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Gong - Camembert Electrique CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.80 | 457 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Posh cheese, cheap as chips

In the UK in the early 1970's, a number of bands attempted to stimulate interest by releasing budget priced albums of previously unreleased material. The hope was that such albums would sell widely due to their low price, thus encouraging people to investigate their full price catalogue.

Bands like Can ("Limited edition"), and Faust ("The Faust tapes") released such albums, Gong's contribution being this album, "Camembert Electric". Unlike the Faust and Can albums though, this album had previously been released as a bona fide Gong album in other countries in 1971 (the sleeve asserts that it was Gong's first album). Unfortunately, what these bands or their record labels failed to appreciate was that by releasing the sub-standard contents at a very cheap price, all they would succeed in doing is convincing people that they should steer well clear of anything else by them. In fairness, this is the best of the bunch (not that it has much to compete with), at least offering hints of the bright future in store for Gong.

At the time of its UK release in 1974, "Camembert Electric" sold for less than a quarter of the price of a normal LP. With so much exciting new music being made around that time, many people like myself were keen to try out as many bands as we could. The opportunity to sample a band such as Gong for little more than the price of a single was not therefore to be missed.

The line up for the album does not included Steve Hillage, although he would join the band well before 1974. It does however included the late Pip Pyle. It is though Daevid Allen who dominates the album, occasionally sharing the song writing with Christian Tritsch. His performance on songs such as the highly original "I've bin stone before" is simultaneously striking and bemusing. Just when it seems things cannot get any weirder, Gilli Smyth pops up with some space whispers on "I am your fantasy/animal". Her squealing, tuneless style of delivery is just a little too off the wall to warrant any credibility. In another bizarre twist, "And you tried so hard" is a highly melodic, almost pop number, with strong lead guitar played by Tritsch and, dare I say, proper singing.

It is though the incessant discordant rhythms which are the most obvious characteristic of the music here. The frantic rhythms and repetitive chants are mildly amusing but of little intrinsic value. If nothing else, the album serves to prove how the arrival of Hillage's guitar would lead to an instantly noticable improvement.

One notable effect at the end of each side of the LP, which has been lost forever with the advent of the compact disc, is that the music continues into the run off groove creating a perpetual sound.

In all, a rather messy, unfocused album which demonstrates the band's great sense of adventure and willingness to experiment, but fails to harness that energy in a coherent product.

This albums should not be confused with the similarly titled "Camembert Eclectique" released in 1995, which is a fans only collection of studio demos etc.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |


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