Beyond the 130 - Gong

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Snarfyguy
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Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby Snarfyguy » 24 Apr 2015, 15:46

So in 1967 Soft Machine founder member Daevid Allen is denied entry into the U.K. due to visa issues and remains in France, leaving the band taking up with longtime partner Gilli Smyth. Longstanding saxist/flautist Didier Malherbe joins the fold at this point, and the band retains a Gallic element into the 1990s.

I forget what happens next, but Paris May ’68 derails things and they go Majorca or somewhere like that.

A few years later, the debut appears. I don’t know who plays on it apart from the core trio, but it’s a great debut, especially considering it was recorded in a closet or something. In any case, it's a psychedelic classic with short, punchy songs. Here’s one:



Next up is perhaps their best-know work, Camembert Electrique. Virgin stunt-released it for more or less the price of a single, so it wound up in every hairy record collection in the land. Here's what you need to know:

Image

Personally, I find it a bit of mish-mash, but it's a classic of its type. Here's a good one:



Around this point they became mainstays of those British rock festivals that always seem to have been held in oceans of mud.

In 1973 their classic lineup coalesced with guitarist Steve Hillage, bassist Mike Howlett and drummer Pierre Moerlen. In my estimation, this iteration of the band did its finest work - the Radio Gnome trilogy. The mythology is pretty silly and the storyline is unparsable (at least, I've never felt it would be worthwhile to figure it out).

The first of the three, Flying Teapot, is the weakest in terms of composition and economy; it really wanders around, but it has a pleasant vibe, very fine playing and quite amusing cover art. (It probably goes without saying that these artefacts are best enjoyed on 12" vinyl format.)

Angel's Egg is where they really up their game though. How hippies who appear to have been constantly stoned off their asses managed to write, play and produce material of this calibre is something of a puzzle. Hillage's guitar work is sublime; a most under-rated player. And Moerlen's jazz chops really propel the material. Definitely among the finest players in rock.

The overall sound manages to be simultaneously woozy yet deft and nimble - these guys are tight. Malherbe's sax lends a gauzy sort of haze to the proceedings. Catchy tunes, too. Check this one out:



Lovely production, crystal clear sound.

Here's another highlight:



Those drums! Just delightful...

The final installment of the trilogy sees bassist Howlett fronting some of their most thunderous jams. "Master Builder" takes a bit to build up a full head of steam, but by the time it does it's basically a runaway train. I've been listening to this one for more than 30 years and I still can't quite get my head around when the bass does its turnaround.



Likewise, "The Isle of Everywhere" comes into focus gradually, becoming a bass-driven workout that's as funky as anything.



That does it for the classic lineup. Band leader Allen himself departs at this point, after Bill Bruford takes the drum stool for a couple of months (Bruford, in his memoir, has nothing kind to say about this stint; he doesn't really appear - or claim - to understand how the band worked, musically). With Allen out, Moerlen returns as the driving force, releasing several increasingly jazzy - and boring - records as Pierre Moerlen's Gong.

The band fractures and reunites in different permutations for ages and since Daevid Allen has now passed on, I think the story is pretty much over - although there plenty of very enjoyable side roads and solo projects to explore.

This is a pretty bare-bones account. If anyone would like to point out anything I skipped over, you're most welcome.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby pcqgod » 24 Apr 2015, 19:15

I still haven't heard the debut.

Wouldn't mind hearing some opinions as to the later 70's albums.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby C » 24 Apr 2015, 20:46

pcqgod wrote:Wouldn't mind hearing some opinions as to the later 70's albums.


There weren't any late '70s Gong albums

In late 1975 they morphed into Pierre Moerlen's Gong and released Gazuese! in 1976 but it was sacrilegious for Pierre to continue to use the name 'Gong'. In fact I would go further - it was a disgrace.

From the original Gong only Didier remained. It was a very different sound.

Not Gong

Nay, not Gong

More interestingly, one should investigate the many fine live Gong albums



Incidentally, nice write-up Chris

Yes, nice write-up




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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby Hightea » 24 Apr 2015, 22:12

Wow two people now picking on the Pierre Moerlen's Gong albums. I will not be the third. First off multiple Gong members have changed several times over the life of Gong and actually there are several other gong bands. Pierre had all the right to keep the Gong torch going and did after two albums change the name to "Pierre Moerlen's Gong". He kept the Gong name on the first two albums because Gong still had a deal with Virgin Records (so he did D Allen a favor by completing them) Secondly, this was not boring unless you can't handle an instrumental album. I will go on record as stating Expresso II is one of the finest Fusion albums I've heard. Expresso II has three talented guitarists on it (Allan Holdworth, Mick Taylor(yes of stones fame-only on one song) and Bon Lozaga. It also has Darryl Way (Curved Air on a track or two). Was luck to catch this band live in 1980 and they played an great show loved the dueling marimbas and xylophones. Bon Lozaga actually continued this sounding band by changing the name to Gongzilla.

