I Giganti (71)
Terra In Bocca (71)
|This [Terra In Bocca] is a great cutting-edge LP where the most important thing is the lyrics. The songs talk about one of the big problems in Italy: the Mafia (from an interview with a prisoner).|
Not unlike many of their contemporaries, I Giganti began as a beat band in the mid-1960s,
made at least one Italobeat album and a large number of more or less successful singles,
and then broke up in 1968 - only to reform in 1971 for a brief burst of progressive glory.
Terra In Bocca (CD Akarma AK 1023) is a concept album about crime and the mafia,
supposedly based on an in-prison interview of some real-life criminal (this apparently led
to the album getting banned from the airwaves in Italy), and along with
New Trolls' Concerto Grosso among the first fully
progressive album-length works in Italy. Here the misnomer "rock opera" would for once be
appropriate, as the album is one long suite (albeit broken into eleven separate tracks on
this CD), driven by various spoken and sung vocals that range from softly melodious to
snarlingly dramatic. The tunes include quasi-classical fragments, folk melodies, standard
rock and even some Italian soft pop with spongy harmonies. The instrumentation centres
around acoustic and electric guitars, piano and organ (with contributions from a large
guest cast containing among others future members of Area and
Latte e Miele), and Mellotron strings appear frequently
with rhythm section to add spice or to swing the music into a new direction, so though the
album is text-driven, there is a continuous sense of movement and evolving musical drama
to captivate those of us who can't really understand the lyrics well enough to follow the
story. The musical development is never taken as far as with prime Italian progressive bands,
and the music can sound a bit naively bombastic in some of the more overwrought sections,
yet I find its youthful exuberance and passion grow more infective with each listen. A short
bonus track "Sogno di un vegetale" is included, but it has little in common with the rest of
the album. Those uncomfortable with Italian vocal dramatics can skip this disc; others
are advised to try it at first opportunity. I Giganti broke up for good after this, and with
only main composer Vince Tempera having further
activities in the progressive scene (in Il Volo), one wonders
whether some not-too-amused subject of Terra In Bocco made them an offer they
The most intriguing aspect of Terra in Bocca is the fact that it exists in two distinct versions. The 1989 CD version by Vinyl Magic (VM 013) is taken from a demo mix that apparently even saw a cassette-only release before the actual LP came out. About two minutes shorter than the LP version, this version lacks a couple of sections (e.g. the instrumental overture "Largo iniziale") and has sparser arrangements, with less Mellotron and studio effects (e.g. none of the weird English rant on "Plim plim" or the whispering interlude on "Allegro per niente"). The lighter sound reveals the pop roots of many sections clearer, yet in a way is also more lyrical at places, with naked melodies shining more brightly without layers of roaring guitars or electronic treatments trying to prop them to quasi-Wagnerian heights. Some of the solos are different as well, as is the order in which the themes are presented, and there even seems to be a few verses and bits of music that are not present on the latter version. So while I prefer the Akarma version, this is not without value, as a curiosity if nothing else. Note that all other CD versions, including Vinyl Magic's identically-numbered 1993 edition, are based on the LP version, though unlike Akarma's version, they have no bonus track and do not subdivide the original LP sides into shorter tracks.
Addendum: There is no such album [as Poesia de un Delitto, as previously listed in the discography]. The whole title of Terra In Bocca is Terra In Bocca (poesia de un delitto), which must have caused the confusion. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||[See Area | Latte e Miele | Tempera, Vince | Volo, Il]|
Fin del Tiempo (en tus manos) (05)
Gígur - (Not in photo order) Jorge Bringas (electric guitar, keyboards), Ricardo Vilchez (bass),
Mercy (drums) and Iván Tamez (electric, acoustic & slide guitars, ebow, manipulated noises, voice).
Former members include Emilio Delgado (drums on most of the debut album) and Arturo Aguirre (bass).
Gígur's debut album is true "art rock", including the artwork in and on the lavish digipak case. Fin del Tiempo (en tus manos) is hard to pidgeonhole into any particular category ... the album starts out with a noisy ambient piece that would make Brian Eno proud, but also has pieces that have prog-metal guitars, sampled noise collages, classical acoustic guitar passages and even "adult pop" stylings of bands like Toto scattered among more "conventional" symphonic prog. The music is all expertly executed, impeccably recorded and constantly surprising. With the exception of one song, the album is instrumental.
This album was actually supported by an art grant from the Mexican government ... enough to get the CD's pressed at least, and from my viewpoint this was a well-deserved investment. I can only wish the government of my own country cared as much for art, or could recognize it if they saw it ... or, in this case, heard it.
The bottom line is that Fin del Tiempo (en tus manos) is a brilliant debut release from a band I hope to hear more from. This album is a must for any international prog collection, with something on it to please all progressive tastes. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Gígur's web site
Night Works - Live (72, Live)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (73)
|Another from the German space scene. The ever-popular shimmering acid-drenched guitar is here, but there are a couple of twists. There is some mandolin and the vocals are in English and don't sound all drugged out. Includes members who have played with both Popol Vuh and Amon Düül II.|
|The first album is supposed to be top-of-the-line guitar space-rock as per Ash Ra Tempel. I haven't heard that one, but I have heard the other one, Bury My Heart.... That one is a subtle, acoustic type of space music, using some light electric, and also some nice female vocals. Overall, it reminds me of Popol Vuh circa Seligpreisung. The Popol Vuh comparison shouldn't surprise you, as the focal point of this band is that band's guitarist--Conrad Veidt. -- Mike Ohman|
|Gila (71) & Free Electric Sound (71) [were previously listed separately]. These two are exactly the same album. Officially it had no name, but "Free Electric Sound" is written on the cover. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
[See Amon Düül II |
Click here to mail-order
Night Works or Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee from Garden of Delights
In the Dreamtime (82)
|Synthesist / drummer who recorded at least one record for the Seattle-based Palace of Lights label (see K. Leimer). In the Dreamtime mixes electronic and acoustic percussion, synthesizers, acoustic bass, and various reeds to produce an appealing and creative mix of electronic music (influenced, perhaps, by Eno, Cluster, et al.), "world" music, jazz (Oregon, Weather Report) and avant-garde (David Moss guests on one cut). Worth checking out. -- Dave Wayne|
The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp (68)
The Brondesbury Tapes (02, Recorded in 1968)
|Legendary predecessor to King Crimson who put out a single album, plus a series of 45s. This is primarily for King Crimson fanatics, as most of this is squeaky-clean mums-and-dads kind of English pop, just the sort of thing you'd expect to hear from three boys from the bedsitter lands of Dorset. But there are indications that not all is rosy cheeks and starched collars for these lads, for example the twisted proto-Python (as in Monty) comic readings in between tracks on both sides of the LP (the Fripp-penned "Saga of Rodney Toady" in the A-side, "Just George" on the other). Also, the goofy horn-laden "Elephant Song," with recitation by Mike Giles, rather resembles the Bonzo Dog Band. There are also a couple of psychedelic moments, most notably "The Crukster" (which features a Moody Blues-ish poetic reading by Giles) and "Erudite Eyes" (which has some fine Fripp guitar work). Perhaps the only genuinely progressive moment is the three-part "Suite #1," which features classical-styled electric picking by Fripp, plus Mellotron and piano!. -- Mike Ohman|
|A true piece of cups-and-cakes Britpop kitsch it is, indeed. Just for laugh value alone I recommend hearing Robert Fripp's first pro band, a group of lads that remind of the mock-umentary absurdism of Spinal Tap and one that may now make him cringe. But do you realize it was Ian McDonald (a friend of theirs) and his rich step-uncle that financed a little record called In the Court of the Crimson King? The CD I have is Mister E's 2002 The Brondesbury Tapes, a collection of songs made during the the summer of 1968 after GG&F's initial Decca session earlier that year. Actually, a few of these tunes are very neat and, dare I say it, proto-progressive with McDonald on winds & keys and Fairport Convention's Judy Dyble handling lead vocals. Sure, this is a romp, especially the shameless Beatles / Beach Boys / Syd Barrett influences. But with cuts like "Tremolo Study in D major", "Suite No.1" and "Erudite Eyes", it's a significant early link in the progressive chain and of special interest to Frippians everywhere. -- David Marshall|
|Links||[See Fairport Convention | Fripp, Robert | King Crimson | McDonald and Giles]|
Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into (78)
Arriving Twice (00, Compilation of unreleased material)
Gilgamesh 1974 - Mike Travis (drums), Alan Gowen (keyboards), Phil Lee (guitar), Steve Cook (bass)
Gilgamesh was founded by Alan Gowan. I have their first album which sounds very much like a jazzier version of National Health. No small wonder there, as Gowan was an important part of National Health after Gilgamesh broke up. The musical interplay of Phil Lee's guitar (tonefully similar to Phil Miller) and Gowan's keyboards will bring smack dab into Canterbury territory. The emphasis is on musicianship, so the songs are complex, full of time and key changes. They're not as "cold" as Egg, not as laid back as Caravan, nor as silly as Hatfield and the North. High quality music, though I find National Health a little more involving; Gilgamesh comes off a little stiff.
|Canterbury band featuring future National Health keyboardist Alan Gowen. The first album is quite an excellent fusion/prog effort with lots of great synth work from Gowen. Sounds more like something German or French (like Edition Speciale perhaps?) than English. Includes the original, and better, version of "Arriving Twice." I've only heard this one once. The one I have is their second effort, Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into, which is a lot jazzier, more meandering and a lot less interesting, in spite of the presence of Canterbury stalwart Hugh Hopper on bass. -- Mike Ohman|
[See Gowen, Miller, Sinclair, Tomkins |
National Health |
Soft Head |
Click here for an overview
of Gilgamesh on the Calyx web site
David Gilmour (78)
About Face (84)
David Gilmour In Concert (03, Live, DVD)
On an Island (06)
With Pink Floyd:
With The Orb:
David Gilmour, sometime around 1970
Original Entry 3/16/06:
The following information (up to the point where I start to talk about On an Island) was taken from a fan site's page (see link below) called "101 Things That (Maybe) You Always Wanted to Know about David Gilmour". I'll spare you most of it, and just tell you a few things that may be of interest. David Gilmour was born on March 6, 1946 in Grantchester, Cambridge in the UK. He attended a strict all-boy's school called "The Perse Preparatory School". His first guitar was a nylon-string Tatay spanish guitar, but these days he prefers Fender Stratocasters with maple necks. He owns the first one ever produced ... serial number 0001. After a couple of unsuccessful bands, his third band was called Jokers Wild, and was the most successful for him up to that time. They recorded a 5-song EP for Decca Records. After their demise, he formed a band named The Flowers with Ricky Wills and Willie Wilson, who would later re-appear as contributors on his first solo album. The Flowers busked* their way across France and then changed their name to Bullit. But it didn't help them any. Things got so tough that he suffered from malnutrition and dehydration, and when he was invited to the Sound Techniques studio for the recording of "See Emily Play", his friend Syd Barrett didn't recognize him. They say you can't play the blues on a full stomach. Maybe it's true.
Gilmour joined Pink Floyd Christmas of 1967. For a brief time, Pink Floyd was a 5-man band (there are a few promo photos still in existence with all 5 of them in it), but Syd soon had to leave due to numerous personal problems. Gilmour was accused of usurping Barrett 's position and even copying his guitar style, when in fact Gilmour had taught Barrett many of his techniques. Gilmour has always said that he considers Barrett to be "a genius", and even helped him (when everyone else had given up on him) to complete the two solo albums he did release after his departure from Floyd. Barrett reciprocated by following Gilmour around on Pink Floyd tours and glaring at him throughout gigs, and showing up uninvited to Gilmour's wedding, where he was mistaken for a Krishna worshipper.
Gilmour bet Pink Floyd's manager Steve O'Rourke that Dark Side of the Moon wouldn't get into the top ten. He lost. But he still says that Wish You Were Here is better musically than Dark Side. His second solo album was a collaboration with Pete Townshend of The Who. They worked together on three of the songs, but one of them ("White City Fighting") didn't make the cut. This song was eventually released on Townshend's White City.
Gilmour's latest solo album was released on his 60th birthday (almost). I've heard it, and it definitely has a distinct Pink Floyd vibe, which is understandable since he's been the lead singer and guitarist for many years. He said in a recent interview about this album on NPR that for his second album, he consciously tried to not sound like Pink Floyd, and feels the album suffered for it. This time around, he wanted an album that just "sounds like me", and if that also happens to sound like Pink Floyd, we shouldn't be surprised. He also has some surprising old friends helping out on this album including Richard Wright (Pink Floyd, who both sings and plays keyboards), David Crosby and Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, backing vocals), Robert Wyatt (Soft Machine, Matching Mole, cornet, percussion and vocals) and Phil Manzanera (801, Roxy Music, keyboards and producer).
The fact is On an Island is the closest we're going to get to a new Pink Floyd album from here on out. He has said in a recent interview that Pink Floyd was through with recording and touring. Too bad. But David Gilmour will always be one of my all-time favorite guitarists, and his new solo album is definitely worth a try. Unless you're one of those who thinks The Division Bell is a waste of time for those not "in the grip of Floydian dogma". In which case maybe not. Oh, yeah, he also tries his hand (er ... lips?) at playing sax on this album ... and does a credible job of it! -- Fred Trafton
* For Americans, this means they did street performances for donations. In these neo-conservative times, they would be labeled "panhandlers". Gilmour and Barrett were once thrown in jail for busking, even in the "permissive" 1960's.
In 2010, Gilmour played guitar throughout the new release from The Orb, Metallic Spheres. See The Orb's entry for details. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Barrett, Syd | Orb, The | Pink Floyd | Manzanera, Phil | Wright, Richard | Wyatt, Robert ]|
Gordon Giltrap (68)
Testament of Time (71)
Perilous Journey (77)
Fear of the Dark (78)
Peacock's Party (81)
Gordon Giltrap Live (81, Live)
A Midnight Clear (87)
One to One (89)
Music for the Small Screen (95)
... several more releases, collaborations and compilations
I have Perilous Journey. It's a sort of overly bombastic type of light, neo-classical prog centered around Giltrap's acoustic guitar. May be too new-agey for some, in some sections bringing Mannheim Steamroller to mind. Yet Giltrap adds a jazzy air by having sax players solo on a few tracks. Also the use of horns and strings adds to the dynamics of the music. "Heartsong" was an instrumental hit in the UK. -- Mike Ohman
Working in numerous styles using acoustic, electric, and a full band, his music is not easily compared, but some parallels could be drawn with Steve Hackett. Perilous Journey is his fourth album from 1977 featuring Rod Edwards on Keys and Voice, John G.Perry on Bass and Simon Phillips on Drums. Peacock Party is his 1980 mostly acoustical solo album, featuring some help from Bimbo Acock, Ian Mosley and Gryphon's Richard Harvey. If you've not yet heard Giltrap's brand of guitar mastery, wait no longer.
Gordon Giltrap is a British guitarist who released a handful of albums in the mid-to-late-seventies that were in a symphonic, instrumental style, revolving around his virtuosic fretwork, reminiscent, at times of Will Ackerman's style. There is a CD reissue that contains two of his best releases, Visionary, recorded in 1975/6, and Fear Of The Dark, from 1978, with the addition of one previously unreleased track. They may be compared to Paul Brett's works, or, to stretch the point, a bit, perhaps to some of Mike Oldfield's earlier efforts. Visionary was apparently inspired by the works of William Blake, and features a horn and string section, adding to the fullness of the sound, which ranges from low-key acoustic guitar musings to orchestral passages. Fear Of The Dark is performed with the guitar/keyboards/drums/bass set-up, and the comparison with Mike Oldfield is a bit stronger on this, though it appears to me that Giltrap is a more accomplished guitarist.
