some new, perhaps strange, unique and very technical yet very emotional music. A very famous phrase that the band said before the release of this new album: "...It is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular. We have recorded each composition with the one thought - that it should be unique, adventurous and fascinating. It has taken every shred of our combined musical and technical knowledge to achieve this. From the outset we have abandoned all preconceived thoughts of blatant commercialism. Instead we hope to give you something far more substantial and fulfilling. All you need to do is sit back, and acquire the taste." And yes, they have received a lot of critics, but this album was a very disputed one, as it was really an adventurous, very new with a lot of experiments and a lot of instruments, most of them are very not popular at rock, and at the progressive rock especially. There is a very interesting defect in the mastering of the title track, the first two or three notes are not at the correct pitch and only then the synthesizer pitch stabilizes, it is one of the most famous facts of this album. The version without the defect can only be found on the remastered "Edge Of Twilight" Gentle Giant collection. The album has a lot of musical genre elements from genres like: classical music, rock, jazz, and more, it is a complete inversion from the first album "Gentle Giant'' which I would consider more as a very high quality hard rock album, but not really as a progressive rock one.

You can't mention this album without reminding the humorous artwork on the cover, a brilliant innuendo, when you look at the cover, you can see a big tongue as it is ready to lick an ass shape, an anus, but when you open the cover completely you can see that the tongue is only ready to lick a peach with a knife in it, it is a very nice piece which adds to the atmosphere of the album.

In this album, all of the band are singing in at least one track except for Martin Smith the drummer. The album uses a lot of instruments: acoustic guitar, electric guitar,12 string electric guitar,12 string electric wah-wah guitar,bass,donkey's jawbone, electric piano,organ,mellotron,vibraphone,moog,celeste,clavichord,harpsichord,cello,timpani,xylophone ,maracas, tambourine ,alto sax,cowbell,tenor sax, clarinet,trumpet,claves,violin, viola ,electric violin, tambourine ,organ bass pedals, skulls, drums, gong, side drum, trumpet ,descant recorders, treble recorder, tenor recorder, triangle.

The album starts with a moog playing a quiet melody, with some sound effects along it, then a mellow,soprano singing of by Kerry Minnear , which is really atmospheric, proceeds to a guitar fill, which can be accepted as the chorus of the song. "Pantagruel's Nativity" the song is called. Along to some gentle trumpet playing, and some more instruments continues the play. An instrumental part enters very quietly with an acoustic guitar, and moog, it is a very soft part, which proceeds to a heavy, more aggressive guitar riff along with some drumming which creates a really heavy atmosphere, a lot of singing men can be heard after that in a very dreamy voice while continuing playing the riff along to the vocals. Trumpets enter with a fill which was first played by the acoustic guitar, some xylophone and more instruments are leading to the emotional hard rock style guitar solo, it is not very technical or fast, but more emotional and mellow. The heavy part is coming again and the vocals enter after some time, which leads to a new instrumental part which is inspired by the main verse of the song. Another verse comes, you can hear those atmospheric vocals, this time accompanied by more vocals, the chorus is playing again in one octave under the original one, and then this riff breaks and this fantastic song ends. The lyrics of this track are about a book called "Gargantua & Pantagruel" by the french author Francois Rabelais (pronounced: Fransua Rebelei) .

"Edge Of Twilight" is the next track of this album, starts with a high, beautiful singing of Kerry Minnear again "the moon is down,casting its shadows over the night-haunted town" is the first sentence of the song and it has some sound effects along. Xylophone plays a very dreamy melody, then a really heavy bass only riff is played along. The verse comes again this time with drums and guitars, the xylophone then bass chorus are coming again, some vocals are starting to sing along to the bass line now with an organ, beautiful. Drums and timpani are playing some pretty loud but nice line, a short drum solo gets us back to the verse, this time it enters an instrumental very short part that fades out into the end of the song. A very strange and experimental track indeed, it is interesting and psychedelic, I enjoy it a lot every time I listen to it.

Next on the list is "The House, The Street, The Room" it is starts with a heavy bass+piano riff which is the main riff in this song, an alto vocal of Derek Shulman enters and it is matching the riff perfectly along with some drums. A pretty short, more soft and dreamy chorus enters the line. An emotional guitar solo is playing along to the main riff, with some drums, a mellow guitar touch, which includes some very nice bends, not very technical but still a very good solo, it is a pretty long one but it is very good and interesting. The verse comes again this time more fast with more aggressive drumming, after the chorus there is a very strange part with a lot of instruments playing almost the same riff over and over until the end of the track.

