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GILGAMESH

Canterbury Scene • United Kingdom


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Gilgamesh biography
One of the premier bands to feature on the Canterbury scene, GILGAMESH was led by the extraordinary keyboardist Alan Gowan, before his premature death. The music is very intricate, and of course keyboard oriented. The first album is quite an excellent fusion prog effort with lots of great synth work from Gowan. recommended to fans of NATIONAL HEALTH or HATFIELD AND THE NORTH.

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GILGAMESH discography


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GILGAMESH top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.90 | 128 ratings
Gilgamesh
1975
3.32 | 83 ratings
Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into
1978
3.88 | 58 ratings
Arriving Twice
2000

GILGAMESH Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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GILGAMESH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Gilgamesh by GILGAMESH album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.90 | 128 ratings

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Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Alan Gowen's Canterbury crowd form the other half of the puzzle which came together with Hatfield and the North to form National Health. This is the sole album they put out before National Health (their second album would emerge after Gowen dropped out of National Health), and it's a rather mellow affair, showcasing where the gentler side of National Health's sound came from. Never quite getting into the sort of madcap soundscapes that, say, Hatfield and the North, Caravan, or early Soft Machine would sometimes visit, this is Canterbury for a gentle afternoon snoozing on the sofa. Some may find it a bit too sedate, polite, and overpolished, but in the right mood I find this an interesting different side of the late 1970s Canterbury house style.
 Gilgamesh by GILGAMESH album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.90 | 128 ratings

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Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh Canterbury Scene

Review by ALotOfBottle

3 stars In 1972, a keyboardist Alan Gowen, previously of the afro-beat band Assagai, Sunship (with King Crimson's Jamie Muir and Allan Holdsworth) and (one year later of) Hatfield And The North teamed up with a guitarist Rick Morcombe, saxophonist Alan Wakeman (the cousin of Rick Wakeman), bassist Jeff Clyne of Nucleus and Isotope and drummer Mike Travis to create Gilgamesh. After various personel changes, Wakeman left and Morcombe was replaced by a guitarist Phil Lee. In 1975, the quartet signed a record contract with Caroline to record their self-titled debut album.

Gilgamesh always remained fairly obscure, breaking up after recording two albums. Their sound is clearly shaped by their contemporaries, mainly Hatfield And The North. The band's sound however does not have the goofiness and the English sense of humor. As much as we could debate whether Hatfield And The North or National Health are fusion of progressive rock, Gilgamesh is a bit like Soft Machine - it's pretty much just straight-up jazz fusion. Unlike Soft Machine though, the quartet does not use jazz instrumentation like saxophones, but rather typical prog rock instrumentation of keyboards, a guitar, a bass and drums. The musicians are definitely very good at their craft. Alan Gowen's sound is dominated by an electric piano and a clavinet as well as a Chick Corea-like synthesizer. His style is inspired by previously mentioned Chick Corea as well as Dave Stewart and Mike Ratledge. Phil Lee's guitar work reminds of that of Phil Miller with pastel-like fuzz guitar. Mike Travis is a very decent drummer, capable of pulling off fantastic grooves, while Jeff Clyne's style is inspired by upright bass.

The album consists of eight tunes, three of which could be called "mini-epics" and two one minute-long piece. All the other tracks are kept between three and six minutes. Despite having a great dynamic variety between them and drawing dreamy soundscapes, they are very forgettable. And so is the whole album for that matter. The dry improvisation-based fusion style is quite boring, monotonous, ho-hum, and "too consistent". Despite the great instrumentalist abilities, every track (maybe with an exception of "Notwithstanding" and "We Are All / Someone Else's Food / Jamo And Other Boating Disasters - From The Holiday Of The Same Name") ask to get skipped. And it's a shame, because the band definitely could do much better than that! Just listen to the follow-up of this one!

In conclusion, the self-titled debut album of Gilgamesh presents phenomenal musicianship. However, it is overshaded by rather repetitive compositions, that lead to nowhere. This album is well suited for Canterbury fans and collectors, but not recommended for newcomers and those trying to get a taste of Canterbury scene. Much better things were to come from Gilgamesh. I am struggling between rating this album for two or three stars. Composition would get two stars, while playing would get four. So, the most adequate rating would be three stars!

