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GILGAMESH

Gilgamesh

Canterbury Scene


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!

One of the lesser known Canterbury Scene bands that churned out also a pair of albums before slowly fading away into the jazz scene, where most of the members originated from anyway. Lead by keyboardist Alan Gowen, the mostly-instrumental quartet also comprises guitarist Phil Lee, bassist Jeff Clyne and drummer Michael Travis, and also gets some vocal help from The Northette's very own Amanda Parsons (see Hatfield and National Health). This last addition is generally not a good news for me, because personally the trio's vocal prowess irritate my eardrums severely, and here, Mrs Parsons does the job all by herself. Produced by former Hatfield and Egg man Dave Stewart, the album was released in the summer of 75 and came with a fun but un-esthetical artwork featuring a "get-your-band-to-the-top" game that only makes sense on the vinyl size sleeve.

Musically, Gilgamesh is fairly close to the afore-mentioned Hatfield and MH bands, despite having less common musical members than those two. Gowen's wide array of then-current keyboards (fuzz organ and Rhodes mainly) is unsurprisingly the band's main feature, since he's the main composer (all but two tracks), but Phil Lee's guitar gives him some very powerful replies. As you'd easily guess with such a virtuoso band, Clyne and Travis are definitely holding their own in the rhythm section. Musically, the album is your typical JR/F with that no-less typical Canterbury twist, so the proghead should know exactly what to expect, although we're definitely sonically closer to the later-70's cooler and more aloof sounds, rather than the early-70's steaming hot sonic washes (ala Soft Machine), but a certain compositional twist, rather than improvisations. The track list includes three three-movement suites, but they are more like three normal compositions, voluntarily broken down to pieces for writing credit reasons, IMHO anyway. The A-side is somewhat more democratic in that regard, as Lee and Clyne manage to unweave Gowen's homogeneity, so present on the flipside, but the songwriting differences are not immediately striking.

This debut album had to wait 35 years (to my knowledge, anyway) before receiving a CD reissue (or any other kind for that matter), but Esoteric Records finally repaired this flaw, but didn't find any bonus, but provided solid liner notes (courtesy of the excellent Sid Smith, so Gilgamesh's debut is THE reference of the band, even if Cuneiform's Arriving Twice posthumous release is just as important to this writer's ears.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#2894)
Posted Friday, February 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars A good showcase for Alan Gowens talents. His early demise was a loss. (His final release 'Before a word was said' is a great album).

On this first Gilgamesh release it all sounds as if it was played on poor equipment, Nevertheless , it contains some great moments. Phil Lee is much more of a jazz player than Phil Miller was in the 70's and it shows. However the 'Frpipish' tone of Phils guitar on 'One end more' is excellent.

The CD contains some meaty bass playing by Jeff Clyne who was later to form 'Turning Point'. ( How I wish their releases were available on CD) Recommended for anybody who enjoys National Health , Hatfield & the North and Isotope

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Send comments to platform (BETA) | Report this review (#2895)
Posted Monday, March 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
pgaudy@sympat
5 stars one of the best exemple of the super smart progressive rock era.before everybody started to make music for money,there was a time in history when professional musiciens were experimenting to the limit of the possible in search of the real expression of oneself.unfortunatly it was to complicated for the average listener,that's how great they were!

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#2896)
Posted Thursday, December 02, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars The first work of GILGAMESH released in 1975 "Gilgamesh". The content is a Canterbury jazz-rock. It is a good work it keeps elegant and with technical and the humour, too. All tunes are instrumental. Personally, it very likes a graceful point because of a deliberate making crowding. Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music.