"Acquiring The Taste" the title track plays now, it is some organs and, it has a famous note defect at the start which gets normal after a few notes, this track has almost nothing to describe, it is instrumental, pretty dark, but very happy at the same time, it has some baroque-like moments, which are really interesting in my opinion. This track is very short, but includes a lot of highlights which are amazing in my opinion.

"Wreck" is coming next, starting with a heavy, dark bass+guitar riff, continues to a similar riff which is the main one in the song, the riff is very emotional but heavy, "hey hey hey hold on" is the phrase that some clean heavy voices say after every sentence. The chorus is very baroque style, with some very high vocals, it is amazing, and it has some instrumental short emotional part after it which gets us back to the verse, and after that one more baroque styled instrumental part which gets us into the mellow guitar solo is amazing and a very good bridge, it gets us back to the verse but this time it coming to the end of the song. The vocals here are done by Derek Shulman, which is a very good singer, with some amazing beautiful vocal, which matches most of the band songs perfectly, even though he isn't singing most of them.

"The Moon Is Down" one of my favorite tracks of this album. It has a very dreamy atmosphere which makes you sleepy but very awake at the same time, a feeling that you can't feel in many songs, this is the power of Gentle Giant and a few more bands. The song starts with a beautiful introduction and then singing by Derek Shulman, but the song has a lot more voices that are crafted together. The instrumental part begins pretty fast but then proceeds to a folk music part which I find very interesting and good, then proceeds to a pretty interesting melody again but this time it sound very experimental, a very gloomy piano fill gets us to the verse again, which gets us to a break with some melancholic piano playing proceeds to a spooky, quiet piano legatos then fading out into the end of this fantastic song.

Coming right next is the song "Black Cat" which creates a very darkstreet-like atmosphere, you can really feel like you are walking in a cartoon dark street at night and you see some black cats running on roofs or on the floor, with their yellow burning eyes, an amazing atmosphere which can't be created by a lot of people,Gentle Giant might be from that group that can create it. This piece is a beautiful intro (which is the main riff too), a fantastic verse, a brilliant instrumental part with a lot of percussion instruments, cellos and violins, all carefully crafted into one masterpiece by this band. At the end of the song there are some cat calls which really sound like cats playing at the garden, it fades out into the end of this strange yet brilliant track.

Last track on this album is "Plain Truth" it is a perfect outro for this brilliant album, starts with some very fast violins, then some british accent talking at the background, proceeds to a heavy verse, which is pretty happy but still emotional, gets to a fill that gets us into the a-tonal chorus which is kinda strange but short. Bass guitar plays the riff then proceeds to a little instrumental part, with a pretty nice guitar solo in the middle, it has some interesting bends and harmony with the bass. The verse gets back again, flows in to the chorus, gets us to a very quiet guitar+electric violin instrumental part, hi-hat enters, it builds up this instrumental part to a certain point, then gets to a more heavy part with a guitar solo, which I find nice, but not much more than that, it gets us back to the great verse with some singing of Gary Green, an instrumental electric violin solo gets us to the end of the song with a quick break then some guitar quiet touch and fades out into the end of the album.

This album is one of my favorite albums of all times, at 39 minutes and 26 seconds is the longest album by Gentle Giant. It is very experimental, and in my opinion they risked everything, and it was worth it, they have created a new style of music, i would even give it its own sub-genre if I could. This album is worth every dollar and I suggest every one to listen to it, I am pretty certain that you will enjoy it. This album started a new era for Gentle Giant and for prog. Of course, there are more albums of Gentle Giant that can get to the same level as this one, but this one was one of my personal favorites, I can't describe why it happened, but yes, you can really say that I fell in love with this album, it is a masterpiece, probably the best masterpiece that I personally know. The thoughts about the album were very disputed, it have received lots of critics because it was a kind of an adventure for Gentle Giant members and for the progressive rock world in general, because it had a lot of experimental perhaps strange instruments such as donkey's jawbone, it is of course gave the album its own atmosphere but it created a very peculiar sound, which is not suited for anybody, not every person in the world can really understand the album to the depths, I probably could.

I would give this album 100/100, I think that this is the only album that you'll see me giving a full hundred, it was unique and experimental, and I love it very much.