Peacock's Party features John Acock (Steve Hackett), Richard Harvey (Gryphon), Ian Mosley (Marillion), John G. Perry (Caravan), John Gustafson (Quatermass), Morris Pert (Brand X, Mike Oldfield), and Rick Sanders (Fairport Convention).
Click here for Gordon Giltrap's web site
Gipsy Love (72)
|Featuring Peter Wolf, pre-Flame Dream.|
|Links||[See Flame Dream | Schoenherz | Victor]|
The Power of Suggestion (87)
The View From Here (89)
|Pretty good bay area pop band led by Kevin Gilbert (of Toy Matinee infamy). The sound leans toward progressive and maybe even fusion a little. Their album The View From Here is loaded with great hooks, excellent vocals, and taped gimmicks between the tracks to give sort of a continuity feel.|
|Two albums, The Power of Suggestion and The View from Here. Kinda danceable poppy prog. Might not appeal to many people here, I'm afraid. Kevin Gilbert of Giraffe is also in Toy Matinee, which is a very similar sounding band.|
I noticed your review of Kevin Gilbert and Giraffe doesn't mention a
remarkable feat he pulled off. And that is the letter perfect live
reenactment of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway at Progfest '94.
If you're a musician, you probably know how impossible it is to perform
any song from The Lamb, and musician-wise it's a fabulous
performance (some instrument parts are played "better" than on the
original record). If only Gilbert sounded more like
In any case, I thought it might be worth mentioning that Giraffe did something important in progressive rock - they presented a brilliant dedication to one of prog rock's hallmark records. -- Sol Friedman
[See Toy Matinee]
Click here to order Gilbert's version of The Lamb on VHS. Scroll down to "Gilbert, Kevin - Giraffe"
La Divina Commedia (92, Recorded in 1972-73)
|Long tracks w/ Hammond, flute, guitar; decent to poor recording quality but excellent music.|
|Il Giro Strano never released an album during their time together as a band. La Divina Commedia was only released 20 years later, comprised of poorly-produced recordings and even some unfinished pieces. Though they never released an album, they did play at a couple of Italian rock festivals. After the band split up, keyboardist Alessio Feltri went on to join Corte dei Miracoli, and then re-form Il Giro Strano when that band broke up. Only Feltri and drummer Delio Sismondo from the original line-up participated in the reformation. This new version of the band is said to have been more commercially oriented and lasted only another two years before breaking up again. -- Fred Trafton|
|Links||[See Corte dei Miracoli]|
German guitarist playing in an almost jazz-mode, comparable to stuff like Al Dimeola, but less pointed and more spacy. His album Ananann is quite good.
Gizmo (79, Demo)
Just Like Master Bates (79)
They're Peeling Onions in the Cellar (92)
|Canterbury/Gentle Giant influence w/ modern twist on Onions.|
|Got their first self-titled album. A mix of neo-prog and new wave at times, but quite innovative sounds for the time. -- Jean-François Cousin|
No Stranger to the Skies (00, 2CD, recorded in 1973-75)
Disc 1 -
Disc 2 -
Live at The Progman Cometh (07, Live, Recorded 2002-2003)
Spectrum Principle (10)
Glass in 1977 - Jeff Sherman (guitars, bass, electric piano, bass pedals, vocals),
Greg Sherman (keyboards) and Jerry Cook (drums, timpani, synthesizer, percussion)
Original Entry, last updated 7/16/03:
No Stranger to the Skies is their belated debut, a double CD recorded in 1973-75 and finally released in 2001. The first CD is a studio album, and the second is a set of recordings made "live" during the band's practice sessions, but is a very high quality recording nonetheless. Their sound is relatively thin by "symphonic" standards, in spite of the frequent use of Mellotron. The main keyboards used are Mellotron and Fender Rhodes electric piano, making the sound reminiscent of early Camel or the most mellow of Gentle Giant, at least instrumentally. Sometimes the Rhodes reminds me of Quiet Sun too. But when the Mellotrons fire up, the sound is very much like Schicke, Führs and Fröhling, even though Jeff Sherman tells me they had never heard many of the "euro bands" back then, and hadn't heard of SFF until 2001!
The first (studio) CD is, as you might expect, the more "composed" of the two, with lots of flute Mellotrons, Rhodes electric piano and acoustic guitar. It's mostly pretty laid back with lots of mellow Rhodes improvisation and frequent haunting Mellotron passages. The second ("live") CD features the "Broken Oars" suite, a tone poem about a guy stranded on the ocean in a small boat with ... you guessed it ... broken oars. He goes through many emotions from fear to anguish to anger, and this is captured in the music. The opener of this song may also include the longest Mellotron solo ever recorded (accompanied only by crashing waves and later cymbal rolls and tympani)! The second part features maniacal drumming in the vein of Keith Moon ... oddly, the drum recordings on this "live" album sound better than the studio recording! Excellent, highly improvised music.
All in all, an excellent debut ... too bad it's taken so long to see the light of day! But fans at ProgWest have said "better late than never", which I must agree with! -- Fred Trafton
"Prolific" is not the first word that comes to mind when describing Glass. With a 25-year gap between recording and release of their first album, and then nearly 5 years of no more Glass releases, I was getting worried that Glass would be little more than a "one-album wonder" of the prog world. Fortunately, they allayed my fear in 2005 with the release of their new studio album, Illuminations, showing not only how the band has changed in the 27 years since their last recording, but also how much they stayed true to their original '70's vision.
Illuminations consists of three lengthy suites, "The Secret Life of Aqua J. Long" (I'm assuming the "J" is for "Jethro", hehe), "Electronic Synaesthesia" and "Alchemy of the Word", plus two six-minute-ish stand-alone songs, "Slightly Behind All the Time" and "Gaia". Their sound is similar to their former album, but with far better recording quality. It still has a somewhat "thin" sound, characteristic of a three-piece, in spite of loads of Mellotron and Fender Rhodes. This isn't a bad thing ... it allows you to hear all the instruments without clashing into each other. Much of it still reminds me of Schicke, Führs and Fröhling (particularly when the Mellotron fires up), but other parts are more dreamy and space rock-like, and there's a long drum/tympani solo (with backwards cymbals) at the end of "Secret Life ...", so there's a lot of variety to the music.
Those interested in name-dropping will be interested to know that the band made friends with several of their Canterbury heros during their The Progman Cometh festival, resulting in guest appearances by Phil Miller (National Health, Hatfield and the North, Matching Mole) and Richard Sinclair (Caravan, Hatfield and the North etc.) on "Gaia".
Overall, Illuminations is a very good album, with lots of '70's musical mannerisms and 00's production quality. Click over to their web site and order it ... and maybe they'll do another album by 2010? -- Fred Trafton
Previously, I mentioned that "prolific" was not the first word that comes to mind when describing Glass. This update to their GEPR entry will both confirm and refute that statement, as you'll see below. It turns out I was prophetic in predicting their next album release would be in 2010. No mysterious foreknowledge there, just a lucky (and slightly snarky) guess. Their new album Spectrum Principle was five years in the making after their previous studio release, Illuminations. This seems to confirm the "not prolific" hypothesis. But wait ...
I have to admit, Spectrum Principle didn't really grab me on first listen. Lots of good prog is like that ... which is why I always listen to an album at least three times before I decide whether I really like it or not. Right on schedule, "third time is a charm" for this one -- for me, at least. There's nothing about Spectrum Principle that inspires head-banging, nor are there jaw-dropping speed solos or bombastic orchestration. These are simply good instrumental songs, in the five-to-seven-minute range with a few even shorter cuts. Shortish for a prog album, but with each song stating what is has to say in a simple, unpretentious way. My first impression was, "this is a little thin-sounding, isn't it?" Well, yes, it is. But on the other hand, you can hear every instrument in its place, a refreshing change from some of the over-produced wall-of-sound albums I've been reviewing of late. You have to be in the right mood for this sort of thing, but when the adrenaline junkie in you is ready for a break, try out Spectrum Principle for some jazzy yet slightly off-kilter progressive goodness. Mellow without being sleep-inducing. Mature. And a nice addition to Glass's discography.
So now's when we put the lie to the "not prolific" theory. I just received a note from Jeff Sherman saying that their new (as yet unnamed) album has finished recording. This should be a looser, more improvisational album than their last couple of studio albums. The whole thing was recorded in only four days, mostly direct-to-2-track tape with some sections allowing one overdub pass. But mostly it's "live-to-tape". Stay tuned and I'll let you know when it's released ... the current target is spring of 2012, but -- well -- sometimes things change. I'll let you know. -- Fred Trafton
[See Caravan |
Hatfield and the North |
Matching Mole |
National Health |
Sherman, Greg |
Sherman, Jeff |
Click here for Glass'
home page on the Relentless Pursuit web site
Journey of the Dunadan (93)
Tracy Cloud "Love Changes" Featuring Glass Hammer (95)
Artifact One (96, Released as TMA-2)
Tick Tock Lilies (97, Released as TMA-2)
On To Evermore (98)
The Middle Earth Album (01)
Lex Rex (02)
Live at NEARfest (04)
The Inconsolable Secret (05)
Culture of Ascent (07)
Three Cheers for the Broken Hearted (09)
Glass Hammer - The Inconsolable Secret line-up - Susie Bogdanowicz (vocals),
Fred Schendel (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Matt Mendians (drums), Walter Moore
(vocals) and Steve Babb (bass, keyboards, vocals)
I had Journey Of The Dunadan and got rid of it. The sound is very
neo-prog. Has a
lot of narration (too much) about a medieval story with a terrible American accent which
completely destroys the authenticity of the story. The electric drumming put me off.
-- Jean-François Cousin
All I can say from reading the above review about Dunadan is that this band must have come a heck of a long way in seven years, because Chronometree is a superb record! The sound is NOT neo-prog at all, but what I'd call very much retro-prog instead - hard to believe this record wasn't made 25 years ago. As for the group's sound, compositionally I hear a good bit of Kansas (at their most complex, on things like Masque and Leftoverture), a good bit of Lamb-era Genesis, perhaps a little Yes here and there. What struck me about this record was how tasteful everything about it was - no over-the-top singing or playing histrionics to be found anywhere.
The guitarist says his own favorite guitarist is Alex Lifeson [Rush], but thankfully this really doesn't show (much) in his playing, and not at all in the songs themselves. He does some superb Steve Howe-ish spaced-out delay slide guitar of the kind you heard in Gates of Delirium, and his acoustic playing seems to me to have more than a whiff of Steve Hackett in it (of course Lifeson was no slouch there as well). The keyboard player sounds influenced by Tony Banks and Rick Wakeman perhaps in about equal measure, but is far more tasteful and restrained than the latter. He plays lots of fat-sounding analog Moog as well as some gorgeous Mellotron shadings. The bass player is obviously a Chris Squire freak and does a damn fine job, as does the drummer who is quite comfortable in some pretty complex metres. The singer has the perfect voice to complement it all - he doesn't really stand apart like so many prog vocalists do, but blends perfectly in the mix. Understated, probably underrated as well.
Another mind-blowing thing about this band is that they formed in Chattanooga, Tennessee (though the individual members are basically all from the surrounding area). As a prog-head who grew up in the Deep South wasteland, I can attest first hand as to the challenges bands who play this kind of music face.
I usually don't have much good to say about the more recent brand of progressive music, let alone newer American progressive ... but these guys definitely have the touch. -- Alex Davis
Glass Hammer is a Symphonic
Progressive Rock group from
Tennessee, the only one that I've known ever to exist.
It is also the only prog band with another distinction --
each studio album is better than its predecessor. This is
keeping in mind that GH is a
symphonic prog band. Over a
twelve-year span, Glass Hammer improves with every recording.
Not even any of the great pioneers of prog --
Crimson, et al. -- have kept up this kind of consistency.
Glass Hammer consists chiefly of Steve Babb and Fred Schendel, with lineup changes practically on every album. In addition to personnel shifts, the more recent albums usually showcase an army of extras, including choirs, strings, and other instruments. Most of these come and go, but some are more steady. It looks like vocalist Susie Bogdanowicz is a bona fide member of the group, giving Glass Hammer yet another distinction, as females are not very often found in symphonic prog bands. The present lineup also includes Walter Moore, vocalist, and Matt Mendians on drums.
While it is arguably true that Glass Hammer started out as a neo-prog group, their first two studio recordings exemplifying this genre, somewhere along the way they decided that this style wasn't for them. The change was most evident on their 1998 release On To Evermore, which is in part a continuation of a less-obvious theme on its predecessor, Perelandra, from 1995. The 2000 effort, Chronometree, was received with glowing reviews as one of the year's best releases.
Glass Hammer writers Babb and Schendel also decidedly exhibit themes of Christianity in their lyrics, and influences are often drawn from famed Christian writer C.S. Lewis. Their 2002 album Lex Rex is about a soldier who searches for the source of true glory and finds it in Jesus Christ. Their latest album, The Inconsolable Secret, released in July 2005, is based on a story written by Steve Babb, symbolizing the stray of humankind from its Creator God and eventual joyous reconciliation.
If it's symphonic prog you are after, The Inconsolable Secret is a positively phenomenal album, a top contender for Best Prog Album of the Year, in my opinion. It is, quite simply, the most beautifully immersive, most creative, phenomenal work of artistic brilliance that I've ever experienced. It also exhibits new Roger Dean artwork, a bluish formation of shaped boulders amidst a starry-night landscape.
A one-to-five-star rating of every Glass Hammer album follows:
Glass Hammer has, until now, gotten short shrift in the GEPR for a band of their stature in the prog community. That's simply because, aside from seeing their live performance at NEARFest 2003, I wasn't familiar with them, and hadn't had any fans contributing much aside from the first two entries above. So, I decided it was time to write to the band and see if they were interested in rectifying the situation (this was before I received David Barro's overview above). Steve Babb responded quickly and positively to my request for promotional materials with a tongue-in-cheek request to "say really really nice things about us". Well, I'm not going to have much trouble doing that. But, of course, being a music critic, I also won't be able to resist a couple of "howevers". I'll start with my opinion of the two studio albums I received, namely Shadowlands and their latest 2-CD set The Inconsolable Secret. Then I'll talk about a couple of live releases which were left out of the previous review.
Shadowlands is a really good album of complex symphonic prog. Like its predecessors, it appears to be about 99% Steve Babb and Fred Schendel playing intricate counterpoints of notes in the studio. Babb plays bass, keyboards and sings, while Schendel plays keyboards, guitars, drums and sings. This seems to be the way they did most of their albums in the past, bringing in Susie Bogdonowicz and Walter Moore to sing the vocals already penned (usually by Schendel). The other "band members" seem to be little more than studio musicians who continue to appear on all the albums. This requires the music to be heavily planned, scored and intellectualized so that the parts will all fit together after all the overdubs are done. I'm guessing that this is why this technically beautiful, elaborate and complex album really leaves me pretty cold. I've listened to it several times now, and it just refuses to grab me and make me love it.
The Inconsolable Secret is a 2CD set released in 2005, sporting cover art and a new logo created by prog legend Roger Dean. Musically, it could be described similarly to Shadowlands, but for some reason The Inconsolable Secret speaks to me more. Really, it's more repetitious than Shadowlands, but the themes they repeat are so good that they stick in my head and I don't mind hearing them in their dozens of variations. They also appear to have made their live drummer Matt Mendians a real band member, not just a guy they tour with, and he plays drums on this album rather than Schendel. Mendians is more of a basher than Schendel and this gives the music a less clinical feel which I think helps a lot. This is a great album which has started to speak to me, and continues to grow on me more each time I listen to it. It has resonances with Yes (especially the vocal harmonies and Steve Howe-like steel guitar passages), ELP (lots of Emersonian Hammond solos) and even Utopia (a chord progression at the end of CD1 that reminds me of "Magic Dragon Theater" from Ra). But these are all just echos, not rip-offs, and Glass Hammer have taken the influences, blended well with their own ingredients, and come up with something new and interesting.
