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Mott’s CD review
Book Review:The Stories of English
by Lang Reid
English language is well known as a remarkable way of communicating, with its
subtle nuances and shades of meaning, however, how it really evolved is not as
well known. This week’s book, The Stories of English (ISBN0-141-01593-4,
Penguin editions 2005) has been written by probably the most erudite scholar of
English alive today, David Crystal, and might just throw some fresh light on
the subject. Amongst his achievements in life, he is the Professor of
Linguistics at the University of Wales and 10 years ago was awarded the OBE for
services rendered to the English language. He has also written over 90 books
around his favorite subject, English. With that background, you could
reasonably expect that he knows his stuff.
He begins the book with the ‘accepted’ origin of
‘Standard’ English, and follows it immediately with what he calls ‘The
real story’ which takes into account the differences, or ‘nonstandard’
English. In fact, he states confidently in the introduction, “Most English
speakers do not speak Standard English. A significant number of English authors
do not write in Standard English. And a large number of those using English in
computer mediated interaction do not use it either.” However, do not fall
into the trap that Standard English does not matter.
Being a dyed in the wool researcher, David Crystal uncovers
many facts not generally known, in his quest for the real origins of present
day English. I was unaware that there were six bibles translated and printed
between 1525 and 1611. These six were only the major ones. There were over 50
translations in that time, with some being publicly burned for having been
published in a “vulgar tongue”. Nor did I know that the authorized King
James edition of 161 was plagiarized from an earlier version called the
Coverdale version printed in 1534.
David Crystal also explodes the myth that our language has
very few ethnic origins being Anglo-Saxon in character, and quotes many words
that have arrived in English from countries such as marmalade from Portuguese;
alarm, brigand and million from Italian; rhubarb, treacle and tragedy from
Greek; cotton, elixir and mattress from Arabic and arsenic which comes from the
The book is dotted with side-bars each with interesting
snippets. Crystal notes that it does not take long for a new variety of
“English” to grow, citing the Pitcairn Island settlers, the nine Bounty
mutineers of 1790, who gave the world Pitcairnese, which has its own vocabulary
after little over 200 years.
The glottal stop earns its own chapter, being such a
dialectic phenomenon. Taking the word ‘bottle’ as an example, the double
t’s are not pronounced but replaced with a glottic sound, which interestingly
does not have a letter of the alphabet to signify its existence.
This is not a book to gloss through, as much of the
spellings are given in their middle-ages versions, and this does slow reading
and comprehension. Or it did for me!
The review copy was made available by Bookazine, and at B.
495, is a damn fine read. In English of course! And Standard English at that.
Mott's CD Reviews: Gentle Giant - Acquiring The Taste
5 Stars *****
Giant were one of the truly great bands from the Seventies, their music was
totally indefinable. Well I suppose that is not initially true, it was sort of
a mixture of Rock / Jazz / Blues / Progressive Rock / Folk / Medieval / Dance /
Pop / Heavy Metal / Fusion / Classical / Big Band / New Age / World and, of
course, original Gentle Giant sound. So as you can imagine it was just a little
bit difficult to find the exact pigeonhole to file them under. Listening to
them, you can only conclude that they should have had their own little section
so everybody could find them.
The band started when the three brothers Shulman: Derek,
Ray, and Phil, got fed up with life as part of Simon Dupree and The Big Sound,
who were semi-famous for having a couple of hits in the late Sixties, most
notably ‘Kites’ from 1967. Wishing to go onto something with higher (sic)
ideals than their pop band, likewise musicians were sought out. This search
started in 1969 when of course there was an absolute abundance of very talented
muso’s around, all having been brought up on a heavy diet of Robert Johnson,
Chuck Berry, Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Hendrix, Vanilla Fudge,
etc., and who were now ready to spread their own wings. A butterfly plucks a
chord in Memphis can lead to a whole musical movement in London.
