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Gong Shamal album cover
3.81 | 418 ratings | 27 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Wingful of Eyes (6:20)
2. Chandra (7:18)
3. Bambooji (5:13)
4. Cat in Clark's Shoes (7:43)
5. Mandrake (5:04)
6. Shamal (9:00)

Total Time: 40:01

Line-up / Musicians

- Patrice Lemoine / pianos, organ, Minimoog synth
- Didier Malherbe / tenor & soprano saxophones, flutes & bansuri (bamboo flute), gong
- Mike Howlett / bass, vocals
- Pierre Moerlen / drums, vibraphone, tubular bells
- Mireille Bauer / marimba, glockenspiel, xylophone, assorted percussions & gong

- Miquette Giraudy / vocals (3)
- Sandy Colley / vocals (6)
- Steve Hillage / acoustic & electric guitars (1,3)
- Jorge Pinchevsky / violin (2-4,6)
- Nick Mason (Pink Floyd) / producer

Releases information

Artwork: Mustard with Clive Arrowsmith (design & photo)

LP Virgin - V2046 (1975, UK)

CD Virgin Japan - VJD-5017 (1989, Japan)
CD Virgin - CDV 2046 (1989, UK)
CD Caroline Blue Plate - CAROL 1663-2 (1989, US)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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GONG Shamal ratings distribution

(418 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

GONG Shamal reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Shamal" is a GREAT Gong's album. The instruments are perfectly balanced to produce impressive jazzy progressive rock pieces. The omnipresent percussion (xylophone, vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel and tubular bells) form magic, pleasant and charming melodies. The music is embellished by many flute, saxophone, violin and lead vocals parts. Steve Hillage provides some electric guitars on a few tracks. There are some good keyboards: piano, organ and moog. The overall music sounds a bit like the complex and instrumental work of Frank Zappa with Ruth Underwood in the 70's. There is an impressive Canterburian wah-wah organ a la Caravan on "Chandra". "Bambooji" is very exotic, with its special flute, traditional string instrument and delicate percussions: with the desert wind at the end, it evokes the culture around the Sahara desert. "Cat in Clark's Shoes" has some Van Der Graaf Generator, Happy The Man and Darryl Way's Wolf influences. "Mandrake" is a beautiful instrumental piece made of charming and celestial percussions & flutes. The last track "Shamal" is more fusion oriented, sounding like a simplified Brand X of the 70's plus some urban & sustained sax notes: it contains quite less percussions.


Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album of GONG represents my first introduction to the band, I think it was sometime around 1978. My brother, Boedi, introduced me this album that struck me at first listening. Probably, that was my first time I knew the kind of music that GONG was playing. I never heard any similar music performed by the others. At that time, I thought that GONG music is a kind of explorative in nature. Later, I recognized this kind of music is similar with NATIONAL HEALTH, EGG, HATFIELD and THE NORTH or typically called Canterbury? Sort of.

The opening track "Wingful of Eyes" was not that special at first listening. But when I l observed the style of vocal and flutes blended together, it's a unique sort of music. I was curious to know the rest tracks of this album. The second track "Chandra" is much dynamic than the first one with a soprano melody at its intro. It has varieties of vibraphone improvisation and great keyboard and drumming. I also the bass part is wonderful. Third track "Bambooji" intro reminds me to traditional music in my home country but when it is then combined with a sort of female voice, it's definitely a Japanese traditional music. I like this long intro part where pan pipe is accompanied with vibraphone sound. The music then flows nicely when drum part and electric guitar come into play. Sometime you will hear the "gong" accentuates the traditional nuances of the music. This track is definitely a wonderful track! For those of you who like the marriage between pentatonic sound with modern music, you will definitely enjoy this track. "Cat in Clark's Shoes" is another interesting track. It's very dynamic and has varieties of melody played by many instruments. Great improvisations. At the end part there is a music like those accompanying circus show. It's unique.

"Mandrake" and "Shamal" are other great tracks of this album, for me. "Mandrake" has a great vibraphone and keyboard combination at its intro. When drumming enters softly combined with unique melody of flutes it marks the overall tone of this song. Next is an exploration of flutes with vibraphone and drums at background. The music suddenly moves to higher tempo with soprano sax takes the lead melody combined with beautiful improvisation of vibraphone. It goes back again to slower tempo with flutes and vibraphone. It's cool. The title track "Shamal" is more uplifting than "Mandrake'. It has a nice bass-line at intro followed by drumming and great keyboard improvisation before overall melody was taken by soprano/alto sax. The interesting part is the keyboard play at background with the style of keyboard punching similar to JAN HAMMER style. It's really nice. "Shamal" is well-positioned to conclude the album. The inclusion of violin solo in the middle has enriched this track.

