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Gong - Shamal CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.82 | 331 ratings

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4 stars Gong dries out but still excels

Gong is a band I always associate with flying teapots, psychedelics, and general craziness to the th(c)ird degree. With the interim Shamal line-up lacking the members primarily responsible for the madness, this album is a complete departure from such antics. The sound is a drier jazz-fusion one that makes the album cover wonderfully appropriate. Yet it is not without life or joy, in fact, this is some pretty spicy and inspired stuff that I will turn to often. The fine production by Floyd's Nick Mason gives Shamal a sheen that make it acceptable even to today's picky ears.

Shamal consists of 5-9 minute tracks of sometimes scorching fusion, the product of amazingly proficient playing combined with discipline and spirit. I'm mystified by those who find the record lifeless or without direction, I think it works very well--both in terms of overall feel and individual composition. Atop the base fusion sound are wonderful dressings of flute and saxophone, violin, and exotic percussions. These sounds send the songs off to occasional Eastern motifs or Mike Oldfield styled meditations. Highlights are everywhere, from the delightfully sentimental and plain-hearted vocal that begins "Wingful of Eyes" to the gorgeous flute works of "Bambooji." The 9-minute closing title track reminds me a bit of Nucleus with the horn work woven into the fantastic bass/drums of Howlett and Moerlen--some of these drum fills will drop your jaw. Guest female vocals in a rhythmic, laid back style provide yet another texture to interest those who are not necessarily just jazz aficionados, giving the work a more rounded appeal that many jazz-rock albums possess.

Internal conflicts or not, Shamal is an album that feels remarkably satisfying to me as a casual jazz-rock fan. It provides exciting playing and enough variations to please a wide swath of progressive rock fans. I can't imagine Gong fans being disappointed here unless they insist of the humor/weirdness aspect of the earlier recordings. A bit below 4 stars but rounded up with enthusiasm.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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