Regardless of any minor misgivings about the two studio albums, let me say that I have none of these complaints about the live material. These consist of two concerts using basically the same set list, firstly their CD Live at NEARFest, and the DVD Lex Live. Usually I wouldn't talk about a DVD in a GEPR entry (though one day I'll have to add a DVD section since there's been a lot of excellent prog DVD releases made recently which deserve to have their own section [Later note: I've done this since the original writing, see link below for a more thorough review of Lex Live -Ed.]), but in this case it's just too good to ignore.
As I mentioned before, I was at NEARFest 2003, and saw Glass Hammer's performance. I felt that this was a band I should like, but the mix was terrible and I just couldn't figure out what was going on. I left feeling more confused than anything else, but after talking with some of their fans from the audience, I was assured that I shouldn't judge the band based on this performance. I mention this only because the CD does not suffer from the bad mix; in fact, it's hard to believe this is even the same concert I attended. The sound quality is excellent, the playing is superb and full of energy, and the band members are obviously having a great time and are passionate about the music. This is what's missing from the studio albums, and what makes this CD something really special. Unbelievably, the studio version of Lex Rex was recorded with absolutely no intention of ever being played live, and some of the sections are dauntingly complex. This was the piece that NEARFest organizers Rob LaDuca and Chad Hutchinson insisted they perform live. So, they drafted Walter Moore to expand his usual singing role to also playing guitar (which he pulls off without missing a beat!), and also added an acoustic guitarist and a chorale for this performance. The liner notes state that "we had to learn how to play our own music". They learned it well, and they play it with a vitality and energy that doesn't come through as well in their studio work (though I admit, I haven't heard the studio version of Lex Rex).
The DVD is basically the same concert performed at a different location and without the chorale. Who needs 'em? There are three female and three male singers (Moore, Babb and Schendel), and this is more than enough vocalists to make the harmonies work properly. It's amazing to see Schendel basically doing the work of two keyboardists and Moore playing guitar for an extremely full sound. I don't really know how close it is to the studio version, and I don't care ... Lex Live is one of the best concert videos I've ever seen in terms of quality of the music and the energy of the performance. This video is an instant classic and a must-get for anyone who enjoys Symphonic Prog in general, and of course for Glass Hammer fans in particular. If you don't have a DVD player or just don't care about watching the band, the Live at NEARFest CD is just as good sonically. But personally, I enjoyed watching these folks play.
Finally, I guess I want to say something about the "Glass Hammer is a Christian band" thing. Yeah, it's true, there are Christian themes in abundance. For me, and I suspect for a few other GEPR readers, this allegation wouldn't necessarily be considered to be a "plus" for a band. But the lyrics are intellectual and thoughtful (after all, it's hard to find a deeper Christian thinker than C. S. Lewis, who is a major influence on the band) and not your typical Christian Contemporary Music (neither sugary "Jesus loves you" songs nor strident "convert or burn in hell" crap). If you are concerned about Glass Hammer falling into this mold, don't be. These guys (and ladies) are original thinkers with intelligent, interesting things to say in both their music and their lyrics. -- Fred Trafton
Culture of Ascent
So, I got it in the mail, and my first reaction upon seeing the song list was, "What? They're starting the album off with a cover tune of a Yes song, 'South Side of the Sky'? That's either brilliant or really stupid ... wonder which one it is?" The answer: BRILLIANT! To be honest, I wasn't all that fond of Yes' studio version on Fragile. But this version should go down in prog history as the definitive version of the song. Did I mention they even got Jon Anderson to sing on it, complete with vocal harmony overdubs? Well, they did, and there's enough perfect imitation to please the die-hard Yes fan, and enough innovation to please those who want to hear something new in the old classic. Sorry, Rick, but Fred Schendel's piano playing is more precise and emotional than yours was on the original, and he gets some wonderful new tones in there from his Nord synths to boot! This is just ... well ... brilliant, and sets the tone beautifully for the rest of the album.
The line-up for this album is basically the same as the live band that recorded the Live in Belmont DVD, which is to say Steve Babb (bass, keyboards, vocals) and Fred Schendel (keyboards, acoustic guitar, vocals) co-leading the band with alumni Susie Bogdanowicz (vocals) and Matt Mendians (drums) and new "regular band members" (whatever that means for Glass Hammer) David Wallimann (guitars) and Carl Groves (of Salem Hill, vocals). The diversity of the musical styles of these people really shows, and makes this album a lot more interesting (to my ears) than the "Babb and Schendel show" albums of the past. One of these days I'll have to complete my collection of earlier GH and prove that to myself, but for now that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Every song on this album is a masterwork. The Babb-penned "Sun Song", clocking in at 9:33, is a great follow-up to "South Side of the Sky" with its Yes-like vocal harmonies and busy Chris Squireish bass work. Following this, "Life by Light" starts off being sung by Groves, who is then joined by Anderson singing his trademark DUT-DUTs as both a lead vocal and as background for Groves. A very cool song also.
But then, GH gets almost prog-metal with some nice Dream Theater (circa Change of Seasons, and thus melodic) like heavy guitar from Wallimann in "Ember Without a Name". Spectacularly accompanied by Mendians' heaviest drumming style, Babb at his most Geddy Leeish and Schendel growling alongside with some sync-tone synth playing, this is probably my favorite track on the album. It's also one of the longest at 16:33.
But not the longest ... that award goes to "Into Thin Air" at 19:14, which is a "side-long" epic length from the LP days. They pull out all the stops on this one, with three guest vocalists to help form a choir, plus The Adonia String Trio, three ladies playing Violin, Viola and Cello. Here's where they best illustrate the theme of this album, namely the metaphor of the ascent of mountains to talk about the soul ascent of the spiritual seeker. Which, of course, is why "South Side of the Sky" fits in well with this theme (hey, I never knew that song was about mountain climbing before, wonder what else I've missed in the Yes lyrics?).
The album closer "Rest" is more layed-back, with some nice christian lyrics that are thoughtful and reverent without being preachy (they never even mention "the J-guy"'s name), and once again about being all alone in the cold like a mountain climber. And, it ends with a sound effect that takes you right back to the beginning of the album again if your CD player automatically "wraps around" and starts playing track 1 again after it completes (like the one in my car does). Very thoughtful.
In summary, Culture of Ascent is by far my favorite Glass Hammer studio album I've heard so far. These guys (and ladies) just keep getting better. A strong contender for my "album of the year" for 2007! If you're a fan of symphonic prog at all, you need this album! Absolutely essential! -- Fred Trafton
Three Cheers for the Broken Hearted
Rather than "Prog", I'd call this album "Classic Rock". It's polished, mature and emotional. Compositionally, most of the songs have a Beatles-like (or Klaatu) feel to them, psychedelic pop with neither too much complexity nor too simplistic. Though other members of the "big version" of the band play as guests, this album is mostly back to being the "Babb and Schindel show" again, with the two of them handling most of the instruments, composition, lyrics and production. Aside from this, GH alum Susie Bogdanowicz sings on 7 of the 11 tracks, frequently bringing to mind the "adult pop" sound of the Stewart/Gaskin albums. I'm also reminded of Mostly Autumn in many places, but without the celt-rock aspects.
Just for variety, there's also some excursions into prog-metal sections, giving Babb a chance at showing off his Geddy Lee imitation, and Schendel the chance to exercise some kickin' drum chops. Which, by the way, are far superior to what I've heard from him previously, drum-wise. There's also some new-wavy parts (think Talking Heads or Tom Tom Club). Oddly enough, these sections aren't at all jarring, and fit in nicely with the "Classic Rock" feel of the album. It's all extremely professional in the songwriting, performance and recording quality. They just don't make albums like this any more.
I did have to smile a bit at the album cover, which depicts Babb, Bogdanowicz and a slimmed-down and head-shaved Schendel stepping out of a misty, back-lit forest looking all goth. For a moment, I thought I was looking at a promo for New Moon (that's the hot new teen vampire/werewolf movie if you're not in the know). Not exactly what I would expect from Glass Hammer. But, neither is this album. And that's the definition of "progressive", right? -- Fred Trafton
But even this complaint is a bit unfair. Yes would have never made this album, in any incarnation. New vocalist Jon Davison really sounds exactly like that other Jon, right down to the vocal harmonies and "DUT-DUT"'s (obviously designed by the composers to emphasize the similarity in their voice timbres), but though the lyrics are similar in their "spiritual" bent, they are neither the sorts of esoteric poetry Jon Anderson used to enjoy, nor the overtly Christian lyrics sometimes to be found on Glass Hammer albums. Instead, they are simply uplifting messages suitable for virtually any religious belief ... though if you're Christian, you'll certainly hear some of these lyrics as Christian spirituality.
New guitarist Alan Shikoh sometimes sound more Holdsworth than Howe, but sometimes exactly like Howe. Schendel's keyboards are frequently very Wakeman, but other times more Emerson or Banks. Perhaps it would be best to say that all these people are very familiar with the musical style of Yes, and this shows through clearly, but they also all have their own styles that makes this an album that both sounds like Yes and sounds like ... Glass Hammer. Even the album cover was done by an artist who clearly is familiar with Roger Dean, in both artistic and font designs, and yet is also different.
I'm prepared to say this is the best Glass Hammer studio album to date, though since I haven't heard Lex Rex or Chronometree in their studio versions, my comparison may be incomplete. But it would be very difficult to top this one, and I'll definitely say it's my favorite studio album from Shadowlands through If, and I really liked most of those. A true masterpiece from guys who consistently amaze, from whom you never know quite what to expect on the next album. If If was a Yes album, I'd rate it only behind Relayer and Tales from Topographic Oceans. Not behind Close to the Edge? Hmm .. it's a toss-up. Really, If is that good, though very different from CttE. I've listened to it at least 6 or 7 times now, and it continues to improve with each listen. I very rarely do that with an album these days, but this one is really inspiring. If you think "they don't make albums like this any more", you're wrong. -- Fred Trafton
[See Anderson, Jon |
Glass Hammer videos |
Salem Hill |
Glass Harp (70)
It Makes Me Glad (72)
Song in the Air (77, Compilation)
Live! at Carnegie Hall (97, Recorded 1971?)
|The members include Phil Keaggy, an absolutely amazing and creative guitarist who has done many solo albums on Christian record labels since, John Sferra, drummer, who has just now produced his own album North Bound (with Keaggy on guitar), and Dan Pecchio on bass. I'm not sure how to classify them - lots of flashy guitar blended with orchestral instruments, with complex rhythms. Keaggy does most of the vocals, although the others sing also. -- Howard Bartel|
|Aside from his work with Glass Harp, the Phil Keaggy recordings most of most interest to progressive rockers are his instrumental albums: The Master and the Musician (1978, which features an appearance by Yezda Urfa's Phil Kimbrough); The Wind and the Wheat (1987), and 220 (1996). The key words here are "finesse," "subtlety" and "lyricism." 220 is somewhat harder-edged and more of a conventional guitar rock album. -- Don McClane|
Music with Changing Parts (72), Solo Music (72), Music in Similar Motion/Music in Fifths (73), Music in Twelve Parts (74), North Star (77), Einstein on the Beach (78), Dance Nos. 1 and 2 (79), Satyagraha (80), GlassWorks (82), Koyaaniqatsi (82), The Photographer (83), Akhnaten (83), Mishima (85), Songs From The Liquid Days (86), Powaqqatsi (88), 1000 Airplanes on the Roof (89), Songs From The Trilogy (89), Passages (??), Piano Solos (??), Low Symphony (??)
A musical genius whose works span classical, rock, opera and chamber music. His early minimalist works were excruciating excursions of repetition, but after Einstein on the Beach, he became more listenable. Progressive fans might enjoy GlassWorks, Koyaaniqatsi, Mishima or 1000 Airplanes on the Roof. His latest Low Symphony is an orchestral work based on a 1977 Eno/Bowie album and there is less of that "Glass Trademark Sound" - which seems to be a trend in the later recordings.
This is Your Life (79, EP)
Nine Months to Disco (80)
Put Me on the Guest List (80)
|From the liner notes on Put Me on the Guest List -- Glaxo Babies were formed in late 1977 and built a steady following in their native Bristol area. They signed to Heartbeat Records a year later and released a four track E.P. entitled This is Your Life in February 1979. The E.P. led to a much repeated John Peel session and a follow-up single "Christine Keeler" - and also a track on the highly acclaimed Avon Calling album. The band then went through several personnel changes before releasing their first album Nine Months to Disco.(reprinted without permission) Funky space music.|
Songs of the Spires (81), Walk on Well Lighted Streets (83)
[See Bambibanda E Melodie | Garybaldi]
|Globalys is a Belgian band said to sound like 70's Canterbury or Caravan. They call their first album a "demo", though it does contain about 40 minutes of music in 4 long compositions. -- Fred Trafton|
Click here for Globalys' web
site (mostly in French)
Click here to order it from Shop33.
I Individual (78), Others
This is a very interesting band which is hard to describe. If you can picture a punked-out version of mid-period King Crimson, you can get an idea of their style. There are keyboards but the guitar is the main voice (as in KC). I like these guys but I realize it may not be everybody's cup of tea. -- Juan Joy
På Vej (73), Burhans (79), Intercity (80)
In Spite of Harry's Toenail (71, re-released on CD in 1999 w/ previously unreleased material)
Lady Lake (72)
Live 1972 (99)
Gnidrolog in 1972 (Lady Lake line up) - Colin Goldring, Stewart Goldring, Nigel
Pegrum, Mars Cowling and John 'Irish' Earle (photo by Ian Woolway)
Gnidrolog are a long-forgotten band from the UK, whose two releases of bluesy progressive rock, in the style of early Jethro Tull, were passed by without much ado. The Tull comparisons also stem from the prominence of the flute to Gnidrolog's music. In fact, the group boasted two members on wind instruments, including flute, oboe and sax, adding another dimension to their sound, very reminiscent at times of early VDGG, abetted by Colin Goldring's intense style of vocal delivery.
|There was a big write-up on this band in the Gentle Giant newsletter. I've never heard 'em, but I think they might appeal to GG fans. Vocalist Colin Goldring's name might ring a bell - he was a guest player on The Yes Album.|
After reading reviews that compared Gnidrolog to the likes of
Gentle Giant, Van
der Graaf, Jethro Tull, I had to find out for myself
so I was able to find and win an auction for it on Ebay.
My first comment would be that if you want to hear a band that sounds like Van Der Graaf, listen to Van Der Graaf, etc. I found this CD to be intolerable. I could barely get through it one time. It neither had the quality of compositions as the aforementioned bands but the lead vocalist has one of the most offensive voices I've ever heard (and that's coming from someone who enjoys the likes of Peter Hammill & Dagmar Krause). Emotionless, thin and grating. At times he reminded me of Geddy Lee of Rush (who at times reminds me of the Wicked Witch of the West from the "Wizard of Oz"). They start off with a few inspired ideas only to have it meander into an endless 2 chord jam ... on most of the songs. Definitely doesn't stand up to the test of time.