Overall, I find this album is a masterpiece and I think this was the best album that GONG has ever produced. For those of you who like a blend of traditional music with modern fusion / Canterbury, I bet you would love this album! Don't miss it. If you haven't heard any GONG music yet, try this album first! You may then move to "Gazeuse!" another excellent work by the band. Well, I think I should not be so stingy with rating. This one deserves five star! Gatot Widayanto - Indonesia.

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Gong continued under Pierre Moerlen's direction after the legendary Radio Gnome trilogy with mixed reviews, heading towards a more fusion (and arguably less inspired) oriented sound that they previously had toyed with on 'You'. Both Daevid Allen and Steve Hillage were out of the band at this point (although Hillage guests on four of the tracks) and the whimsical elements are completely absent so don't expect another 'Flying Teapot' here, but the music is still of a high quality focusing more on percussive instrumentation which really adds here. The highlight here is new keyboardist Francis Moze's "Chandra", an instant favorite of mine and still one of my favorite prog songs to this date. This song sums up the entire album very effectively and really get's the album going after the easier and moodier opening track. The rest of the album is less focused and tends to drag after a while but ends on a high note with the excellent funk breakdowns of "Shamal", the albums longest but perhaps grooviest track.

This is basically the start of Pierre Moerlen's Gong but it's very good exotic fusion overall. The follow-up 'Gazeuse!' turned out to be even better before the band declined to a more aimless direction later on. As said, this is nothing like the trilogy, but enjoyable nevertheless.

Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars My first introduction to GONG was via "Gazeuse!" which I liked very much and was one of my favourite jazz rock albums. Then I checked this out and found it again interesting although slightly less prominent. The main problem for me was Howlett's singing and I did not like it. His voice lacks the charm of David Allen's. On the other hand the instrumental part of this album is excellent, particularly for fusion fans. This is the most guitarless album of GONG and Hillage's guitar is present on only two songs. But the rest of the crew, Moerlen and Malherbe in particular shine brightly. Very good album, representing the transition towards Pierre Moerlen-led jazz fusion adventure with emphasis on percussion instruments. Actually merits 3,5 stars, but for beautiful flute playing I give 4.
Review by Philo
4 stars Daevid Allen has departed Gong and after a lenghty gap of about two years, at least a lengthy gap by seventies standards, the new, and dare I say it, improved Gong return with Shamal. By all accounts, the die hard Gong fans dismiss Shamal out of hand, while much of the rest of us consider it one of the better Gong releases. As far as I'm concerned it could well be Gong's finest album. The album is awash with lush arrangements and harmonious usage of vibraphone, xylophone and an fine array of percussive instrumentation and barely a guitar in sight, though the departed Steve Hillage does appear on two cuts. Intro song "Wingful Of Eyes" is hardly a good judge for the rest of the album. While it is musically solid, the vocals are poorly recorded which hardly aids the poorness of the whole vocal in general, not to mentioon the crap lyrics. But the album progresses like no other Gong effort and minus Allen's mindless rantings of potheads etc... it is all the better for it.

"Chandra" has often been touted as THE song of the album, but it is the B side opener, the superbly catchy and grooving "Cat in Clark's Shoes" which launches the band through a funky fused ride, but the following piece, a slightly mellancholic and very emotive turn of "Mandrake" which is a real ear catcher, and personally the high point of the album. While the title track ends Shamal on a very high note. Even the distant recorded double vocal lines of Sandy Colley, and Mike Howlett I believe, work a treat as the tune rides along a slightly dark and impressive Howlett bass line. After the long drawn out and at times very erratic work on the Daevid Allen led trilogy of Gnomes and tea pots, Shamal works wonders and is a breath of fresh air. The new Gong mix it up with fusion and a hint of Eastern promise without any of the head scratching confusion when Mr. Allen led the band.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars With Allen, Blake and Smyth having departed, and Hillage growing more focused on the perspective of a solo career (he only plays on tracks 1 & 3), the next step to be taken by Gong if they wanted to survive as a musical unti was to display a consistent musical freedom without the guiding light of a guru and deprived of the spacey aspect that had played a crucial role in the band's sonic nucleus up to that moment... and "Shamal" is proff that the band was capable of being successful at it. Pierre Moerlen and Didier Malherbe simultaneously assumed the roles of captains and main writers without considering the ideological facet of such thing, and this meant an increase in the jazzy aspect of the band. This was something that was clearly cooking in the rhythm section and the spectacular deliveries by Hillage and Malherbe for the "You" material, but now the jazz-fusion thing came to be the refurbished essence of Gong. Mireille Bauer serves now as a new official member, so the percussive section gets more solidly enriched within the band's frame, especially regarding the position of tuned percussion at complementing and enhancing a large number of melodies and harmonies in the repertoire (together with the sax and flute, mostly) as well as creating a robust additional dynamics for Moerlen's impressive drumming. Keyboardist Patrice Lemoine entered the band in a very convenient moment, since his obvious jazzy leanings (to a large degree, Canterbury friendly) made total sense with Gong's new direction. Last, but not least, Argentinean violinist Pinchevsky displays his versatility and technical precision in the pieces in which he appears: although he only appears in 3 or 4 tracks, he would be a full time member for some time, and yo ucan tell that this guy was really compenetratedwith his partners. 'Cat in Clark's Shoes', which IMHO is the most notable track in the album, shows this in a very spectacular way. It comprises an exciting combination of regular jazz-rock, country and tango in a most delicious way, the most delicious specific passage being the tango passage: funny and majestic at the same time. Another patently exciting track in the album is 'Chandra', a Lemoine written piece that pretty much incarnates the renewed spirit of the band. On the more ethereal side of things, 'Mandrake' is an evocative piece penned by Moerlen in which the electric piano and vibes combined set the proper mood for the main melody as a floating cloud, while the lines on flute and soprano sax make the melody fly a bit higher into the stratosphere of the human heart. A beautiful theme, indeed! 'Bombooji', written by Hillage before walking out through that door, brings landscapes from the Far East. The opener and the closure are more closely related to Aellen era Gong, although it is clear that the jazzy dynamics is increased... but I wonder how the 'Shamal' song would have sounded like had it benefited with Aellen's lyrics and singing... Anyway, "Shamal" is an excellent album in the Gong catalogue, a seminal effort for the development of what was to become Pierre Moerlen's Gong, yet by then, still strongly reflecting the essence of Gong albeit with a different guise.