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Send comments to braindamage (BETA) | Report this review (#54461)
Posted Wednesday, November 02, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is another beautifully intricate album from the canterbury school sounding very close stylistically to Hatfield and the North and National Health, the main detectable differance to me being that this compositionally is a little closer to jazz fusion and it seems Alan Gowen composes longer riffs leaning more toward bebop rather than baroque(ala Dave Stewart). The musicianship ranges from beautiful and gentle to highly evolved and dazzlingly intricate fusion with bass, drums, keys and guitar weaving through the numbers with elegant and detailed interaction; pushing each other; sometimes going just a bit outside but never far. This is musicians music with a fine sense of conterpoint and great awareness of each instruments capabilities and textures. This is an often overlooked instrumental masterpiece revealing some of the very best that the canterbury scool had to offer!

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Send comments to wooty (BETA) | Report this review (#57225)
Posted Sunday, November 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think that if Soft Machine had not called one of their best songs as "Slightly all the time" (Third, 1970) this would have been certainly the title of this fantastic album. Infact the sound stuff runs very slightly across all the tracks of Gilgamesh through a wonderful harmony and equilibrium...

This is one of my prefer groups, together with Hatfield And The North, National Health, and so on. They are inhabits of the Olympus of the music, where the business doesn't matter, or at least it doesn't influence the experimental outcome...And an important place of the Olympus is reserved to Gilgamesh, a place which is very close to Hatfield And The North's one. Yes...Of course in here lacks the fabulous voice of Richard Sinclair (this is an instrumental record), ...and something else... , but the beauty of this album, supported by the Alan Gowen's genious, reaches exellent points of mastery and ability in making music, CANTERBURY MUSIC...

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Send comments to Gigi (BETA) | Report this review (#74342)
Posted Friday, April 07, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm taking a stab at a band that is not necessarily part of the "canterbury fraternity". Gilgamesh, nevertheless, have ties with core canterbury musicians and it reflects in the sound of the album. Gilgamesh are stripped down production-wise like Soft Machine, without thier grit; they are prestine like a refined fusion band. The core of the canterbury sound is present without usual bells and whistles like vocal and wind-instrument overdubs. Keyboardist and chief composer, Alan Gowen, opts for a fusionists keyboard arsenal. Natural sounding Fender Rhodes (rather than effected Rhodes), is his keyboard of choice throughout almost all of the album. Analog Synthesizer is used in areas that would have been reserverd for fuzz-organ by guys like Dave Stewart. He rounds out his keyboard sounds with Piano, Clavinet, and Melletron, but these are used very scarcely. Phil Lee displays Gilgamesh's fusionist refinement on his instrumental solo, "For Absent Friends". On this piece, Lee plays classical guitar with a tenderness that canterbury guitarists can't even touch. The fact that he can switch from violin-like soloing on the first peice, to this, is a testament to his dexteriry. Michael Travis should not be ignored either. He plays very filling drums, thickening and balancing out the sparseness of the album. Overall, this album is very beautiful. Gowen and Lees interplay are the core of the songs. They do not rely on the usual Canterbury sound trickery to carry the listerner's attention. They, instead, rely on a cohesion and touch that is usually only present in jazz and classical musicians. The only track that is lacking is, "We are all". There is a funky clavinet section in the peice that seems completely out of place on the album. The track sadly upsets the prevailing mood of the album; a mood that is dreamy in a way that has not been dispayed quite the same in canterbury music. The album it is dreamy in a more literal way, as if you are hearing the twists and turns of an actual dream. If you want to hear Canterbury pulled far into the American-fusion realm, gives this album a try. For a guy like me, that has grown out of the psychedlic tinges of some of the Canterbury scene, this album was very refreshing.

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Send comments to fragile43k (BETA) | Report this review (#151681)
Posted Monday, November 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This was just a pleasure to listen to. I had heard and reviewed "Arriving Twice" which was a collection of songs recorded prior(1973- 1975) to this their debut album. It consisted mostly of songs that are on this album. To my ears they have really gelled and seem more confident as a band on this their debut record when compared to the earlier songs on "Arriving Twice". Dave Stewart produced it, and we have the pleasure of having Amanda Parsons from HATFIELD AND THE NORTH singing on two tracks. She would go on to sing on NATIONAL HEALTH's debut. The late Alan Gowen who would later hook up with Dave Stewart in the band NATIONAL HEALTH is truly the star here. He incorporates mellotron, piano, synths and clavinet to these beautiful songs. GILGAMESH offer up a smorgasbord of tasty, intricte sounds to satisfy the listener. One look at the long song titles and one knows that this has to be Canterbury music.

