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Gong - Radio Gnome Invisible Vol. 2 - Angel's Egg CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

4.14 | 716 ratings

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4 stars Angel's Egg is part two of the greatest musical trilogy every created (the greatest trilogy ever, of any style of entertainment?), a magical set of three albums by space rock masters Gong (before they turned jazz-fusion), but it is my least favorite part (relatively speaking). The debut of the trilogy (but not the band's debut), Flying Teapot, is a fantastic album full of spacey jazz-rock compositions that slice through the mind as if were butter. The closing chapter, You, is absolutely amazing and is one of my favorite albums ever. In between those two albums is Angel's Egg, a third masterpiece, but a very different one. It's amazing that a band could create three amazing albums in a row, but Gong succeeded marvelously (indeed, the only stronger set of three consecutive studio albums I can think of is CAN's Tago Mago - Ege Bamyasi - Future Days set with Damo Suzuki).

Several factors contribute to this success, such as amazing musicianship, amazing compositional skills, and amazing just about everything else, and indeed these are all present in great quantities on this album, but they are not the real reason I love this album so much (just look at Spock's Beard, a band with good musicians that I despise). No, the reason this album (and the other two Radio Gnome Invisible albums) is so wonderful is the band's sense of fun. You can tell they had fun every step of the way writing and recording this album, and the result is that you know you are allowed to have fun listening to it. That liberty is what makes this album so great. In fact, it's nearly impossible not to crack up just looking at the song titles, which include such witty names as Sold to the Highest Buddha, Givin My Luv to You, Flute Salad, Oily Way, I Never Glid Before, and Eat That Phonebook Coda. Thankfully, things get even better and more fun as we actually put the album on and hear the music. Right from the opening line of Other Side of the Sky, "she is the mother of everything, and you are her egg," we can tell we are in for a fun trip, and it only gets better as we delve further into the adventures of Zero the Hero. Listen in particular to the song Givin My Luv to You. Monty Python could have written that song.

In addition to all that, this album just happens to be one of the best examples of both Canterbury music and space rock, a stunning combination. There are spacey studio effects and musical passages combined with fun and symphonic jazz. This musical grouping is what makes Gong more potent than the supposed masters of space rock, Pink Floyd (much as I love them, which is quite a bit), and thus they are easily my favorite space rock band (at least, during their space rock period). There are hints and snatches of avant-garde in here that only add to the effect as well. Also, this album must have been incredibly influential, because I can here parts of it in post Phil Shulman (post Octopus, in other words) Gentle Giant. When you influence one of prog's most important bands, you must be doing something right, and indeed they were doing something right. More than something, really, though. They were doing everything right.

I have recently changed my reviewing style, and so I no longer do track by track analyses of albums, because I feel that such in depth analysis burdens the reviews. On this review, however, there is one track in particular I want to discuss in more detail, simply because it's good enough that it's earned it. It's hard to imagine, on an album so perfect as this, composed only of perfect songs, that one song could rise above the others as "more" perfect, and yet that's exactly what the penultimate song, I Never Glid Before, does. Everything I love in Gong can be found in a six-minute, bite sized portion here. There's great drumming, especially in the introduction, giving it a strong start. You're engaged from the first seconds, and it never lets go. What follows are dreamy vocals and a great sax "riff," as good as any guitar riff you care to name (especially when the vocalist starts doing a "duet" with this "riff"). The lyrics are silly and fun and altogether perfect (who can resist such lines as, "I didn't glid before"). And that guitar solo. just. wow! I'm still left speechless each time I here it. It's emotive and expressive beyond all belief. Perhaps my favorite guitar solo ever. And finally, the energy. This song has more energy than the entire output of most bands. Even when it threatens to go slow and ballad-y, the band pull out of it majestically, making it all fit as they enter one of the greatest song climaxes I know. This song is absolutely incredible, and it is this type of song that makes Gong so incredible. Other songs, like Sold to the Highest Buddha, Prostitute Poem, Flute Salad, Oily Way, and Eat That Phonebook Coda all reach heights close to this one, and the remaining songs aren't far behind.

This album is one of the very best in my collection, an upbeat and uplifting album that cements Gong as space rock legends, and part two of the greatest trilogy ever written. That's quite an accomplishment, but Gong make it seem like no big deal, because to them, writing an album of this caliber really isn't a big deal. For them, it's just another day of business as usual. This album is a must in any prog music collection, no matter what style of prog you prefer. It's funny that the one album of the trilogy composed only of short songs (the other two mainly contained middle length to long songs) is the best, given that it's progressive rock we're talking about, but nevertheless, that is the case. Gong were the best of two worlds, Canterbury and space rock, and were one of progressive rock's most important bands. Angel's Egg is a masterpiece through and through, and a must have for your collection. Enjoy! And remember, "don't come thinking through the door," just let this album wash over you and get deep within your every pore. Hold no preconceptions, just be prepared for one of the greatest aural experiences of your life.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |


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