Review by Heptade
2 stars Shamal is the album recorded immediately after the departure of Daevid Allen and Steve Hillage (who does play a few licks on this), and it shows. All that is left is a bunch of jazzy Frenchmen with no direction. Think what you will about the Alien Australian, he certainly gave the band a very distinctive musical and ideological direction, which is nowhere to be heard on Shamal. And Hillage's guitar wizardry is sadly missed. What we have here is a pedestrian Eastern-tinged jazz rock album, not necessarily unpleasant but a bit boring. Didier Malherbe does his best to spice things up with his world music stylings, but it's hard to save lame jams like these. Sure, the musicianship is incredible, but you need good compositions too. The worst part of the record is Mike Howlett's horrible vocals- he's a great bass player, but his toneless croaking (think of a worse Frank Bornemann) is difficult to listen to. The lyrics are pretty nonsensical, even for mysticism. This album sets the sterile, clinical jazz direction that the band would follow until Allen's reentry on the scene much later. Two stars for proficiency only.

Review by fuxi
2 stars SHAMAL is an excellent example of a band falling between two stools. Having lost their most crucial members (most notably Daevid Allen and Steve Hillage), Gong obviously haven't recuperated. They seem to feel the need to stick to songs with a message, but the only member left who's prepared to sing (bassist Mike Howlett) has a metallic, unpleasant voice and writes wishy-washy lyrics. As a result, virtually the entire A-side of the album is a wash-out. When Howlett keeps his mouth shut, the music promises to turn into energetic jazz-rock, but such moments are disappointingly rare. Both 'Wingful of Eyes' and 'Chandra' merely encourage listeners to use the fast-forward button. The final piece on the A-side, 'Bambooji', is a short bamboo-flute fantasy on 'Sakura', one of the best known traditional Japanese songs, but it also takes you nowhere. The B-side starts off more promisingly. 'Cat in Clark's shoes' is the sort of fast, percussion-rich instrumental Gong would execute with far more chutzpah on their next few albums. Towards the end, the track turns into a naughty little tango, with violin by Jorge Pinchevsky and a randy Italian voice muttering dark things in the background. 'Mandrake', which follows, is the most beautiful tune on the album: a lovely flute-led melody, presumably written by Didier Malherbe. Unfortunately, the final track, 'Shamal', takes the listener back to amateurish would-be funk and pseudo-mystical lyrics. Not to worry. For Gong, the triumph of GAZEUSE and EXPRESSO II were just around the corner!

P.S. To be a little more precise: Steve Hillage actually appears on two of the tracks, but his brief contributions fail to dispel the lethargy.

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars With Daevid kindly invited to step out, or his gracious bow-out over with, GonG suddenly realized that they were indeed Gong, but apparently the madness was missing, especially so that Steve Hillage, his wife and Tim Blake, the You trio, were also gone. So what's left on GonG??? Outside Didier Bloomdido Malherbe, and to a lesser extent Pierre Moerlen and Mike Howlett, we've got a brand new group compared to RGI's second tome. And musically it shows mega tons, as the unit is developing a sold jazz-rock with moods ranging from atmospheric to mad to reflective, ethnic, furious etc. On keyboards appear Patrick Lemoine from Ribeiro's Alpes, while Bauer's many tuned percussions give another twist to the new line-up. Fantastic desert photo gracing the gatefold.