"One End More / Phil's Little Dance-For Phil Miller's trousers / World's Of Zin" has some mellotron in the intro followed by those intricate sounds meshed together that are just a delight. Great interplay ! The guitar 3 minutes in is a highlight. There is a change 4 1/2 minutes in as we get to "World Of Zin" and it's so soothing and relaxing for 6 minutes ! The guitar leads the way tastefully as Phil Lee does such a tremendous job holding back, yet in the end letting go with some soaring melodies.The drumming is intricate, and we get some female vocal melodies from Amanda. The piano is sprinkled in. Amazing ! "Lady And Friend" is mellow with keys and bass for 3 minutes except for one startling outburst. It ends with a louder sound with drums joining in. "Notwithstanding" is jazzy with some excellent piano, drums, bass and guitar interplay. I just have to shake my head at how tight these guys are. Mellotron comes in early and can't be missed.

"Arriving Twice" is a short 1 1/2 minute tune that is light and beautiful. "Island Of Rhodes / Paper Boat-For Doris / As If Your Eyes Were Open" is lighter to begin with but there is so much going on. The second part is similar but louder. Keys, bass and drums lead the way. The final section is where Phil breaks out some aggressive guitar melodies. Nice. "For Absent Friends" is a short acoustic guitar piece. "We Are All / Someone Else's Food / Jamo And Other Boating Disasters-From The Holiday Of The Same Name" features some angular guitar melodies in the first part. Liquid sounding keys and light drums as bass throbs. The guitar starts to get more upfront and passionate, as do the other instruments. The next section is almost funky before the final part 5 1/2 minutes in where Amanda is back singing those lovely melodies. "Just C" is a short piano piece.

The album cover had an actual game on it like "Snakes and Ladders" with numbered spaces, and comments on some of them telling you to go forward or backwards and why. Statements like "Payment after gig in cash ! Go forward 2 spaces".Or "Drummer late for gig. Go back 1 space". "Mobbed by groupies. Go forward 4 spaces". "Guitar player drinks 10 Carlsbergs. Disqualified from game". I could see people playing this back in the day. As for the music, i'm a big fan if you couldn't tell already. 4 solid stars.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#153448)
Posted Saturday, December 01, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This would normally not be something I would like. My preferred taste doesn´t include jazzy canterbury rock tunes ( I like the Canterbury bands that are more rock than jazz like Caravan), but I must admit that Gilgamesh is pretty convincing. There are lots of fine moments on this album, and I am greatly entertained throughout the lenght of the album.

This is more jazz than rock though and the mood is pretty mellow and nice. Alan Gowen who plays various keyboards and piano on the album is the most outstanding musician in my opinion. He plays very subtle and intelligent notes. The other musicians are also outstanding. There are no vocals on the album, but it is one of those rare albums where I don´t miss them.

The sound quality is very good IMO and it helps to emphazise the outstanding musicianship.

To me this is a 4 star album, even though this is not my preferred style, I guess sometimes you find something in genres you normally wouldn´t like much that just stands out from the rest. Gilgamesh is very accesible and to me that is a plus. I would recommend this to people who like me are a little reluctant trying out the jazzy side of Canterbury.

Great album.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#159001)
Posted Saturday, January 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Kazuhiro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars If Gilgamesh fixes the position in Canterbury Scene, the flow might be very located closely to Hatfields. And, the existence of Alan Gowen is needed at the same time if talking about the music character of this band of course. Time when they had been formed was 1972. The history in the music of Gowen starts from the item of Jazz. And, Gowen participated in Sunship with Jamie Muir that belonged to Assagai. The flow develops into this Gilgamesh after passing twist and turn.

