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Gong - Leave It Open CD (album) cover



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5 stars Ah, the days when musicians strove to be innovative, original and eclectic. This magnificent album is one that must be heard on a hi-end audio system. The subtleties of sound on the title track, "Leave It Open", such as Pierre Moerlen's light percussive taps and cymbal resonances, Hansford Rowe's soft but energetic bass pulses and the colourful keyboard textures that are like brush strokes of paint, provide atmosphere for the more earthy sounding saxophone of Charlie Mariano. This piece is too atmospheric to be heard on a boom box. It must be heard with a solid amplifier boost and good speakers, to envelope the listener in a soundworld of mesmerising vibraphone and percussion, bass dialogue that sounds if venturing into an exotic jungle with wondrous anticipation, accompanied by saxophone played with a child's sense of wonder and abandonment but with a style and skill that sounds as if it was improvised by a Zen master who surrenders to become one with his instrument.

Bon Lozaga also appears throughout, adding a rock guitar sound to complement what appears to be a fusion of exotic, yet contemplative rock and fantasy. Today, this music might be found in a category with the word "chill" attached to it, but you can't categorize art rock like this, there is something here that defies trend or category, something unique that doesn't even belong in the 80's.

I first heard this album when I myself was only a child of 14. I remember how it stimulated my own imagination to venture off into another world that appeared fractal, mathematical, melodious and yet somehow coloured with brilliant hues of electric colour. It still feels as if Pierre Moerlen was deliberately trying to create such a soundscape: unpretentious, at times almost sounding stubbornly obstinate...and then a door opens into new terrain, with new ideas that invite you to explore with the musicians, to play alongside them with your inner child, awake and free.

I still laugh like a child when I hear "It's About Time", especially when the incredible percussive groove of congas, bongos, funky bass and drums suddenly stops... and we hear a door creaking open. A man says in a sarcastic but low voice, "It's about time!" and the outrageous party of percussion continues, soon to be joined again by Charlie Mariano's festive free form sax solo. A party to be remembered, as a man of 39 now remembers that party in his head when he was 14...

There is no other album like this, an extended exercise of what was seemingly begun on the album, "Time Is The Key". In fact, I would recommend buying both of these albums, as they appear to be connected to eachother like different chapters of the same book. A wondrous world of progressive fusion, yet most definitely introspective for the introspective type who likes to create soundscapes in the room while engaged in creative endeavours or multi-media work. And presented like a soundtrack to a fantasy movie...your movie.

Report this review (#54816)
Posted Saturday, November 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Pierre Moerlen's Gong - Leave it Open

Warning: This is by no means Canterbury prog, it is pure jazz rock/fusion. Pierre Moerlen had taken the lead of his version of the Gong tradition and continued to explore the possibilities of percussion instruments, mainly using the xylophone. This course was set on the famous Gazeuse/Expresso album.

The jazzrock presented by Gong is relaxing, with xylophone themes that seem to flow endlessly. The drums of Moelen are great as usual. The guitar solos of Bon Lozaga are good, but I kind of miss Allan Holdsworth here. The long opening section is a progression of melodies played on xylophones with some guitar backup. The bass lines aren't of the most important here, which is a pity. It might have made it a bid more adventurous. The keyboards used have an eighties feel, but for the time being they are acceptable. Only on How much better it has become the keys sound quite annoyingly eighties-like.

The best way to describe this record is as a flowing sound-scape. The music processes, some solo's are played, but nothing unexpected happens. Still this is a very nice record for the fusion fanatics among us. When the music is played loud a lot of it's hidden treasure is revealed! Details, great recording techniques and the best of percussions. The meditative approach on jazz is great and I always get relaxed when I listen to this album.

Conclusion. A nice record for those who are interested in fusion and/or great percussive arrangements. I will give it three stars, it's good but not essential for the normal progressive rock collection. You can add one star yourself if you are interested in Jazz!