Out of the six tracks, three are sung, somewhat as capable as Howlett was able to, but obviously vocals and conceptual lyrics are no concern of the new band. Their jazz-rock is highly haunting, with a tad of orientalism thrown in, and Gong can be seen as a full blown Canterbury-an group, sounding like Hatfield, National Health and a few more including Hillage, even if THE big semi-absent here. Opening on Wingful Of Eyes, where the Hillages make a quick come back, Shamal makes an awesome reassurance to fans that if Daevid is gone, Gong remains a first class group although in a very different field of excellence. While WOE and its follow-up Chandra are both sung funky jazz-rock, they are not necessarily representative of the rest of the album. A Bambooji shows us, where Extreme Oriental influence of Bloomdido lead us in a very complex tune, where Hillage finds his way through for a short but powerful solo.

The flipside returns to a solid jazz-rock where Howlett's bass plays up Moerlen's awesome drums and Bauer's tuned percussion instruments in a 100 MPH groove, while Malherbe soars with his sax, but gets a discreet help from guest (appearing on 4 of 6 tracks) violinist Pinchevski, but soon digress in an insanely complex prog tirade with crazy time sigs, and then grotesque carnival music, before reverting to the insane time sigs. Cat In Clarck's Shoes is a real tour-de-force, but one of many highlights of Shamal. Mandrake shows a slower pace and a more reflective where Didier's flute and Mireille's xylo glide on their cloud over a smooth lava rhythm section. The closing title track is yet another superb track, although the sax and violin solos (interrupted by chorus lines) are a tiny bit predictable.

Difficult to rate such an album in comparison to Gong's previous oeuvres, but Shamal is easily Gong's best album under the Moerlen- era (named as such because he will be the only constant member in the next few albums, before renaming the group to his name in order to accommodate older members' access to the name), with every new album coming after, although remaining solidly virtuoso and excellently executed, but also every time a bit less inspired. But this one is a must for the Moerlen-era.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Shamal is the seventh full-length studio album by jazz/ rock act Gong and itīs the first album not to feature Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth. The last album by Gong called Radio Gnome Invisible Vol. 3 - You (1974) succesfully mixed their psychadelic rock roots with jazz/ rock and I really found that album exciting. Thereīs a good balance between the two styles on that album which I donīt think is the case on earlier albums from the band. So when I learned that the psychadelic couple Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth had left the band I feared the balance was disturbed. As it is the balance is greatly disturbed on Shamal, but to my positive surprise it doesnīt matter at all.

The music on Shamal is in jazz/ rock style. The psychadelic elements which were a big part of the first six albums from the band are almost gone from their sound on this album. Donīt despair if youīre not particularly fond of traditional jazz though because the music on this album is powerful jazz/ rock in the vein of Frank Zappa which means that there is as much rock as there is jazz in the music. The reason for mentioning Frank Zappa is also because of the extensive use of marimba, Glockenspiel, xylophone, assorted percussions & Gongs in the music ( courtesy of Mireille Bauer). A feature which is also very dominant in much of Frank Zappaīs music ( funny enough that feature is not as dominant on his three most known jazz/ rock albums Hot Rats ( 1969), Waka/ Jawaka (1972) and The Grand Wazoo (1972) as on many of his other albums).

Shamal is full of excellent Flute, saxophone and Violin soloing but the songs are actually very structured which is a feature I greatly enjoy. This is not endless jazz/ rock jamming. While the music is predominantly instrumental there are vocals on some tracks and those vocals means a lot for the diversity on the album. New vocalist/ bassist Mike Howlett has a pleasant soft voice ( the kind of voice that gives me associations to early Soft Machine and Caravan). There are also female vocals on the album and the vocals from guest vocalist Sandy Colley on the 9:00 minute long ending song Shamal are really original and humourous to my ears. There are only six songs on the album which has a total playing time that says 40:01, but all six songs are of high quality. Not a dull moment in sight.

The musicianship is outstanding. The rythm section is tight and adventurous and I canīt help to be impressed by drummer Pierre Moerlen whoīs playing is extremely powerful and skillful. All musicians shine on the album though.

The production is excellent. Itīs a soft seventies production which brings out the best in the music.

While I found earlier albums from Gong enjoyable and the predecessor to this one excellent, Shamal really excites me and my rating is really close to 5 stars on this one. Iīll give it a 4 star rating for now though and re-evaluate in time to see if this one still excites me as much as it does now. Itīs a very recommendable album IMO and pretty challenging without being too inaccessible.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Shamal was my introduction to the world of Gong. It was the only album by this band that was released in Brazil and I won a copy of it at the time as a gift from 3 of my friends (yeah, we were just moneyless teens!). I still own that vinyl copy, for sentimental reasons. Only recently I did buy the CD version. The sound is great but unfortunatly there are no bonus tracks here.