Gowen has received the audition of Hatfields at this time. To our regret, Gowen receives the sentence of failing in the audition. And, Dave Stewart passed the keyboard player of Hatfields. However, Stewart that joins the band evaluates the talent of Gowen high. Stewart might have been influenced from the ability in the composition of Gowen, too. Hatfields and Gilgamesh might have mutually had consideration. And, each other gave the listener the impression like the brother for the counterplan at that time.

The impression of the entire tune might be indeed light and be near the flow of Hatfields and National Health. The element of the suite like "We Are All~" receives the impression that Stewart took to Hatfields oppositely. The usage etc. of the chorus of Amanda Persons are indeed common to both. I think how for the fact that Stewart is related to the production of the album to have enhanced Canterbury Scene of this time. Gilgamesh is guessed that Canterbury Scene doesn't increase the thickness if this band doesn't exist naturally with fact Hatfields though integrates and flows to National Health.

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Send comments to Kazuhiro (BETA) | Report this review (#223525)
Posted Sunday, June 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gilgamesh is regarded as one of the least accessible Canterbury acts. I have had the Gilgamesh albums in my record collection for the best part of one year without giving them a spin. Too jazzy/difficult, I thought. I was probably right because the music on this album is not easy to understand for me. I have my background in metal and rock.

The album is more or less straight fusion/jazz and more so than any other Canterbury band. Gilgamesh is still very much a Canterbury scene band. They have been compared to National Health and Hatfield & The North. I agree with that assessment. But Gilgamesh is more straigth than any of those two bands. They are also more straight than Soft Machine's Six and Seven albums. With straight, I mean less avant-garde and more fusion/jazz. That's why I think Gilgamesh is the band furthest away from Canterbury Cathedral if you get my drift.

The music here is entirely based on the sadly deceased Alan Gowen's tangent work. He dominates this album and that is in my books a good thing. He is helped by Phil Lee's guitars who has some excellent guitar solos. Jeff Clyne on bass and Michael Travis on drums is also doing an excellent job here. This makes this album a very good album. My only gripe is their lack of any excellent songs. I do not think this album is an excellent album. But it is a very good album, bordering to be excellent. I am looking forward to listen to the rest of their albums.

3.75 stars

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#249946)
Posted Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gilgamesh is Alan Gowen's first band featuring mostly his compositions. All songs are instrumental and are heavily keyboard based as Gowen, the keyboardist is leading the band.

The sound of the album leads mostly towards Jazz Fusion than Progressive Rock and is quite similar to the sound of Hatfield and the North or National Health, the later band also featuring Gowen and his compositions. It is a classic "Canterbury" sound - Long compositions, complex rhythms and time signatures, the marriage of Jazz, Rock rhythms and classical music.

The album is not easy to get into, like most canterbury jazzy rock, but veterans of the genre and fans of the Hatfields and National Health will appreciate it immediately. Newcomers will need some getting used to. It is totally worth the effort though.

Alan Gowen is an important figure in the Canterbury family of musicians and bands. He later went on to form National Health and collaborated with many of the other Canterbury musicians.

In short, an album that reflects the jazzier sides of an already very much jazz oriented scene. It belongs in anyones Canterbury Scene collection!

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Send comments to Utukku (BETA) | Report this review (#277164)
Posted Saturday, April 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
seventhsojourn
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RPI
3 stars While Gilgamesh was never one of the central bands in the Canterbury scene it was perhaps most noteworthy because of its leader, the late Alan Gowen. He went on to form National Health, along with Dave Stewart of Hatfield And The North, as well as Soft Heap. Gilgamesh was also revived in the middle of these other projects, the first manifestation of the band having split shortly after the release of their self-titled debut album in 1975. This album is first and foremost a vehicle for Gowen's compositions, with his wide array of keyboards forming the bedrock of most of the tracks.

