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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Gentle Giant

Acquiring the Taste

Review by Steve Alspach

Few bands could throw a wider arsenal of musical styles then Gentle Giant in their early days. Acquiring the Taste, perhaps doomed by its gaudy album cover, may not have had the success it deserved, but musically it's second to none. "It has taken every shred of our combined musical and technical knowledge" admits the band in the liner notes, and it's no exaggeration - these guys played everything but the kitchen sink, and even that may have gone uncredited. The end result is an album that stands up well and still serves as an influence in progressive rock.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Pantagruel's Nativity
Here we see the band's first look at the works of Rabelais. The opening verse, with the strummed guitar, mellotron, and Kerry Minnear's falsetto, is quite lush. The second verse brings in the drums and Phil Shulman's fanfare-like trumpet. The song, though, changes into a harder tone with descending vocal patterns and solos on the vibraphone and electric guitar.
Edge of Twilight
This song is marked by its warm arrangements of low woodwinds, cello, and Minnear's echo-tinged vocals. Again the band goes into a complex vocal arrangement, and then there is a percussion solo using tympani and xylophone as the lead tonal instruments.
The House, The Street, The Room
Derek Shulman gets a chance to flex his tonsils on this one. The song has an edge during the verses. Then the band, after a playful interlude, explodes with Gary Green's guitar taking charge.
Acquiring the Taste
Kerry Minnear shows his classical training with this short piece featuring himself on Moog synthesizer.
Wreck
A song with a maritime theme, the band strike a balance between straight-forward rock and chamber-like classical with a string quartet and harpsichord.
The Moon Is Down
With a nod to John Steinbeck, this piece shows the band putting forth some of its softer vocal arrangements. The piece is slightly muted throughout, but Derek and Phil Shulman handle dual saxophone duties quite well.
Black Cat
Phil Shulman takes the lead here, and this piece is a precursor to "Dog's Life" from the "Octopus" album with its light-hearted feel and emphasis on Ray Shulman's violin work. Gary Green's guitar solo at the end caps it all as he deftly uses the wah pedal to simulate a cat's meow.
Plain Truth
Featuring perhaps the first spoken fish-and-chips order on record, Gentle Giant let loose on this stomper. Ray Shulman's electric violin, run through a wah-wah effect, gets the spotlight here.
 
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