The album was the first without their mentor and guiding light David Allen. Guitar wizzard Steve Hillage also bailed out (although he contributes on a couple of tracks). And it clearly shows. Even if the band is in fine form their sound was shifting away form that characteric spaced out jam to a much more jazz rock fusion direction. And would go even further towards that path by the next release. Not that Shamal is bad, much on the contrary, I always loved that disc. But the band changed. Didier 'Bloom' Malherbe did what he could to fill in the enourmous void left by Allen and Hillage, sometimes with the help of guest member violinist Jorge Pinchevesky. But the real strong point of the band here was the fantastic use of the percussion: new full time member Mireille Bauer proves to be one of the most skillful and creative percussionists of rock, leaving her mark on every track. the extensive use of the xylophone, marimba and glockenspiel made all the difference here.

The best tracks are the beautiful instrumental Mandrake (fine flute solos!) na the terrific title track (great bass, astonishing drums & violin and Bauer does one the best xylophone solos Iīve ever heard, if not the best). The jazz rock tunes like Chandra and the crazy Cat In Clarkīs Shoes (with a tango part that catches anyone by surprise) are the ones I found less pleasing, but are still creative nad good. Wingful Of Eyes and Bambooj on the other side are melodic but shows the band a little lost. Teh production, done by Pink Floydīs drummer Nick Mason, is very good.

Conclusion: a very fine album, even if a little uncharacteristic. My rating lies between 3,5 and 4 stars. But for personal reasons I will give it four solid ones. Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection indeed!

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Gong dries out but still excels

Gong is a band I always associate with flying teapots, psychedelics, and general craziness to the th(c)ird degree. With the interim Shamal line-up lacking the members primarily responsible for the madness, this album is a complete departure from such antics. The sound is a drier jazz-fusion one that makes the album cover wonderfully appropriate. Yet it is not without life or joy, in fact, this is some pretty spicy and inspired stuff that I will turn to often. The fine production by Floyd's Nick Mason gives Shamal a sheen that make it acceptable even to today's picky ears.

Shamal consists of 5-9 minute tracks of sometimes scorching fusion, the product of amazingly proficient playing combined with discipline and spirit. I'm mystified by those who find the record lifeless or without direction, I think it works very well--both in terms of overall feel and individual composition. Atop the base fusion sound are wonderful dressings of flute and saxophone, violin, and exotic percussions. These sounds send the songs off to occasional Eastern motifs or Mike Oldfield styled meditations. Highlights are everywhere, from the delightfully sentimental and plain-hearted vocal that begins "Wingful of Eyes" to the gorgeous flute works of "Bambooji." The 9-minute closing title track reminds me a bit of Nucleus with the horn work woven into the fantastic bass/drums of Howlett and Moerlen--some of these drum fills will drop your jaw. Guest female vocals in a rhythmic, laid back style provide yet another texture to interest those who are not necessarily just jazz aficionados, giving the work a more rounded appeal that many jazz-rock albums possess.

Internal conflicts or not, Shamal is an album that feels remarkably satisfying to me as a casual jazz-rock fan. It provides exciting playing and enough variations to please a wide swath of progressive rock fans. I can't imagine Gong fans being disappointed here unless they insist of the humor/weirdness aspect of the earlier recordings. A bit below 4 stars but rounded up with enthusiasm.

Review by friso
2 stars This is a transitional album between Deavid Allen & Gilli Smith's Gong and the later fusion group of Pierre Moerlen's Gong. Though mostly instrumental jazz-rock with a minor progressive sauce, it does actually have some traces of the psychedelic and humorist ways of 'Radio Gnome' trilogy. It does however have neither of the production virtues of 'You' or 'Gazeuse', nor does is have much memorable song-writing / composition. Actually, I'm quite surprised by the ratings here. The loops and patterns on marimba and vibraphone don't do much to me, nor do the poor vocal lines. The wind instruments by Didier Malherbe are however a blessing and the Canterbury style organ's and synths are also quite nice. Pierre Moerlen's Gong would produce no album that I found worth keeping, though I really tried to like this one and 'Gazeuse', because of the Gong name and the good artwork.
Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Shamal is first Gong album without Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth and almost without Steve Hillage. Recorded right after You ( and after the end of great Gong Trilogy), it is change in direction.

Instead of Allen's Gong psychedelic Canterbury sound you will find there some transitional music. Psychedelia ( both with Allen and Gilli vocals and Hillage guitar) is almost gone, but jazz-rock is filling it's place. Whenever the musicians generally are all great, instrumental part of album sounds very competent. Main problem is Howlett vocals, which isn't good, and doesn't fit at all.

Another problem is that the album is unfocused: some separate music pieces are great, but they all are just placed in the bag without any idea or direction. Still not real jazz fusion of later Gong, the music is more early jazz-rock with plenty of pleasant and interesting moments.

All in all, that album is not bad at all, but plays some transition role by the way to non-Allen Gong. Instrumental pieces are from interesting to great. And all album isn't boring at all because it is different enough.

