Gentle Giant – Acquiring The Taste

1971 (Vertigo Records)

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)

One year after their tumultuous debut the British band Gentle Giant released an ambitious follow-up in 1971. The album is called “Acquiring The Taste” and in their quest to be unique, the gentlemen have created their most symphonic masterpiece to date. That promises to be a treat.

“Acquiring The Taste” sounds quite dark without being obscure. Moreover the album is quite keyboard-oriented with a lot of Mellotron and Moog although the keyboard playing cannot be called dominant. Each member has experimented extensively without the album becoming overly experimental or indulgent. In the eight compositions, but especially in their idiosyncratic arrangements, the contours of what is to come are already clearly present. However, the drum parts are still less groovy than they will later become.

Gentle Giant consists of six multi-talented musicians on their first four albums. On “Acquiring the Taste”, these are the Shulman brothers, Phil, Derek and Ray on saxophone, vocals, violin and bass guitar respectively as well as guitarist Gary Green, keyboardist Kerry Minnear and drummer Martin Smith. Combined with a great deal of creativity this versatility and the accompanying array of sounds produce music like that on “Acquiring The Taste”, an album that is filled to the brim in an unrestrained manner. With more refinement than on their debut the band has mixed the rock of the bluesy guitar with chamber music, progressive sounds, medieval folk, jazzy harmonies, multi-part vocals and various ethereal passages of flute and vibraphone. The impressive thing is that Gentle Giant manages to deliver this potpourri of passages in a digestible whole. That, in my opinion, is the reason for the band’s significant influence on many other bands to this day. It is also impressive that the music still does not sound dated today (with a few exceptions, such as the drum section in Edge Of Twilight).

From the Moog in the intro of Pantagruel’s Nativity to the final chord of Plain Truth, the music demands full attention. It is a delight to hear the trumpet in the song sung by Kerry Minnear or to frolic along with the flute or to be captivated by that robust guitar. The wah-wah guitar solo in The House, The Street, The Room is powerful and each song is a series of noteworthy moments. In fact the album consists of a considerable number of mini-epics. There is truly nothing else to be said about tracks like Pantagruel’s Nativity, The House, The Street, The Room, The Moon Is Down, Black Cat and Plain Truth. The instrumental title track is a slight exception to the complexity of the other songs in terms of length (1:36).

“Acquiring The Taste” is an album where the ordinary seems extraordinary and the extraordinary seems ordinary. Don’t be fooled by the solo guitar in Plain Truth. That’s a violin, the giant kindly said.

Gary Green: 6 string guitar, 12 string guitar, wah-wah guitar, voice
Kerry Minnear: electric piano, organ, Mellotron, vibraphone, Moog, piano, celeste, clavichord, harpsichord, timpani, maracas, lead vocals
Derek Shulman: alto saxophone, clavichord, cowbell, lead vocals
Phil Shulman: alto and tenor saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, piano, claves, maracas, lead vocals
Ray Shulman: bass, violin, viola, electric violin, Spanish guitar, tambourijn, 12 string guitar, organ, bass pedals, vocals
Martin Smith: drums, tambourijn, gongs, side drum
Paul Cosh: trumpet, organ
Tony Visconti: recorder, bass drum, triangle

© Dick van der Heijde 2022