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Gong Expresso II album cover
3.73 | 317 ratings | 16 reviews | 14% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1978

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Heavy Tune (6:22)
2. Golden Dilemma (4:51)
3. Sleepy (7:17)
4. Soli (7:37)
5. Boring (6:23)
6. Three Blind Mice (4:47)

Total Time 37:17

Line-up / Musicians

- Hansford Rowe / bass, rhythm guitar (2)
- Mireille Bauer / marimba (1,2,5), vibraphone (3,4)
- Benoît Moerlen / vibes (1-6), xylophone & tubular bells (6), glockenspiel & claves (6), marimba & percussion (3)
- Pierre Moerlen / drums, glockenspiel & vibes (1), xylophone (2), tubular bells & timpani (5)

- Allan Holdsworth / rhythm (1) & lead (3,4) guitars
- Mick Taylor / lead guitar (1)
- Bon Lozaga / lead (2) & rhythm (3) guitars
- Darryl Way / violin (3,5)
- Francois Causse / congas (2-5)

Releases information

Artwork: Splash Studio

LP Virgin ‎- V 2099 (1978, UK)

CD Virgin ‎- CDV 2099 (1989, Europe)
CD Caroline Blue Plate ‎- CAROL 1659-2 (1989, US)

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GONG Expresso II ratings distribution

(317 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(14%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(51%)
Good, but non-essential (29%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

GONG Expresso II reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Just as a starter, this album wears the number II after its name, because Gong's previous album Gazeuse was marketed Stateside as Expresso. By the time of release of this album, Gong didn't have much to do with the unit that had recorded the RGI trilogy: they were more of rhythm section waiting for frontmen to come in the forefront. Don't get me wrong I wouldn't call this line-up Sly & Robbie (they're much too good for that), but let's face it: three percussionists and a bassist make the core of the Gong. Sure some very prestigious guest such as violinist Darryl Way or guitarist Holdsworth or more surprisingly ex-Stone Mick Taylor just to mention these few. And one wonders why Daevid was trying to get the name back. I'm not too sure how they went along, but this line-up's next album would go on to record as Pierre Moerlen's Gong and produce another string of albums under that moniker.

What strikes in this album is that we have already the first draft of Gongzilla and the music is extremely percussive, sounding a bit like Maneige circa Libre Service. Although at first one is taken aback with the aptly titled Heavy Tune that sounds like a quasi metallic blues-rock, with two guitars in tow, Holdsworth on the rhythm and Taylor pulling a brilliant solo on lead. The lengthy Sleepy is also quite a fine track and doesn't bear its name well as is Boring, which sports some of violist Darryl Way's best works ever, both sounding very Maneige like, if you'll except the violin. Another highlight is the 7-min+ Soli, which gives a few good examples of it. But overall, if you don't appreciate vibraphones or xylophones, you'd better steer clear ofd this album because it is loaded with them, which renders the music lively, but also tends to make the different tracks a bit uniform.

As can be obviously deducted, Expresso II is yet another fine jazz-rock album with many moments but its good dose of heard-elsewhere developments, the interest of every new album from Gong was getting lesser, partly because of the amount of groups that were around were becoming quite a crowd stepping on each other's toes, partly because musically, all the grounds that were to be discovered were for a while now. As flawlessly played as Expressso can be, even if Gong has their own typical sound and intricacies, they were sounding like "just another jazz-rock/fusion group" and therefore were losing much interest of many, and to the light of this album, I'd say that this was slightly unfair, but then again the same can be said of many other JR/F albums of these years. And things would get even harder with the passing of the decade, once these groups tried to adapt to the new decade by "innovating" on such ugly instruments so typical of the 80's, therefore starting to lose their soul. Anyway, coming back to this album: hardly essential, yet eavesdropping on it every now and then seems like a much tempting idea.