Must have for every Gong fan.Strong 3,5.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Shamal is generally considered a transitional album between Allen's Psychedelic/Space Rock and Moerlen's Jazz Rock/Fusion incarnation of the band. Most of the The Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy band is still in place, with the exception of Daevid Allen, Tim Blake and Gilli Smyth, and they definitely manage to do a great job even without Allen's theatrics.

The album cover is very representative of the 40 minute worth of music incorporated within the album. It's basically a rare mix between psychedelic music and light jazz rock that I kind of wish that the band would continue to explore even on their later albums. This was of course not to be. I'm sure that fans of the Daevid Allen-era might have dismissed this material for the lack of space rock material but the fact is that music on Shamal has aged a lot better than anything released by the band during the early '70s.

It's a pity that Steve Hillage is only present on two of these tracks since this is the music that I enjoy the most. Wingful Of Eyes is a solid opening number but it's Bambooji where Hillage really shines with his performance. The composition starts off sounding like an oriental piece with Miquette Giraudy's smooth vocals only adding to this atmosphere. Eventually the track kicks off once Hillage adds a vital layer of his guitar sound and what we get here is just another moment of music magic! Cat In Clark's Shoes is the only piece that I consider to be out of place in comparison to the rest of the material since this is the closest that the band comes to the Jazz Rock/Fusion style that will be featured on Gazeuse and onward. The 9 minute album title-track ends the album on another highlight where the production almost sounds like something from an Alan Parsons Project record which might have something to do with the fact that Nick Mason produced this recording.

While most Gong fans seem to prefer either the album before or after Shamal, for me this represents one of their greatest achievements and it would definitely been interesting to see how this particular direction would have progressed if the band would continue even further into this psychedelic light jazz territory.

***** star songs: Bambooji (5:14)

**** star songs: Wingful Of Eyes (6:21) Chandra (7:19) Cat In Clark's Shoes (7:43) Mandrake (5:04) Shamal (9:01)

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars After much of the core lineup left after "You", Pierre Moerlen decided to keep the band going. Steve Hillage guests on two tracks but Smyth, Allen and Blake are gone. Pierre also changed the musical direction of the band to a more Jazz style, and they were very successful in this transition.

"Wingful Of Eyes" has a relaxing and jazzy start. Vocals before 1 1/2 minutes, flute too. A fuller sound with guitar (Hillage) 3 minutes in. It then settles back before 4 1/2 minutes. This is a moving section as flute joins in. "Chandra" opens with xylophone, drums and bass. It's kind of funky, sax joins in. Love the distorted organ, very Canterbury-like. Violin after 4 minutes then vocals. "Bambooji" opens with atmosphere as wind and flute blows. Female vocal melodies around a minute. Drums and guitar (Hillage) after 2 minutes with flute. Flute leads late then it ends with the wind blowing.

"Cat In Clark's Shoes" has a nice bass / drum intro. Keys and sax join in. Great sound ! It changes after 2 1/2 minutes as the rhythm sort of stops and starts. Violin too. It picks up after 7 minutes. "Mandrake" is led early by xylophone, flute and drums. This sounds beautiful. Sax 2 1/2 minutes in as it gets fuller. It settles back late. "Shamal" is kind of funky and jazzy. Love the bass, keys and sax here. Vocals before 3 1/2 minutes. This is great. The bass comes in throbbing away then we're back to that funky groove.

Recommended more for Jazz / Fusion fans than Psychedelic sailors although fans of Steve Hillage's solo works should dig this. It was produced by Nick Mason by the way.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is my second favourite Gong album after You. Not as spacey as that album but not as fusion-y as the follow up Gazeuse. Founder Daevid Allen, his wife Gilli and Tim Blake are gone. Saxophonist/flutist Didier Malherbe is the only original member here. Considering the circumstances, this is a surprisingly great album. Shamal was produced by Nick Mason but the Floyd connections don't end there. Steve Hillage's girlfriend Miquette Giraudy was an assistant editor on the film More; she also played 'Monique' in the film La Vallee.

Hillage himself only appears on two songs. Bassist Mike Howlett does the majority of vocals. Patrice Lemoine replaces Blake in the keyboard department(using mostly Fender Rhodes). There is some great sax, flute, violin and vibes playing throughout the entire album. It starts off with "Wingful Of Eyes" which has great bass and guitar as well as adequate vocals from Howlett. "Chandra" is another highlight. At the end of the song there is a very piano-like sequencer part done on MiniMoog. "Bambooji" is a very Oriental sounding piece. Even Miquette does her best impression of Oriental singing. Hillage(I'm assuming) plays what sounds like a banjo or some kind of Chinese lute. Great flute here.