 Gilgamesh by GILGAMESH album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.90 | 128 ratings

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Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

4 stars keyboard whiz Alan GOWEN's own project in the 70s, Gilgamesh is an obvious attempt to make a late stab at the Canterbury sound though none of the players are from any of the original bands from the Sixties. This album is produced, however, by none other than Dave Stewart--late of Hatfield and the North--whose sound this quite resembles.

1. "One End More / Phil's Little Dance - For Phil Miller's Trousers / Worlds Of Zin" (10:20) collects several sounds and styles being used in the then current jazz world including the clavinet, Eric Gale/John Tropea-like guitar play (think Deodato's "Also Sprach Zarathustra") and some more laid back drumming with tight, quiet fills and lots of quirky accessory (cymbals, etc.) play. The finale, "Worlds Of Zin," is the suite's shining moment in which a bluesy Santana-like guitar solos over some absolutely gorgeous support from the rest of the band--keyboards, bass, and drums. This one gets a (9/10) from me for its memorable melodic hooks and nice compositional organization--though the final section is a full 10/10. 2. "Lady and Friend" (3:44) opens with an acoustic guitar and Fender Rhodes playing off their gentle play to establish a melody. Then a rather dynamic section interrupts for a few seconds before we return to a very nice, gentle keyboard and bass interplay--which is later joined by gentle jazz electric guitar in a kind of Jan AKKERMAN style. The final 45 seconds shifts into a definite FOCUS sound and structure. Nice piece! (10/10)

3. "Notwithstanding" (4:45) is a bit more Herbie Hancock-like in its keyboard sounds and with some rather weak drumming and an Eric GALE-like guitar sound and style feeling as if it is detracting from the high caliber of skill required of the composition. (8/10)

4. "Arriving Twice" (1:36) revives the melodic theme from the album's opening song only in a slightly different arrangement and with a variation in the instruments used. (9/10)

5. "Island Of Rhodes / Paper Boat - For Doris / As If Your Eyes Were Open" (6:39) The opening section, "Island Of Rhodes," uses a repeated bass line as its rather simple foundation, but then the second section, "Paper Boat - For Doris" builds over this with the drums mixed quite a bit behind the dominant multiple keyboards and bass. The final section, "As If Your Eyes Were Open," allows the guitarist to so his chops (not bad!) over a bouncy clavinet and fast-paced drum play. Nice development and composition! (Especially considering its rather weak start.) (9/10)

6. "For Absent Friends" (1:11) is a pleasant acoustic guitar solo of the pseudo-classical vein.

7. "We Are All / Someone Else's Food / Jamo And Other Boating Disasters - From The Holiday Of The Same Name" (7:48) opens with the electric guitar establishing the melody and tempo in the first section, "We Are All." I really enjoy the jazz rhythm guitar play beneath the Fender Rhodes electric piano solo toward the end of the movement. The bass play is a little simplistic but it does a nice job of holding the song together in terms of pace. And I LOVE the drum and guitar play at the end of the fourth minute--just before the transition into the brief countrified second section, "Someone Else's Food." The third section, "Jamo And Other Boating Disasters - From The Holiday Of The Same Name," is an odd piece in which the keyboard goes from clavinet to piano and then Aarp-like synth while in this last part, being accompanied by layers of vocals as done by future 'Northette' Amanda Parsons. Overall, this is probably the piece in which the band shines most instrumentally and compositionally--when they are at their most original and most technically proficient as well as tightest as a band. This is a song well worth repeated listens. (9/10)

8. "Just C (0:45) is a brief piano solo to close out the album.

This is a very nice album full-on representative of the quirky jazz being produced in the style of the Canterbury masters at this point (1975) in the evolution of the music of the Scene. A 3.5 star album rated up for its consistency and its compositional maturity. Alan Gowan can play keyboards! Many!

 Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into by GILGAMESH album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.32 | 83 ratings

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Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into
Gilgamesh Canterbury Scene

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Gilgamesh was among those Canterbury bands that never really made the grade in terms of popularity. Considering the band history, it would have been a miracle if they had. Led by keyboardist Alan Gowen (who had played jazz piano since the 60's, and a participant in the history of NATIONAL HEALTH as well), a gifted keyboardist and composer but who clearly lacked both certain leadership and a will to succeed commercially, it seems. Three years after the forming of Gilgamesh appeared the self-titled debut (1975), produced by Dave Stewart (Hatfield and the North) but the line-up broke even before the album reached the shops. Together with e.g. Stewart, Gowen founded National Health - and left them before finishing the debut album (1977). Then he started to write music for the next Gilgamesh album before he had a band at all.