Report this review (#918311)
Posted Saturday, February 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Acquiring The Taste is Gentle Giant's second album where they take a big step forward in their sound, production, composition and playing. Absurd compositional virtuosity is unleashed on this recording. This is a very dark, brooding album that is loaded to the gills with experimentation and color. There are so many colors and sounds on this record it's almost as if the band is trying everything they know to see which direction they are going to take. But then again, none of their future recordings sound anything like this record. It's truly one of a kind. ATT is a very chromatic record even when compared to other prog albums. It is also very challenging to the listener. To me it's a 5 star album but I know it won't be everyone's cup of tea. Repeated listening, as with most of their work, is really needed. There is so much to absorb. Isn't that make makes a great prog record though?
Report this review (#1014384)
Posted Thursday, August 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Here we have come to what I think is the mos ambitious GG's album. With a total of 47 instruments (is that it?) it is also the most complex and the hardest to listen. But once you take your time with it, it is an absolute beauty. I had trouble at the beginning with this record, but as I began to understand it and to listen to it again and again and again, it came to be one of my 100 all time favorites. I love "Pantagruel's Nativity", "Black Cat" (rocking harmonies!), "Plain Truth" and "Edge Of Twilight" (I had some friends listen Edge Of Twilight some time ago, and none of them could tolerate it, I couldn't believe it).

Pros: +Oustanding quantity of instruments +Better compositions than the last album +Great violin +Combinations between hard and calmed vocals +Perfect execution +I simply love it...

Cons: +Weird +Difficult at the beginning

Verdict: Absolutely a masterpiece, a record that deserves your time and your money without a doubt.

If you like it, look forward to the next albums, until "Free Hand" (especially "Octopus" and "In A Glass House", my second fave after this one). Also check "Playing The Fool".

5 stars for being one of my top albums and what I consider the most fancy prog out there. If you are a prog lover, their first 7 are musts.

Report this review (#1026534)
Posted Saturday, August 31, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'll say from the outset, I'm not a Gentle Giant fan. I've always felt that they're complex for the sake of being complex rather than for any actual musical purpose. In other words, I think they were always just trying to show off. However, putting their musical attitude aside for a moment, I do think they released a couple of decent albums. These include this one released in 1971. This is, in my opinion, their best album. That doesn't make it a great or essential one however. Before the music even begins, one gets an immediate impression of the attitude I mentioned above. In the original album notes was a message from the band claiming that they were setting out to "expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music" and that they'd "abandoned all preconceived thoughts of blatant commercialism". Now, I'm not saying that it's wrong to do anything alternative, far from it, but when you welcome your listeners with such a pompous statement of your own musical ability, you're going to alienate people. And of course they did, only finding success in a cult following on the continent. So, what of the actual music on the album? All in all, it's a pretty strong collection of songs. My personal favourite is Pantagruel's Nativity but the rest of the album hold up relatively well. Throughout, the band deliver what is to become their usual mix of genres from all eras of music. This mix will later become their trademark. The difference on this album is that all sounds much darker and harsher than on later releases. It is also done more subtly here than later on. There appears to be, from my perspective at least, more emphasis on making stuff that sounds good rather than trying to complex for the sake of being complex. In conclusion, a strong album from a band I don't normally go for. I would recommend this album above most of Gentle Giant's music.
Report this review (#1060799)
Posted Wednesday, October 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is another wonderful album from Gentle Giant. I like the variety of interesting sounds and songs on it. I may not be able to identify exact instruments used, but will describe what it sounds like to me. The music is very complex, so it is hard to go into detail. Here is a description of each song.

Pantagruels' Nativity - Spooky synth at the beginning that reminds me of the older Dr. Who T.V. series. Beautiful distant medieval singing from Kerry Minnear with sharp guitar and then added flute. There's a heavier guitar riff that comes in later which reminds me of Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull or Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come. The singing that accompanies this guitar segment sounds spooky. Dreamy bell keyboard sounds then a guitar solo. Heavy guitar riff and singing returns. Music settles down. Kerry's beautiful soft singing returns and it ends on a piercing guitar note.

Edge of Twilight - Soft, dreamy singing from Kerry and music with cello, keyboard and spooky horn. There's some low whisper singing in parts, drums tumbling, rolling guitar arpeggios, a drum and percussion solo with an echo or reverb sound. The soft singing returns and ends with twinkling arpeggios.

The House The Street The Room - Leads in with strong bass line and singing from Derek Shulman. It settles down with light singing and some instrument arpeggios. There's various instrumental dynamics and then settles down to light piano for a while. Guitar comes back in with a loud squeal and powerful wah solo with drums and bass. Strong singing returns then settles down with percussion and arpeggios. Song closes with light piano tinkering.

