I found this next album when I was in search of some older music to listen to. I wanted to find something that could accompany me while I was working, or while I was even writing for this blog. After scrolling through Progarchives, I came across the band Gentle Giant, a progressive rock band from the 70’s. I had barely remembered the name from prior searches for musical gold, but felt I had to give this band a chance a second time around. I am so glad I did.
Gentle Giant consists of a rotation of multi-instrumentalists, whose primary members were brothers Derek, Ray, and Phil Shulman. Recording 11 albums over 10 years, this band definitely falls into the genre of progressive rock, reminding me of bands like King Crimson and Spock’s Beard. Beyond this genre, each album they’ve released has its own influences, ranging from jazz, to blues, to experimental rock. After hearing their first half of their discography, I fell in love with the album “Acquiring the Taste.”
“Acquiring the Taste” falls under the progressive rock genre, with a unique influence of psychedelic rock and neo-classical rock. The range of instrumentation that defines neo-classical rock is evident throughout the entire album, most notably in the song “The House, The Street, The Room” during the solo towards the middle of the song. With so many band members with knowledge of different instruments, one can hear the range of sound that each member brings. Because each band member plays multiple instruments throughout the album, it is hard to pinpoint when one band member excels above the others. Because of this, I have to review this album solely as a whole, and not as a sum of its parts.
With the range of instruments including guitar, bass guitar, drums, violin, piano, clavichord, cello, mandolin, saxophone, clarinet, and more, each song has its own experimentation. The songs “The House, The Street, The Room” and “Plain Truth” use more string instruments than the other songs, while songs like “Wreck” and “The Moon Is Down” uses more percussion instruments. Accompanying classical instruments are more modern instruments and effects like a Moog synthesizer and guitar effect pedals, best represented in the songs “Pantagruel’s Nativity” and “Black Cat.” The use of all these instruments makes “Acquiring the Taste” one of the most interesting and unique albums in my iTunes library.
At the first time hearing this album, it may be hard to listen and follow because of the incredibly experimental sound. During the recording of this album, the band had issued a declaration towards its listeners, explaining that it was their goal to “expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular.” They went on further to state that it took their collective knowledge to produce such an album that is more substantial and fulfilling, and that the audience should “acquire the taste,” hence the album title. (source)
I recommend this album to those who like progressive rock, experimental rock, jazz, and blues, but especially those who like the band King Crimson. This album definitely takes multiple listens to get used to, so please listen to this album at least twice and “acquire the taste”! I guarantee you that it will be one of the craziest albums you’ll ever listen to. If you are interesting in hearing more from this band but maybe something a little less experimental, I recommend their self titled debut “Gentle Giant,” which ranges from progressive rock to symphonic rock.