"Cat In Clark's Shoes" is the closest thing to later fusion Gong here. Some nice violin in this song. There is a part where you hear somebody talking in what sounds like Spanish. The title track was always my fave on the album. It has some good funky bass and some of Pierre Moerlen's best drumming on the album. The vocals are split between Howlett and Sandy Colley. She does an almost rapping part where the vibes mimic her vocals. The best part is the middle section with violin, wah-bass and Moerlen's intense drumming. Wow.

If you like You and Gazeuse about equally, you will dig this album. It's not jazzy enough for most fusion fans and not trippy enough for psych fans. But it's still a great transitional album. Mason's production is very good. Overall a solid 4 stars.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Shamal is an interesting album from a time when Gong were clearly moving on from being the whimsical teapot-obsessed pixies of the Daevid Allen years but Pierre Moerlen's fusion force hadn't emerged from the cocoon yet. Jazzy in places, spacey in others, the album meanders around in search of a cohesive sound and hasn't quite found it by the time the title track plays us out.

Whilst the fusion elements point the way to Gazeuse, Expresso II and beyond, prompting some to consider this the first Pierre Moerlen's Gong album, there's also still moments of whimsy and some New Agey vocals here and there. This is because the album catches the band in the middle of a behind-the-scenes argument, as they still struggled to work out what to do once it was clear that Daevid Allen wasn't coming back: one faction, coalescing around Moerlen, wanted to ditch vocals altogether, turn away from their more whimsical approach (which was arguably so soaked in Daevid Allen's personality as to seem incongruous in his absence), and dive into serious fusion territory, whilst others wanted to keep vocals and a more psychedelic style.

There's a September 1975 gig that was recorded by the band at the Marquee, included in its entirety in the Love From the Planet Gong boxed set and edited highlights of which are provided as a bonus disc on the recent deluxe editions of Shamal, which illustrates what direction the band might have taken had Moerlen not gotten his way in the end: heavy on material from You and Hillage's Fish Rising solo album, it basically sounds a lot like the direction Steve Hillage ultimately took in his subsequent solo career, with perhaps a few more fusion licks to pacify the discontented instrumentalists.

In between that gig and the recording sessions for this album, Hillage and his musical/life partner Miquette Giraudy left Gong; they appear here solely on a guest appearance basis, and it's no surprise that with Hillage out of the picture the pendulum was in the process of swinging back to the fusion supporters. Steve Hillage's contributions here are decent enough but seem a little subdued and distant, as though he doesn't really feel connected to proceedings and has one eye on the exit, whilst Pierre Moerlen's percussion work really carries the album and, to a certain extent, justifies his subsequent takeover of the band's direction.

Ultimately, regardless of what you feel about this shift in the band's priorities, it seems like Moerlen and his fellow fusioneers at least had a strong idea of where they wanted to go musically speaking here, which is exactly what the band needed at this stage in time. Whilst it isn't the best Gong album from a purist psychedelic-Canterbury perspective, or the most polished from a fusion perspective, Shamal is one you want to listen to if you find yourself curious as to how the madcap psychedelic Canterbury group of You became the sleek jazz-rock unit of Gazeuse.

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars After the "Radio Gnome Invisible" trilogy GONG would undergo one of its greatest transitions of all and that would be the departure of founder and main creative director Daevid Allen and along with him everyone's favorite space whisperer Gilli Smyth. Serving somewhat as a transition album between the Allen years and the next phase known as Pierre Moerlen's GONG, the sixth album SHAMAL sort of hovers in between the spacey Canterbury jazz of "You" and the full-fledged instrumental jazz-fusion workouts of "Gazeuse!" Also departing would be Moog and synthesizer player Tim Blake. The rest of the band which included Mike Howlett on bass, Didier Malherebe on sax, flute and gongs and the percussion, vibe, xylophone and glockenspiel combo pack of Mireille Bauer would stick around for the new game in play while new band leader Pierre Moerlen would take the helm and steer GONG into ever jazzier frontiers.

Given this was somewhat of a transition album, although Allen had departed, some of his soulful and playful energies had stuck around. SHAMAL has many vocal tracks that imitate his vocal style if not matching his unique quirky whimsical approach. Steve Hillage would pretty much take off for a solo career but stuck around to provide guitar parts on a couple tracks. Patrice Lemoine would join in on keyboards as well as Jorge Pinchevsky on violin which provided a completely new sound to the mix. While Allen was fresh out of the band, SHAMAL got a big boost of production by none other than Nick Mason, drummer of Pink Floyd. Despite the presence of a great deal of the old team, SHAMAL takes a noticeable step into the jazzy rock fusion that would define the next chapter of GONG for a few albums before yet another shift.

SHAMAL has six tracks that vary quite greatly in not only style but running time. They are a mix of vocal oriented tracks and completely instrumental and often sound completely unrelated. "A Wingful Of Eyes" begins with a vocal performance and ties the new sound with Allen's eccentric past, "Chandra" takes on the role of pointing the fans to the future of the GONG universe with a direct no nonsense jazz-fusion workout. "Bambooji" on the other hand exudes a strong oriental flavor with Japanese styled flute playing while "Cat In Clark's Shoes" looks to classic Mothers of Invention albums such as "Hot Rats" for the jazz-fusion workouts. Despite the jazz oriented tracks, the space rock effect is still in full swing throughout with thick atmospheres surrounding the overall scheme of things.