Acquiring The Taste - Note bending, weird synth instrumental solo from Kerry Minnear. It sounds like a spooky horn in there too. Again, reminds me of something out of Dr. Who.

Wreck - Leads in with bass line and then gets fuzzy with heavy guitar. Derek sings strong lead with group backing vocals. Kerry comes in the middle with some gentler singing and then flutes come in. There's some dramatic instrument parts. The main singing comes back in for a while, then fades into medieval flutes playing. The dramatic instruments and power singing returns to fade.

The Moon Is Down - Slowly fades in softly with violin and horn. The group singing reminds me of the songs 'Because' and 'Sun King' from The Beatles Abbey Road album. Bass in background with bell sounds. Powerful echo sounds, then the piano plays. Tempo picks up with an instrumental and then there's a plucky organ solo. The organ slows up and the singing returns. The song fades out with dreamy piano.

Black Cat - Soft plucky percussive instruments with a sneaky sound. Bells and flute. A soft wah along with soft mysterious singing from Phil Shulman. More sneaky sounds and singing again. Wah and violin. Plucky instruments, violin and cello. Percussion with rattle sound. Violin, then note bending. Pluckiness again and then dreamy sound. Singing returns and the music has some added cat meowing sounds before it fades out.

Plain Truth - Starts off with wah violin, which sounds like Jimi Hendrix. Drums, full music and powerful singing bursts in. Bass line, guitar enters, violin enters, sharp sound rising up, then singing returns. Bass and instruments tumble. More singing then settles down into a low violin. Soft bass comes in. Violin gets faster with a little wah, music builds and gets powerful again with vocals returning. Percussion and solo violin returns. Powerful sound comes back to close it out.

My favorite tracks are Pantagruel's Nativity and Black Cat. I give this album 4 stars because in a few songs there are segments that get a little lost. Overall album is very enjoyable and I highly recommend it. I'm looking forward to listening to more Gentle Giant albums.

Report this review (#1117274)
Posted Tuesday, January 21, 2014 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars After making an absolutely brilliant debut album that was more based on blues and soul GENTLE GIANT didn't waste any time going to town on the experimental road with their 2nd album ACQUIRING THE TASTE with new realms of dissonance, new instruments added to the mix and just an overall mood that must have been a real musical trip in the day considering how unique and eccentric this is even now. Starting with this album the band took the plunge into their own unique musical world and took us to new sonic frontiers of which I am a grateful fan. This direction was taken mainly due to Kerry Minnear's extensive training and interest in classical music which steered the band into the seas of possibilities. This inspiration matched with an ambition that is beyond belief is the reason GENTLE GIANT remains one of the most progressive of progressive even by today's standards.

What really makes their music amazing is that despite their experimental approach they never strayed far with the immediate connections that one associates with pop, soul, R&B or any other immediately instantly gratifying music. Their experimental phase excludes bizaare practice sessions that can occur in bands who choose to delve into unknown territory. They somehow managed to marry the unknown and the accessible with virtuosic performances. Not that I mind totally experimental approaches but something is magical with this band. They just knew how to deliver all the goods at once and because of that they are one of my all time favorite musical groups.

I have both the original release on CD and one of the newer remastered ones and I have to admit the remastered is much better. Wow!!!! This is light years away from Simon Dupree & the Big Sound and so far ahead of their time. If there is a God, then s/he is surely a Gentle Giant.

Report this review (#1127772)
Posted Wednesday, February 5, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gentle Giant is, of course, an acquired taste. They are among my favorite bands, though I admit they aren't for everybody. Part-jazz, part-rock, part-folk, part-medieval polyphony, part- renaissance era dance music. An interesting hybrid of music that should not work on any level. Initially it turned me off. But, I stuck with them simply because they were so delightfully weird. They can be a challenging listen, no doubt about it and this album is a testament to that. Pantagruel's Nativity starts the album on a somewhat tranquil note. It's a rather low-key way to begin an album actually. However, this is the best song on the album and it hits on just about each part of the aforementioned hybrid throughout it's nearly seven minute length. Edge of Twilight maintains the tranquil mood, but develops more mysteriously even coming across as rather haunted. Like being in some run down castle in the middle of the night. A little bit spooky. The House, The Street, The Room follows and finally the tranquility has begun to lift. It's an extraordinary track and really shows the band's talents for being able to rock hard when they want to. Acquiring the Taste is weird instrumental interlude before we set sail with the band trying their hand at a sea shanty on Wreck. Gentle Giant is not one to follow convention and thank God for that. With the Moon is Down the tranquil mood returns, not as hauntingly as Edge of Twilight, but spellbinding nonetheless. Definitely one of the best songs on the album. Black Cat & Plain Truth close out the album. The latter is a bit over long and my least favorite song on the album, the former is not bad, tranquil yes, but that is in keeping with the overall theme of an otherwise excellent disk. Essential for Gentle Giant fans and Progheads alike!
Report this review (#1150004)
Posted Tuesday, March 18, 2014 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
5 stars 'Acquiring the Taste' - Gentle Giant (86/100)