Report this review (#239543)
Posted Wednesday, September 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars I feel somewhat ambivalent about this album. On one hand, merely hearing Pierre Moerlen's clean and steady beat gives me pleasure. Through overdubbing, Moerlen puts acoustic and electric vibes on top, and those, too, sound very pure. The problem is: you keep waiting for exciting developments in his band's music, but there are virtually none. Okay, there are tiny little guitar solos here and there, and a few brief but riveting moments on what sounds like xylophone, but when you compare LEAVE IT OPEN to GAZEUSE or ESPRESSO II (where there's so much going on you can hardly follow!) it just seems a sad, sad story. I wonder if Moerlen had been touring a little too much with Mike Oldfield. From INCANTATIONS onwards, Oldfield's minimalist-derived themes were getting more and more insipid, and now it turns out that Gong started suffering from the same disease. Some critics have called LEAVE IT OPEN meditative and relaxing, but I find it discourgaging and enervating, particularly when there's some sort of dreamy little keyboard humming in the background and Charlie Mariano plays insipid little sax solos. (Shame on you, Charlie, we KNOW you could do much better!) Do you really want to call this chill-out music (avant- la-lettre)? Surely only if you're in a second-rate shopping mall elevator, with the air conditioning going crazy! Conclusion: all those who enjoy inventive jazz-rock (Bruford, Mahavishnu, Metheny) and/or great percussive arrangements (Gary Burton, Joe Locke), stay away! If you absolutely need to buy this, you could get it as part of an inexpensive 2-disc set entitled THE ARISTA YEARS, which also includes the equally dire TIME IS THE KEY and the far better PIERRE MOERLEN'S GONG LIVE (which at least has decent guest spots from the likes of Mike Oldfield and Didier Malherbe). To his credit, Pierre Moerlen actually regained some chops in 2002, when his version of Gong made a triumphant (if short-lived) comeback with PENTANINE.
Report this review (#259435)
Posted Tuesday, January 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's a funny old world. When I first began my journey into non-Allen GONG, I picked an album at random from this PA page, and found it in an old friend's extensive GONG collection. That album was LEAVE IT OPEN. The most obvious thing to say is that this is miles away from Daevid Allen's GONG. In fact, there can be no comparison to the older GONG greats, a fact I find amazing and invigorating. This is pure chilled out jazz rock, smooth but convoluted, like churning water.

'Leave It Open' begins the album, and sets the mood for one of the tastiest albums you will listen to. Xylophone forms the base of this epic, and I think the guitar parts are a standout. As a follow-up, and using practically the same riff, 'How Much Better...' is like a condensed version of the first song, faster and shorter. 'I woke up that morning...' is one of the weaker songs on the album, but the sax work is pretty good. 'It's About Time' and 'Stok Stok Stok Sto-Gak' are my favourites, with frenetic but controlled drums and bass. "Adrien' is a pretty poor end to this album, but it calms down the mood again from the previous two songs.

LEAVE IT OPEN is a great album for those looking for soft GONG that doesn't completely trip you out. It also makes a great gateway to ESPRESSO and GAZEUSE, which are the peak of the jazz rock GONG's style.

Report this review (#298817)
Posted Saturday, September 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars `Leave It Open' marks the end of Pierre Moerlen's stint as band-leader and follows on from where Time Is The Key left off. Once again here is the readily identifiable Pierre Moerlen sound, bright Vibes and Marimbas (from Francois Causse) playing against chattering drum patterns, augmented by the ever present Hansford Rowe on Bass, and the Holdsworth-esque Bon Lozaga on Guitar. Interestingly, Saxophone veteran Charlie Mariano (Charles Mingus) is also featured here, giving a slightly more obvious jazz slant to proceedings.

Once again the meat of the album is the first side which is fully occupied by the title piece, and is a resounding success. Moerlen's music seems to work best when the ideas are allowed to flow around the ever evolving themes and patterns created by tuned percussion, and there is some exemplary guitar and saxophone playing interspersed with some sparkling vibraphone. This is a very detailed piece which sustains interest throughout, and ends appropriately enough with an open ended layered percussion solo to conclude some 19 minutes of worthwhile and inspiring music.

Once again, it is the shorter pieces on the old `side two' which prove a little problematic. Five pieces occupy the remaining 20 minute playing time with varying degrees of success the best of which are probably the very funky `It's About Time' and Rowe's `Stok Stok Stok Sto-Gak' which features muscular playing from all concerned and fine guitar playing from Lozaga, but none of it is what could be called essential listening.

In many ways this is directly comparable to the last gasp of Gong's contemporaries Soft Machine: Land Of Cockayne in that it features the last remaining member of a once revolutionary band, playing heavily session orientated music and bears absolutely no resemblance at all to the original model. Taken on it's own terms this is a good listen, but like it's predecessor Time Is The Key largely due to the first half of an otherwise patchy album.

Report this review (#512266)
Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The ugly duck of the pond? Perhaps not, but this album appears to be rather unloved in comparison with Pierre Moerlen's other works. Sure, in many places it's a lot more laid-back, almost meditative and different to masterpieces like "Gaseuse!", "Expresso II", or "Downwind", whilst retaining elements of those, nevertheless.

The musicianship is excellent, tight drums, great "angelic" vibraphones, good guitar bits and the surprise contribution by eminent Jazz veteran Charlie Mariano (saxes) fail to achieve a lasting impression. Just how is that possible?

There is nothing wrong with the music. I can only assume that the sonic qualities of the mix are perhaps too slick and rather thin, something that my old vinyl LP also displays. A real pity as it appears that the dynamics had been badly compromised in order to produce a crisp and overly transparent end product .

I like this work very much, but a thoughtful remaster would make it much more enjoyable. 4 stars as it is.

Report this review (#1157345)
Posted Friday, April 4, 2014 | Review Permalink

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