Secondly, in the late 70's Daevid Allen formed another Gong band called "Planet Gong" which was formed with Gilli Smith and a band called "Here and Now". The only album is a live album called "Floating Anarchy 1977". This album is a mix of space rock and punk rock with a psychedelic touch.

Also Gilli Smyth formed a band with Harry Williamson called Mother Gong. They had a few albums which were more a mellower space rock with poetry sound.

Daevid Allen also had several solo albums of mellow guitar, space rock music. Favorites are N'existe pas!, Good Morning and Now is the Happiest Day of Your Life. He also has a live series of albums with all sorts of different lineups. Daevid formed a few different bands in the 80's and 90's including a New York Gong band and a band called University of Errors. Gong also reformed several times in the late 70's and the 90's and into the 00's.

In 2006 Gong had a three day Unconvention in Amsterdam that was made up of all the Gong bands and each members current band at the time. Along with a reunion of Steve Hillage in the classic Gong band lineup. It displayed the various Gong sounds over all the years. I made the trip from America for the show and it was a great event! One of the amazing parts was a Glissando Guitar Orchestra featuring 10 guitarists playing glissando guitar (a glide from one pitch to another in harmony).

more later

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby Snarfyguy » 24 Apr 2015, 22:25

Liking the Pierre Moerlen-led version(s) of the band is simply a matter of taste - and that stuff is not to my taste (I pretty much detest Allan Holdsworth).

As for your factual recitation, all of that is true; I just didn't have time to explore all the nooks and crannies in my opening post. I do have just about all of those records and they're variously enjoyable.

I recall reading Daevid Allen saying somewhere that on one evening in the late 70s in Paris London there were no less than four different versions of Gong playing, which is only moderately implausible, which is to say, point taken.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby pcqgod » 24 Apr 2015, 22:29

Hightea wrote:Wow two people now picking on the Pierre Moerlen's Gong albums. I will not be the third. First off multiple Gong members have changed several times over the life of Gong and actually there are several other gong bands. Pierre had all the right to keep the Gong torch going and did after two albums change the name to "Pierre Moerlen's Gong". He kept the Gong name on the first two albums because Gong still had a deal with Virgin Records (so he did D Allen a favor by completing them) Secondly, this was not boring unless you can't handle an instrumental album. I will go on record as stating Expresso II is one of the finest Fusion albums I've heard. Expresso II has three talented guitarists on it (Allan Holdworth, Mick Taylor(yes of stones fame-only on one song) and Bon Lozaga. It also has Darryl Way (Curved Air on a track or two). Was luck to catch this band live in 1980 and they played an great show loved the dueling marimbas and xylophones. Bon Lozaga actually continued this sounding band by changing the name to Gongzilla.

Secondly, in the late 70's Daevid Allen formed another Gong band called "Planet Gong" which was formed with Gilli Smith and a band called "Here and Now". The only album is a live album called "Floating Anarchy 1977". This album is a mix of space rock and punk rock with a psychedelic touch.

Also Gilli Smyth formed a band with Harry Williamson called Mother Gong. They had a few albums which were more a mellower space rock with poetry sound.

Daevid Allen also had several solo albums of mellow guitar, space rock music. Favorites are N'existe pas!, Good Morning and Now is the Happiest Day of Your Life. He also has a live series of albums with all sorts of different lineups. Daevid formed a few different bands in the 80's and 90's including a New York Gong band and a band called University of Errors. Gong also reformed several times in the late 70's and the 90's and into the 00's.

In 2006 Gong had a three day Unconvention in Amsterdam that was made up of all the Gong bands and each members current band at the time. Along with a reunion of Steve Hillage in the classic Gong band lineup. It displayed the various Gong sounds over all the years. I made the trip from America for the show and it was a great event! One of the amazing parts was a Glissando Guitar Orchestra featuring 10 guitarists playing glissando guitar (a glide from one pitch to another in harmony).

more later


Thanks. Very interesting.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby C » 24 Apr 2015, 22:45

Yes we know all that Hightea but...