Nowadays, it is rare for a band to release two full-lengths within a year of one another. Going one step further, it's virtually unheard of for a band not only to do so, but reinvent their sound in the process, as Gentle Giant accomplished in the eight month interval between their self-titled debut and Acquiring the Taste. With the initial experience of Gentle Giant still fresh in my mind, the major shift towards experimentation the band took with Acquiring the Taste is obvious right from the start. The mesh of avant-garde quirk with classical austerity on this album demonstrated that Gentle Giant weren't content with sticking to the bluesy framework they began with. Their toils resulted in another near-masterpiece, more ambitious and angular than the first, all the while consolidating some of the elements I loved about the first.

No, I don't think Acquiring the Taste is so much better than its antecedent. Although it's clear Gentle Giant evolved for the better in the seasons between this and the self-titled, it's more accurate to say that the developments have resulted in a different experience rather than a necessarily superior incarnation some fans profess it to be. To be honest, the songwriting felt better handled and more consistent on Gentle Giant, not to mention the friendly face on the debut makes for a far more attractive cover than the silly visual innuendo on the front of Acquiring the Taste. Even so, most of the apparent shortcomings on Acquiring the Taste can and should be excused for the reason that Gentle Giant took far bolder risks here. They weren't working any longer with the thoughtful balance of pastoral prog and blues rock anymore; rather, I think they were trying to purposefully imbalance their music to throw their listeners for a loop.

You can still hear echoes of the blues in Gary Green's guitar work (I don't think he could ever truly detach himself from his blues roots), straightforward riffing has been made a sideline to make way from avant-garde and classically based arrangements. "Pantagruel's Nativity" stole my heart from the moment I heard it; while the guitar still probably gets more attention than any other instrument (I love that melancholic four-note lead Green reprises throughout the song) it is clear within a minute Gentle Giant are beginning to see all instruments as equally viable tools. Weird sounds will take winding paths of their own numbers at a time, and somehow it sounds coherent. I don't think Acquiring the Taste produced any immortally memorable songwriting. Frankly, the spontaneous and jarring arrangements Gentle Giant layered on here would have curbed any but the strongest songwriting; like so many of the bands who favour this kind of sporadic experimentation, Gentle Giant earn their keep in ideas and particular moments far more than the overlying structures themselves, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Acquiring the Taste has so many standout moments, and true to the album's title, the music's density tends to reward the persistent listener. Elements that felt jarring to me at first soon became engaging and even endearing with repeated listens. The sea shanty / baroque etude (?!?) crossover "Wreck" was a favourite of mine from the start, demonstrating Gentle Giant hadn't lost their ability to craft excellent bluesy grooves when the need arose. "The Moon is Down" is another great one; masquerading as a gloomy ballad, it is one of the most challenging offerings on the album, thanks in part to the jarring chord progression in the reprise. The only song on Acquiring the Taste that doesn't impress as much as it should have is the electric violin-led jammed closer "Plain Truth". For the second time in a row, Gentle Giant slightly drop the ball with the last song, leaving it less developed than it should have been. There is nothing inherently wrong with "Plain Truth" beyond the fact that it never aspires to the same degree of challenging weirdness as the rest of the tracks. Considering it's the longest piece on the album, the fact that "Plain Truth" unfolds as a fairly predictable rock jam is a surprising and glaring fault on an otherwise superb record.

If the tirade against commercialism on the LP sleeve has any bearing on the music, Acquiring the Taste was produced with pushing all boundaries in mind, even when that interfered with the boundaries of, er, good taste. It is prog for prog's sake in its most archetypal form- make of that good or bad if you will. Gentle Giant defined themselves here through a sheer excess of complexity and dynamics, a pattern they would only replicate and amplify on future albums. If you're thinking a lot of the instrumentation is superfluous, or that Gentle Giant may have been able to do more with less, you might be right, but you'd still be missing part of the point. Acquiring the Taste was, in essence, an experiment to see how far Gentle Giant could take popular music "at the risk of being very unpopular." I think that experiment resulted in something pretty fantastic.