If you're interested in checking this out, you can buy my copy on Ebay! -- Jay Cohen
|After a long (27 years!) hiatus, Gnidrolog re-banded and made a new studio album, Gnosis, in 2000. They also released a live 1972 concert titled, appropriately enough, Live 1972. Check out their web site for more info. -- Fred Trafton|
|Links||Click here for Gnidrolog's web site|
Gnomus II (04)
Gnomus - Mika Kallio (Percussion), Esa Onttonen (Plucked String Instruments) and
Kari Ikonen (Keyboards)
To hear Gnomus' guitar player Esa Onttonen tell it, "we released our first CD in September 2000 and didn't even think that the music was 'progressive', but now it has been called one of the best prog albums to come out of Finland (at least in rec.music.progressive)". Well, I'm glad someone on the newsgroup was alert, because this is, indeed, an excellent progressive album.
Gnomus' music is about as improvised as it gets. Reference points might be the more improvised works of Djam Karet (i.e. Still No Commercial Potential), or perhaps a slightly less lysergic version of Escapade, but to me these guys are more interesting than either of them because they move around a lot more within songs from sombre almost frightening sonic landscapes to noisy metallic banging to softly soothing. This they do mostly by the way the music sounds, the actual instrument sounds are fairly simple guitar, drums and an analog synth. Most of the songs have the feel of being improvised live in the studio, though the all-synth (solo?) "Abramis Brama" begins with a composed-sounding section before wandering off into improv madness.
Another thing on this album worthy of note is the very original use of voices in the music. Note that I did not say "vocals", there really are no vocals in the sense of lyrics. The voices here range from overly-vibratoed chorales of chanters that sound like they are in pain (or gone crazy) to growly demonic mutterings and chuckling, and finally on to elderly crones cackling at who-knows-what? Excellent mood-setting devices.
If you're into the "totally free improv" style of music, these guys are among the best I've ever heard. Recommended. -- Fred Trafton
Gnomus II (2004) is a worthy successor to the free improv wierdness
of their self-titled release. Recorded during various live dates in
their native Finland, it's even darker than their debut (if you can imagine
that), and has an "evil" vibe that can rival the most Satan-loving
black metal band. Some parts even veer off into dark ambient soundscapes
(a la Lustmord or Dead Reptile Shrine).
Their trademark strange, wordless vocals are back, although they're used less often and are lower in the mix. They get a very full sound for being just a trio, and the mix is very sonically rich (lots of bottom end for not having a bassist). One thing I miss is the guitar, which is used more sparsely here, but its hard to tell whether other stringed instruments are taking its place or they're using some really out there effects.
The opening track, "Sirens", builds very slowly and ominously toward an emotional crescendo and release. It reminds me of Univers Zero's "La Faulx" in terms of how exhausting but satisfying it is just to listen to it.
"Hypnos" begins with some subtle chanting, in the trademark Gnomus way of effect-laden vocalizing. This seemlessly melts into a passage that reminds me a little of Godspeed You Black Emperor! in the way they have soaring melodies on top of layered strings. It almost has that vaguely "Western" feel of GYBE!, too. But, before you know it, it builds into a very fusion-y jam which winds down to a sparse, atmospheric ending.
The closer, "Trauma", certainly lives up to its name. Gnomus' sense of dynamics is really showcased well here, from the opening sparse, metallic, grating sound effects to the very ethereal middle of the song with some wonderful interplay among the players. Some melodies sound a little "Middle Eastern", for lack of a better description. Around the 8:30 mark, it starts to pick in intensity again, with a very Magma-like feel in the rhythmic parts.
Very recommended to fans of strikingly original dark music, and to those (like me) whose favorite Univers Zero disk is Heresie. -- Toby Chappell
|Links||Click here for Gnomus' web site|
Profondo Rosso (75, Soundtrack)
Suspiria (77, Soundtrack)
La Via Della Droga (The Dope Way) (77, Soundtrack)
Il Fantastico Viaggio Del Bagarozzo Mark (78)
Zombi (78, Soundtrack)
Squadra Antimafia (78)
Amo Non Amo (79)
Patrick (79, Soundtrack)
Squadra Antigangster (79, Soundtrack, same as Squadra Antimafia?)
Wampir (Vampire) (79)
Goblin Greatest Hits (79, Compilation)
St. Helene (82, Soundtrack)
Notturno (83, Soundtrack)
Phenomena (Creepers) (85, Soundtrack)
La Chiesa (The Church) (89, Soundtrack)
Goblin : Their Hits, Rare Tracks, Out Takes Collection, 1975 -1989 (95, Compilation)
Non Ho Sonno (00, Soundtrack)
Other albums - re-releases of earlier material, some with extra tracks
|Beginning with their first Profundo Rosso Goblin were obviously better suited to soundtrack music than as a studio offering and the majority of their work was in this vein. One of the exceptions, their excellent second Roller is a great blend of symphonic progressive and horror-movie themes best on the lengthy track "Goblin." Their best soundtrack Suspiria was also a good movie and may be the best one to start with mixing a variety of effects into a progressive whole - interesting music. Later efforts, although I haven't heard their rare and unreissued 4th Il Fantastico Viaggio Del Bagarozzo Mark were rather average including the soundtracks Zombi and Dawn Of The Dead. Most of their works are short however, rarely going over 30 minutes.|
|Italian band from the 70s/80s that did mostly (or maybe only) soundtracks for grade-B horror movies. Most of their stuff is really heavy and moody, with a Floydian progressive feel, and generally pretty good. All are fairly short albums (like 25-30 min.) and most of the CDs are all pricey japanese imports.|
|They are famous for the soundtrack of the Dario Argento's films. They sound like an experimental, vangard band where only the lp Il Fantastico Viaggio Del Bagarozzo Mark and the last two albums are not instrumental.|
|Goblin were a very prolific band from Italy, who injected much of the "progressive" idiom into their music, most of which was in the form of horror movie soundtracks. Il Fantastico Viaggio Del Bagarozzo Mark was not, though, but showcases their aggressive guitar/drums/keyboard style very well. Their compositional style was quite unique, combining diminished chord textures with processed vocals, and from passages on this CD, this "horror movie style" can be felt. This, recorded in 1977, along with Roller and Suspiria are probably the "essential" Goblin works. Tenebrae is another somewhat obscure soundtrack by the kings of the Italian horror movie score team, with a large variety of the darker style of music that has always made its way into their more accessible prog rock releases.|
|I heard some of the Suspiria soundtrack: eerie, dark, fascinating music, quite different from the LP I have by them: Il fantastico Viaggio del "bagarozzo" Mark. This album has vocals, and is heavily synth-orientated prog. There is even judicious use of sequencers here, fortunately they don't dominate. Except on the ethereal "Notte," there really isn't any of the horror-movie aspect so prevalent in their other work. The instrumentals "Le Cascate di Viridiana" and "...E Suono Rock" are the best tracks. "Opera Magnifica" has a nice classical-type melody with some keyboard fanfares that (surprise!) don't sound too hokey. All in all, good, but not great. -- Mike Ohman|
|The only time I have heard Goblin is when I made a point of watching Dario Argento's "Suspira" horror movie to listen to the soundtrack. By today's standard's, the movie proper is b-rate suspense at best. But the suspense was heightened greatly by Goblin's frightful backing music. Very eerie and capable of causing great tension. Very good. -- Mike Taylor|
[See Cherry Five |
Slaughter on Shaftesbury Avenue (88)
|Excellent prog-jazz-rock guitarist who has recorded with Magma (Khontarkosz), Centipede, and British composer Mike Westbrook, to name a few. Half of Slaughter on Shaftesbury Avenue was recorded in 1981 with Dave Sheen (drums), Steve Lamb (bass) and Steve Bull (keys). The rest features 1986 recordings by 2 bands: a trio made up of Godding, Lamb and Dave Barry (drums) and a quartet featuring Chris Biscoe (saxes), Tony Marsh (drums) and Marcio Mattos (bass). Most of this record is intense jazz-rock fusion of the highest quality, and Godding's guitar playing should please fans of Holdsworth, McLaughlin, et al., to no end. The cut by the quartet with Biscoe, Marsh and Mattos is freely improvised avant-garde jazz, and may put off those who prefer more conventional sounds. I like it all, and heartily recommend Slaughter ... to all fusion fans. -- Dave Wayne|
Joined By The Heart (87)
The Seed and The Sower (88)
|Two members of The Enid who released one solo album music obviously very similar in style to The Enid.|
|Joined by the Heart was a fanclub recording. The Seed and the Sower was also released as an Enid album. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
[See Enid, The |
Godfrey, Robert John]
The Fall of Hyperion (74)
|Robert John Godfrey's solo keyboard album, released a few years after his work with Barclay James Harvest. This album is said to be similar to Godfrey's subsequent work with The Enid. -- Fred Trafton|
|Links||[See Barclay James Harvest | Enid, The | Godfrey and Stewart]|
Freeze Frame (79)
Ismism / Snack Attack (81)
Birds of Prey (83)
The History Mix Vol. 1 (85)
Goodbye Blue Sky (88)
|Consequences is a 3-disc concept set utilizing the guitar-bowing device called the "Gizmo." Disc One features some spectacular sound effects, but a dearth of melodic content. Disc Two and the A-side of Disc Three are mostly dialogue by Peter Cook, essential for fans of British humour, interspersed by songs. The last side is dedicated to "Blint's Concerto--Parts 1-17," the most musical side of all. Works best if you think of it as a two-hour radio drama with high-tech sound effects rather than a regular record album. L is more musical, but probably stranger yet, with lots of sound effects and treatments, but more vocals. Often compared to Frank Zappa, and I guess that's a valid comparison, with satirical lyrics and twisted intertwining melodic lines, but not so much improvisation. I heard some of Freeze-Frame and it's even further out than this! Later albums cave in commercially, using rap and pop as musical devices for a good deal, if not all, of the music. -- Mike Ohman|
|These guys are both ex-members of the original lineup of 10cc. Their music could be described as very weird Zappa influenced pop, although not all of their albums are that interesting. Consequences is a long 3LP concept album that few have figured out. L and Freeze Frame are fairly eccentric and are probably their best. Snack Attack and The History Mix are pretty much stinkers, the latter being primarily a CD-long medley of re-recorded versions of old stuff they did with 10cc, plus a few new songs.|
|Creme and Godley are well known as the prime movers of 10cc, but Consequences, realised in the late-1976-early-1977 period, could well qualify for the "progressive" tag. In the course of their work with 10cc, Creme and Godley invented the "gizmo," "an instrument which resembles a guitar with a small typewriter keyboard placed over the strings." In their quest to record a demo with this versatile instrument, they ended up creating a 3-LP set (!), the process of which is detailed in the enclosed liner notes. Musically, there are a variety of styles, ranging from "rockier" pieces to long instrumentals, interspersed with natural sounds, and some hilarious dialogue by Peter Cook, sure to appeal to those who enjoy the style popularised by Britcom. Listening to this has to be approached more with the intent of observing the results of an experiment in melody (not with dissonance, as has been the inclination of the current avant-garde folks) than with an expectation of catchy tunes.|
|Links||[See 801 | 10cc]|
All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Drooling (93, only 33 copies)
Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada (99)
Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (00, 2CD)
Yanqui U.X.O. (02, as Godspeed You! Black Emperor)
Godspeed You Black Emperor performing on a very tight stage
An instrumental nine-piece ensemble from Montreal, Canada, which could for all intents and purposes be called a rock band with a string quartet. That is, if you look strictly at their instrumentation. They're usually classified under post-rock (or alternative) in record stores. I think a more apt description would be "chamber rock" with comparisons to Univers Zero, Art Zoyd, After Crying and Apocalyptica. [Note: Apocalyptica is not actually progressive as much as they are a cello quartet that plays heavy metal.]
A comparison to Univers Zero is valid to some extent but only in approach, not execution. Many tracks are long and build to an intense climax. Though where UZ is dark, yet refined and sonorous, GYBE! is dark, yet jagged and edgy. There are hints and tatters of grand themes here yet they are often interspersed with odd rumblings and random environmental sounds. The use of voice by AZ and UZ is often as a background texture to build the solemn nature of the music. None of that here. Any use of voice by this band is usually in the form of samples to introduce or emphasize a message about social decay, religion or politics.
Their first album F#A#(infinity) begins with "Dead Flag Blues" - a low drone / rumble (reminiscent of the beginning of Tangerine Dream's Green Desert), then a tired voice says "The car is on fire, and there is no driver at the wheel, and the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides ..." and goes on about corrupt governments, and collapsed buildings. It sounds like the aftermath of an earthquake or a war. "We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death" is not exactly a bedtime story. The music here is mostly melancholy and stately strings, accented by acoustic guitar. Eventually, the guitar becomes more prominent and the strings take a more textural role. Following this intro section a train rolls across the aural landscape. The train in "Dead Flag Blues" reminds me to some extent of a similar effect used on Tangerine Dream's Force Majeure: it's a bridge from one melodic section to the next. The following section is an expansion of the acoustic guitar theme from before but is entirely instrumental, which is rather odd since it seems to leave the vocal material from the first half unfinished. The conclusion features a heavily vibratoed violin (sounding like mandolin) and ends with a glockenspiel. The following tracks, "East Hastings" and "Providence", both feature vocal garblings but not to the extent of "Dead Flag Blues". They are however more energetic and display more intensity. Both are quite good with the instruments weaving around each other, but the last track seems to meander from about the middle to the end. Bagpipes are added to the mix on "East Hastings", but sound more like an incidental recording than a composed performance.
The following EP Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada is in some ways distinctly different but has the same buildup of intensity and release. The opening track "Moya" is an excellent track, prominently featuring electric guitar and drums, and sounds rather like an After Crying piece, only more raggedy. It's distinguished by the fact that it is one of the few GYBE! pieces that has no samples. This however changes as it segues into the second track, "Blaise Bailey Finnegan III", which is actually structured around a monologue / rant by the title - um - character. And he is quite a character rambling on about how America is a third world country, how he shouldn't get speeding tickets, his gun collection and how it's no longer safe to walk the streets. The music ebbs and flows around this tirade - "if they thought I was dangerous on the road, like you're trying to accuse me of, wouldn't they take my license when if first got it?!" - often adding a distinctive mood that the words alone might not be able to convey. The cover of the CD is interesting, giving no allusions to the name of the band. The front cover has a Hebrew inscription (apparently the word "chaos") and the back has a diagram of a Molotov cocktail.
Their 2000 release Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven is a double-CD with four ~20 minute tracks. It reminds me of something Tangerine Dream might have done if Zeit had been a more natural progression from their debut Electronic Meditation. Nearly all four tracks feature sections with droning walls of noise as well as quieter more ambient sections. The droning sections are usually processed guitar, but on at least one track this sounds a lot like a theremin on overload. The quieter sections usually feature voice samples and these range from store announcements, to "religious" sermons, to lamentations about Coney Island, or children reciting songs. The opening track "Storm" displays an intensity not seen on either previous release before settling back to a more subdued piece with piano (rare for these guys). "Static" is probably the least exciting track (thankfully not containing all that much static), but it does contain a wonderfully loony sermon by someone who's convinced he's been to heaven - "and when you see the face of God, you will die". Both tracks on the second disc are very good. "Sleep" opens with a very Dark Side of the Moon moment, an older man reminiscing about happier times on Coney Island, when they used to sleep on the beach. From there it progresses into the band's vision of such a sleep, though it reminds me more of a nightmare, before ending with a group jam that features excellent drumming. The accompanying track sheet divides the four tracks into subsections, but doesn't actually give names to the tracks themselves and in the confusing practice used on Slow Riot ... includes a picture of a (punk) band that is not actually GYBE! -- Markus Derrer
Click here for Godspeed You Black
Emperor!'s web site
Godsticks (09, EP)
Spiral Vendetta (10)
Godsticks - Dan Nelson (bass), Darran Charles (vocals, guitar, keys) and Steve Roberts (drums, keys)
Godsticks is a UK 3-piece. It would be fair to call them "guitar-oriented", though there's also plenty of keys. It would also be fair to call them "song-oriented", but what strange and provocative "songs". Modern "indie/alternative" flavored with plenty of references to old-school prog and not as much gloom as you might expect from a "modern" band. I've only heard the cuts they've chosen for the "MP3 Jukebox" on their web site, so I won't try to get more detailed. Very interesting, though, and worthy of further investigation. I'll try to do so and update this entry when I can.