In effect, it's an instrumental work although guest Amanda Parsons adds some intermittent wordless vocals on a couple of tracks. While the standard of musicianship is top-notch throughout, with some members of the band having been mainstays of the London jazz scene, it's Gowen's keyboard skills that are the main focus of attention here. Nonetheless, extensive use is also made of Phil Lee's guitars with ''Worlds Of Zin'' providing one of his most significant contributions.

The whole Canterbury kit and caboodle is represented by the album's moments of whimsy and psychedelia and it's extensive instrumental excursions. I've seen this described as one of the more difficult Canterbury albums, although I'm not sure if I agree completely with that assessment. ''Notwithstanding'' and ''We Are All...'' are the most challenging jazz orientated tracks but in the main the album is fairly approachable with a mellow, calming vibe running through most of the tracks.

While you can download this album for the equivalent of a British fiver, until now if like me you wanted a CD version you'd have to pay through the nose for the Japanese import. However it's being released by Esoteric at the end of January and can now be pre-ordered at Amazon for a fraction of the cost of that import.

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Send comments to seventhsojourn (BETA) | Report this review (#369492)
Posted Saturday, January 01, 2011 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Gilgamesh were never on the front of the Canterbury scene, even if their leader keyboardist Alan Gowen collaborated an some first class projects (as National Health, Hatfiled and The North and short-lived Soft Heap). And this band's debut is (in all the band could be described as Alan Gowen's solo project between or besides of his participation in other bands) good answer why.

Gowen is very competent keyboardist and he showed it on his collaborative recordings, but there he demonstrates his strong and weak point in whole. First of all, musically this album could be placed somewhere on very border of quite diverse Canterbury scene, while music there is quite lite and strait ahead jazz fusion, characteristic for some US-bands, or later Soft Machine's period. Gowen adds some melodic elements, but far not enough to fill the music with some content - too often pleasant sound starts in the middle of nowhere and goes to the same point in eternity.

Albums is easy for listening, but you will hardly remember even single composition or just memorable tune. It's rare example when the music, formally related with Canterbury sound, is so teeth-less and face-less. Even later Return To Forever so heavily criticized albums have more memorable songs (being much more pop-oriented). It possibly doesn't sound attractive, but possibly this album sounds a bit like Canterbury version of elevators music.

Possibly, Gowen needed in help of stronger composer, or just more personalized collaborators' work (most possibly -both). But as a result album, which starts as quite interesting release, very soon becomes just another average polished fusion collection.

Gowen's work almost in all other (non-solo) projects are much more successful. He will return to this project again later, but band's releases will never will reach high standard of leading Canterbury bands.

Still competent and pleasant listening for fans of Soft Machine's music from mid 70s.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#426009)
Posted Friday, April 01, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I dont think that there excists any album with Alan Gowen that wouldnt be great. Gowen's recording career started with Gilgamesh in 1975, when their self-named debut was released. Gilgamesh is better and tighter than eg. Rotters Club. There's no attempt of a prog-epic like Mumps was, instead there are three smaller 7-10min entirety's (One End More, Island Of Rhodes, We Are All) all of which are instant 5-star pieces of music. Lady and a Friend and Notwithstanding are also excellent 3-4min songs. Lady and a Friend starts with a calm and beatiful acoustic guitar play by Phil Lee and builds up to the end whereas Notwithstanding starts as energetic as possible. The rest of the album consists of two acoustic-guitar pieces by Phil Lee (Arriving Twice and For Absent Friends) both of which last about a minute. The album ends with a piece by Gowen called Just C. This could mean either Just See or then the fact that this one minute piece consists only of c-major and menor-chords repeated by an acoustic piano. In my opinion this album is far from jazz-fusion but it isnt quite prog either. It's pure Canterbury Scene. I dont think that Gowen counted himself as a jazz musician because of his musical ambitions. His and Gilgamesh's music was far too broad to be counted merely into jazz-fusion. There are hints of classical music and blues which blend this album.

Excellent album!

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Send comments to BrainStillLife (BETA) | Report this review (#437382)
Posted Friday, April 22, 2011 | Review Permalink

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