Report this review (#1353508)
Posted Monday, January 26, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars At the time of this writing, I'm a casual Gentle Giant fan - only having reviewed one of their albums; however, Acquiring the Taste is a spirited, eclectic, subtle, and dynamic mix of good old fashioned prog experimentation that accomplishes in me exactly what the title sets out to do: acquire the taste!

Overall, the many styles and textures of this release make it more rewarding as time goes by, with more nuance being discovered in the dense instrumentation (horns, violins, etc.), vocal interplay, and constantly changing time signatures. There isn't a lot that jumps out to the ear while listening, but the album's jaunty melodies and overall effect is very fun. The band brings a lot of influences to their music, and the result is a great example of classic progressive music, without the unsubtle drama of bands like Yes or ELP (note, I like both of these bands a lot).

This difference makes Gentle Giant stand out to me as a unique, and probably very influential group. While I wouldn't come close to giving this a "masterpiece" label, Acquiring the Taste wets the appetite for something you may not have realized you wanted, and makes for a moody, quirky, and enjoyable 40 minutes of vintage prog. Rounded up to 4 stars!

Songwriting: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Report this review (#1409971)
Posted Thursday, May 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
Magnum Vaeltaja
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars As a natural progression from their incredible (and incredibly bluesy) debut, Gentle Giant finds themselves at their creative peak, and perhaps the peak of their career. What we have with "Acquiring The Taste" is a collection of 8 highly original compositions, as mentioned in the oft-quoted album artistic mission statement. In the sense of creativity, this is perhaps one of the greatest masterpieces in prog, if not 20th century popular music as a whole. As far as a listening experience, Gentle Giant doesn't push the envelope quite as effectively, but that doesn't mean that this isn't an album worth investigating. Anything but that, actually.

As far as an experience, "Acquiring The Taste" gives a very nocturnal mood. This is especially reflected in songs like "Edge of Twilight" and "The Moon Is Down", though the same vibe permeates throughout. As I, and many others, have said, this is quite an experimental album. About 50% of the time, the experimentation has turned out wonderfully, with half of the songs blossoming out into gorgeous sonic pictures and thrilling escapades into very abstract - perhaps fantastical - though relatable worlds. The other half of the songs are still good, but don't resonate quite as profoundly and are the reason that I rate this album 4 stars as opposed to 5.

The four standout tracks include "Pantagruel's Nativity", a symphonic-like composition about the namesake giants of Francois Rabelais' writings, and "The House, The Street, The Room", which wouldn't be out of place on the debut and features one of the most well-placed guitar solos in history. Off of side two, "Wreck" is the absolute highlight, an unlikely title to be given to a rocked-out sea shanty. The concept is weird, but believe me, it works so, so well. The final piece of magic on the album is "The Moon Is Down", which is one of the most beautiful compositions in the Gentle Giant catalog.

So while it may not be a perfect album, this is one that every fan should investigate, even those who have been turned off of the more complex era of Gentle Giant (Power and The Glory, Free Hand). 4 stars for a classic, innovative and wildly unique piece of prog.

Report this review (#1564934)
Posted Sunday, May 15, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Sometimes after listening to the contemporary and dynamic prog rock I feel an urge to listen to something more deep and sophisticated, and that is why I've just listened to this album once again. And once again I got convinced that it is one of the three best albums of Gentle Giant. Due to many styles and involvement of astonishing number of live string instruments and woodwinds It is probably the most serious and strongest albums of my favorite group. What's also impressive ? extraordinary vocal parties of all 5 singers, well-arranged canons and choral parties. I cannot stop admiring at how organically and at the same time unusually the compositions are developing. The way how the guys played their instruments is impressive even now. It would be really great if new groups could not only copy the Gentle Giant style, but could develop it further. I am looking forward to such projects.
Report this review (#1673637)
Posted Thursday, December 29, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Review Nş 119

'Acquiring The Taste' is the second studio album of Gentle Giant and was released in 1971. The dissonant counterpoint, the nearly eponymous debut peculiarity that made them renowned, has their first appearance in 'Acquiring The Taste'. On this album, each of the six musicians, alternatively, played different instruments, with a massive use of electronic keyboards that gave a nearly symphonic feature to the album. With this album Gentle Giant begins the incredible versatility of their music which explores many various genres, ranging from jazz, blues, hard rock, experimental, classical and medieval, but always in the root of the tasteful progressive rock music.