No Daevid

No Gong









;)
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby ConnyOlivetti » 25 Apr 2015, 07:52

there is this one, a transitional album...
without Daevid, but really good imho

Image

"The album was written and recorded without the group's founder member Daevid Allen, and consequently sounds different with none of the hippy flavoured eccentricities of the previous albums. However, it still has a generally progressive rock-influenced approach (especially with regards to Steve Hillage's guitar work), slowly drifting into a jazz fusion sound. It is usually regarded as a transitional album between Daevid Allen's incarnation of the band and the Pierre Moerlen-led fusion lineup of the late 1970s. The album was produced by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. The production values of the recording were superbly engineered under Mason's watchful eye. The album was a favorite on the turntables of many audiophiles of the time."
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby Neige » 25 Apr 2015, 10:08

ConnyOlivetti wrote:there is this one, a transitional album...
without Daevid, but really good imho

Image

"The album was written and recorded without the group's founder member Daevid Allen, and consequently sounds different with none of the hippy flavoured eccentricities of the previous albums. However, it still has a generally progressive rock-influenced approach (especially with regards to Steve Hillage's guitar work), slowly drifting into a jazz fusion sound. It is usually regarded as a transitional album between Daevid Allen's incarnation of the band and the Pierre Moerlen-led fusion lineup of the late 1970s. The album was produced by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. The production values of the recording were superbly engineered under Mason's watchful eye. The album was a favorite on the turntables of many audiophiles of the time."


Yep, I rate this one very highly too.

(on the other hand, I'm with Snarf regarding Allan Holdsworth :P )
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby C » 25 Apr 2015, 16:05

In 1992 Daevid returned to lead Gong and released the fine album Shapeshifter which featured the original tub thumper Pip Pyle and Didier Malherbe.

Two excellent additions to the band - Shyamal Maitra on tabla, ghatam and all things Indian and the violinist Graham Clark.

The album featured the main character Zero the Hero continuing the Gong mythology- the central part of which was formed with the Radio Gnome Trilogy of albums.

Very much in the vein of the 70s albums with a 'modern' tinge but still with the indelible mark of Daevid and all things Teapot!

Here's a couple of samples:





An album I would definitely recommend if you haven't ventured beyond the 70s studio Gong albums









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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby Snarfyguy » 25 Apr 2015, 16:31

I never did get around to Shapeshifter. The first clip above is sounding very good though. I really ought to clean up the loose ends in my collection.

What was Gong Maison? I had the impression it was some kind of hybrid electronic dance thing, which scared me off.

And I still haven't heard/got the one with Hillage from a couple of years back OR the last one. :|
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby billy » 26 Apr 2015, 11:50

ConnyOlivetti wrote:there is this one, a transitional album...
without Daevid, but really good imho

Image



Absolutely agree.

This live work up of some of the tracks that ended up being recorded for Shamal is also absolutely essential:

Image
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby Hightea » 26 Apr 2015, 19:21

C agree about Shapshifter good album. I thought it felt more a group of songs from different bands Here & Now band style on one then Mother Gong on another with Daevid Allen solo with guess on another.


billy wrote:
ConnyOlivetti wrote:there is this one, a transitional album...
without Daevid, but really good imho

Image



Absolutely agree.

This live work up of some of the tracks that ended up being recorded for Shamal is also absolutely essential:

Image


I agree these are both excellent Gong albums and era.




By the mid 2000's Gong had so many branches that they can pull off the
GONG -UNCONVENTION AMSTERDAM 2006 - here is a list of the schedule of bandS:
Image
Some notes:

Hadouk trio - Didier's jazz trio.
MotherGong - Gilli Smith's band
Gliss Orchestra - 10 guitars all play gliss guitar
Here & Now - New Age Punk
Acid Mothers Gong - Acid Mothers Temple is a Japanese band that has played with Daevid Allen
Eat Static -techno
System 7 - Hillage's techno band
Sacred Geometry - cool daevid allen mellow solo project
Kangaroo Moon- Mark Robson band - psychedelic music
Tim Blake & Jean-Philippe Rykiel - dueling new age keyboards
House of Thandoy - Bass Player Tim Howlett's trippy band
University of errors - Daevid Allen's band (this band reminds me of the early soft machine band)
Steve Hillage Band - first time back together since the 70's


Here is the classic lineup the last night around 2am after a killer day.


Documentary of the show

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby C » 26 Apr 2015, 20:42

Hightea wrote:Here is the classic lineup the last night around 2am after a killer day.



Nice.

Replete with Mr H on bass, Steve, Didier, Daevid and Gilli.

I saw them on this tour (I reckon the tub thumper - I can't recall his name, was the weakest Gong has had)









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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby C » 27 Apr 2015, 20:09

Gong's latest album, I See You, is very robust

Yes, very robust indeed









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Re: Beyond the 130 - Gong

Postby Rayge » 15 Jan 2018, 19:20

bump
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