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a Gong album of the fusion period. It is fully instrumental. It seems there are no keyboards. This record has a pretty original fusion tendency, without spacy textures, and with a rather "drums & percussion" preponderance. The elegant, magic and sophisticated mixes of xylophone, vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel and tubular bells are absolutely delightful: they occupy a substantial place, since they are played by 3 musicians. Compared to Ruth Underwood's or Ed Mann's performance, the percussions here are more melodic and they less consist in the same note played many consecutive times at an infernal speed: so, many notes are more sustained and resonant. The drums are quite fast & refined. There are some excellent violin parts, especially on "Soli", a courtesy of Darryl Way. On "Heavy tune", the electric guitar solos rather have the Steve Hillage's style: these solos are not from Holdsworth: it has not his style. Holdsworth's electric guitar solos on "Sleepy", "Soli" and "Three blind mice" are excellent. On "Sleepy", there is a wah-wah bass arrangement(if i'm correct)which sounds like the one Goblin use on the "Suspiria" album.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Zac M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Excellent mallet percussion-induced fusion. My main problem here is that Alan Holdworth is not as prevalent on this release as he was on the last Gong album (Expresso I or Gazeuse). That being said, this is still a great album, and worth checking out. Pierre Moerlen is an outstanding drummer and percussionist. All the other players are really top- notch and experienced as well and blend well with each other; you can tell. Do not be fooled though, this is nothing like the Psychedelic Gong with Daevid Allen. This is an entirely instrumental album. In the end, it all works out and this album ends up being an excellent latter period work, but is still not as good as Gazeuse, though both are recommended.
Review by fuxi
4 stars This is one of the best prog-fusion albums I know. Many fusion albums devised by prog rockers achieve amazing results with a line-up of guitars-keyboards-bass-drums (the classic Bruford and Brand X albums, for example) but there are none that consistently use guitars-bass-drums AS WELL AS vibraphone-xylophone-marimba, and to such sensational effect as well! None, apart from Pierre Moerlen's Gong (and their natural successor Gongzilla), and with EXPRESSO II this band delivered their most varied, most exciting album. "Sleepy", for example - the final piece on ESPRESSO's original A-side - is a masterpiece in miniature. Not only do Pierre Moerlen (drums), his brother Benoit (vibes and marimba), Mireille Bauer (vibes), Hansford Rowe (bass), Francois Causse (congas) and Bon Lagaza (rhythm guitar) get their chances to shine; there are also terrific solos on violin and electric guitar, by Darryl Way and Allan Holdsworth respectively. Believe me, EXPRESSO II is worth buying for this terrific track alone. But in fact most of the rest of the album is just as exciting. The only percussion-driven albums I know which resemble EXPRESSO II's energy and melodiousness are Gary Burton's mid-1970s albums on the ECM label (particularly THE NEW QUARTET, PASSENGERS and RING). But then Burton only had a single vibes player, i.e. himself...

In conclusion, I recommend this album without hesitation to anyone who enjoys busy, multi-coloured, jazzy (but never cacophonic) instrumental prog.

Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Expresso II looks like a natural follow-up to the previous Gazeuse! album, which had been issued in US as Expresso (I guess the Yanks did not like the French title so decided to name it after the opening track). We are still in the deep jazz-rock territory and the percussion trio (Mireille Bauer, Pierre and Benoit Moerlen) is still musically dominant.

However, this album slightly differs. Malherbe's woodwinds are gone, along with the only remnant of the old classic line-up. Enters Hansford Rowe! Previously a complete anonymous to me, this guy shows that he was a top bass player in his time, reminding me often to Jaco Pastorius or even Chris Squire. He plays amazingly good, utilizing various pedal effects and often keeping the main melodic line, be it as riff chords or soli.

The guest list is no less impressive. Among well-known personalities we find here guitarists Mick Taylor (ex-Mayall's BLUESBREAKERS, ROLLING STONES) and Allan Holdsworth (unlike the previous album, here as a guest only) and violin player Darryl Way (ex-CURVED AIR). Taylor's heavy blues guitar colors the opening Heavy Tune while Holdsworth shines in a few brief but excellent moments in Sleepy (together with Way's Vivaldian violin craze) and Soli.