While many of the fans were turned off by this changing of the tides, i for one find a lot to love on SHAMAL and prefer to think of this as a different band rather than get hung up on the identical moniker that graced the preceding run of albums that found their way in the hearts of true space rock meets Canterbury jazz fans. GONG had always had two different styles sitting side by side with each other. Allen's quirky Canterbury jazz sitting side by side with the more psychedelic space rock effects was the nectar of the gods in terms of variation and keeping the albums springing with life and pixies of course. While jazz-fusion bands were a dime a dozen during the 1975 timeline, SHAMAL shines in that it add little touches such as healthy vibraphone workouts as well as other fun sounding instruments such as tubular bells, glockenspiels, marimba, xylophone and of course even a GONG!

While i wouldn't call SHAMAL my favorite GONG album by any means, neither can i say that i don't enjoy the heck out of this roster of rowdy characters playing their souls out. SHAMAL carries more dynamically fast tempos than ever before and the extra touches that include a violin give it an idiosyncratic identity that immediately sets itself apart from the Allen years. Unfortunately i believe the worst tracks are the opening ones which find substandard vocal performances but the album only gets better as it proceeds and by the time the album ends with the nine minute title track, i feel as mesmerized by the peaceful tranquil vibe of the tracks like i've been watching a sand dune shift in the Sahara for countless hours. Musically intriguing and exquisitely performed, SHAMAL is a great step for a great band in the middle of shifting gears.

Review by Mirakaze
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars The band is captured here in the middle of an awkward transition phase. The old Gong sound is gone, and there are glimpses here of the Gong sound to come, but it's unrefined and a little dull. The uninspired soul and funk excursions don't help matters, but the biggest problem is that there are just no truly outstanding instrumentalists present (except maybe Pierre Moerlen) who are able to make these tunes come to life; Didier Malherbe is a cute little fellow but he's clearly out of his element here. "Mandrake" and the first half of "Chandra" are highlights that point the way to Moerlen's future compositions, and "Cat In Clark's Shoes" is simply a hoot. Certainly not a bad album, but most listeners will probably find more of interest in its successors, most of which prominently feature ace jazz guitar players to liven up the experience.

Latest members reviews

2 stars Missing Daevid Allen. While the band felt they could make excellent music with Daevid and Gilly gone (on break), and should have been able to, this album demonstrates just how important they were to the band in every way. Musically, the music is no longer zany and playful, but becomes more jazz- ... (read more)

Report this review (#1697069) | Posted by Walkscore | Sunday, February 26, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Shamal is in my opinion Gong's strongest lineup. This record is a masterpiece. It is rare to find such a great fusion of genres that works as well as Shamal. The record blends jazz fusion, space-rock and various other world world music genres. The lineup is run mainly by Mike Howlett, Didier ... (read more)

Report this review (#914634) | Posted by The Mystical | Saturday, February 16, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars To my knowledge, and my knowledge about Gong is not that great; this is the first fusion album by Gong and the first one in a line of Pierre Moerlen dominated Gong album. Daevid Allen was out of the band on this album. I need to brush up my Gong history knowledge, I feel Anyway.......... ... (read more)

Report this review (#315875) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Friday, November 12, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This was the first Gong album I heard and, being a fan of jazzrock with personality, I loved it. I bought the album on vinyl a long time ago and later gave away all of my records. Afterwards I bought Gazeuse! and found it a bit cold by comparison. I long felt an ongoing hankering to hear some o ... (read more)

Report this review (#162243) | Posted by Greta007 | Wednesday, February 20, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars If you are hoping for an "gong" LP, that follows from "YOU" this is a great disappointment. However if you are willing to listen this turns out to be not half bad at all. Howletts vocals are competent and his bass playing is solid throughout. Didier 'Bloom' Malherbes sax's are a highlight as ... (read more)

Report this review (#91905) | Posted by burgersoft777 | Monday, September 25, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Album released in 1975 "Shamal". Three people (Steve Hillage, Daevid Allen, and Gilli Smyth) are lost. Advanced work to new area on new member. There is a progressive unparalleled originality though it is a transition period and a shapeless work. The tone of the percussion instrument such as v ... (read more)

Report this review (#43873) | Posted by braindamage | Tuesday, August 23, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars as i have read a couple others say on this forum..this was the "introduction" if you will to gong for me. i had bought the best of before this, which was difficult for me at 1st, due to all the strange tracks like "wet cheese delirium" i didn't quite get off on that. though, there were some go ... (read more)

Report this review (#27648) | Posted by | Wednesday, December 8, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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