Bassist Dan Nelson also plays for the latest incarnation of Legend. -- Fred Trafton
Der Mann im der Fahrstuhl (88)
|Der Mann ..., an atypical ECM date, features a fascinating blend of musicians from the avant-garde "downtown" NYC jazz scene (legendary trumpeter Don Cherry, reed player Ned Rothenberg, trombonist George Lewis, guitarist/vocalist Arto Lindsay), and the largely European RIO school (drummer Charles Hayward, keyboardist Goebbels, and guitarist/bassist Fred Frith). The music, though not conventional fusion or prog by a long shot, is compositionally and rhythmically very strong and could appeal to adventurous prog-rock or fusion fans. A tolerance of 'spoken word' type vocals is required, however, as Der Mann ... is actually a setting for the rather surreal texts of Heiner Muller. The words are recited and sung in English and German, often simultaneously, by Lindsay (English) and Ernst Stotzner (German). This record should appeal particularly to fans of so-called RIO music and, in fact, would be an excellent place to get one's toes wet in that sometimes thorny genre. Goebbels has worked extensively with the German saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Alfred Harth as a duo and in the RIO group Cassiber (w/Harth and Chris Cutler). -- Dave Wayne|
|Links||[See Cassiber | Frith, Fred]|
Golden Avant-Garde (94)
|This is another project of Lacrymosa's Chihiro S. The band existed and recorded their single album around 1988-91. They themselves called their music cyber-rock, though I guess some 20 years earlier one would have called the music of this 5-piece (2 guitars, bass, drums and sound effects) jazzrock or fusion. Nice and surprising stuff, with some bizarre sound samples, and surely the strangest version of "Born to be Wild" I ever heard! -- Achim Breiling|
The Golden Cups Album (68)
The Golden Cups Vol. 2 (68)
Blues Message (69)
Super Live Session (69)
Return of the Golden Cups: 8 (71)
Live Album (71)
|Late 60's electric blues/psych; Said to be one of the most influential early Japanese bands; Shinki Chen of Speed, Glue and Shinki is said to play guitar on Super Live.|
[See Speed, Glue and Shinki]
Unmaker Of Worlds (90), Symphony In Extremis (93)
Gargantuan, oracular epics that bear out the evidence that progressive can also be heavy, loud, excessive, beautiful and destructive. The sound might be classified as keyboard-driven symphonic progressive metal (whew!)...Heavy handed keyboards, blistering metallic guitar work, all very dark and omni- present, and to that mix add some frenetic Arthur Brown-esque vocals - and that may give you an idea of what Golgotha sounds like. Hang onto something!
Golgotha is unusual in that their music is a (quite effective) combination of symphonic rock a la The Enid and aggressive lead guitar and vocals in a style that is more at home with hard rock bordering on metal. Each of the four tracks on Unmaker of Worlds are close to 10 minutes in length, and, with orchestral interludes between driving rock, make for very compelling listening.
I just added Unmaker Of Worlds and Symphony In Extremis to my collection so I can't adequately review them other that to provide a few generalities. The music is very powerful and dramatic. In this regard, the dramatics are similar to the dramatic style of Beethoven or Stravinsky. Another thought came to mind: if you took the vocal dramatics of Peter Hammill and turned it into instrumental music it might sound like this. Golgotha is a true solo work as all instruments and voices are played by Karl Foster. He has a great sense of dynamics which adds to the dramatic quality. The keyboards are lush and the guitar is aggressive. I'll have to see how this grows but upon the first couple of listens I find these two albums to of excellent quality.
You've heard of prog-metal? Well, I guess you'd call this metal-prog: lots of bombastic, symphonic keyboards, outbursts of heavy metal guitar, vocals that sound like Roger Powell in constant "Emergency Splashdown" mode, etc. No subtlety whateve, but subtlety really isn't an issue here. The whole idea is to be as over-the-top as possible, and they succeed gloriously. My favourite song on Unmaker of Worlds is the last one, "Raining on Still Waters," with the acoustic guitar. Not for everyone, but I kinda like it. -- Mike Ohman
Lord Krishna von Goloka (72)
Obscure Cosmic Couriers session featuring Klaus Schulze and many other members of bands from the Kosmische Musik label.
[See Cosmic Jokers, The
14. De Abril (74), 2 (79)
Spanish prog quintet whose focal point, instrumentally, is the fine interplay between guitar, organ and sax. Very Castilian, likely an influence on later bands such as Bloque and Asafalto. Only drawback is the English language "Shootin' Up," which is too long and repetitious. The other songs grow on you. Goma 2 may be a different band. -- Mike Ohman
|Ray Gomez just might be the definitive jazz-rock studio guitarist. His bluesy, high-energy playing is featured on late-'70s, early-'80s recordings by Alphonso Johnson, Narada Michael Walden, Lenny White, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, and a host of others. Unfortunately, his solo record, Volume is pretty lame, except for two brilliant fusion instrumentals: "West Side Boogie" and "Blues for Mez", both penned by Michael Walden. -- Dave Wayne|
Gomorrha (70), I Turned to See Whose Voice It Was (72), Trauma (72)
Heavy prog rock.
Let's Get Real, Real Gone for a Change (86)
Gone II - But Never too Gone (86)
Gone III (95)
|Heavy and hard all-instrumental rock with occasional jazzy and Crimson-ish leanings (especially on Gone II ...) led by Black Flag guitarist, and the founder/owner of the SST label, Greg Ginn. Let's Get ... and Gone II ... feature the ultra-competent drum/bass team of Sim Cain and Andrew Weiss, who both eventually joined Henry Rollins' band. Most of this stuff is pretty dark and noisy, although Gone II ... is more musically substantial and weird than Let's Get .... In fact, Gone II is a real gem, especially for those of us who never expected that some of the best Progressive rock of the '80s could be found on a label devoted largely to the LA punk scene! Cain and Weiss are fabulous and incredibly tight, and Greg Ginn, while no McLaughlin, manages to hold your interest with his twisted, noisy solos that sometimes veer off into Neil Young territory. Ginn reconvened Gone in the '90s, with a different bassist and drummer whose wooden, unimaginative playing make Gone III a real snoozer. -- Dave Wayne|
Magick Brother/Mystic Sister (69)
Camembert Electrique (71)
Obsolete (71, w/ Dashiell Hedeyat)
Continental Circus (72)
The Flying Teapot (73)
Angel's Egg (73)
Gazeuse! (77, aka Expresso)
Gong Live Etc (77)
Gong Est Mort (77)
Expresso II (78)
The History and Mystery of the Planet Gong (89)
Gong Maison (89)
Live au Bataclan '73 (90)
Live at Sheffield '74 (90)
Live On TV 1990 (93)
25th Birthday Party (94, Live, 2CD)
Camembert Eclectique (95)
Pre-Modernist Wireless: The Peel Sessions (95)
You Remixed (97, )
A Sprinkling of Clouds (97)
Family Jewels (98, 2CD, solo tracks, obscurities, live performances)
Zero To Infinity (00)
Acidmotherhood (04, perhaps more of a Daevid Allen solo album, though released under the Gong monicker)
I Am Your Egg (06, actually Gilli Smyth, Daevid Allen and Orlando Allen under the Gong monicker)
Gong in 1971 - Didier Malherbe? (woodwinds), Gilli Smyth (vocals, space whisper),
Daevid Allen (guitar, vocals), Pip Pyle? (drums) and either Dashiell Hedeyat
(not a Gong member, though they were working with him as a vocalist and
lyricist at this time) or maybe Christian Tritsch (bass). Guesses are noted.
At the dawn of 2010, it's about time I write up a proper history of what is certainly one of my all-time favorite prog bands, if not the all-time favorite. Besides, they've become quite active again in recent times, so they deserve a proper update from someone who really "gets it". Gong is one of those bands that you either love or just don't understand. Some have expressed the opinion that your chances of "getting it" increases with the amount of hallucinogenic drugs you've experienced in your life. Perhaps true, but the correlation certainly isn't 100%.
Gong has been many things to many people. It was one of the first bands playing a genre that came to be known as space rock. In my opinion, they invented it ... at least the variety currently espoused by bands such as Ozric Tentacles, Hidria Spacefolk or Quantum Fantay. But others will adamantly disagree, claiming that Gong is a fusion band. Both are correct, depending on when in the history of this band you're talking about. In their Daevid Allen-led incarnations, they also combine elements of rap, beat poetry, techno and world beat into their music, and plenty of eastern and occult spirituality, politics, eco-consciousness, feminism, and total silliness into their lyrics and vocal stylings. Actually, it's mystery-tradition religious instruction masquerading as silliness. Daevid Allen was my first guru, and I didn't even know it. At the time, I thought it was all about pot-head pixies. And so it was. See? It's a perfect mystery.
As the legend goes (and it's not really a legend, having been corroborated by Daevid Allen himself on numerous occasions), Allen assembled a group of like-minded people in France including a sax player he found living in a cave (Didier Malherbe, more famously known as Bloomdido Bad de Grasse) and Gilli Smyth, a.k.a. The Good Witch Yoni (an eco-feminist witch who became his lover and mother of his two children) after being refused re-entry into the U.K. due to an expired visa after a Soft Machine concert in France. (Some have said that Allen was on a government "enemies list" as an anarchist and this was why his re-entry was refused, but that's not the "official" story).
On the full moon of Easter 1966, Allen had a vision of himself performing onstage at a rock festival surrounded by "etheric light" and being observed by intelligences from another world (he was later to call these Octave Doctors from the planet Gong). The vision manifested at a festival in Glastonbury in June 1971, attended by Allen despite the fact that he was still barred from entering the U.K. "I came through in a van with a photo of the Buddha on my passport," he recalls. "Gilli undid the three top buttons of her blouse and that did the trick."
Like most Gong fans, I have my own opinion of what constitutes "canon" with regard to Gong releases. Others will argue with me, but I consider the important or "real" Gong albums to be Camembert Electrique, "The Trilogy" (Flying Teapot, Angel's Egg and You), and the "New Trilogy" (Shapeshifter, Zero to Infinity and 2032). There are plenty of other albums that a Gong fan of this "canon" will find to be of interest, including several live albums and early releases like Magick Brother, Continental Circus and Obsolete, but these are the core studio albums (in my opinion), and they're what I will concentrate on for this article. (Those that roughly agree with this idea of "canon" are also advised to try out Gong Global Family, some of Allen's solo works, particularly Good Morning, Now is the Happiest Time of your Life and N'Existe Pas!, the first few solo albums from Steve Hillage, particularly Fish Rising and Motivation Radio, and finally Gilli Smyth's Mother and the Robot Woman trilogy).
The first album in my "canon", Camembert Electrique, was a transitional album between the screeching anarchy of Bananamoon (an Allen solo album) and what was later to be the "spacey" sound of the Trilogy albums. Allen's "glissando" guitar style (played with metal gynecological instruments ... no joke!), Malherbe's quirky sax and flute playing and Gilli Smyth's "space whisper" vocal style is already in evidence on this album, along with lots of studio/tape effects and the first mention of the mythological characters that inhabit the planet Gong. It is totally lacking in the synthesizer bleeps and swoops of the Trilogy era albums because synthesist Tim Blake had not yet joined the band as a musician (nor had second guitarist Steve Hillage). The now-famous Richard Branson of Virgin Records had previously signed Gong as the first band on the label, and he issued Camembert Electrique in the U.K. for only 49p, helping the album to achieve high volume sales there, though it was virtually unknown in the U.S.A.
"The Trilogy" was originally concieved as such ... a triple "concept album" about the voyage of spiritual discovery of a man named "Zero the Hero" who is contacted by the denizens of the planet Gong (particularly the Octave Doctors and Pot-Head Pixies). Here, I think, is where Gong loses many in the progressive rock community, who deem the material too silly to be taken seriously. It's true that the use of silly voices, finger-play on the lips of singers and some circus-like compositions give these albums a humorous sounding feel. Allen warns, "It's all too serious to be taken seriously." I feel that this levity is simply to make the serious mystical material seem less threatening, and there's plenty of serious eastern/mystical philosophy to be had from this set of albums. Not to mention some of the most amazing music ever committed to recording medium.
Flying Teapot and Angel's Egg combine jazz elements in the sax, flute and general chordal structures with spacey synthesizer noises, Gilli Smyth's space whisper and Allen's vocals, alternately screeching angry tirades or oozing soothing Guru wisdom. This, together with the Howlett/Moerlin rhythm machine playing chord progressions that spiral ever upward infinitely in circles of fifths, with lengthy glissando or echo-feedback guitar jams, sax solos and Pagan chants, defined a musical style much imitated to this day, but never equalled. These albums defined a new type of music in a way most bands can only aspire to. There was nothing like them before, and there have only been imitations since.
I personally believe that You is the best album ever recorded. Bar none. On the subject of recording You, Allen says, "The creation of You was very different to Angel's Egg, we had come to the conclusion that, because I was contributing a lot of the material, that it was too much my original creation. It was time we created something completely together, so we booked up a cottage in England, and we lived there for a week, we saved up some wonderful acid and we took this acid together as a group. And this was one occasion where there was no paranoia, it was just a wonderful, wonderful trip and we all played and played and played. And we connected so strongly together out of the improvisations, we just improvised and recorded it and then at the end of the day, we would listen to the recordings and take the pieces out that we wanted to learn." Daevid wrote the lyrics over the next month. "You was the final record (of the trilogy) and so I had to write the words and make that story come into its final cycle." But musically, all the band members made huge contributions. If you never listen to another Gong album, You is the one to experience.
Due to a series of band member disagreements, copyright battles between two record companies that both had claims to Gong's recordings, and other "bad vibes", this incarnation of the band dissolved after the release of You. Says Allen, "I couldn't actually get on stage [at a concert in Cheltenham]. It was as though there was an invisible curtain of force that was stopping me from going through the door. I threw myself at the open door and bounced back, off nothing. And this blew my mind so thoroughly that I just ran out of the theatre into the rain and started hitch hiking on the road with all my clothes, my stage clothes, my costume and face painted with fluorescent colours. And then a woman looked at me so strangely that I started thinking I was a murderer and I was hiding in the bushes. Finally I got picked up by somebody who had left the concert and was taken home, and then I had to realise that I had to leave Gong, so that's the way it all ended." Drummer/percussionist Pierre Moerlin had previously left the band, leaving Gong to complete the You tour with Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy fronting a shrunken band.
After Allen's departure, Virgin Records offered Pierre Moerlin leadership of the band, and the remaining members recorded Shamal, a transitional album between Trilogy-era albums and the later Pierre Moerlin's Gong fusion version of the band. But these aren't part of my "canon", so if this is the era of Gong you find interesting, check out the separate entry under Gong, Pierre Moerlin's featuring no original Gong members (except Malherbe, only on Gazeuse/Expresso). Cool in its own right, but not really Gong in the Gong Gospel according to me.
