Gentle Giant

Acquiring The Taste

Gentle Giant - Acquiring The Taste ©1971 Polygram
1. Pantagruel's Nativity
2. Edge Of Twilight
3. The House, The Street, The Room
4. Acquiring The Taste
5. Wreck
6. The Moon Is Down
7. Black Cat
8. Plain Truth

Often regarded as the penultimate progressive rock band, Gentle Giant forged a unique sound in the early seventies; a sound characterized by a schizophrenic combination of heavy rock, jazz, classical and everything in between. On their first album, Gentle Giant was still very much a traditional rock band with the usual R&B influences. However, their second album, Acquiring the Taste found the band moving in a radically diverse and progressive direction, with eclectic compositions, edgy arrangements, and a sound so ahead of its time that contemporary rock still hasn't caught up with it.

Acquiring the Taste sounds like jazz, modern (atonal) music, prog rock, proto-heavy metal, classical music and R&B thrown in a blender. Amazingly, the pieces flow so perfectly that one wonders why such combinations aren't attempted more often. The simple answer is that most bands couldn't pull it off. Such disparate musical forms only make good bed-fellows in the most skillful of hands. The music never strikes the listener as pastiche, but always flows smoothly and logically from one part to another. Every member of Gentle Giant was a multi-instrumentalist, more than capable of communicating vast visceral elements on a multitude of instruments and in a variety of singing voices. Jazzy brass instruments mingle with Schoenberg-esque atonality, which in turns spill into heavy psychedelic rock and lushly organic polyphony.

Much of this album sounds contemporary, and in many cases a good deal more daring than the progressive rock of today. The sound is rich, full of solemnity and joy, brimming with invention and brilliance. Pizzicato strings, braying trumpets, syncopated bass grooves, Romantic piano interludes, jarring atonality, thick Black Sabbath-like riffs, both warm and aggressively cold singing- all of these converge in Acquiring the Taste, creating a sound so distinct and influential that the phrase "Gentle Giant influenced" would pass into the lexicon of common prog rock terminology.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 03/2000

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Gentle Giant - Octopus ©1973 Polygram
1. The Advent Of Panurge
2. Raconteur Troubadour
3. A Cry For Everyone
4. Knots
5. The Boys In The Band
6. Dog's Life
7. Think Of Me With Kindness
8. River

The fourth album by Uber-proggers Gentle Giant, Octopus is a wonderfully strange album; a rich tapestry of complex sounds and experimentation bent on enthralling the patient listener. At this point Gentle Giant had developed the ability to fuse influences into one singular sound; so rather than throw a jazz riff in a song after a classical interlude, the two disparate elements are simply brought together concurrently, creating a new and unique sound in a slick synthesis. Very few bands have mastered this art, and it is a testament to Gentle Giant's formidable skill that they were able to pull it off so precisely.

Harmonic complexity is key to the Octopus experience. Melody lines (instrumental or vocal) are layered in polyphonic textures, and poly-rhythms are everywhere. The time signatures are often times insane, and the fact that so much actually happens in and around the syncopated rhythmic bliss, is simply staggering. As always, the band uses a huge variety of percussive and melodic instruments and extended instrumental jams are frequent. Nay, a mandatory element, given Gentle Giant's mad skills.

The lyrics are clever and vastly entertaining, with giants, troubadour stories, and man's best friend playing prominent roles. The vocals range from low throaty affairs to higher (and very clear) singing. Strings play a strong part in the music, often times undercutting the vocals with a rich-timbre and tone. Funky keyboard/moog jamming and piano interludes are omni-present, granting the music a jaunty, playful vibe.

This album is simply cool, to use the vernacular. The music is impossibly original and surprisingly inspiring given its relative strangeness. Octopus is a thickly textured, contorted, and overall wacky adventure. It just screams originality and artistry. Anyone who is simply tired of the blandness of contemporary neo-prog or prog metal, should do themselves a favor and check this album out.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 04/2000

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