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Gong - Radio Gnome Invisible Part 1 - Flying Teapot CD (album) cover

RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE PART 1 - FLYING TEAPOT

Gong

 

Canterbury Scene

3.93 | 484 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Although he can take credit for founding Soft Machine and pretty much kickstarting the whole Canterbury Scene of progressive rock only to leave that very band before the debut recording emerged AND a lengthy career to follow as a solo artist and beyond, Daevid Allen aka Divided Alien would best be remembered for the three albums that make up the RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE trilogy which began with VOL 1 - FLYING TEAPOT released on 23 May 1973 and was quickly followed up by "Angel's Egg" released on 7 December 1973 and "You" in October 1974. After three albums of pretty much leading his infamous GONG which juxtaposed his beat inspired pixie poetry with the radical free spirit psychedelic swing, Allen pretty much shook the GONG tree only to watch old members fall as totally new ones joined the ranks.

FLYING TEAPOT was the first incarnation of the much larger "classic" GONG era which would only grow larger for the following albums that concluded the trilogy. The first thing that is evident is that FLYING TEAPOT greatly expands the overarching sound of the GONG universe not only conceptually but in the lineup expanding from a mere five band members to a whopping nine which would include newbie Steve Hillage on guitar and ex-Magma bassist Francis Moze (who also contributes piano). The zany antics of Daevid Allen with his psychedelic swing band of the early 70s GONG found their greatest success and legendary status with their RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE series which initiates the great GONG mythology and is about, and i have to quote here since i could not make this up any better:

"The story begins on the album Flying Teapot (1973) when a pig-farming Egyptologist called Mista T Being is sold a 'magick ear ring' by an 'antique teapot street vendor & tea label collector' called Fred the Fish. The ear ring is capable of receiving messages from the Planet Gong via a pirate radio station called Radio Gnome Invisible. Being and Fish head off to the hymnalayas of Tibet (sic) where they meet the 'great beer yogi' Banana Ananda in a cave. Ananda tends to chant 'Banana Nirvana Mañana' a lot and gets drunk on Foster's Australian Lager."

Carrying on with the Canterbury whimsical jazz-rock of his earlier albums, the new GONG becomes laced with more surreal bouts incorporating sudden diversions into serpentine psychedelic meanderings that add enough humor to swear you really did drink too much of the magic tea and went on a Monty Python binge watch. The album begins the trilogy with an instant dip into the devilishly deviated tripper's paradise of the track "Radio Gnome Invisible" which not only includes Allen's happy hippie-go-lucky jittery jaunts into frenetic little time signature freak outs but offers a true glimpse into the entire career of the Cardiacs with this one song. Yeah, the jazzy trade offs with the freak fueled vocal capers just reek of the 80s zolo merry pronk-sters who simply added a little punk, Cockney accented attitude and an upped appreciation for the frenzied off-kilter zaniness of it all.

"Flying Teapot" the track, takes a different approach and debuts the psychedelic spaced detached segments that would become a staple on the following "Angel's Egg" and "You" with Hillage and newbie synthesist Tim Blake cranking out some of the meanest free form space jazz augmented by the sax and flute flexibilities of Didier Malherbe who stuck around for the wild ride. Allen also displays some of his most adept vocal skills as he basically raps while the bass slowly descends into a funky groove that emerges from the formless spaciness that preceded. As the longest track on the album (12.5 min) this one offers the most variety of little silly scenarios and the most adept track of blending Allen's silly psych swing jazz-rock with the synthesized space wind sounds. This one actually has GONG (the instrument) sounds in it!!!

"The Pot Head Pixies" is a pure Allen concoction most like his former albums offering a glimpse of how the stoner beatnik existed before the transition into the higher realms of the FLYING TEAPOT universe which is followed by the short "The Octave Doctors And The Crystal Machine" which contrasts by going purely space synth. The true treat of the album comes at the end with the one / two punch of "Zero The Hero And The Witch's Spell" immediately followed by the behexing charm of "Witch's Song / I Am Your Pussy" which together display the most sophisticated songwriting chops of the new band that show the evolution from the actors playing their respective parts to coming full force into a bona fide tour de force of a band sound that is the perfect teaser for the album's that follow. The former actually sounds more like a Pink Floyd track before it totally morphs into some fantastical tribal pixie world accompanied by some of the silkiest and smoothest sax blowing sessions on the album.

Gilli Smyth finally gets her day in the sun after being hidden behind the scenes for too long as she totally takes the bull by the horns and offers some of the swankiest poetic prowess permissible by law climaxing with orgasmic gleeful giggling as she narrates her promiscuous escapades with the sultry psychedelic swing jazz accompanying her seductive space whispers. FLYING TEAPOT is amazing! I totally concur that this is the weakest of the RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE trilogy but the first installment is never supposed to be that highlight or that would defeat the purpose! This one is totally satisfying and the absolute perfect album to whet the old appetite for the much grander and more sophisticated following albums that push the story and sound of GONG to higher dimensions. If this had been as good as those albums, the band would have blown their wad on this one album. Personally this one has been the hardest to get into mostly due to its poorer production compared to the next two, however this is one helluva fun album that is absolutely brilliant. If this didn't click the first time, do try again for it is one amazingly unique album even within the GONG universe itself.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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