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Gentle Giant: Acquiring The Taste, by Paul Stump
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Gentle Giant acquired a large cult following worldwide, with a string of successful LPs displaying an extraordinary mixture of rock, classical and mediaeval music. Tours in Europe and America became ever more grandiose and elaborate—and then along came punk. However, Gentle Giant’s music has endured over time and new generations are as entranced by their intricate sound as were audiences of thirty years ago.
- Sales Rank: #3981045 in Books
- Published on: 2005-08
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Dimensions: 8.60″ h x .90″ w x 6.20″ l, .99 pounds
- Binding: Hardcover
- 192 pages
Most helpful customer reviews
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful.
Two Stars just because Gentle Giant is one of the chracters in the book and for Geir Hasnes essay at the end.
By Joseph L. Auger
Sorry Mr. Stump. Geir Hasnes should have written this book as his essay was wonderfully informative and straight forward.
I don’t like giving a bad review of anything or anyone and I can usually find something good to say about anything. I don’t want to dis the book because if it alerts others to Gentle Giant, then it has served its purpose to a degree. That being said I can hold it in no longer.
This book comes across as a high school draft of an idea about Gentle Giant’s story and ‘Prog’ rocks origins which are two separate topics for two separate books that are both horribly handled here. The title of the book does not alert the reader that the author will be sniffily pontifiacting
about those musical origins when you are expecting a well researched bio of an amazing band. The information could have been integrated in a better way but seems to be shoe horned in where ever it’ll almost fit.
Not one of the seven surviving members of the band who are all still active in the business to a degree and still administer GGs product were seemingly not interviewed for the book as there is a long list of copied interviews from their heyday in the 70’s. That is just
lazy. That he consistantly glosses over certain details about their touring life with the repeated ‘Reportedly this or that” compounds the laziness.
Yet he goes far to create this weird prose that would fit more in a book of fiction than a musical biography. He also seems at odds with himself as to whether he actually likes the band or not. In one sentence he will dismiss a particular performance or song and then hail it as a masterpiece in the next sentence.
Critisizm is fine as long as one is consistant about what one feels is weak or strong.
Chronologically it is all over the place and without any reason other than to accomodate an off topic tangent, which happens alot in this book.
If that weren’t bad enough I would have to think that he was purposely using words obviously gleaned from a Thesaurus as some kind of private joke. Gentle Giants story ends up being a secondary character behind this God awful writing. Sounds like just another failed writer who has turned to music critisizm to pay his rent and is bitter about it and takes it out on his subject matter. I’ve met too many of this type of music critic and they are like mushy peas in a pod. As Frank Zappa has said,
(paraphrasing),” Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
This book proves Frank was correct
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful.
More an analysis of their music than musical biography
By Wayne Klein
By 1979 Gentle Giant was in trouble; punk and new wave had exploded clearing the decks of most prog rock bands unless you were Yes or ELP. Retooling their sound and adapting it to the current marketplace caused (along with continued indifference from their record companies) sales to plummet. It was time to move on and the band did–they broke up. Paul Stump’s biography of the band documents most of this but spends too much time analyzing the band’s music at the expense of telling their story. Much like his “Cultural biography” of Roxy Music Stump writes a critical analysis of the band fit for a musician but that will leave the average fan cold. He’s appealing to a cult audience just as the band did. That’s too bad because of all the prog rock bands that came of age during the 70’s, Gentle Giant demonstrated the creativity of bands like King Crimson, Genesis and Yes even if they didn’t have the sales to prove it.
Stump’s book focuses too much on analysis and not enough on the band’s story and that’s its single largest flaw. I realize that Stump wrote this book a couple of years ago originally but this new edition (with a 2005 copyright) could have benefited from new info and a couple ofnew chapters. I’d also hardly call Stump’s style “breezy”–pretentious and stuffy might be a better description of his style. It makes slogging through the book to find the minimal information about the recording of each album frustrating to say the least. Couldn’t Stump have interviewed their recording engineer for stories about the recording sessions even if the band wasn’t willing to talk about them? Geir Hasnaes’ 20 page analysis of the band’s music over time was more incisive discussing the same material that Stump does about the band’s music. With the release of “Under Construction” and other posthumous CDs there was a lot of material out there to lend itself to analyzing the band’s sound. These releases are barely mentioned.
If Stump could have wrangled new extensive interviews with members of the band it would have helped the book as well. I personally was more interested hearing from Ray, Derek and Phil Shulman and their bandmates than hearing from Stump. The book reminds me of “Revolution in the Head” a book about The Beatles and their music. While spending a lot of time understanding the music is important it’s also important to have a better sense of the climate and culture that surrounded Gentle Giant (and even the record company indifference). Stump should look to books like “Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger” by Dan Matovina which manages to balance a discussion of the conflicts that drove the band, their music, the climate and their audience in telling a complete overview of the band’s history.
Nevertheless, Stump’s book has merit. You’ll disagree with some of his analysis. For example he cites “The Power and the Glory” as Gentle Giant’s most cohesive album. I think that most fans would disagree with that assessment. He also dismisses marvelous songs such as “Think of Me with Kindness” when its probably one of the band’s most heartfelt and emotionally powerful songs on “Octopus”. At 192 pages this book gives short shift to the band’s history and their struggles. While the music was and is important its the struggles the band went through that informed their music and creativity and understanding that is just as important as discussing the use of counterpoint and musical theory.
Mostof the research he’s done for the book is excellent there are the stray facts that are incorrect (for example the band’s last scheduled performance was at the Old Waldorf a rock and comedy nightclub in San Francisco not the Old Waldorf Hotel. The latter doesn’t exist in the city and never did). The photos are welcome but could have been more extensive. Let’s see what the band looks like now. What about interviewing Phil Shulman who was forced out of the band by his brothers after “Octopus”. Shulman has done recent interviews so why not get his perspective at least on the band’s early days? Derek Shulman’s label DRT recently reissued most of the band’s back catalog so what better timing to try and interview him? Stump’s book on Roxy Music by comparison is twice as long covering roughly the same time frame.
I was a bit underwhelmed and disappointed by Stump’s book. This is a band that deserves greater recognition. “Acquiring the Taste” does what I suppose all books about music should do–it makes you want to seek out their albums and listen to them. As a biography though it leaves the fan and newcomer hungry for more than just a “taste”.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
A BIT OF A NON EVENT!
Well i suppose ang gentle giant book is better than none, but this is a let down. The pictures are limited and very dark and grainy and almost added as an afterthought, but it is Stump’s writing that is my big bug bearer. The reason that prog was so derided in the late ’70’s (though i continued to love it) was it’s pretenciousness and the last chapter in this book where Stump analizes gentle giant’s influences is more fuel to the fire of those that hate this sort of music. Come on Paul where do these notions come from? I’m sure the band didn’t sit down and say ‘let’s put this influence here and be even more pompous!’It’s good music for goodness sake and i don’t need to be told the where’s and why’s as if i’m studying for some degree. No wonder you suggest not reading this chapter! As for the rest well a lot seems to be taken from the media of the time and there doesn’t seem to be any co-operation from the band. I didn’t appreciate the digs at other bands (ie Poco) that didn’t fit into your blinkered view of what is good music.At the end of this i came away not knowing much more about Gentle Giant that i couldn’t find out on the internet. Try putting ‘unauthorised biography’ next time and save me money!
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