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The Gun - Gun CD (album) cover

GUN

The Gun

 

Proto-Prog

4.81 | 12 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars The light-hearted rock that was popular in the 60s and catapulted by the phenomenal success of The Beatles slowly but surely grew more angsty as the decade progressed with new bands upping the heaviness, unleashing the psychedelia and weaving a tapestry of new sophistication. By 1968 The Jimi Hendrix Experience had developed a new flavor of high arts rock and roll that mixed the qualities of blues, rock, jazz and psychedelia and bands like The Mothers Of Invention were exploring highly experimental avenues that would lead to progressive rock. While a few of these bands are household names, others who were paramount in the scene of the era somehow faded into obscurity and have only been resurrected and re-examined in the modern era as the internet allows a more complete picture of the entirety of the musical world of yore.

One of these bands that was instrumental in finding a crossroads between the standard blues oriented rock, early heavy metal and the more progressive aspects of rock that would expand greatly after King Crimson's debut "In The Court Of The Crimson King," was the London based GUN also known as THE GUN. This power trio was led by two brothers who ironically went by two names. While born Adrian (guitarist) and Paul Curtis (bassist, vocalist, arranger) with their father's last name, they would change instead to their mother's maiden name and became Adrian and Paul Gurvitz and the band also did some name changing of its own. After forming as The Knack in 1965, they would get a little edgier in 1966 by becoming (THE) GUN. Louie Farrell would also join in on drums just before the name change and the power trio became one of the premier psychedelic acts at London's famous UFO Club where they opened up for bands such as Pink Floyd, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown and Tomorrow.

Their prominence caught the eye of CBS Records who immediately signed them and in 1968 their eponymously titled album was released and surprisingly immediately spawned a UK top 10 with the opener "Race With The Devil," a feisty heavy rocker that in retrospect provided one of the earliest templates for the heavy metal rock scene that would erupt with bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath just a few years later. "Race With The Devil" is a dirty boogie rock stomper with hyperactive guitar riffs and a heavy bombastic bass and drums. The melodic charge is utterly addictive and the overall feel is more similar to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal that would emerge ten years down the road than anything from the 60s, however despite the lack of credits, GUN added symphonic and brass elements on top of their bizarre mix of heavy rock and psychedelia that also offered freaky solos and eclectic percussive. "Race With The Devil" is truly one of the heaviest songs that i've experienced from this early year. Heavier than Cream, Hendrix or even Iron Butterly, mostly because of the speedy delivery. Also notable is that the cover art was the very first of Roger Dean's long and fruitful career.

Beyond the spirited opener, GUN shifts gears and tackles a variety of different styles to create one of the most diverse sounding albums of the year as well. "The Sad Saga Of The Boy And The Bee" creates a sonorous mix of jittery percussive drive, bluesy rock shuffle and highly melodic vocal delivery which adds the surprising ending of a synthesized keyboard run on speed but in a perfect mix with the melodic march that keeps the track hopping. While the all instrumental "Rupert's Travels" takes an interesting side step with a mix of flamenco sounding guitar chords and orchestrated fluffiness, "Yellow Cab Man" delivers another whopping mix of heavy rock guitar, squealing solos, vocal melodies and pummeling percussion which laments the life of a cab driver struggling to make a living showing GUN was as much about the lyrical content as they were about the top notch musicianship that oozed out of every note and cadence. This one also cranks out some serious heavy psych blues licks that put Eric Clapton's to shame.

"It Won't Be Long (Heartbeat)" is quite the idiosyncratic piece as it displays a wide variety of highly energetic percussive madness and caffeinated guitar feedback and cacophonous uproar before calming down into a rather quirky track where the instruments and vocals are slightly dissonant from each other. The drumming simulates a heartbeat while the bizarre guitar riffs and slightly off vocals conspire to make the strangest sounding track on the album. Not only were GUN the heaviest band in town but they also crafted some highly experimental sounds as well. From experimental to more mainstream, "Sunshine" is the poppiest track on the album and sounds like it was designed to be a chart seeker. Perhaps the weakest track in terms of creativity but still a brilliant slice of sunshine pop with a pleasant melody, Beatles inspired vocal harmonies of all the members, a rich orchestrated backdrop and a nice bluesy touch of the guitars. After the penultimate closer "Rat Race" slowly drifts in with a piano driven melody and background vocals, the mid-tempo ballad begins to remind me of the Heartland rock that Bob Seger would come up with in about a decade but better. The other slower track suitable for single status.

The big treat comes with the album's closer "Take Off," the eleven minute heavy metal psychedelic prog highlight. It starts off with a countdown that counts backwards from ten with every number uttered in a different language. It is simultaneously psychedelic, progressive and heavy. On the psychedelic side it reminds me a lot of Hawkwind's future antics with speedy groove laden hooks that hypnotically propel into repetitive riffs while spacey effects swish and swirl all over the place. On the heavy end of the spectrum, the tempo is turned way up and the guitars are set to maximum decibelage, feedback fuzz and heaviness. The vocals are distributed harmonically as well and set back a bit under the pummeling instrumental overdrive. On the progressive side of the equation, the track drifts into a psychedelic haze that allows the guitar to meander independently while the bombastic bass and drum pummel away. The track becomes more freeform in the middle reminding a bit of Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?" and then a drum solo erupts before regaining full psychedelic form and going out in a bang.

Out of all the albums that are considered proto-prog and proto-metal, this debut by GUN is probably my absolute favorite as it finds the perfect confluence of many 60s styles but yet had the foresight to predict many forks in the road that would lead to the future. On the opening and closing tracks, it's so easy to hear how the template would be exaggerated to create modern day metal whereas the experimental and psychedelic elements paint a picture of several strains of more progressive forms within the rock universe. In this album's near forty minute run, so many ideas were ahead of their time but not only was GUN prescient in so many ways, they utterly rock the house with infectious melodies that are not only instantly contagious but implement the perfect instrumental interplay to guarantee the optimal heavy psych musical journey. The band would never repeat the success of their huge hit "Race With The Devil," but they would release one more album "Gun Sight" the following year before disbanding. This one is not to be missed! One of the best rock albums of the entire 60s.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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