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Gong - The History and Mystery of the Planet Gong CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.02 | 10 ratings

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3 stars A Daevid Allen musical scrapbook

My journey into Gong territory began rather inauspiciously in 1989 with this obscure little compilation. Actually, that's not entirely true - a few months earlier, I had come across the LP Expresso (the American pressing of Gazeuse!), by the Pierre Moerlen-led jazz/fusion version of the band. So to go from that to this... it was mighty confusing for a budding prog fan like me that didn't have the Internet yet to look these things up and make some sense of it. I think I even sold this a couple of years later, but I ended up missing it, and purchased it a second time. See, though it's a pretty random pick of outtakes of variable quality, there's actually quite a few songs on here I would not want to be without.

It takes about 5 tracks before any real music happens, as the first few opening tracks are mostly little soundbites meant to provide some slices of pre-Gong history -- such as a clip from when the police shut down a Soft Machine concert in France during some student riots (with Daevid (?) having some very choice words for the cops). But by track 5 we're into the early Gong, with the lovely, live "Dreaming It", a song I have not seen on any other album, though I did see a live clip from French television circa 1971. It's a simple bass-driven mantra number, with Allen's spiritual wailing, inspirational and yearning. Other great moments include Gong's Peel Session with Kevin Ayers, performing Kevin's now-classic "Clarence in Wonderland", a wonderfully raw take on the punky "Opium for the People"; some very lovely acoustic Daevid Allen solo material like "Deya Goddess" (pure bliss; also included on his Now Is the Happiest Time of Your Life LP), the superb ska-rocker "Chernobyl Rain" (with the Invisible Opera Company)....

Come to think of it, there's actually very little "Gong" on this CD, at least in the classic incarnation of which most prog fans are aware (Radio Gnome stuff y'know). But there's such a variety of stuff here that you're bound to find something you like, even if it's a comedy skit ("Captain Shaw and Mister Gilbert"... man is that wacky), a capella group chanting ("Let Me Be One"), spoken word poetry ("The Dream", "Gong Poem"), relaxing instrumentals ("13/8"), or what have you.

If you really want classic Gong stuff, and won't accept any substitutes, you're bound to be disappointed; however, this comp still throws you a few bones with rare versions of "Pot Head Pixies", "And I Tried So Hard", and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone". But the focus here is on covering the breadth of Daevid Allen's many musical projects (not just Gong, either) over three decades. Not all of it is great, but don't dismiss it entirely, or you may find yourself buying it again like I did.

HolyMoly | 3/5 |


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