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Gong - Shamal CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.82 | 331 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars With Allen, Blake and Smyth having departed, and Hillage growing more focused on the perspective of a solo career (he only plays on tracks 1 & 3), the next step to be taken by Gong if they wanted to survive as a musical unti was to display a consistent musical freedom without the guiding light of a guru and deprived of the spacey aspect that had played a crucial role in the band's sonic nucleus up to that moment... and "Shamal" is proff that the band was capable of being successful at it. Pierre Moerlen and Didier Malherbe simultaneously assumed the roles of captains and main writers without considering the ideological facet of such thing, and this meant an increase in the jazzy aspect of the band. This was something that was clearly cooking in the rhythm section and the spectacular deliveries by Hillage and Malherbe for the "You" material, but now the jazz-fusion thing came to be the refurbished essence of Gong. Mireille Bauer serves now as a new official member, so the percussive section gets more solidly enriched within the band's frame, especially regarding the position of tuned percussion at complementing and enhancing a large number of melodies and harmonies in the repertoire (together with the sax and flute, mostly) as well as creating a robust additional dynamics for Moerlen's impressive drumming. Keyboardist Patrice Lemoine entered the band in a very convenient moment, since his obvious jazzy leanings (to a large degree, Canterbury friendly) made total sense with Gong's new direction. Last, but not least, Argentinean violinist Pinchevsky displays his versatility and technical precision in the pieces in which he appears: although he only appears in 3 or 4 tracks, he would be a full time member for some time, and yo ucan tell that this guy was really compenetratedwith his partners. 'Cat in Clark's Shoes', which IMHO is the most notable track in the album, shows this in a very spectacular way. It comprises an exciting combination of regular jazz-rock, country and tango in a most delicious way, the most delicious specific passage being the tango passage: funny and majestic at the same time. Another patently exciting track in the album is 'Chandra', a Lemoine written piece that pretty much incarnates the renewed spirit of the band. On the more ethereal side of things, 'Mandrake' is an evocative piece penned by Moerlen in which the electric piano and vibes combined set the proper mood for the main melody as a floating cloud, while the lines on flute and soprano sax make the melody fly a bit higher into the stratosphere of the human heart. A beautiful theme, indeed! 'Bombooji', written by Hillage before walking out through that door, brings landscapes from the Far East. The opener and the closure are more closely related to Aellen era Gong, although it is clear that the jazzy dynamics is increased... but I wonder how the 'Shamal' song would have sounded like had it benefited with Aellen's lyrics and singing... Anyway, "Shamal" is an excellent album in the Gong catalogue, a seminal effort for the development of what was to become Pierre Moerlen's Gong, yet by then, still strongly reflecting the essence of Gong albeit with a different guise.

Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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