Gentle Giant
Acquiring the Taste


4.5
superb

Review

by Thomas Bambaataa Ghidrah Towers USER (67 Reviews)
February 12th, 2006 | 73 replies | 12,085 views


Release Date: 1971 | Tracklist


8 of 8 thought this review was well written

The cover interprets the album name in an all too literal way. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding between the band and artist with what needed to be achieved on the cover. Perhaps more ELP and less Rolling Stones was needed. Or maybe just not a tongue ready to gorge on what seems to be a very small ass. Or perhaps it’s a metaphor: Gentle Giant are ready to lick away the crap in music and drool in a new era. Well none of that matters now because the band is generally forgotten besides Pitchforkmedia’s tribute to this gem, or more so the cover, in their “The Worst Record Covers of All Time" article. At least they weren’t put in the same section as Jim O’Rourke’s Eureka, where a naked middle aged cartoon man “gets intimate" with a bunny. But unlike O’Rourke’s bestialised cover, Gentle Giant’s Acquiring the Taste remains something that should be discovered by the people.

The typical prog label that is slapped on other bands simply does not work here. I’m not exactly sure why, the Moog synthesizers, Mellotrons and bearded men are there, but the pompous sound is not. Well, there’s hints of elitism in their liner notes but let’s just ignore that... The album soars in composition, the music twists and winds, a single melody is loosely maintained through the quick interludes and breakdowns. But they do not sound like a jam band, or the type of prog band that writhes and turns with just bass, synth, drums and guitar. Gentle Giant heavily incorporate classical music into their music, but the catch is: it doesn’t bore to tears. The base of Acquiring the Taste’s songs is very hard rock driven, complex bass lines and dirty blues guitar riffs, but laden with various instruments, a lot of them somewhat unexpected.

The hard rock influence is also unexpected, through the opening track Pantagruel's Nativity, beginning with a peaceful Mellotron, wandering trumpet and flute, and quiet acoustic guitar as vocalist Phil Shulman projects a rather angelic voice. It’s a rather textural experience, before the Moog synthesizer ushers in a new mood lead by a burst of guitar, the riffs reminiscent of Black Sabbath. But the mood is maintain, as the guitar steps down and lets the “richer" instruments also play in, the Moog and horns occasionally popping in. In the end, the opening song proves to be a rather daunting intro to the album, the mood is maintained the same, but the interchanging of instruments is so subtle and elegant, yet quick, that the listener doesn’t even notice that seven minutes have gone. Such is the nature of the longer Gentle Giant songs, almost arrogant dissonance, counteracting music moods, and an overall dark feel.

The classical and baroque influences come on Acquiring the Taste’s quieter yet more symphonic moments. The instrumentation that leads The Moon is Down is especially elegantly crafted with clavichord, harpsichord, violins, saxes and quiet arpeggios from the guitar create a euphoric sound rarely heard even in the most complex music. It’s amazingly strung together by a single, classically-inspired, droning melody. Still the mysterious darkness remains intact, similar to King Crimson in their epic songs like Epitaph, an emotionally volatile song yet beautifully strung together by the Mellotron.

Through the elegant pseudo-classical moments on the album also come pure hard rock moments, similar to Jethro Tull’s Aqualung, hard rocking, but stylized with other influences. Wreck is the best example of this, the verses sound like a pub song with shouts of “Yeeaaaahhheeeyyyyyhoohoowww" and a powerful riff driving the song. But like the rest of the album, there’s always an elaborate backing when it’s not upfront, the violins always creeping under the guitar’s powerful tone. Of course it being a song from Acquiring the Taste it must have an outlandish interlude, where suddenly medieval style flutes and harpsichords take over before coming to a dramatic climax with the Mellotron and relaxing guitar from Gary Green.

Acquiring the Taste is truly a strange progressive trip, going in the direction of a nightmarish Jethro Tull. The song structures are quirky and unpredictable, musical changes are bound to happen quickly but still loosely maintaining a theme. Acquiring the Taste sometimes slows down too much, but the intrigue of what may come up usually keeps any boredom away. This is Gentle Giant’s second album, a departure towards more experimental, but more focused and musically superior direction. Gentle Giant never truly perfected the experimental sound and whimsical, yet volatile moods, they moved towards somewhat safer territories in future releases. Never has hard rock and Gregorian chants mixed so boldly in one record, but with such a cohesive sound that doesn’t compromise with the element of surprise.



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user ratings (172)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
pulseczar
February 12th 2006



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thank you, 'tis my 40th :chug:

Priestmetal
February 12th 2006



542 Comments


I don't like these guys but I guess its good that theres one more prog review. Its a good review as well.

Zebra
Moderator
February 12th 2006



2647 Comments


Great review, detailed and perfect in length.
I've never heard of this, but it sounds like my type of music and you gave it a 4.5/5. I might check this out.

masada
February 12th 2006



2733 Comments


You win.

Storm In A Teacup
February 12th 2006



12687 Comments


I love you for doing this. (for me!)
You get both a positive vote, and a (heart)!!!
Love the album to death, need to listen to more of the band besides this, and Giant For A Day.

tom79
March 26th 2006



3363 Comments


Great Review.
My dad keeps telling me to get into Gentle Giant, but I still haven't got around to it yet. I will soon though.

Digging: Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again

Stoic
May 1st 2006



161 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Galapogos, after reading your review on Three Friends I followed your advise and picked Acquiring the Taste as my first Gentle Giant album. I've only listened to it a few times but I must say I was immediately blown away. I was introduced to a strange and truly fascinating world of sounds. Thanks for showing me the light with your reviews This Message Edited On 05.01.06

pulseczar
May 1st 2006



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Glad to hear it, man. It's great that Gentle Giant is reaching more people, instead of undeservingly fading away.

jrowa001
June 18th 2007



8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

just got this album. i like it a lot, i need more

CrazyFool84
July 6th 2009



1080 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

really good review, this album gets ridiculously good after a giving it some time to sink in

*description of the cover is brilliant

EVedder27
September 20th 2009



6088 Comments


Album is very unique and good

Roach
November 30th 2009



2149 Comments


Black Cat is so good!

qwe3
November 30th 2009



21353 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

just got this. been on a prog kick recently, gonna listen nowwwwww

Ovrot
January 26th 2011



10468 Comments


This is really good :O

Digging: Jean Michel Jarre - Oxygene

Jethro42
April 30th 2011



12377 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It's easy to do a sexual innuendo when looking at the cover art, but if you opened the cd, what you'd see is in fact a juicy pear rather than ''a very small ass''. First paragraph was hilarious anyhow.

Ovrot
May 2nd 2011



10468 Comments


Hmmmm pairs

Jethro42
May 2nd 2011



12377 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Tree of a perfect pair

Ovrot
May 2nd 2011



10468 Comments


A pair of pears

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
May 2nd 2011



19998 Comments


I need to listen to this

Ovrot
May 2nd 2011



10468 Comments


Yes you do.



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