The line up on the album is Gary Green (vocals, 6 string guitar, 12 string guitar, 12 string wah-wah guitar, donkey's jawbone and cat calls), Kerry Minnear (vocals, electric piano, organ, mellotron, vibraphone, Moog piano, celeste, clavichord, harpsichord, tympani, xylophone and maracas), Derek Shulman (vocals, alto saxophone, clavichord and cowbell), Phil Shulman (vocals, alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet, trumpet, piano, claves and maracas), Ray Shulman (vocals, bass, violin, viola, electric violin, Spanish guitar, tambourine, 12 string guitar, organ bass pedals and skulls) and Martin Smith (drums, tambourine, gongs and side drum). Paul Cosh (trumpet and organ), Tony Visconti (recorder, bass drum and triangle) and Chris Thomas (moog programmer) are additional musicians that appear on the album.

'Acquiring The Taste' has eight tracks. All songs were written by Kerry Minnear and the three Shulman brothers. The first track 'Pantagruel's Nativity' is one of my favourite songs of the album and became a classic Gentle Giants' track. It's a song with continuous music and a nice melody. It has beautiful keyboards very well combined with a powerful and great guitar work. What is most impressive on this track is the use of so many musical instruments such as saxes, vibraphone, celesta, harpsichord, tympani, trumpet, clarinet and so on. The second track 'Edge Of Twilight' is one of the most avant-garde musics on the album. It's a very dark music with short vocal line, nice to hear and with a good explorative musical work. The third track 'The House, The Street, The Room' is another avant- garde music with nice melody and the exploration of strange sounds. This is one of the heaviest songs recorded by the band that at some times reminds me the typical apocalyptic sound of Van Der Graaf Generator. The fourth track is the title track 'Acquiring The Taste'. It's a very short instrumental track, another avant-garde and explorative track with some nice and catchy musical moments despite its length. The fifth track 'Wreck' is probably with 'Pantagruel's Nativity' one of the two best tracks on the album. It's a strong song with the fantastic and typical vocal harmony of the group with great and interesting musical passages especially the keyboards and guitar passages. This song reminds me 'Argus' of Wishbone Ash. The sixth track 'The Moon Is Down' is another interesting song that starts very slow but that develops into a more energetic sound. It's another song with nice and good exploratory musical passages and with a beautiful vocal work. The seventh track 'Black Cat' is the calmer song on the album but with more experimental musical passages. It has some good and interesting musical moments but it seems to me the less inspired song of the album and the weakest song on it. The eighth and last track 'Plain Truth' is a solid rock song with the typical Gentle Giant's guitar work and also with good vocal harmonies. It's probably the most accessible track on the album, the less complex and the more traditional, and less typical of them. Still, it's a solid closer for this interesting, great and surprising work.

Conclusion: This album represents a giant's step into their music, relatively to their previous eponymous debut studio album. 'Gentle Giant' represents probably their less complex musical work and it's for sure their most hard and heavy rock album. By the other hand, 'Acquiring The Taste' represents, for me, the most experimental, most discordant and most avant-garde album, in all their musical career. This album has everything that characterized Gentle Giant's music, the fusion of several and different musical styles such as rock, blues and jazz, the influence of the renaissance and medieval music and the prolific use of multi musical instruments. It's interesting to note, that in the sleeve text, the band made their declaration with the objective of defining what they wanted to do in the music: ''Acquiring The Taste' is the second phase of sensory pleasure. If you've gorged yourself on our first album, then relish the finer flavours (we hope) of this, our second offering. It is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular. We have recorded each composition with the one thought - that it should be unique, adventurous and fascinating. It has taken every shred of our combined musical and technical knowledge to achieve this. From the outset we have abandoned all preconceived thoughts of blatant commercialism. Instead we hope to give you something far more substantial and fulfilling. All you need to do is sit back, and acquire the taste''. And this is all really true.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#1718863)
Posted Monday, May 8, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars Innovative, Quirky yet also Bluesy.

