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Gong - Downwind CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.50 | 167 ratings

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4 stars One thing about the extremely fertile music scene in the '70's was the folks were `in and out of each others sessions all the time' (to paraphrase Python!), hence even though this is ostensibly a solo album by the one Gong member left holding the baby, instead it is probably the only place you will find Mike Oldfield, Mick Taylor, Steve Winwood and Didier Lockwood on the same album.

Based around a watertight rhythm section of Moerlen on Drums and Vibes and Hansford Rowe on Bass, the album is somewhat of a mixed bag, but it's predominantly instrumentally based strengths are easily worth the investment. Two wonderful instrumentals occupy most of the old `side one', the clean cut jazz rock vibe of `Crosscurrents' and the undoubted centrepiece `Downwind' which carries on where Mike Oldfield's `Incantations' left off, to wonderful effect. In fact if anything it shows how much Moerlen contributed to Mike Oldfield's sound at the time. The favour is wonderfully returned here with a 12 minute masterpiece which is the equal of anything on Incantations' and sits alongside it perfectly. Moerlen's unique vibraphone patterns are used to wonderful effect here, as Oldfield solos on guitar as only he can.

There are parallels here with Stomu Yamashta's `Go' project; talented classically trained percussionist as project leader, but both Moerlen and Yamashta had the panache to pull it off. Moerlen proves himself to be a perfectly adept keyboardist too, playing an array of pianos organs and synthesisers. The album stops short of having a guest vocalist, (perhaps to avoid direct comparison with Go!, upon which Winwood also appeared) and whilst vocals are hardly Moerlen's forte they are not cringeworthy by any standards (Tony Williams will always hold the crown for drummers who really shouldn't have been allowed near a vocal microphone). Significant musical contributions are also made by Didiers Malherbe and Lockwood...the former being the only other `classic' Gong member present.

The Santana-like `Jin-Go-Lo-Ba' and the soulful `What You Know' are the undoubted record company pleasers, and indeed found their way onto late night FM radio with no problem at all back in early 1979 when the record was released. The majority of the album (30 of the 40 minutes running time) is however instrumental, and is rounded out by two beautiful pieces; the reflective `Emotions' featuring Lockwood on Violin, and the full blown band showcase `Xtasea'.

As a listening experience it is sumptuous, the recording and production quality is literally as good as it gets in any era, the rich instrumental textures are rendered with breathtaking clarity. Although there are no bonus tracks on offer here, Esoteric are once again fully justified in restoring a wonderfully worthwhile title to CD at last.

beebfader | 4/5 |


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