Unlike Gazeuse, which is more spacey and atmospheric fusion record, Expresso II sounds more down-to-earth, juicy and hard jazz-rocking. Truncated to only four rhythm section members (3 percussionists and a bassist!) as a core, GONG is still an excellent team that shows those people who easily dismissed them after departure of Allen and Hillage were not right. Sure, the music is very different but isn't just that the main point? To be different and yet to remain true to themselves. Pierre Moerlen continued to pursue the similar musical direction under the name PIERRE MOERLEN'S GONG after this album. This makes the last GONG studio album of the continued career of the band during the 70s, and it could hardly be the better farewell party. Another unjustly overlooked prog gem cries to be re-discovered.


P.A. RATING: 5/5

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars GONG imploded after releasing "You" , their best album up to that point. Drummer Pierre Moerlen continued with the band name but changed to a Jazz / Fusion style. I must admit i'm a huge fan of the three albums that followed "You". First up was "Shamal" followed by "Gazeuse" then this one "Expresso II". They're basically a four piece band at this point with three guest guitarists, a violinist and a congas player helping out. Interesting to have Mick Taylor from THE ROLLING STONES here playing lead guitar on one track, as well as Allan Holdsworth on three songs. A fairly unique sound here overall as there are no keyboards but plenty of xylophone, marimba and vibes. American Hansford Rowe is excellent on bass, very prominant along with Pierre on drums.

"Heavy Tune" is just that once Holdsworth comes in on rhythm guitar and Taylor plays leads over top. Some good contrasts here between the guitar sections and the drums, vibes and marimba parts. Amazing tune. "Golden Dilema" is led early by drums, bass and vibes. Guitar before a minute. It's all very uptempo and intricate. It settles with guitar and bass after 2 minutes. Rhythm guitar (Hansford) is back as another guitar (guest Bon Losaga) solos over top 3 minutes in.

"Sleepy" sounds amazing when Darryl Way comes in on the violin. Intricate guitar from Holdsworth before 4 minutes. It kicks in before 5 minutes with drums, violin and vibes outfront. So good. The bass leads before 6 minutes. "Soli" opens with bass, cymbals, vibes then guitar. The guitar is excellent from Holdsworth later on, drums too. "Boring" sounds so good after 3 minutes as they really start to groove. Some good violin on this one too. Check out the bass after 5 1/2 minutes. "Three Blind Mice" is another good track with drums, tubular bells, vibes, congas, marimba, xylophone, bass and glockenspiel all helping out.

I can't give this anything less than 4 stars. A great addition to any Jazz Rock / Fusion collection.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I prefer this album to Gazeuse. This is called Expresso II because Gazeuse was called Expresso in the US. This is the first album without Didier Malherbe, the only remaining original member of Gong. This would also(for awhile) be the last album labelled 'Gong'. After this and throughout the 1980s they would be known as Pierre Moerlen's Gong. Pierre's brother Benoit is here on percussion. Allan Holdsworth remains but apparently he wasn't enough. They needed a former member of The Rolling Stones of all bands. Guitarist Mick Taylor plays here like you would never hear him on a Stones album.

Violinist Darryl Way, formerly of Curved Air, is here as well. His playing is some of the highlights of this album. What stands out about Pierre's drumming is that he will do a drum fill to indicate to the other members that the music is going to change. He also plays percussion instruments. Lots and lots of percussion here like glockenspiel, tubular bells, marimba, xylophone and vibraphone.The bass playing of Hansford Rowe also stands out. I'm not sure if he is using a fretless bass or not. Sometimes it sounds like he is. However he is definately using an auto-wah effect, most likely the Mu-Tron III which was popular with some bassists in the late 1970s.