The old Gong band members went their own ways. Allen and Gilli Smyth moved to Deya, Spain, where they and various guest musician constellations recorded several Daevid Allen solo albums, all good in their own right. They also collaborated on the first Gilli Smyth solo album, Mother and joined forces with Here and Now to create Live Floating Anarchy. Allen and Gilli Smyth divorced in the late '70's, with Allen moving to New York to form New York Gong and Smyth moving to Australia where she formed Mother Gong with guitarist Harry Williamson. Mike Howlett went on to form Strontium 90, bringing together Policemen Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers for the first time. He then turned his talents to record production for many bands of the "new-wave" era. Hillage and Giraudy recorded a number of excellent albums together released as Hillage solo albums. Tim Blake recorded several solo albums and briefly joined Hawkwind before returning to France, to go into seclusion living in a windmill/studio in Brittany.
On several special occasions, various groupings of the old members got together again for one-off performances of their old music and improvisations in that style. The best of these are Gong Est Mort (77), and, to a lesser extent, Gong Maison (89).
1992's Shapeshifter was the first "canon" Gong studio album to be released since You. When it first came out, I must admit I was disappointed. From my point of view, it was missing three essential characteristics of Gong ... namely, Gilli Smyth's vocals, Tim Blake's synthesizer swooshes and bleepings, and Steve Hillage's echo feedback guitar. On the other hand, it did have the old Allen guitar and vocal lunacy, Bloomdido's sax playing, the return of Pip Pyle to the drum seat, and finally it did advance the story of Zero the Hero after being booted from the planet Gong ... "you never blow yr trip forever ...". Since then, I've grown to really like this album, though it's still quite a departure from the Trilogy-era albums. But it is undeniably "real Gong". My recommendation for a new Gong initiate: "back into" this album, starting with 2032, then Zero to Infinity and then finally Shapeshifter. This may tell the story of Zero backwards, but the story is fragmented enough as it is that this shouldn't give you a great deal of continuity heartaches, and will lead you into Shapeshifter musically better than just jumping into it from You. But don't do any of that until you've digested the original Trilogy.
Gong got together again in various forms over the following years, most famously for their 25th birthday party, which featured several Gong family bands and culminated in a reformation (nearly) of the classic You line-up of Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth, Tim Blake, Didier Malherbe and even Mike Howlett, who played bass for the first time after 17 years offstage. The only missing members were Steve Hillage, amply covered for by Here and Now's Steffi Sharpstrings, and Pierre Moerlen, again replaced by Pip Pyle. On a 2CD set, they perform an abridged version of the entire Trilogy, hitting all the high points, and throwing in some highlights from Camembert Electrique too. Though this album isn't in the "canon" of studio albums (being a live album), it's a must-have for all fans of the early Gong. If you are one, you need this album. If you're not, Gong 25th Anniversary Party is unlikely to sway you ... stick with the studio releases until you "get it".
So, back to the "canon" ... in 2000, Zero to Infinity was released, and it would be hard to see this as anything but a "Real Gong album". With Allen, Smyth, Malherbe and Howlett all returning, in addition to second sax-man Theo Travis and new drummer Chris Taylor, the only thing missing is Tim Blake's synths, or a suitable substitute. Travis and Allen both add a bit of electronics here and there, but nothing as "in yer face" as Blake's synths. Still, in spite of this defecit, this is still a good album with lots of Gong trademark glossando guitar, space whispering, and cozmyk jamming. "Magdalene" and the following "The Invisible Temple" is a fine example, with Allen's powerful vocals, jazzy dual-sax improvs and the mandatory gliss guitar solos over a tight bass and drum groove that makes the song very nearly dance-able. The retread of "Wise Man in your Heart" is good, though I must say I prefer the original version on Allen's solo album Good Morning. But then there's the good silly fun of "Bodilingus" which discusses the failures of the body as age creeps up on us ... this song gives a whole new meaning to "downloading". Weaving through all this is part five of Zero the Hero's journey of self-realization as he meets up with the usual characters from the planet Gong. Overall, Zero to Infinity may not be the pinnacle of Gong's long years of output, but it's pretty darn good, and was a welcome addition to the Gong discography for those of us tiring of poorly-recorded archival material from the '70's.
Which brings us to 2009, when an amazing magical event happened ... Gong played at NEARFest on the night of the Summer Solstice. Now, I had heard that Gong used to play only on Solstices and Equinoxes, or sometimes full moons, and I thought, "I HAVE to be there!" Fortunately, my wife is as big of a Gong fan as I am, so she required no convincing (she almost talked me into mortgaging the house to attend the Unconvention in Amsterdam the year before ... if you don't know what that is/was, then never mind ...). I also invited an old friend from college (another major Gong fan) to bring his wife (not a Gong fan, but a good sport), and the four of us were transported away by the most amazing live performance I've ever seen (well, Magma came pretty close). Below are a few pictures I took at the concert ...
Steve Hillage, Mike Howlett, Daevid Allen, Theo Travis
But enough of showing off my concert photography ... back to the final album of the "Second Trilogy".
With pretty much the line-up from the concert above, including the return of Steve Hillage with his long-time partner in life and music Miquette Giraudy finally filling the void left by Tim Blake, a revitalized Gong released 2032 in 2009. 2032 is the year the people from the planet Gong return to Earth to tell us "what we need to know ... how to survive without killing the planet". I'm sure it involves a lot of peace, love and understanding, and (hopefully) herbal mind-expanding exercises. My review of this album is admittedly biased by seeing the band recently in concert, but I must say it's easily the best thing Gong has put out since You. My first impression of the album was less glowing than that, but I've discovered that subsequent listens makes the album better and better. Every time I listen to the album I find I really appreciate a song I thought was "merely OK" before. It will still be a while before I'm ready to put 2032 up there with Angel's Egg or You, but I think it stands alongside Flying Teapot and Camembert Electrique in many ways, and is better in some ways. "City of Self Fascination", "Digital Girl" and "Wacky Baccy Banker" are new Allen classics (though Hillage gets co-writing credit), while "Yoni Poem", "Robo-Warriors" and "Wave and A Particle" are classic Smyth (though Giraudy also co-wrote these). If I was to complain, I might say that every song is reminiscent of one of the old trilogy songs, with downright quotes in several places, both musically and lyrically. But it's hard for me to not like this album because of that. I love those old albums, and I guess I want new Gong to sound like them. So I won't take cheap shots because they did what I like.
An animated video of "How to Stay Alive" was released just prior to the CD release, and got a lot of screen time around my house. It's another cool song, and it's great to finally see the PHP's fly! Here it is, for your listening and viewing pleasure:
I'll close by saying "Long Live Gong!" As of this writing (5/25/10), Daevid Allen is 72 and Gilli Smyth is about to turn 77 on June 1, so it's hard to imagine they'll be putting out music much longer. But for now they're touring like crazy, so if you get the chance, catch them while you can. They still put on an energetic and amazing show. And maybe, just maybe, we can still get a few more albums from them before they drift off to join the Octave Doctors of the Planet Gong. Perhaps they'll be the ones coming back in 2032 to teach us "How to Stay Alive". As the chorus proclaims, "We need to know!" -- Fred Trafton
|The following entries were inherited from the pre-2000 GEPR when I inherited it.|
|Uh-oh. In my opinion the pinnacle of prog rock with the absolutely stunning You in which space fusion with swirling synths is a backdrop to the ever present talents of Steve Hillage and Didier "Bloomdido Bad De Grasse" Malherbe. And thats only one album. A virtual discography of delights! Daevid Allen's Gong was based around a mythological story of a utopian planet in which pot head pixies and telepathic gnomes abound. Many people don't like this silliness, but I do, it adds a charm and a dose of humor to what could have been a terribly pretentious bunch of music. I can't recommend these guys enough - they were truly progressive.|
|Perhaps the leaders in the genre of space fusion. This band combined incredble instrumental work with what can only be described as a very offbeat sensibility. For those who do not care for this type of attitude their later works with Pierre Moerlen at the helm are incredible examples of fusion at its finest.|
When I first listened to early Gong, the question that came
immediately to my mind is "Where are these guys coming from?" To be
brutally honest, you may never understand the band's direction and
purpose unless your mind has been altered at one time or another through
various chemical means. The vocal songs, at first listen, appear silly
and pointless but it is not the case. The vocals have the ultimate
purpose of preparing you for the musical texture that is to
follow. You is mostly instrumental and the vocal tunes carry and
connect the instrumental excursions. This is not to say these guys are
wonderful singers - they're not - but the silliness of the songs
disappear when their purpose is discovered. The instrumentals are
wonderful space jams with synth and guitar swirling between the
speakers, and serve an excellent transport to carry you to far away
places inside your head (deep, huh?). If you are a fan of cosmic/space
rock you should give You a listen. Sit between your speakers,
close your eyes and let yourself be carried into the Clouds. It is a
journey worth repeating many times. The earliest albums, such as
Magick Brother are more in the psych vein. Albums between this
and You show a natural progression towards the classic space
fusion of You which also
has the influence of Steve Hillage on
The Flying Teapot, Angel's Egg and You were a trilogy about the Planet Gong, with such inhabitants as Pothead Pixies and Octave Doctors. Silly but fun. This particular era of the band isn't for everyone and wasn't meant to be. It was created for those with an imagination that can get inside the smallest quark or stand back and look at all the galaxies and place them all in perspective. If your imagination can run wild as such, this is a must listen band.
After You, the direction headed into mainstream fusion, under the direction of Pierre Moerlen, who joined when Allen left after Flying Teapot. [Editor's note: Actually, Allen left after You, both he and Moerlen were in the band for Angel's Egg and You]. Though Gazeuse is very good, they start to pale after awhile. For me, the real magic (or magick) is the trilogy. Be sure to check out You.
Gong had two main phases (as well as many peculiar off-shoots): psychedlia
under the leadership of Daevid Allen, and straight
fusion under Pierre
Moerlen. The albums of the early phase (including
Camembert Electrique, Angel's Egg and You) are fantastically weird
and wonderful -- the musicians have a wonderfully deft touch, and spin
fantastic aural voyages that are not to be missed. They are also
certified goofballs, so if you think humour does not belong in music,
you'll have to re-think your opinions before diving into Gong. However,
later Gong may appeal to the humourless -- it is very
good (occasionally amazing) fusion, but without any
of the wonderful drug-induced story and characters of the earlier albums.
A side note for budding Gong-a-holics: a compilation of early Daevid Allen recordings from his time in Paris was recently (1992) released by a French label as Je ne fume pas des bananes, giving three-way credit to Daevid Allen, Gong, and Bananamoon (an early Allen band). Stay away from this recording; it is almost irredeemable codswallop. It consists mainly of pointless, repetitive, and downright silly noodling; truly an inferior collection whose only value appears to be to illustrate how much Daevid Allen's talent grew as part of Gong proper. -- Greg Ward
Flying Teapot was the first of the Gong trilogy, Angel's
Egg was the second part, and You was the third. They
were all recorded in 1973/4, and feature the "classic,"
freaked-out line-up of Daevid
etc. plus Moerlen on the last two.
Flying Teapot was penned in large part by Allen, and reflects the earlier Gong works, in its blend of spaced-out improvisational, psychedelic music with "profound" lyrics and a good dose of humour, a musical influence that is now evident in the works of the Ozric Tentacles. Angel's Egg saw Hillage and Moerlen (classically trained drummer) taking a larger share of the writing burden, and the result is probably the most highly regarded component of the trilogy. Again, it is evident what the Ozrics cut their musical teeth on.
Floating Anarchy is a live recording from 1977, and is an energetic performance featuring Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth, with a strong contingent of musicians. The music is best described as a blend between the solo works of Steve Hillage (who, to the best of my knowledge, does not appear on this) with virtuosic guitar leads and arpeggios and the older Gong material. The lyrics are as irreverent and zany as ever, and showcases a band with strong improvisational skills, yet staying within a musical structure.
[Editor's Note: Actually, Floating Anarchy isn't a Gong album, it's a Here and Now album with Daevid and Gilli as guests. I suffered under the same misconception as this writer for many years until I figured this out by carefully reading the Floating Anarchy cover and finally hearing some Here and Now albums ... which didn't have them as guests. But musically, everything this reviewer said about the album is spot-on.]
|The trilogy albums are masterful efforts combining progressive, psychedelic and jazz, and doing a damn good job of it. Flying Teapot (sometimes erroneously known as Radio Gnome Invisible) was the first of these, and probably the weakest, it's the one which has failed to stick with me. Angel's Egg is a good deal more colourful, with Steve Hillage's guitar and Tim Blake's synth at the forefront, and also fine usage of Daevid Allen's glissando guitar. "Outer Temple/Oily Way/Inner Temple" is probably the best-known track from this album. You is definitely the best Gong album, worth your while for the amazing "Master Builder" alone! "You Never Blow Your Trip Forever" is also conidered a classic. Fusion fans and prog-heads alike will revel in this music. Shamal, the first album without Daevid Allen, shows a growing emphasis on percussion. Less of the wild experimentation and crazed abandon of the previous days (only "Cat In Clark's Shoes", with a Mexican-styled sax/violin duet, seems to have the sense of humour we've become accustomed to), but they still manage to make intelligent and credible, mostly instrumental, fusion/prog. Gong Est Mort is a worthwhile double LP document of a reunion of the Allen Gong. -- Mike Ohman|
|Hmmm, everyone likes the earlier spacey stuff by them. I tend to lean toward the later jazzier stuff they got into after Daevid Allen left the band. This later band was dominated by Pierre Moerlen and Didier Malherbe (and is not to be confused with Pierre Moerlen's Gong, which came later). Shamal is probably my favorite. Gazeuse! and Expresso II were also very good albums. Of the Daevid Allen era stuff, I only really like You, which is just an incredible album, and Angel's Egg, which has its moments.|
Gong evolved over a period of a couple years, during which the
founder, Australian guitarist/songwriter Daevid Allen, put together a
handful of solo projects, picking up various musicians along the
way. The band continued in a constant state of evolution throughout its
history--in terms of both the music itself and the personnel. The album
Expresso II, with the absence of founding member Didier Malherbe,
marked the point at which no original members remained in the band!
Many consider the band's high point to be the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, especially either or both of the last two albums of the trilogy. Flying Teapot was the first, followed by Angel's Egg, then You. It was after Flying Teapot that several long-term personnel changes took place--including the appearance of Pierre Moerlen, finally giving Gong a permanent drummer. (Previously, the band had made use of numerous drummers, including Pip Pyle, Laurie Allen, and Rachid Houari. Chris Cutler and Bill Bruford also performed with the band, but did not record with them. And there were several others.) Allen left the band briefly after Flying Teapot. During his absence, Moerlen, along with Tim Blake, Steve Hillage, Didier Malherbe, and Jorge Pinchevesky did a short tour under the name Paragong. Apparently, the total Paragong recorded output consists of a single track called "Pentagramaspin," included on a Virgin compilation album titled V. Interestingly, the next two albums, the ones that seem to have the biggest following, were albums in which Allen's influence within the band was decreasing, and Moerlen's and guitarist Steve Hillage's influence was increasing. As a result, the band's direction became much jazzier and more spacey. You, in particular, features several extended jams. I'm partial to one called "The Isle of Everywhere."
Much has been said about the silliness and humor in the Allen-era Gong. It would be too much to describe the lyrical content here, but the trilogy could be considered a rock opera of sorts, tremendously inventive and entertaining. It all revolves around what is probably a fairly coherent mythology (if you were to study it closely enough) and has serious underlying meanings. Allen's use of silliness is simply to avoid the possibility of falling into pretentiousness in the way he conveyed his message--a very admirable approach, and one he was quite successful with. (Contrast Gong to, say, Kansas. Now, if I were one of those guys, I believe I'd just jump off a bridge instead of playing music. Jeez.)
