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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 17. 19th July 1972

Gentle Giant Aquiring the Taste

Gentle Giant Aquiring the Taste

Gentle Giant's stated goal is the expansion of the frontiers of contemporary popular music. They attempt to acheive this by recording compositions that are "unique, adventurous and fascinating" (to use their own words), abandoning all notions of commercialism. Between them they command a fair range of instruments, including the whole set of electrified keyboards and electronic synthesis. How-ever, they don't make it.

This failure is in part due to their reluctance to forsake the musical styles of the past, though this malady is not singularly theirs. Some years back when the "progressive" scene was new, groups tried to explore new ideas and idioms. It seems that now the structures they built have collapsed, leaving an aura of depression that is relieved by fondling historical genitals.

Which brings me to the point, it is pointless to embark on a new synthesis using the materials of earlier attempts. Gentle Giant have both a moog synthesizer and a mellatron at their disposal, yet they sink into masturbatory crap with vibraphone and xylophone. The title track evokes perhaps the most disgust — a minute and a half of solo moog relegated to a quasi-sixteenth century dance Triviality itself. If the music is banal, there can be no word to describe the ability of the lyricist!. Consider this jewel from Black Cat.

There's a cat prowling through the streets at night
And she's black and her eyes are burning yellow fierce and bright
The lights are darkened;
Senses sharpened;
Wide awake.

Perhaps I've been unequivocally harsh, for there are odd patches of transcending excitement. Pantagruel's Nativity is an interesting track, for example. The album is well-structured, and the production (Tony Visconti) quite exceptional, but as a progressive group Gentle Giant have run aground somewhere between popularizing classics and formalizing rock.

Philip Alley.

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