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Gentle Giant

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Gentle Giant Acquiring the Taste album cover
4.28 | 1730 ratings | 122 reviews | 51% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Pantagruel's Nativity (6:50)
2. Edge of Twilight (3:47)
3. The House, the Street, the Room (6:01)
4. Acquiring the Taste (1:36)
5. Wreck (4:36)
6. The Moon Is Down (4:45)
7. Black Cat (3:51)
8. Plain Truth (7:36)

Total Time 39:02

Line-up / Musicians

- Gary Green / 6- & 12-string (1) electric guitars, 12-string wah-wah guitar (7), mandolin & bass (3), donkey's jawbone & cat calls (7), voice (8)
- Kerry Minnear / piano & electric piano, Hammond organ (1-3), Mellotron (1,5,6), vibraphone (1,7), xylophone (2,3), Minimoog (1-5), celesta (3), clavichord (3), harpsichord (2,5,6), timpani (2), maracas & tambourine (7), cello (2,3,7), string quartet arrangement (7), lead (1,2) & backing vocals
- Derek Shulman / alto saxophone (1,6), clavichord & cowbell (3), lead (3,5,6) & backing vocals
- Phil Shulman / alto (6) & tenor (1,6) saxophones, clarinet (2,3), trumpet (1,3), piano (3), claves, maracas, lead (5,7) & backing vocals
- Ray Shulman / bass, violin & electric (8) violin, viola (7), Spanish (2,3) & 12-string (6) guitars, organ bass pedals (6), tambourine, skulls, backing vocals
- Martin Smith / drums, tambourine (1), gong & side drum (2)

- Tony Visconti / tenor, treble & descant recorders (3,5), bass drum & triangle (7), producer
- Paul Cosh / trumpet & organ (3)
- Chris Thomas / Moog programmer (1-5)

Releases information

LP Vertigo - 6360 041 (1971, UK)

CD Line Records ‎- LICD 9.00726 O (1989, Germany)
CD Vertigo 842 917-2 (1990, Europe)
CD Repertoire - REPUK1072 (2005, UK)
CD Vertigo ‎- UICY-9688 (2006, Japan) 24-bit remaster by Hitoshi Takiguchi

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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GENTLE GIANT Acquiring the Taste ratings distribution

(1730 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(51%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (11%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

GENTLE GIANT Acquiring the Taste reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by maani
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."
Review by Sean Trane
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.

Review by loserboy
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.
Review by Menswear
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.
Review by lor68
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!!

Review by corbet
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.
Review by daveconn
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.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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

Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR 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.
Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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".

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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

Review by Zitro
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-

Review by slipperman
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.

Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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!

Review by Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by 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

Review by NJprogfan
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!
Review by 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".

Review by OpethGuitarist
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.

Review by laplace
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!

Review by russellk
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.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by clarke2001
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Acquiring the Taste" is the 2nd full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act Gentle Giant. 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 7½ 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 are 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.

Review by LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.


Review by 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

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by 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!

Review by poslednijat_colobar
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

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Sinusoid
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.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by friso
5 stars Gentle Giant wouldn't get that legendary status of groups like Genesis and Yes, which probably had much to do with their frequent hints to avant-prog. During their prolific career they wouldn't further any preconceived song format or style, but would start drawing new music from scratch. To the point that you can't actually really name bands that clearly influenced them (like Genesis was clearly a continuation in style of Family, Procol Harum, Moody Blues and SRC). Moreover, Gentle Giant would do something - like a great organ or guitar sound - only once on an album. On the second album Gentle Giant delivers a complete original work of progressive rock with influences of different types of classical music, jazz, brass-rock and folk. With all members being multi-instrumentalist the possibilities for sounds and styles were endless and recording something eclectic in 1971 must have felt quite right. Compared to other highly creative groups Gentle Giant had little mojo, almost sounding like a medieval chamber group that happened to pick up electric instruments one day. The electric guitar of Gary Green helps the band to get some rock-vibes, but the overall aesthetics are too alien to attract any Uriah Heep type of prog fan. The vocals by keyboardist Kerry Minnear are charming in a gentle English way, whereas the vocals of lead vocalist Derek Shulman are more powerful and soul-infused. The album is quite low-paced, moody and peaceful, though the band rocks out occasionally. The band reaches great depth on many of its experiments (that cross-fade of what must be twenty instruments!) and still is able to fit them into often catchy songs if you have an ear for it. I find 'The Moon is Down' hauntingly catchy for instance. 'Pantagruel's Nativity' is a fan's favorite and perhaps as much as the regular sympho-prog listener can bare. Tony Visconti gave the band a warm and mellow sound that fits the artistic atmosphere. 'Acquiring the Taste' is actually not the right album to acquire a taste for Gentle Giant if you don't consider yourself open for the avant-prog experience. In stead, turn to the slightly more regular 'Octopus'.
Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Flucktrot
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.