"Heavy Tune" has a fantastic riff. First on bass and then guitar. Then vibes and lead guitar come in. Before 2 minutes music changes into a vibes lead groove. Then awesome auto- wahed bass and more lead guitar. Goes back to the beginning riff at the end. "Golden Dilemma" starts very fast and Zappa sounding. Stays in a funky Zappaesque mode for awhile. Halfway just funky guitar and bass, then drums and percussion come in. After a guitar solo.

"Sleepy" begins with bells or glockenspiel or whatever. Then drums and funky bass. Some guitar that sounds like a flock of birds. Then a guitar solo. More bird like noises and then heavy guitar before a violin solo. Later some great auto-wah bass. A more intense violin solo afterwards. "Soli" has bass, vibes and bells before some nice melodic guitar playing. Then goes into a disco beat before changing to a different section. Later a guitar solo. Disco beat comes back then changes back again. More harmonized melodic guitar playing at the end.

"Boring" is anything but. It starts with xylophone before bass and drums come in. Some bells and tympani and then violin. In the middle the music start/stops and you hear some "yeah" type voices. It then changes to a section with congas and an intense violin solo. Nice bass playing near the end. "Three Blind Mice" has glockenspiel or somesuch before the song goes Latin jazz. Then it changes to jazz-funk with hard rock guitar playing. Later some congas then back to the Latin jazz.

I've heard the follow up Downwind but don't enjoy it as much as this. I've never heard any of the albums after Downwind. But I have heard New York Gong and Mother Gong. Expresso II is some great percussion heavy and sometimes rockin' fusion when many fusion groups at the time were making 'fuzack'. Highly recommended to fusion fans but I don't know how much fans of the RGI trilogy would like this. 4 stars.

Review by Sinusoid
3 stars Any Radio Gnome Invisible fanatic will waltz into unfamiliar territory with EXPRESSO II. By now, most traces of Daevid Allen's hippie-psych outfit were weeded out and transformed into a percussive fusion group led by drummer Pierre Moerlen. The very interesting aspect of the lineup is that the main band is three percussionists and a bass player; all other instruments are from guests that are as high profile as Darryl Way, Allan Holdsworth and Mick Taylor.

Even if you're like me and cannot stand coffee, this is a highly enjoyable effort; that is if you can get past the pinging and clanging. The problem with the plethora of xylophones and marimbas is that their percussive sound could potentially drive the listener into headache-city. The electric guitar parts are spectacular to the point where I wish there was a constant guitarist in the band.

Even with the bells, whistles and vibraphones, the songs themselves sound like standard jazz fusion It's really a game of ''pick-em'' when it comes to the best track. My pick is ''Golden Dilemma'' mainly with the second half's rhythm guitar jam. ''Heavy Tune'' is what it sounds like, ''Boring'' is not what it sounds like. If percussive jazz fusion is the style of music you're seeking, EXPRESSO II is nirvana. Those looking for definitive Gong need to investigate the RGI Trilogy; we're at Pierre Moerlen's Gong by now.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars By this point, Gong was completely unrecognizable from the Daevid Allen band that most fans were familiar with. Pierre Moerlen's group was a tight fusion band, with little linking it to the Canterbury group it sprang from. But as a fusion fan, I like this better than Allen's lineup.

Like "Expresso" or "Gazeuse", this album is a percussion heavy album, featuring fantastic tuned percussion, that only Ruth Underwood or Ed Mann could top. But here the songs don't stand out as much as they did on the previous album. Allan Holdsworth, credited as a full band member on the previous album, is now a guest on this, only appearing on four of the six tracks. The spaces, however are filled nicely, with the addition of other guest soloists, most noably Mick Taylor and Darryl Way.

I'd have to rate this 3.5 stars, rounded up.

Review by Warthur
3 stars The transition which began on Gazeuse is completed on Expresso II, the second album by the Pierre Moerlen-led Gong lineup which would come to be known as "Pierre Moerlen's Gong". Despite some suitably chunky guitar riffs by Allan Holdsworth lighting up the start of Heavy Tune and some excellent violin contributions from Darryl Way, make no mistake about it - this is a percussion-led album, with intricate interweavings of drums, glockenspiels, vibes, xylophones and all the other percussion instruments you could not imagine underpinning everything.