My understanding is that the Planet Gong actually represents a future Earth in which people have finally learned to live in peace and love, etc. What it comes down to is that we have some "New Age" philosophy going on here; its further developed and becomes more obvious in his subsequent solo albums. I would even go so far as to suggest that this underlying philosophy, along with the musical contributions of Gilli Smyth's vocals and Tim Blake's synthesizers in particular, constitute a prototypical version of what would later become New Age music. But I won't hold that against them; I don't believe they set out to create a new genre of music--at least not one as insipid as the stuff we know as New Age. This, in my opinion, is the least interesting element of a band that dipped into styles as diverse as be-bop jazz, Middle Eastern music, and good ol' American three-chord rock'n'roll. Anyway, Allen's departure after You left the leadership role open for Moerlen to fill. Under Moerlen, Gong went in a much more "mainstream fusion" direction. The silliness left the band with Allen, but the music itself is just as interesting, sometimes more so.
Continental Circus is a movie soundtrack. Obsolete is not a Gong album as such, but an album with Daevid Allan and some other Gong members, with poet Dashiell Hedayat. Floating Anarchy was actually recorded by Allen with Here and Now. An excellent rock album. Shapeshifter features ex-Gong members Pip Pyle and Didier Malherbe, along with some other folks. Not up to the standards of the trilogy--indeed, much of it (it pains me to say) sounds to me like filler to make use of the CD format's greater capacity. Probably not the recommended starting point for a new listener, but it has lots of worthwhile stuff nonetheless. About what you'd expect from Allen if you've heard a fair amount of his Gong and solo stuff. (Not that it's predictable, but it doesn't really have any surprises for the listener who's familiar with Allen's previous work.) And a warning about History and Mystery: It's not a "best of" album, as the unsuspecting buyer might assume. It's a collection of various tidbits, including poetry, dialog, announcements at concerts, alternate takes, demos, etc. Interesting for the hardcore fan, but of little or no interest to the casual listener. (Actually, I wouldn't expect even a hardcore fan to give it a whole lot of play.)
[See Allen, Daevid |
Blake, Tim |
Gong Global Village |
Gong, Mother |
Here and Now |
Gong, New York |
Gong, Pierre Moerlen's |
Grimes, Carol and Delivery |
Hillage, Steve |
Holdsworth, Allan |
National Health |
Pyle, Pip |
Click here for the Gong web site
Live in Brazil (09)
Gong Global Family: Live in Brazil album cover
Gong Global Family: Live in Brazil is a very high quality recording of an excellent performance. "Gong Global Family" is one of the numerous Gong "offshoot" bands, this version being composed of Gong founder Daevid Allen plus Josh Pollock and Michael Clare (Daevid's bandmates from University of Errors) and members of The Invisible Opera Company of Brazil (a Brazilian Gong cover band, for lack of a better term) who played a series of Brazilian concerts in late 2007. This is a recording of the first of those concerts, and the band sounds like they've been playing together for 20 years.
Well, it's obvious why they sound so good. Daevid and the UofE guys have been playing together for a long time, and this album features only old Gong songs from early '70's albums Camembert Electrique and the original Trilogy (Flying Teapot / Angel's Egg / You), which members of IOCofB have doubtless been playing for nearly that long. So it's easy to see why they sound so good. What was NOT expected is that, in some cases (particularly the sax player), they sound even BETTER than the current incarnation of Gong, who are currently touring with a similar set list. Not that I dislike Theo Travis (Gong's current sax player), but he's just a little too perfect for Gong. Gong has always been about barely-controlled anarchy, and this band's got the feel down pat. The only thing I really miss in this performance is Gilli Smyth's vocals, and even that's been supplied after a fashion via processed vocals in the places where it's the most essential.
Bottom line: if you're a Gong fan and like their older stuff, then you'll like this album. If you still haven't quite figured out what all the fuss is about when it comes to Gong, then this album will do nothing to help you out. Not essential, but good fun and an enjoyable addition to your Gong collection.
By the way, this release comes in CD and DVD versions ... I've only heard the CD, but after recently seeing Gong at NEARFest, I'll admit I wouldn't mind seing the video version of this. -- Fred Trafton
[See Allen, Daevid |
Gong, New York |
University of Errors]
Click here to order either the CD or DVD of Gong Global Family: Live in Brazil from Amazon
About Time (80)
In 1980, Gong-meister Daevid Allen teamed up with some prominent musicians of the "New York scene," including Bill Laswell and Chris Cutler. As might be expected, the music is a blend of the inspired lunacy of Allen's lyrics and the musical sensibility of groups such as Henry Cow, Fred Frith in his more musical moments, etc., which is to say that the sound is a loose, almost improvised blend of jazz and rock, with strong musicianship, and an underlying intensity and urgency. In general, I do not pay much attention to lyrical content, but, in this case, the compositions of Allen are absolutely poetic! My favourite excerpt ... "I paid my Arabs and I paid my dues...."
Gazeuse! (77, aka Expresso)
Expresso II (78)
Time is the Key (79)
Pierre Moerlen's Gong Live (80)
Leave It Open (81)
Second Wind (88)
Full Circle Live '88 (98, Live from 1988)
Note: Shamal, Gazeuse! and Expresso II are included under the entry for Gong as well as here. Although these did not yet use the "Pierre Moerlin's Gong" name, stylistically they really belong here more than under the Gong entry.
Pierre Moerlen and friend, 1973
Pierre Moerlen's Gong is an excellent fusion band which often gets an undeservedly bad rap for two reasons: 1) they are a fusion band, and 2) they don't sound much like the original Gong (i.e., w/ Daevid Allen, etc.). Actually, Shamal, Expresso (titled Gazeuse! for European release) and Expresso II were released by "Gong", but Daevid Allen was long gone and the die was pretty much cast by the time Shamal was released. Shamal is a transitional album. You-era stalwarts Mike Howlett, Steve Hillage, and Didier Malherbe were still present. While most of the music resembled a very toned-down, poppy version of "honest-to-god Gong", the instrumentals "Mandrake" and "Bambooji" gave a suggestion of things to come.
Expresso is a stunning achievement in the musical sub-genre of fusion. Hillage and Howlett were replaced by Allan Holdsworth (just coming off a stint in Tony Williams' New Lifetime) and ex-Magma bassist Francois Moze. Malherbe and percussionist Mireille Bauer remained from Shamal, but Pierre Moerlen's brother Benoit was added on mallet percussion, and Mino Cinelu (later with Miles Davis) was added on congas. The combination of Holdsworth's guitar, Malherbe's saxes and flute, the glittering mallet duo of Bauer and Benoit Moerlen, and the propulsive rhythms provided by Pierre Moerlen, Moze and Cinelu made for some very appealing and distinctive music.
For my money, Expresso II is even better, even though Didier Malherbe had left the fold. The core band was now "les freres Moerlen" with Bauer, and bassist Hansford Rowe [later of Gongzilla -Ed.]. Guest soloists included Holdsworth, ex-Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor, ex-Curved Air violinist Darryl Way, guitarist Bon Lozaga [also later of Gongzilla -Ed.], and percussionist Francois Causse. Each member of the core band supplied compositions, several of which ("Boring", "Sleepy", "Golden Dilemma" and "Soli") always seem to get the chills going up and down the ol' spine. Holdsworth takes several gloriously twisted solos, and Darryl Way does some of his finest playing ever.
Downwind is so inferior to Expresso and Expresso II that I have to wonder if the band was under some sort of contractual obligation to produce a "hit" record after doing all that jazzy exploration. On its own, Downwind isn't a "bad" record, but it has none of the wit, fire or imagination of Expresso, Expresso II, or even Shamal. Basically, Downwind repeats the "core band with guest stars" formula minus the excitement and spontaneity of jazz. This time, the guests include Steve Winwood, violinist Didier Lockwood [Magma, Zao -Ed.], Mick Taylor and Mike Oldfield (with whom Pierre Moerlen had recently toured and recorded). Oldfield's influence looms quite large on Downwind, and at least two pieces ("Downwind" and "Crosscurrents") sound like Oldfield's interpretation of compositions from the previous 2 records. If you're an Oldfield fan, you may like this, but I consider Downwind a good concept that went wrong somewhere in the execution phase.
Time Is The Key is a vast improvement over Downwind, but not as good as either of the "Expressos". More a "progressive" record than a "fusion" record, Time ... benefits vastly from the return of Allan Holdsworth and Darryl Way. Mallet percussion is de-emphasized somewhat and a keyboardist, Peter Lemer, (now with Phil Miller's In Cahoots) was brought in to pick up some of the slack. Lemer actually does a nice job, and contributes some fine solos along with the then-obligatory gooey, atmospheric synth backdrops.
Live was released with absolutely no publicity from Arista Records, and if you blinked you may have missed out on a fine parting shot. No personnel is listed (I guess it's Lozaga, Rowe, both Moerlens and Francois Causse), and the tunes are from Shamal, Expresso, Expresso II and Downwind. It's no small pleasure hearing fresh, invigorating versions of the tunes from Downwind!
Strangely, Arista released the excellent Leave It Open only in Europe, and it is now very hard to find. Leave It Open (with Bon Lozaga, Francois Causse and Hansford Rowe) is a return to the jazzy explorations of Expresso, only the bulk of the improvisational duties are placed in the capable and loving hands of legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie Mariano, whose credits include stints with Charles Mingus, Eberhard Weber, the United Jazz + Rock Orchestra, Pork Pie, and the progressive bands Embryo and Supersister, among others. While not as compositionally strong as Expresso or Expresso II, Leave It Open is definitely worth seeking out.
In summary, both Expresso and Expresso II provide numerous stunning examples of what is interesting and stimulating about jazz-rock fusion, and are "must-haves" for fusion fans. The other records, except for Downwind are very good, but instead of innovation you will hear many of the ideas from Expresso and Expresso II rehashed in slightly different forms. In that context, Downwind is merely OK. -- Dave Wayne
|Later jazzy more serious version of Gong. Featured incredible drumwork as well as some killer guitar by Allan Holdsworth. Recommended: Gazeuse.|
|Pretty much a jazz fusion band with a strong percussion section. Downwind is a great album that features Mike Oldfield, Didier Lockwood, and Steve Winwood on a few tracks. The rest of the albums I have don't have any progressive feel to them at all. I really miss Didier Malherbe in this incarnation of Gong.|
|Much fuss is made over the early "psychedelic" incarnations of Gong featuring Daevid Allen (and I'll admit readily that stuff like Camembert Electrique and Angel's Egg are incredible), but this praise is usually coupled with belittlement of the later "Pierre Moerlen" version of the band. In fact, the Pierre Moerlen chapter of the band was quite good; albums like Downwind, Expresso II and Time Is The Key stand strong, although they are far more "serious" and fusion oriented.|
Pierre Moerlen was born October 23rd 1952. He passed away in his sleep unexpectedly on
May 3, 2005 at the age of 53, in the mountains near Stasbourg. His funeral took place on May
9th in Colmar, Alsace-Lorraine, the town of his birth.
Released in 2005 posthumously is a new Pierre Moerlen's Gong album, Pentanine. This band shares no members in common with the previous Pierre Moerlen's Gong albums (except, of course, for Moerlen himself), but is instead a Russian band with Moerlen at the drums. The songs are all written by Moerlen, however, so this is not just a band with him as drummer, but a true Pierre Moerlen's Gong release. If the liner notes are to be taken at face value, Moerlen considered this band to be his new Pierre Moerlen's Gong line-up, at least when it was recorded. However, at the time of his death, he was rehearsing for a new album with French musicians, including his brother Benoit. No recordings had been completed, so we will never hear this version of Pierre Moerlen's Gong.
Pentanine is not as fusiony as Gazeuse! or Expresso II nor as spacey as Daevid Allen's Gong. The Russian band, comprised of Arkady Kuznetzov (guitar), Alexei Pleschunov (bass) and Meehail Ogorodov (keyboards, hand drum, underwater voice) are all more than competent at their instruments, but this album doesn't really break much new ground. It's pleasant new-agey jazz with some nice spacey synth "electronic soundscapes" and high quality playing by all. Not spectacular, but not bad. -- Fred Trafton
[See Curved Air |
Davis, Miles |
Hillage, Steve |
Holdsworth, Allan |
Oldfield, Mike |
Way, Darryl |
Click here for
a very out of date (about 1999) official Pierre Moerlen web site
East Village Sessions (03)
Gongzilla's Hansford Rowe and Bon Lozaga
This American production marks what seems to be a new chapter in the Gong story. This version follows in the footsteps of Pierre Moerlen's Gong, with slightly more rock ingredients. This jazz-rock fusion emphasises both rhythm and melody, thanks to the use of vibes, percussions and drums. Excellent guitar work by Allan Holdsworth and Bon Logaza should also be mentioned. This excellent production should please those that are used to the style as well as most electric jazz fans. -- Paul Charbonneau
The way I see it, Gongzilla is guitarist Bon Lozaga's attempt to recapture the non-commercial, jazz-fusion magic purveyed by his former group, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, on their Expresso and Expresso II albums. Suffer is successful in that regard, and manages to be a pretty fine release in its own right. Lozaga brought together several members of the Expresso- era group (Allan Holdsworth, Hansford Rowe, and Benoit Moerlen) with several fine American percussionists and drummers (among them, Lionel Cordew and Ben Perowsky). The result is a very solid electric jazz-fusion release which can be recommended without reserve to fans of Pierre Moerlen's Gong. I found Suffer to be considerably more jazzy than Lozaga's other releases on the LoLo label, so die-hard prog fans may be disappointed. As of this writing (March 1997), Gongzilla had released a second recording, with Rowe, Holdsworth, and ex-Holdsworth and Level 42 drummer Gary Husband, and it is rumored that future Gongzilla recordings may also include Pierre Moerlen. -- Dave Wayne
[See Gong, Pierre Moerlen's |
Click here for Gonzilla's page at the LoLo Records web site
Good God (72)
|Canterburyish, comparable to Midnight Sun and Caravan. The album includes two cover songs, John McLaughlin's "Dragon Song" and Frank Zappa's "King Kong."|
|Perhaps the greatest of all "one-shot" progressive / fusion bands in the US (the Dallas-based Master Cylinder might give them a run for their money), Good God recorded a tremendous major label (Atlantic) album and then sunk without a trace. As far as I know, none of these guys (Zeno Sparkles, guitar & vocals; Cotton Kent, keys, sax & vocals; Greg Scott, saxes; John Ransome, bass; Hank Ransome, drums & vocals; plus various guests on additional horns and percussion) subsequently appeared on any later prog or fusion recordings, though Kent pops up as a session man on numerous local R&B dates. Given their instrumental virtuosity and imaginative approach to fusion and progressive rock this is hard to believe, but stranger things have happened. Stylistically, they are more a jazz-rock band (a bit like If or Zzebra, but with some Mahavishnu influence as well) rather than a Progressive rock band. The album contains 4 fine originals, and two covers: Zappa's "King Kong" and McLaughlin's "Dragon Song". One minor quibble: the rather weak vocals on 2 or 3 tracks. -- Dave Wayne|
Good Rats (69), Tasty (74), Rat City in Blue (76), From Rats to Riches (78), Birth Comes To Us All (78), Great American Music (81), Tasty Seconds (96)
I had From Rats To Riches, which was sleazy hard-rock. Not progressive in the least, but somewhat entertaining. Birth Comes To Us All on the other hand, is supposed to be an arty concept-album. -- Mike Ohman
Like Children (74, w/ Jan Hammer)
On The Future Of Aviation (85)
It's Alive (88)
Jerry Goodman during his Mahavishnu Orchestra days
Violinist Goodman's first band was The Flock, in the sixties, but he is best known for his tenure with Mahavishnu Orchestra and work with Jan Hammer, Lenny White and others. In the late 80's he released three solo albums on the Private Music label: The first is very low key and introspective, almost new-agey at times, featuring violins, drums and synthesizers; Ariel is more upbeat, with a full band sound, and much more varied. It's Alive is taken from one show in 87, and features material from the other two, plus a few new cuts, and is an ideal place to start.
|Violinist with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and with the early seventies band The Flock, Jerry Goodman released two albums on Private Music, and followed up with a live work. The music is powerful violin/keyboard rock.|
|Violinist for Mahavishnu Orchestra. I recently picked up is It's Alive CD. The music is obviously more contemporary sounding than his work with Mahavishnu Orchestra, though still fusion in nature. There is some nice playing by Goodman and some excellent guitar work by Kraig McCreary. Some of the arrangements could use a little work, but overall it is a very good album. I'd say Goodman's style is more similar to Jean-Luc Ponty than L. Shankar, another incredible violinist who has also worked with John McLaughlin.|
|Violinist and original member of the early fusion band The Flock, whom he left to join John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. Jerry Goodman has a unique violin style which combines classical technique and jazz chops with a funky, bluesy earthiness that his successor in the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jean-Luc Ponty, could never capture. Like Children is a joint effort by Goodman and ex-Mahavishnu keyboardist Jan Hammer and sounds a great deal like Hammer's subsequent solo records. Goodman (violins, mandolins, guitars) and Hammer (keyboards, Moog bass, drums) play all the instruments (Hammer is a surprisingly good drummer). There are several cuts with rather ill-advised vocals, but the instrumental cuts more than make up for any deficiencies. A fine record, overall, but not as good as Hammer's first 2 solo records for the Nemporer label. Two compositions from Like Children, "Full Moon Boogie" and "Earth: Still Our Only Home", later appeared on the Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Band: Live album. Goodman disappeared from the music scene after Like Children, only to reappear in the mid- '80s with a string of recordings for the Private Music label which blended fusion, Progressive and New Age stylings. He then joined the Dixie Dregs for an album and a tour in the late 1980s. -- Dave Wayne|
|Links||[See Dixie Dregs, The | Flock, The | Hammer, Jan | Mahavishnu Orchestra]|
A heavy version of Jethro Tull crossed with Gentle Giant?