Review by tarkus1980
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.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by ZowieZiggy
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 à 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.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
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 naïve, 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.

Review by thehallway
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.

Review by colorofmoney91
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.

Review by baz91
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.

Review by Warthur
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.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
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.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Neu!mann
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.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
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.

Review by 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.

Review by 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

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by VianaProghead
5 stars Review Nº 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*)

Review by jamesbaldwin
4 stars The album consists of 3 masterpieces (Pantagruel, The House, Plain Truth) and 5 minor tracks, almost fillers without great development but with various instrumental solutions. The three masterpieces are long pieces, which alternate slow parts with a rock progression with a great Green guitar solo. Alongside these three great songs (similar to the 4 rock songs of the first album), there is another medium-length rock piece, Wreck, with medieval intermezzo that resembles "Why Not?" But Wreck is very repetitive in the part hard-rock, because the choral solutions make the song proceed automatically with the rhythm, making it become a long lament, always the same, sometimes unfathomable. Wreck, which is also pleasant in the medieval part, is the only unsuccessful piece on the album.

The general climate is nocturnal, intimate, at a medium-slow pace, with medieval digressions and powerful hard-rock explosions of Green's guitar, all seasoned with wind arrangements that give a sense of orchestra, as in the first album. It is progressive rock orchestral, with solutions ranging from wind instruments to violins, and music that ranges from hard-rock to medieval, in a mix that has a great originality and that indulges only sometimes in instrumental pieces a bit offensive if not cloying. The often choral chant recalls the Gregorian chant, especially in Pantagruel's Nativity, which has a symphonic structure: a unique piece of its kind. The third song, The Home ... is the second long piece, which indulges in math rock on the edge of jazz in the soft parts and then explode with the hard-rock guitarism. The last long piece, finally, Plain Truth, is the most sustained rock piece: it has a violin wah wah, great found on the album, and a hard-rock structure that recalls (more than the other two masterpieces) the songs from the first album. Finally, there are the novelties: three nocturnal ballads, sometimes cloying. Edge of Twilight and The Moon is Down resemble both in music and in the text, which has references to reciprocal titles; Edge of twilight is slower, has an interlude suspended with percussion; Moon is Down is more rhythmic and has a beautiful fiatist interlude. Black Cat is a ballad with dissonant accompanying violins.

Compared to the debut album, Acquiring is less creative, less powerful, less varied; it has no decidedly rock pieces or decidedly classical pieces, with the violins in the foreground. Acquiring presents half masterpieces and half gregarious pieces, which contribute to create a nocturnal Lp, formed largely by orchestral ballads, which find rock moments only in the longest pieces. It remains a great album, certainly valuable and original for the mix of sounds, which in the best moments are melodically inspired and well arranged, or dragging rock, and in the worst moments sound like refined arrangements but artifacts and cloying.

The songs: 1) Pantagruel's Nativity 8+; 2) Edge of Twilight 7+; 3) The House 8,5; 4) Acquiring the Taste 6+ (no vote); 5) Wreck 5,5; 6) The Moon is Down 7,5; 7) Black Cat 7; 8) Plain Truth 8,5.

Vote album: 8.5. Four stars.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars One of the things you have to admire about Gentle Giant is the risk they took with what was only their 2nd album. Their debut album was more of a blues oriented affair, but they didn't want to rest on those laurels. Instead, it was the band's intention to stretch their musical style to the limits of their imagination, and that is what they did with "Acquiring the Taste". They did this with full knowledge of the risk they were taking, to risk stardom and notoriety for obscurity in order to not compromise on their vision, to push the boundaries of rock music. All of this is noted in the text on the album sleeve. That was the reasoning behind the title of the album, to "sit back, and acquire the taste".