Three like-minded musicians were selected. Keyboard wizard
Kerry Minear was obviously going to be a very useful limb to the Giant, as he
could also sing lead vocals on the more rock orientated songs, plus play the
odd bass note when Ray Shulman had other duties. Martin Smith got the seat
behind the bins as he was found to be a drummer that was prepared to adapt to
whatever musical style the rest decided to change to, even if it was three or
four times during one song. Perhaps the pick of the bunch, though, was
guitarist Gary Green, a guitarist who could either play his axe with great
feeling, picking his notes with passion and subtlety, or could knock you dead
by turning around and playing so fast the wallpaper would strip from your
So thus was the mighty Gentle Giant born in 1969, a very apt
title as there was no doubt of the strength of this musical group, nor was
there any doubt in their charm and wit.
The first album was released in 1970, when really the Giant
was just finding its feet. It was really after a year on the road that the
Giant reached it’s full maturity, making their second album ‘Acquiring the
Taste’ the first album that was to feel like the finished item.
There are eight numbers on ‘Acquiring The Taste’, all of
which stand up on their own, but are much better suited to listen to as a
complete album, as each track runs into the next, like new chapters of a
page-turner novel that you just can’t wait to get to, and then when the next
one starts you are already intrigued as to what the next bit is going to sound
During the recording of this album the Giants used over
thirty different instruments between them. Gary Green was the only member of
the band allowed to stick to just one instrument. They also used to take all
these different instruments with them on the road as well, which must have led
to some very interesting stocktaking after gigs, and also used to cause much
hilarity during the concert if a musician had to swap instruments half way
through a song and upon putting the first one down would make a huge pantomime
of trying to find the next one before the required solo was needed.
The linier notes for ‘Acquiring The Taste’ are perhaps
the best description of Gentle Giant’s music, in their own words so to speak:
“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 one thought - that it should be unique, adventurous, and
fascinating. It has taken every shred of our combined musical 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 acquire the taste.”
It may sound a little pretentious now, but considering that
this was written nearly thirty-five years ago, it does at least tell you that
the Giant’s heart was into trying to create something new and interesting.
The music of Gentle Giant sounds as fresh and inventive today as it did then,
cutting its own swathe through the fields of modern music. Also the Giant’s
music is as indescribable now as it was then. The Gentle Giant had it’s own
particular musical swagger about it.
I think for anybody that would like to shake hands with the
Giant musically, this their second album is as good as any, although for a band
whose music was so complex, and who seemed to be constantly on the road in the
early seventies (three month tours of America were commonplace, and any large
festival in Europe without Gentle Giant just was not complete), they were very
prodigious in the studio, producing between 1970 and 1975 eight albums. Gentle
Giant (1970), Acquiring The Taste (1971), Three Friends (1972), Octopus (1972),
In A Glass House (1973), The Power And The Glory (1974), and Freehand (1975).
They also released a fine live album, Playing The Fool (1977). I admit that
both quality and quantity dropped off after this, and time finally caught up
with the Giant in 1980 when the band called it a day.
After a new burst of appreciation for the Giant in the late
nineties there have been many re-releases and compilation albums released (the
best result from this is probably the double CD called ‘Edge Of Twilight’
which culls most of the best tracks from the Giant’s first six albums and
gives you over two and a half hours of music). Amazon now stocks over ninety
Gentle Giant titles, and I’m afraid if you wish to hear some of Gentle
Giant’s music that is where you will have to go, as still today most music
shops would not know quite how to market the Gentle Giant. Remember, you can
always listen to snippets of the music for free by downloading the Sound Bits
so you know what you are getting into before pressing the ‘Proceed to
In his namesake Gentle
Giant are individually
Derek Shulman: Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Bass Guitar
Ray Shulman: Bass Guitar, Violin, Some Guitar, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Phil Shulman: Saxophone, Trumpet, Lead Vocals, Recorders, Backing Vocals
Kerry Minear: All Keyboards, Some Bass, Cello, Lead Vocals, Tuned Percussion,
Gary Smith: Guitar
Martin Smith: Drums and Percussion
Songs on ‘Acquiring The
Edge Of Twilight
The House, The Street, The Room
Acquiring The Taste
The Moon Is Down
To contact Mott the Dog
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