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Gong - New York Gong: About Time CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.26 | 72 ratings

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4 stars Daevid Allen + Material = New York Gong

Another one of the dozen versions of "Gong" out there, and while it has very little to do with the far out space jazz rock of the classic period, this is actually a very good late 70s album that shows Daevid Allen's adaptability to playing with different people in different styles. In this case, it's the hot underground avant-funk band Material from New York City. And this being the late 70s in New York, there's an unmistakable punk flavor to this album too. Allen, always the affably cynical observer, partakes in the zeitgeist of the times while poking fun at it, resulting in an album that's of its time but has a little bit of ironic distance from it too. Daevid had seen many scenes in many different countries by then, and while he understood the excitement of his environment, he also understood it to be just a phase on its way to something else.

As is the case with many older Gong albums, this one begins with a short sound-effect/tape loop introductory piece, here simply called "Preface". Then the band rips right into the hard-chargin' "Much too Old", where Allen winkingly rips New York City a new one. (Best line: "You can look for a place, but space is rare / Better take up smoking cause there ain't no air"). He even rhymes "Chick Corea" with "diarrhea". It's a simple, funny tune that gets the blood moving. Rather than let up, though, the band charges even harder into the next number, "Black September", an apocalyptic song about ecological disaster (from acid rain, chemical warfare, or perhaps both). At the climax of the song, Allen sneers "Don't Worry! Be Happy!" like he's Johnny Rotten. You go, dude. Always wondered where Bobby McFerrin got that idea.

Finally we get a break from the intensity, with the arty instrumental "Materialism" showing off the backing band's skills. "Strong Woman" is a laid back midtempo rocker with sympathetic, feminist lyrics from Daevid. "I Am a Freud" is the kind of Gong song we're usually accustomed to hearing from Daevid Allen, a brief bit of goofy fun that showed up often on the early Gong records.

Side Two begins with my personal favorite part of the album, the lengthy "Oh My Photograph". This nine-minute piece is actually in three parts: first, an instrumental section with a driving punky rhythm, but topped with an odd lead guitar line that seems to move in an opposite direction - almost kind of "no-wave", and really effective; second, a vocal section featuring the same galloping rhythm but a different melody - the lyrics seem to be about Daevid hating a picture of himself (?); and then the last section, a repetitive instrumental vamp that goes on just a bit too long for my liking. But those first six minutes are gold. The album continues the hot streak with a new rendition of an older number "Jungle Windo(w)", previously known as "Big City Energy" (see my review for the archival release "Camembert Eclectique"). This is a highly rhythmic ranting number featuring guest sax player Gary Windo (thus the joke in the spelling of the song title). Finally, we have another reworked old song, "Hours Gong" (aka Hours Gone, or Where Have all the Flowers Gone, or.....). It makes a great closer -- ending the album on a dead serious note, with it's funeral march tempo and firmly anti-drug message, as if cautioning the New York punk scene not to get too out of hand. It kind of works as an inspirational song to take control of your life. Right on.

I love this album and have loved it for many years; still, if it has any flaws, it's probably the relatively rough recording quality (sounds like a cheaply produced job to me), and the relatively non-adventurous music involved, which doesn't sound like it took a whole lot of time to write or record. But overall I have no qualms awarding this four stars -- Daevid Allen the veteran pro exchanging energetic vibes with some young snots from NYC, with both sides teaching the other a thing or two in the process.

HolyMoly | 4/5 |


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