And, that is what you have to do. In 1971, when this was released, progressive rock was young, and GG was one of the first band's to get a foothold in the genre. But, even though there were other band's expanding their horizons at the time, it was still hard to find a band that they could be accused of "ripping off". Talk about interesting harmonies, strange chords, interesting meters, and just being totally original, this band accomplished this with this album. And, thus, this is where their unique sound and style began.

Forget the fact that the album cover was deemed one of the worst record covers of all time. They weren't out to impress anyone. At best, the band pretty much avoided the limelight, and was only really able to get a cult following at the time. Now, the band is quite well respected. It's not music that will appeal to the masses, especially if they are not willing to put in the time to appreciate just what is going on here. However, the band seemed to be quite content to give their unique style in small doses. In fact, even though this album is only around 39 minutes long, it is still the longest of all of their studio albums. But, man, there is a lot going on here.

The album starts off with "Pantagruel's Nativity", one that demonstrates right off the bat that this is anything but normal. This complex piece of work is inspired by the books of Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais, a group of novels that tell the adventures of two giants. It is a bit difficult to discern where one song ends and the next begins as they are presented as a suite-style. However, the mellotron will definitely let you know that the music is progressive, and the complex folkish style runs rampant through the entire album. As a matter of fact, when the heavier guitar solo comes in later in the track "The House, the Street, the Room", it has quite an impact that doubles in power since you don't quite expect it, but it sure sound great, and it fits right in.

The 2nd half of the album doesn't let up in the progressive sound as it continues to explore strange harmonies in both the vocals and the chords. The rhythm continues to emphasize the complexities of the music, never being satisfied to settle into a constant beat like an afterthought, but actually being as complex as the music itself. "The Moon is Down" has some nice tonal percussion in it that is completely original, and this song only proves that people use the band as a "standard" when comparing other bands, as in, "hey this band has a Gentle Giant vibe to it, doesn't it?". The other thing I find interesting is really apparent in "Black Cat", which features the band's mellow sound in the vocals, which is also a trademark feel for Gentle Giant, that almost makes the band sound vulnerable in what they are doing sound-wise, but that playful passage that involves the strings and odd percussive noises, you know they are completely sure of themselves in what they are doing. I've always considered that soft singing style one of Gentle Giant's most endearing sounds, and the way it almost clashes with the complexities of everything makes them completely engaging in my opinion. The last track "Plain Truth" is probably the most rock-oriented of the tracks once the guitar riff kicks in, and is also the most repetitive riffs on the album, though the exciting violin swirls that are just as strong as the guitar riffs make this track a rousing ending statement for an excellent album.

For those that have not had a chance to "acquire the taste" of Gentle Giant, this album is one only seasoned progressive lovers should start on. Even then, it might be a bit tough to "get" from the outset. But, if you allow the music to grow inside of you, it will end up being one of your favorite albums. The array of instruments on this album is quite extensive, and only helps in making it one intriguing album. If you've been missing this album in your progressive collection, then it's about time for you to find it and discover what you've been missing.

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Report this review (#1918254) | Posted by steamhammeralltheway | Sunday, April 29, 2018 | Review Permanlink

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 decad ... (read more)

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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, althoug ... (read more)

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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 ... (read more)

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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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#1117274) | Posted by poeghost | Tuesday, January 21, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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 thi ... (read more)

Report this review (#1060799) | Posted by 201101454 | Wednesday, October 16, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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Report this review (#1026534) | Posted by MyDarling95 | Saturday, August 31, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 c ... (read more)

Report this review (#1014384) | Posted by ster | Thursday, August 8, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 mak ... (read more)

Report this review (#918311) | Posted by FenderX | Saturday, February 23, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 instrument ... (read more)

Report this review (#814873) | Posted by raph1 | Monday, September 3, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 h ... (read more)

Report this review (#743409) | Posted by geneyesontle | Monday, April 23, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#567731) | Posted by theRunawayV | Monday, November 14, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#525538) | Posted by maryes | Saturday, September 17, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#490233) | Posted by the philosopher | Monday, July 25, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#426438) | Posted by darkprinceofjazz | Friday, April 1, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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