13 July 2020 (released)
13 July 2020
Gong were the band that were never part of anyone’s movement, even their own.
Formed initially when Daevid Allen was left behind in France by Soft Machine after a European tou,r as his Australian passport didn’t have the right visa to let him in to Blighty, Gong followed a very different path to his previous band.
In many ways they were considered part of the global underground scene that included the Pink Fairies, Hawkwind and The Deviants but they were never as political or ‘right on’ as the others.
Their music was complex, magical and full of humour and a sense of love.
A strong Gallic element from Didier Malherbe and a wondrous sense of ‘outwardness’ from the lovely Gilli Smyth. Band members have included Didier Malherbe, Pip Pyle, Steve Hillage, Mike Howlett, Pierre Moerlen, Bill Laswell and Theo Travis. but the lineup here is Daevid Allen, Tim Blake, Mike Howlett, Didier Malherbe, Pip Pyle, Steffi Sharpstrings, Gilli Smyth and Shyamal Maitra.
So to the album. This was the 25th birthday for Gong and featured a line up that hadn’t been together since 1977. It didn’t sound as though there was a gap of any kind as they slid into their roles perfectly.
If you know Gong then you will be familiar with the music: plenty of references to Planet Gong and Camembert Electrique, constant time signature changes, Gilli Smyth’s little girl exclamations of wonder, horn driven jazz and swirling synths – all the many elements of Gong music.
To anyone approaching Gong as a neophyte it may be uncomfortable trying to work out the different directions and emphases but there are enough of the classic Gong tracks to help you through it.
Across 2 CDs there is some wonderful music here, my only real criticism being the edits that break up the flow of what was a very organic show.
Any Gong fan needs this album, if only as a reminder to what they were in their pomp. If you were there on October 8th & 9th 1994 at London’s Forum (Kentish Town) then this will be embedded in your psyche but if not then it is a wondrous experience nonetheless.