Sam Gopal (69), Escalator (??)
Chris Cutler (drummer for Henry Cow) in his 1967 book, "File Under Popular," describes the band as, "*the* archetypal sound of the vast all-night festivals: extended, extemporised, echoic music, based on Indian modes and tunings and played on guitar, bass and amplified tablas...." -- Mike Taylor
[See Fitzgerald, G.F. | Hawkwind]
Gordian Knot (99)
Emergent (02, to be released soon)
|This is a band of Sean Malone (bass/chapman stick/keys) and Sean Reinert (drums) of late Cynic + Trey Gunn (Warr touch-guitar) of King Crimson + Ron Jarzombek of Watch Tower/Spastic Ink + Glenn Snelwar (both on guitars). As guest appears John Myung from Dreamy Theater on stick (superb line-up!). This album is kinda festival of tapping playing style, when so many tappers are present, ))). Comparing it to Cynicís Focus, the whole thing sounds much easier (though still not that easy) and is profiled toward (even) more atmospheric areals of music. I understand that, because it was Malone who argued for less harsh and more atmopheric sound of Cynicís Focus. Heavy sounds heard on album thus come from direction of Cynic. Roughly said, the effort sounds much like a cross of Cynic and King Crimson, apart for the last tracks which are obviously indian raga inspired, and would be nice for meditating. This work is not in the same mould like Cynicís Focus, but still keeps my attention, which is not the case of plenty of the "fusion" sounds (with few exceptions, o.c.). And most of the tracks really stuns. The first, intense fusion "Code/Anticode", unbelievably lively "Reflections", heavy-rhythmical "Singularities", fast-paced "Rivers Dancing" and bizarre remake of J. S. Bachís piece, "Kommí Susser Tod, kommí Selíge". "Megrez" is almost Gunn solo on his touch guitar. I hope that their second, which is said to be out this year [2000 - Ed.], will be more energetic, although this one is not that peaceful and is almost excellent, too. Give it a listen or maybe more, you wonít be disappointed. -- Nenad Kobal|
|Scheduled for a release soon (as of 5/20/02) is Gordian Knot's second album with another (but different this time) all-star line-up. The title is Emergent and will feature the talents of Sean Malone (Cynic, Aghora), Steve Hackett (do I need to say formerly of Genesis?), Jason Göbel (Cynic), Sean Reinhert (Cynic, Aghora), Jim Matheos (Fates Warning) and Bill Bruford (he's played with a couple of other bands before). Sounds awesome. -- Fred Trafton|
[See Aghora |
Dream Theater |
Fates Warning |
Jarzombek, Ron |
King Crimson |
Malone, Sean |
Spastic Ink |
Watch Tower |
Click here for the Sean Malone/Gordian
Knot web site
Basically the Nightcrawlers, so hear them. Their first tape was released under this "band" name.
[See Kolab | Nightcrawlers]
Tid är Ljud (06)
Detta Har Hänt (09)
Glue Works (11)
Gösta Berlings Saga - (not in photo order) David Lundberq (Fender Rhodes, synth, Mellotron),
Alexander Skepp (drums, percussion, Mellotron, Solina), Mathias Danielson (acoustic and electric
guitars, finger cymbals) and Gabriel Hermansson (bass guitar and saw bass)
Original entry, 9/29/06:
Beautifully angular guitar solos coexist with Doors-like hypnotic psychedelia, and synth solos take off into unexpected dissonances for a few notes before resolving nicely against the backdrop of Fender Rhodes ostinatos. Its the Rhodes work that dominates this album, though there's also nice guitar, Mellotron and Solina passages in addition to a bit of flute and violin. The heavy reliance on Rhodes frequently brings to mind Magma or Quiet Sun, or sometimes Clearlight (in spite of the fact that Cyrille Verdeaux was mainly playing acoustic piano rather than Rhodes). But unlike them, there's no vocals here, aside from a couple of shouts ... this is all instrumental, and doesn't have any need for vocals to keep it interesting.
So, no more words beyond this: Tid är Ljud is brilliant, and if your tastes are anything like mine, you should really love this album. Highly recommended! -- Fred Trafton
Gösta Berlings Saga (2009 line-up) - Einar Baldursson (guitars), David Lundberg (Fender Rhodes), Gabriel Hermansson (bass), Alexander Skepp (drums & percussion)
It's hard to describe this music. It sounds completely comfortable to anyone versed in the prog repertoire, yet the only band I can even slightly compare them to is Quiet Sun, and it would be tough to say that GBS "sounds like" them in any real way from a compositional standpoint. Go over to their MySpace page and audition some of their music. Or, they have several MP3 cuts available for download on their "press page" here (I'm pretty sure it's open to anyone). If you find them even half as interesting as I do, you'll want to order this album from Record Heaven / Transubstans Records as soon as you can. Outstanding in every way!
Finally, if you're interested in namedropping, Änglagård's Mattias Olson assisted in the recording of this album. -- Fred Trafton
For their third album, Glue Works, Gösta Berlings Saga has switched labels to the slightly higher-profile Cuneiform Records label. Though this label may seem too avant-garde for Gösta Berlings Saga's music, they have in fact altered their style a bit to fit closer to some of the other bands in Cuneiform's catalog. This style shift might be due to the label change or vice-versa, I'm not sure.
Glue Works is still recognizable as Gösta Berlings Saga ... angular riffs reapeated over and over throughout the song with variations and solos being played over the top. But if the first album sounded a bit like Quiet Sun with all the Rhodes work and the second album becomes more rockish and guitar oriented (I recently thought it sounded like Discipline-era Crimson playing music by Philip Glass), then Glue Works retains the same ethos while taking on more a classical avant-garde sound, perhaps a bit like Universe Zero playing music by Philip Glass. Well, you know ... instruments that counterpoint and weave in and out of each other, repeated hypnotically. "Islands" even starts off this song's riff with a string quartet accompanied by Theremin ... or is that a singing saw? Well, you get the idea. Certainly an excellent album (once again produced by Änglagård / White Willow's Mattias Olson) and worthy of purchase and many spins in your CD player. However, for my taste, I think I like Detta Har Hänt a bit better.
[See Änglagård |
White Willow ]
Click here for Gösta Berlings Saga's web
Gothic Lunch (90)
Face of Ages (82, Cassette)
Kristiana (83, Demo)
|Neo-prog band from who knows where (maybe UK?). Their style doesn't seem particularly derivative of anyone in particular, but their material isn't that memorable either, being generally simple and underdeveloped. Crap.|
Just to let you know that the band Gothique did come from the UK. In fact
they came from Baldock in Hertfordshire, I recall the names of two of the
members; Simon Lee on guitars and the drummers name was Andy Scarlino, I think
I have spelt that correctly. I knew Simon as he was a friend of my brothers
and he was a very competent guitar player. I saw them live twice, once at a
pub gig where they headlined and once as support to The
I do not consider them to have been crap, but they were not in the same league as Twelfth Night, Marillion, IQ and Pallas who were also doing the rounds at the same time. I do not know if it is coincidence but all the mentioned acts were support acts to The Enid, except for Twelfth Night who I do not believe ever supported them.
Unfortunately I do not have any recorded material by Gothique. So I can not make any comment on their studio work, but as a live act they were quite entertaining. -- Les "Wiggle" Crosby
|Links||Click here or here for further info|
Gotic is a very good symphonic band that remind me of Camel, yet have a lighter maybe more fusiony sound than them. Lots of flute, lots of cool melodies, and a great deal of Spanish culture are evident.
This band melds the folk spirit of early PFM, the progressive classicism of Camel's Snow Goose period, and a healthy dose of light fusion into one of the best instrumental albums Spain has ever produced. The basic lineup is piano, flute, bass and drums, with guests on acoustic guitars, synthesizer, and percussion. Fans of the aforementioned will not be disappointed.
Gotic's Escenes is a stunning album and one that is highly recommended. A quartet (with guests on a song or two), the main draw is the beautiful flute work, the fluid analog keyboards (moog, Mellotron and piano really shine forth) and tasteful (though occasional) electric guitar solos. In particular, some of the flute/keyboard passages are simply inspiring. There is also violin heard now and again. Escenes is a is very lush symphonic, finely woven in detail. Though not sounding very similar, I am remind of Celeste's excellent Principe Di Un Giorno because of the pastoral nature of both these albums. Perhaps it is because of the shared heritage but some of the keyboard work reminds me very much of Chick Corea circa Return to Forever (electric formation but quieter passages) so there is a bit of a fusionesque air, as well. In other words, while I am reminded of Corea blended with the '70s symphonic Italian scene, as a whole Gotic sound like no one else. Again: very highly recommended!
Escenes is a good example of Camel-like melodic instrumental prog. Very much like The Snow Goose, but periodically slow, still some very fine moments overall. Flutes and keyboards dominate the mix, there are guitars on three or four tracks only. "La Revolucio" uses piccolo and marching snare to create a sort of American Revolutionary feel. It and the beautiful ten-minute "Historia de una Gota d'Aigua" are the best songs. -- Mike Ohman
Dream and Desire (75), E2-E4 (89)
Solo Ashra guitarist who put out electronic albums in the same vein.
E2-E4 sounds a lot like most of the other stuff he's done with Ashra.
E2-E4 is a highly metronomic and hypnotic work by the Ashra principal that showcases Gottsching's talent with electric guitar. Running the sound through a variety of sound-processing devices, this is similar in style to the works of Klaus Schulze, though somewhat minimalist in comparison.
[See Ash Ra Tempel | Ashra/Richard Wahnfried]
Jeunes Annees (76)
De Anima (93)
|Keyboarist; first LP is supposed to be weak, second excellent.|
|Keyboardist-composer Goude was in the Magma-influenced band Weidorje, along with keyboardist Patrick Gauthier, guitarist Michel Ettori, drummer Kirt Rust, bassist Bernard Paganotti, trumpeter Yvon Guillard and saxophonist Alain Guillard, all of whom appear (with numerous others) on Drones. In fact, the personnel on Drones reads like a Who's Who of the French progressive scene, and members of Magma, Heldon, Zao, Gwendal, and Yochko Seffer's Neffish Music put in appearances on nearly every cut. Interestingly, there is very little improvisation on this record, if any at all. The emphasis is on Goude's inventive compositions, which range from Heldon-ish solo/duo keyboard miniatures ("Cantilene", "Coma"), to hyperactive Magma-inspired rockers ("Dies Irae", "Les Saturnales"), to a piece which sounds a bit like the "minimalist" stuff by Soft Machine circa 6 ("Tintinnabulum"). Still fresh 16 years after its release, Drones is a classic album of French progressive music, and a must-have for fans of the genre. Unfortunately, Meli-Melodies pales by comparison to Drones. Despite the presence of Rust and Paganotti, Meli-Melodies is comprised of short compositions, some featuring vocals, in a stilted, rhythmically static chamber-pop vein. Goude has recently recorded a series of overtly classically-influenced pieces for solo piano and string quartet that seem a bit more worthwhile. -- Dave Wayne|
|Goude, most famous for his keyboard work with Weidorje, put out his first solo-LP in 75 together with synthesiser and electronics wizard Francois Gingle. Jeune Annees contains weird synthesiser work, influenced by the US minimalist scene (Terry Riley, Philip Glass). In 76 he joined Bernard Paganottis' Weidorje. Shortly after Weidorje broke up he went into the studio to record Drones. For this release he invited a whole bunch (26) of other musicians from the French scene to play on several tracks (among these the other ex-Weidorje members, Klaus Blasquitz, Richard Pinhas, Francois Auger and many more). The CD (reissue by Musea) offers 11 tracks, ranging from 1 to 7 minutes. The Weidorje influence is still evident on some pieces. "Les Saturnales" and "Dies Irae" are typical zeuhl numbers with Paganottis characteristic bass. Other tracks like "Drole D'Ere" or "Tintinnabulum" have a more jazzlike feel. On "Machine" a string quartet is backing Goudes and Pinhas synthesiser play. Finally you will find also pure synth music, e.g. "Trio De Mini-Moogs" or "Coma". Drones offers a broad variety of music, and is highly recommended to French electronic/Zeuhl collectors. -- Achim Breiling|
|Links||[See Pinhas, Richard | Weidorje]|
Two Rainbows Daily (80; w/Hugh Hopper), Before a Word is Said (82)
Alan Gowen was the driving force behind reknown Canterbury band Gilgamesh and was also instrumental in forming National Health with Dave Stewart. Before a Word is Said was recorded very shortly before Gowen died of Leukemia. As you might guess, the other musicians are Phil Miller on guitars, Richard Sinclair on bass and Trevor Tomkins on drums (Tomkins was the drummer on Gilgamesh's Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into). Of course, Gowen plays keyboards with his usual aplomb. As dedicated Canterbury fans know, *all* these musicians are outstanding on their respective instruments and are capable of creating some fine instrumental prog with just a hint of jazz flavor. Recorded in 1981, Before a Word is Said is most similar to Gilgamesh (of course) and National Health's D.S. al Coda (which contains all Gowen-penned tunes). All members contribute significantly to the melody with keyboards, guitar and bass trading licks off of each other or playing the same runs simultaneously. Essential to any fan of the Canterbury scene.
Before A Word Is Said was made with Phil Miller (National Health), Richard Sinclair (Hatfield and The North, Camel, Caravan) and Trevor Tomkins (Gilgamesh). This album is Gowen's last work. Fans of the Canterbury scene, of Sinclair in particular, ought to investigate. Sinclair even sings on a couple of tracks, and everyone is in sporting form. -- Mike Ohman
[See Caravan | Gilgamesh | Hatfield and the North | Hopper, Hugh | National Health]