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Gong - Shapeshifter CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.47 | 73 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A little known piece of fun from the mid-90s

Looking at the cover of this record most people will quickly think to Gong's earlier days and their Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, and the fact of the matter is that it's not far off. While the album came a lot later than the series end it certainly has a lot of parallels that make one think that this could be the unofficial Radio Gnome Invisible Part IV. While it's not nearly as essential as those early works this one is still unique and fun, and fans of those 3 albums will get a rather large kick out of it. While in general the album is not quite as spacey as something like You it's still a rather kooky concept album (mind you, without the pothead pixies) with hard rock moments, techno moments and even a slight rap moment. Still, the Gong feel is still there, and while this is not the best album to start with it certainly shouldn't be the last one in your collection.

The actual songs on this album have a lot of charm to them. Since the majority of the songs are 6-30 second intro/outro (or filler) tunes the lengthier tracks are a great listen. Shapeshifter is the opening track after a 6 second intro and what an experience it is. A hard rocking tune with some wonderful and fast violin moments played over a demanding bass-line with a somewhat catchy chorus. While the song may not be an epic composition it does what it does well in a compressed amount of time. Other shorter songs on the album also have a fair amount of charm to them as they develop such as the clearly 90s influenced Heaven's Gate which has another canterbury groove bass-line to it, but this time the vocals are somewhat twinged with a rap feel, but don't worry if you don't like rap, given their context within the song they just come off as well done and very quirky. Another standout nearing the end of the record is the fun Elephant La Tete which comes after a long line of introductions.

Still, the lengthier songs dominate the record. Hymnalayas is likely the albums's standout with it's mild pace and wonderful instrumentations that makes it sound like it could have fit well within the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy. The live rendition of Can You: You Can is rather hypnotic in its delivery, the violin sections drilling their way into the mind of the listener while the vocals in the middle make for a nice addition. Remasters of the album also feature a bonus track, a live rendition of Master Builder entitled Goddess Invocation/Om Riff extended to 13-minutes and well worth every second.

But while the album has a number of standouts a lot of the songs are rather forgettable. Being an album with 20 tracks it can be hard to make it an album where every song is pure quality. While some of the songs are classics and some of them are simple and short filler the rest tend to blend into a spacey goo that it sometimes hard to really get into. The album still sounds good after repeated listens, but one can't help but feel that the album could have been made more concise.

Still the album is a really good one for fans and good for people looking to get a little bit more into the band. Not recommended over the band's classic material, but there's still some good stuff on here! 3 out of 5 is a good mark for this one, add another half star on there if you fancy yourself a fan.

Queen By-Tor | 3/5 |


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