There's not much to choose from between this and Gazeuse, but I tend to listen to this one more often - to my ears, there's just a little bit more bite and personality, though frustratingly the band don't express it very often. Expresso II is a good but not amazing contribution to the body of Canterbury-influenced fusion albums that cropped up in the late 1970s.

Review by Negoba
3 stars Second Time Wasn't the Charm

As an enormous guitar nerd, jazz fusion and specifically Allan Holdsworth have been essential parts of my musical education. It was during my travels in this realm that I discovered Gong's Gazeuse, which is still among my favorite works of fusion. That album's US title was Expresso, and this is then its natural successor. By this time, this band really shouldn't be called Gong at all. I reserve that title for Daevid Allen's work, and count this very good band as a separate entity. This outfit is led by percussionist Pierre Moerlen and both he and his brother Benoit provide a mallet feast that is melodic, pretty, dextrous, but ultimately much more forgettable than the previous album. The edge and excitement of the new style has worn off, and we simply get a bunch of monster musicians having a great time. Not a bad note here, just no spark. When an album actually has a track called "Boring" and another named "Sleepy," you have to wonder if they were mailing it in.

To be fair, it seems like Holdsworth lets loose a bit more on this album. His soloing is more virtuosic, and he dishes out some truly jaw dropping playing here. As a guitar player, I appreciate getting to hear Allan at his peak strength, before he went into his strange totally outside soloing over Muzak. Interestingly, we also get one track with ex-Bluesbreaker and Rolling Stone Mick Taylor on lead. This adds a nice contrast to Holdsworth but isn't especially evocative. Of course, the drumming and percussion is phenomenal. I've said it before and I'll say again that 70's fusion drumming is probably some of the best ever recorded, and this album actually features percussion even more than its predecessor.

For me, this album is simply a chance to listen to the Gazeuse outfit jam out as I've basically memorized the previous album. Still a worthy listen for any fusion fan, but certainly not one of the first 25 fusion albums a newcomer should grab. 2.5 rounded back toward center.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars Continuing the post David Allen era of GONG, Pierre Moerlen took on the role as band leader and steered the band in a completely new direction, namely a vibraphone rich jazz-fusion smorgasbord that borrowed from past greats and added new updated sensibilities brought to the work table by the myriad musicians who came and went. Three albums in past the "Radio Gnome Invisible" found the transition from the whimsical psychedelic rock tinged Canterbury jazz to the more earnest entirely instrumental guitar fueled fusion workouts, GONG found yet another cast of musical members departing and a whole new crew joining the ranks which at this point seems like a rotating cast.

While top dog Pierre Moerlen led the way once again, on GONG's ninth album EXPRESSO II, he not only continued his role as percussionist in chief with yet more stellar workouts on drums, glockenpiel, xylophone, tubular bells, tympani and the divine vibraphone but expanded their roles. While "Gazeuse!" was already a percussion rich paradise of intrigue polyrhythms, EXPRESSO II takes all the prior album's cues and adds even more as both fellow percussionists Mirielle Bauer and Benoît Moerlen return adding even more of the same percussive instruments to give one their percussive drive money's worth. As if that wasn't enough hammering and pounding, Françoise Causse joins in on congas. Another album, another bassist. This time Hansford Rowe takes the reins from a recently departed Francis Moze, who unfortunately took his fretless bass work along with him.

EXPRESSO II is named such because the previous album "Gazeuse!" was released in the US as "Expresso," which explains the mystery for those of us who didn't know that all this time. This was the last album for VIrgin Records who demanded the GONG brand fulfill its contract hence the band carrying on under Moerlen's helm under the GONG moniker despite it being a completely new project. Starting with the following "Downwind," the band would be called PIERE MOERLEN'S GONG and signed on Arista Records. The old Daevid Allen GONG would be resurrected but not until 1992's "Shapeshifter." In the meantime the GONG universe splintered into myriad forms producing a dizzying wealth of GONGdom: Mother Gong, Gongzilla, Planet Gong, Gongmaison.

