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Gong - Rejoice! I'm Dead CD (album) cover

REJOICE! I'M DEAD

Gong

 

Canterbury Scene

3.87 | 131 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars It's always a crying shame when a prominent member of a classic rock band passes away after decades of divine musical service but even more so when two of the founders pass on within a year of each other. Of course i speak of Christopher David Allen or better known as Daevid Allen who passed on in 2015 after having founded the sounds-like-no-other band GONG all the way back in 1967 only to be joined shortly thereafter by the unparalleled space whisperer Gilli Smith the following year. It seems like their bond was strong as they traveled the space ways together and even death could not separate them. With their passing so too does the entire identity of GONG as a new chapter unfolds without two of the most unique personalities in all of rock history. After 2015's "I See You," which saw the duo laying down their last earthly performance together, the rest of the crew was given the green light with blessings to continue one of progressive rock's most recognizable Canterbury jazz infused space bands. While many fans may find this of poor taste, it certainly isn't the first time that Allen parted ways only leaving the band name to showcase other talents. The only difference now is that he won't be coming back.

REJOICE! I'M DEAD is officially the 14th studio album released by GONG only two years after the last Allen contributions and the following year after his passing however despite Allen having reached the proggy pearly gates, his resonant vocals from the past appear on the tracks "Model Village" and "Beatrix." Officially at the helm is newbie to the band Kavus Torabi of former Cardiacs and Knifefield fame on on vocals and guitar but the rest of the band remains steady since the previous release giving GONG a somewhat stable lineup despite the loss of two founding members. There are two versions of this album. The regular nine track version and another special 2-CD version with a bonus DVD. The second disc on this version has a couple extra tracks, a few demos as well as some rehearsal recordings. The DVD is an audio disc with 24/96 PCM stereo and DTS 96/24 5.1 digital surround mixes.

The album is somewhat of a serious salute to the mastermind and whimsical hippie who started the whole thing back in the 60s as is apparent by the title and soundwise the band pretty much traces the footsteps of the past and straddles through the Canterbury tinged psychedelic rock that they have been famous for since the Radio Gnome Trilogy in the mid-70s. REJOICE! I'M DEAD sees a lot of different new flavors as well as Torabi brings a lot of his post-punk sensibilities to the table most notably on the new wave guitar sounds heard on the title track. However they do become engulfed by the special guest star appearance of Steve Hillage who cranks out some retro sounding space guitar most remanent of his "Fish Rising" period and with an extended journey into the psychedel-o- sphere, GONG prove that they have what it takes to carry on the jazzed out space ways of planet GONG's most tripped out jam sessions.

The track "Kapitial" is particular rough around the edges with a frenetic heavy guitar although it's pacified by the jazzy sax outbursts of Ian East. Likewise the vocals are heavily fortified with an echoey space syrup that in tandem creates one of my favorite tracks of the album. "Model Village" offers a last of an Allen performance and one that borrows right from the Radio Gnome days with subdued space rock and jazzy brass sequences embraced by Allen's poetic prowess and another surprise appearance by off and on again member Didier Malherbe offering his most respectable duduk performance which sounds like a magic eulogy and celebration of life for his long time friend of the ages. Unfortunately the duduk does not stick around and leaves the party way too soon.

"Beatrix" is some sort of short French chanson performed by Allen by would have been much better with Gilli Smith as it sounds like something right out of the "Angel's Egg" playbook. "Visions" is a true space cadet journey into an ambient stream of synthesized sounds accompanied by a lazy sax that slowly oozes out sultry notes as the electronica slinks by with tripped out vocals joining in intermittently and serves sort of as a long extended intro to the near twelve minute "The Unspeakable Stands Revealed" which continues the tripped out space effect only the jazz-rock instrumentation tags along for the ride and thus ups the tempo. This is one of those ratcheting up effect tracks that slowly builds on itself and adds progressive electric guitar riffs, vocals chants as well as those clever Canterbury sax phrasings. The track adds a sprinkling of vocals after several minutes and becomes a heavy post-punk type of track swimming in the psychedelic sea of Canterbury jazz!

Both ending tracks "Through Restless Seas I Come" and "Insert Yr Own Prophecy" offer more of the same heavy guitar induced psychedelic space rock juiced up with jazz and flute. REJOICE! I'M DEAD is overall a fairly decent album as it carries the torch with dignity and gusto and ushers GONG into the post-Allen era well into it's fifth decade of existence as a band that turned a greater rotation of talents sort of ensemble. While this is indeed an excellent album it does lack some of my favorite GONG characteristics provided by the irreplaceable team of Allen and Smith. Perhaps my biggest complaint about this one is the poor vocal skills of Torabi as he is the weakest vocalist in the GONG history books. While getting the job done, he doesn't have that unique flair and offers no humor to the mix. That's another thing i miss tremendously is Allen's zany silliness that popped out when least expected.

REJOICE! I'M DEAD is a serious affair much in the vein of Pierre Moerlen phase despite the sound being different and tainted with vocals. Admittedly i had an instant negative reaction to this one as it was substandard to my ears compared to the great "I See You," but many listens in it began to unleash it's magic. One of the most noticeable differences is the most pumped up rock guitar with much more bravado than on previous albums. Also noticeably lacking is any attempt to replace Allen's zany antics and idiosyncratic silliness that permeates every release he had his hand in. Sadly missing as well are the Gilli Smith space whispers that add a cosmic feminine divinity to the mix. This is a pure boys club now and it really sounds like it. Not a classic but an excellent array of jazzy space rock in true GONG spirit. Allen is obviously overseeing from his unknown whereabouts. Miss the duduk's ubiquitous sound as well.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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