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Gong - Gazeuse! CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.93 | 390 ratings

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4 stars Negoba's Favorite Holdsworth Album

As surely most know by the time they get to this review, Gong's album Gazeuse has absolutely nothing to do with the Pothead Pixies. Drummer Pierre Moerlen and merry band of percussionists remain from the Daevid Allen vehicle, but instead of a psychedelic journey we get one of the best fusion albums ever made. As I have often noted, 70's jazz fusion was the apex of drumming to my ear, a perfect storm of feel and technique. With no less than four percussionists on this album, Moerlen has taken the genre's forte and managed to put some slip in nerdy Allan Holdsworth's backbone.

Allan Holdsworth is one of the most influential and individual guitarists since Jimi Hendrix. His disdain for convential harmony and melody, his legato technique, his tight tone have found their way into most of the best guitarist's sound ever since. If one combines Holdsworth, Hendrix, and Yngwie Malmsteen, virtually every guitar sound in the modern guitar vocabulary is available. And yet, Holdsworth often bores me to tears. His sound is often cold, too cerebral, sometimes too perfect. It's no surprise that the young Eddie Van Halen was able to become a guitar superstar by simply adding a sense of danger and adventure to Holdworth's technique. (The extra finger didn't hurt but Steve Hackett, among others, had already been doing that on stage for some time.)

Gazeuse does not make Holdsworth into anything he is not, but it does harness his abilities in a musical stew better than anything else I've heard that features him. Soft Machine's Bundles from a few years before is much weaker. Bill Bruford's work with Holdsworth does almost nothing for me. Something about the musicians here makes me feel like Holdsworth is still hungry, or even still working to keep up. By 1980, it seems like he almost thinks (or knows) that he's the best musician in the room.

Track 1, "Expresso," is the best track on the album. Here all the elements work together so well. All the mallets, the slippery beats, the sax, the horn-like guitar combine on a great composition that grabs the ears and doesn't let go. Track 2, "Night Illusion," is a Holdsworth showcase that is virtually the blueprint for Steve Vai. It could have been a track off of FLEX-ABLE and no one would know the difference. A nasty rhythm sound, a taste for a riff, and even a little sense of adventure can be heard in Allan's playing here. And it's great counterpoint for the slippery beats that are delivered by Moerlen. The same sound returns on "Esnuria" with even more funk.

Track 3 is a nearly all-percussion track that works well during a quieter mallet section, but gets a bit overlong during the extended trap solo. The final quiet interlude, "Mirelle," is pleasant but unfocused. Holdsworth takes a stab at John McLaughlin's acoustic style and doesn't quite nail it. The song and album end with a bit of piano noodling that lets us off easy.

Whether to rate this excellent album 4 or 5 stars is difficult for me. I've picked up a lot of prog over the last few years, and this is one that I will reach for even when I'm not on a fusion binge. It's actually fun to listen to simply as a feel good mood maker. While the musician in me loves this album, one can put it on and just feel a little nod and a smile emerging. But when I pick up a 5 star album, I want to be blown away most if not all the way through. Gazeuse opens strong and maintains the energy, but never really delivers a complete knockout. 4 stars it is. Of course, it is still highly recommended.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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