CD REVIEW – Gentle Giant – 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 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 on 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.”

I’m up for that!

Gentle Giant’s second album was a departure from the blues and even soul influences found on their debut: more experimental, more dissonant, and even more diverse instrumentation. “Pantagruel’s Nativity” sets out those stalls from the off, a haunting, shadowy aura taking you on a driving journey of riff-laden complexity and mood, their vocal interplay being equally eerie, and gifting us a gorgeous vibes section.

“Edge of Twilight” continues that ominous feel in its understated, creepy, avant-garde arrangement. “The House, The Street, The Room” shares the dark nature, a strutting number using chord structures, melodies, instrumentation and Derek’s voice designed to unsettle as much as enjoy. What on earth is that quietly chaotic section 2 minutes in there for, if not to juxtapose against the great guitar riffing that follows?

“Acquiring the Taste” certainly tests the aural taste buds in its opening keyboard melodies and short, structurally testing composition. But a palette cleanser after such darkness previously. “Wreck” returns to a darker theme (‘ Just one sorry scream and a desperate cry’) and the classic juxtaposition of darker guitar-led riff and light vocal interlude in the nearest GG may ever come to a folksy sea shanty. But oh so lifted by their recorders 4 minutes in taking us through a symphonic uplifting section to close.

“The Moon is Down” is another compact example of GG brilliance, an art-rock feel that I am sure 10cc picked up on at times years later, with such clever little instrumental upticks, changes in style, substance and mood-making keyboard tones. “Black Cat” has a deliciously cool and catchy upbeat rhythm underpinning the playful vocal interchanges before veering into classical and percussive digressions. “Plain Truth” opens with an electric violin improv a la Hendrix that takes then into a good old bluesy rock-out. The initial musical darkness and night that clouded this album are musically blown away.

Acquired the taste? Addicted to it, more like!


Band:

Gary Green – 6 string guitar, 12 string guitar, 12 string wah-wah guitar, donkey’s jawbone, cat calls, voice

Kerry Minnear – electric piano, organ, mellotron, vibraphone, Moog, piano, celeste, clavichord, harpsichord, tympani, maracas, lead vocals

Derek Shulman – alto sax, clavichord, cowbell, lead vocals

Phil Shulman – alto & tenor sax, clarinet, trumpet, piano, claves, maracas, lead vocals

Ray Shulman – bass, violin, viola, electric violin, Spanish guitar, tambourine, 12 string guitar, organ bass pedals, skulls, vocals

Martin Smith – drums, tambourine, gongs, side drum

Assisted by Paul Cosh (trumpet, organ) and Tony Visconti (recorder, bass drum, triangle).

Tracklisting

  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)

All pieces written by: Shulman, Shulman, Shulman and Minnear

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