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Symphonic Team
3 stars 2 hours of Irrisistible Gong Madness

What can one say about a compilation of one of the trippiest pothead bands that brought us the legendary Radio Gnome invisible Flying Teapot trilogy? It is difficult to rate because it has to be agreed that the compilation has some well chosen classics that have become quintessential Gong pieces such as Radio Gnome invisible, Flying Teapot, Zero the Hero and the witch's spell, Flute salad, Oily way, Outer/Inner temple, I niver gild before and The isle of everywhere. Of course these are Gong gems on any album but if you already own the first 5 albums of Gong or indeed just the three pothead pixie, radio gnome albums, you should steer well clear of this.

If you are new to Gong as I am, this is a great compilation but eventually you are likely to get hold of the best Gong albums if you are a serious prog fan and you will have many double ups. I own Gong Live Etc which is kind of a Best of Gong in itself albeit in live format, and this lead to the purchase of Angel's Egg that I loved so much that I decided to get this album, only so that I could hear quickly and cheaply how the other Gong albums sound. I was pleasantly surprised and I will no doubt get hold of the other Radio Gnome albums, rendering this CD redundant!

Having said that, I found this compilation to be a good start for this aquired taste in music. I recommend it to newbies to the group because if you do not like this compilation, at least you haven't forked out too much cash, and its great to at least have some Gong in your collection given the importance of the group and their major influence on Canterbury, experimental jazz-inspired psych prog.

Gong are an aquired taste as I have stated. 'The Best of Gong' encapsulates the high strangeness that we know and love about Gong. This notably features some of the weirdest tracks of the band's repertoire. Gong are eternally surreal cosmic adventurers who always strive to produce the wackiest spaced out music on the planet. They have notably been referred to 'an invisible ideological empire' more than a band and it is easy to see why. The conceptula content of their albums take on the same themes. The Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy is really given a full treatment on this compilation - maost of the best tracks are here according to reviews I have read. The pot head pixies, Zero the Hero, and the jazz fusion and Eastern influences abound. It is all rather absurd and you have to be in the right mood and the music works better listening to it as a whole album rather than individual tracks. Therefore getting hold of these albums in their entirety is an experience in itself rather than listening to these out of context tracks on a compilation. But the thought and the intention is there and its not a bad effort to be honest.

Once again in this compilation the listener is transported to Planet Gong, via a Flying Teapot, and the allegorical tale of life and the idiocy of our heroes quest begins: a quest that is never ending but nevertheless essential in finding the meaning of that perfect life. Steve Hillage is excellent as guitar extraodinaire and he is complimented with Allen, Malherbe, Blake, Howlett and Moerlen. A special mention must be made of the sultry vocals of Gilli Smyth as she croons in her space whispers, a nice break from all the lunacy and mayhem. Gong recorded some of this trilogy by hanging microphones from trees and the atmospehere is present throughout.

The compilation also features tracks from Camembert Electrique, Magick Brother, and a few others but it does not concentrate on any of the more recent albums therefore this is not really a 'best of' but more a retrospective of the early Gong years 1969 to 1974. I have seen the compilation as a single CD too and its more concentrated and features the best from this compilation, and its really cheap.

In conclusion, it is not a complete waste and I give it 3 stars for the effort but you will probably want more of Gong, and the entire first 5 albums are definitely better than mere snippets of the Gong catalogue. In general here is a good start and a wonderful introduction to the high strangeness of the world of Gong.

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Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | Review Permalink

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