Only guitarist Phil Lee plays on both albums besides Gowen himself. Drummer Trevor Tomkins was a jazz veteran, and Hugh Hopper is known as a SOFT MACHINE bassist. Gowen tells in the foreword of Another Tune that he prefers to compose for certain musicians and that all the musicians had shaped the final results. Also he informs us that he tries to write music where one cannot really tell the difference between composed and improvised parts. OK, you have already figured out that the music is more jazz than rock, haven't you?

The music bears some complexity but the overall nature is light and airy. Gowen often plays Moog. His keyboards don't steal the show: the emphasis is in the well-crafted band play. 'Waiting', however, is a solo piece for acoustic guitar (written by Lee, naturally). The music is unmistakably Canterbury but surely on its jazziest and the least rocky side. It perhaps lacks the wit and good humour you get in Caravan or Hatfield, instead there's a slight amount of melancholy even with the lightness of it all. The whole album is pretty enjoyable if you like jazz7fusion, but from the prog's point of view it's nothing spectacular. Both Hatfield and National Health have more to offer. Anyway, there has never been too much good British instrumental fusion and this is one of the finest albums in that area. 3˝ stars.

 Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into by GILGAMESH album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.32 | 83 ratings

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Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into
Gilgamesh Canterbury Scene

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The tragic death of Alan Gowen at the age of just 33 would rob the progressive rock world of one of it's more refined talents and ultimately overshadow a career that both promised and delivered much. A highly-skilled keyboardist and composer, Gowen's career would start with brief stints in both Afro-rock outfit Assegai and his own, short-lived jazz group Sunship, before joining the blossoming Canterbury movement during the early part of the 1970's. Like many of his peers, Gowen's membership with groups such as National Health and Gilgamesh was fluid - he would move between both several times for both artistic and financial reasons - yet the best of him would be seen in Gilgamesh, a complex, instrumental jazz-prog outfit that released two excellent albums of delicately-wrought music that, although retrospectively popular with both fans and critics, failed to make any serious commercial headway. Featuring guitarist Phil Lee, Soft Machine alumni Hugh Hopper on bass and drummer Trevor Tomkins, this 1978 release would be the second-and-final Gilgamesh album - and undoubtedly their most impressive - yet in truth it probably arrived far too late in the day to make any real impact on the then rapidly-developing music scene. The light jazz touch prevalent here is beautifully- executed, streaking through a series of lushly-realised compositions, yet with punk barking away it seemed that Gilgamesh were fighting a losing battle that no-one was really watching. The complexity of the music and the poverty of the musicians involved also made touring unrealistic, and Gilgamesh would dissolve before really getting the chance to shine. It's a sad tale as this was a band who deserved so much more, particularly as they were just as good as any of their fellow Canterbury contemporaries, groups such asCaravan, Soft Machine, National Health & Hatfield & The North. However, despite the lack of success you shouldn't be put off. 'Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into' is a dazzling jazz odyssey, and an album that should definitely be investigated by all classic prog lovers. Here's to you Alan. You deserved so much more.

STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012

 Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into by GILGAMESH album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.32 | 83 ratings

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Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into
Gilgamesh Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Like Gilgamesh's first album, Another Fine Tune presents a version of Canterbury that is technically proficient and competently composed, but lacks sparkle, emotion or energy - it's very well-mannered music that doesn't really accomplish much beyond being pretty. Alan Gowen's keyboard work is probably the big draw, though National Health fans may find this somewhat tame compared to that band's debut. Hugh Hopper's presence sets the groundwork for his further collaboration with Gowen on Two Rainbows Daily, but the presence of him on bass here doesn't really change the band's sound that much compared to the previous album.

Apparently, Gilgamesh were only reassembled at this point in time as a rehearsals group rather than a band seriously intending to perform for audiences, and this rather joyless release kind of exemplifies that - this is music produced for the sake of producing music, rather than music produced for the enjoyment of listeners.

 Gilgamesh by GILGAMESH album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.90 | 128 ratings

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Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh Canterbury Scene

Review by BrainStillLife

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!

 Gilgamesh by GILGAMESH album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.90 | 128 ratings

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Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh Canterbury Scene

Review by 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.

 Gilgamesh by GILGAMESH album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.90 | 128 ratings

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Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh Canterbury Scene

Review by 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.

 Gilgamesh by GILGAMESH album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.90 | 128 ratings

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Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh Canterbury Scene

Review by Utukku

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!

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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