While "Gazeuse!" went full-on jazz fusion mode that somewhat resided in between the tender soft airy style of Weather Report and the more rambunctious freneticism of Mahavishnu Orchestra (especially in the violin parts), EXPRESSO II takes a noticeably more jazzed up funky groove approach. Without Moze's stellar slinky fretless bass slides, Rowe takes the completely different approach by offering up an incessant supply of crisp chunky funk riffs that provide a sinewy zest that allows the spruced up percussion have a heyday as it whizzes around the main groove. While Allan Holdsworth didn't entirely stick around for the sequel, he did contribute his guitar work to four of the six tracks. The other two shared by Bon Lozaga and the introductory track "Heavy Tune" showcasing the Rolling Stones' own Mick Taylor providing the most rock oriented track on the album.

While EXPRESSO II is a decent enough album, for me its a step down in terms of the jazz-fusion qualities. While "Gazeuse!" delivered stellar time signature changes and jazzy chops from the divine, EXPRESSO II tends to chug along in funky groove territory for much of the time and exhibits a much more accessible and dare i even say commercial approach that tames the wild aspects while retaining the percussion and other instrumental accoutrements including the occasional violin which has been relegated to a mere two track by Darryl Way. It seems many find the EXPRESSO II era to be the strongest of the Moerlen led GONG years but personally i find this one a major step down from "Gazeuse!" in just about every way. While this one is a decent listen with more rock elements included, i miss the sheer intricacy that created the magic on "Gazeuse." "The tracks "Sleepy" and "Boring" do have a little truth in advertising as this one becomes monotonous at times whereas "Gazeuse! remained an enigmatic jazz-fusionistic tour de force. Still though, this one's not bad.

3.5 rounded down

Review by Mirakaze
COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars To prevent disappointment, it must be said upfront that this album isn't as consistently enjoyable as its predecessor. The band's attempt at creating a "Heavy Tune" with a simplistic hard rock riff and a weak guitar solo by Mick Taylor turns out rather feeble, and the tracks "Sleepy" and "Boring" are unfortunately aptly titled as well: the former tries to recreate the feel of "Esnuria" from the last album but kind of falls flat, and the latter starts off as a cool violin-centred waltz before losing steam as it transforms into another funk jam. Both of these songs were written by Mireille Bauer; were the titles supposed to indicate her feelings towards the band on the last album before her departure? Ah well, it's not like they're annoying to listen to, and the other songs thankfully more than make up for it. "Soli" and "Three Blind Mice" stand out in particular as solid jazz fusion offerings: engaging memorable themes, shining Allan Holdsworth guitar solos and good use of the band's trademark mallet percussion all around. A very good effort.

Latest members reviews

4 stars I really like this percussive, funky version of Gong. Not really spacerock, psyrock, but more funky fusion rock, with the (tuned) percussion taking the lead. Accompanied by guitar and violin, and great bass-parts, but the main ingrediënt is all forms of drums, cymbals, percussion, marimba, xyl ... (read more)

Report this review (#2053886) | Posted by Kingsnake | Wednesday, November 7, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Daevid Allen was out and jazz/fusion was in. There is very little here that reminds me about the rather weird combo also called Gong. The Moerlin's and Allan Holdsworth took over. Is the Mick Taylor listed here the same as the Rolling Stones guitarist ? A quick Google research does indeed confi ... (read more)

Report this review (#582126) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Sunday, December 4, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It was released in 1978 "Expresso II". Didier Malherbe finally seceded. Work by which Pierre Moerlen acts as a leader. It completely became a group in France. It is an album of the organization such as bases and percussions. It is an ensemble of the waving sound by the marimba and Vaib that st ... (read more)

Report this review (#43879) | Posted by braindamage | Tuesday, August 23, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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