On Acquiring the Taste, Gentle Giant experiment with new sounds, textures, and time signatures, of all kinds, but within the framework of the 3-to-7 minute rock song as per their debut. Clearly innovative and original, the result is not always musical, although it is so original it is worth listening to even when it doesn't fully work. The opener, Pantagruel's Nativity, is one of the better tracks, quite varied, but true to the GG sound. Edge of Twilight, the second track, is very quiet and nuanced, but despite trying hard to be novel and liked, is not very musical. The third track, "The House, The Street, the Room" is one of GG's instantly-recognizable great tracks. While pushing the vocals a touch, the melody is memorable, with a classic bluesy guitar solo, and really cool quirky medieval-tinged instrumental breaks. The title track is actually a short orchestral piece (with many of the orchestral instruments apparently played by synths), of the kind of multiple overlapping lines that GG has become known, although in this case it is mostly a forgettable experiment. "Wreck" is another classic GG tune, with a sea shanty-like verse structure, and quieter choral-medieval breaks. The feel of "Wreck" continues with "The Moon is Down", but with even more harmonies, and a really fantastic middle jazzy-instrumental section, and then again with "Black Cat" which also has a wonderful (quirky, not jazzy) instrumental middle section. The album ends with another gutsy-rocker "Plain Truth" built around guitar riffs and harmonies, with a nice violin solo, although the song is less memorable that the middle tracks on the album. On the whole, Acquiring the Taste is (slightly) more musical than both GG's debut and "Three Friends" that would follow, although of course they would become even more innovative later on, but in doing so they would lose a bit of the bluesy and gutsy side of their sound in the process. I give this album 7.7 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translate to (high) 3 PA stars.

Report this review (#1765689)
Posted Sunday, July 23, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.5/5 stars. Essential progressive rock with perfect early 70's production.

Gentle Giant were never a "straight shot", conventional band. They were always ahead of the curve. Acquiring The Taste (1971) behaves almost like a sampler platter of what the band would offer moving through the decade.

The record opens with Kerry's bleeping-blooping synthesizer line, and calm, gentle vocal entry. The acoustic guitar and synthesizers follow and slowly build, until'DER NER NER NER'that infectious jazz guitar lick! Soon flutes and recorders join the fray for the next "verse". It should be noted that Gentle Giant were never really one for conventional arrangements. Their work is almost like a painting in music; the big picture best for viewing. Sabbath-like chords and riffs follow. I really, really enjoy how the song ends on the particular sustained note.

Edge of Twilight is a fantastic display of progressive rock instrumentation. Kerry's vocals and lyrics really set the mood here. It makes me think of a frosty village, mid-winter at night time. "Figures" moving in the dark'the dreamy synth and tones are picturesque. Derek and company join in for the backing vocals "whisper'". Kerry then comes in with a synth line that reminds me of Final Fantasy for the NES. That's the only way I can describe it! We're then treated to marching drums and xylophone exposition. Gentle Giant somehow manages to never make this seem pretentious. Fantastic, diverse, dynamic track.

The House, The Street, The Room was once a favorite track of mine, but I've seem to grow beyond it a bit. It's catchy to first time listeners compared to some of GG's more infamously-complex stuff. Derek's vocals are great, however! Gary's guitar solo is spot on. I love the baroque bass lines. Not much more to say here honestly.

Acquiring The Taste (title track) immediately reminds me of Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts on the Super Nintendo. The game developers clearly ripped off GG here! Anyone who's played this will know what I'm talking about! I love the moog display here. Killer prog piece.

Wreck is a fan favorite, and for good reason! The jaunty riff and vocals will be caught in your head forever. This one has to be heard to be understood. The guitar and builds and swells are perfect. This song alone brings this record up another half star!

The Moon is Down is another creepy little track with picturesque imagery. "The horse riding up through the red sky" instantly gives you set and setting. Harp-like chords ring in the first verse and sections. The organ/harpsichord sound of the keys really sets the tone. More classic GG choral vocals ensue.

Black Cat is arguably my favorite track from this record. Phil Shulman takes the vocal and lyrical lead here. He seems to have an affinity for animals, which is great because he does them serious justice in his art! The way he wraps his voice and harmonies around words - his vibrato is top notch. Even if he's singing a bit low in the mix, it fits very well with the atmosphere here. "River" from Octopus is another one where his vocal appearance is worth noting!

Plain Truth closes the album with its Hendrix-like riffing and anthem feel. Fantastic guitar work and vocal delivery. This is GG doing hard rock. They really can't go wrong, and you can't either once you Acquire the Taste!

I'm a massive GG fan, and I can give this an honest 4.5/5 stars. This is essential progressive rock. The production is perfect. It arrived on shelves a full year before Yes' Close to The Edge (THE apex of progressive rock music), and already displayed elements that other bands would explore into the late 1970's. Gentle Giant have always been ahead of the curve. This is a great sampler platter of latter offerings from this criminally underrated progressive rock group!

Report this review (#1853837)
Posted Thursday, January 4, 2018 | Review Permalink

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