Sunday, October 11, 2015

Gong - 1986 "A Wingful Of Eyes"

This is a compilation from three of Gong's mid-'70s releases, Shamal, Expresso II, and Gazuese!. There's not a weak song in the bunch, but then again all three of the aforementioned recordings were all excellent. This period for Gong found them playing mostly instrumentals with a heavy percussive sound which can be attributed to the leadership of drummer Pierre Moerlen. Although they are usually listed as one of the great progressive rock bands, closer inspection reveals that this lineup actually offered more to the jazz-rock fusion movement of the mid-'70s. Their contributions went largely unnoticed at the time, but it later became clear that they had carved out a unique and fresh approach to what had become a style bogged down in technical showmanship. It wasn't until bands such as Ozric Tentacles and later Phish, began to surface in the '80s and '90s that the influence of Gong began to be felt again. This is the original jam music.

This excellent mid price compilation gathers together the cream of the 3 post Daevid Allen Gong albums (sometimes credited to Pierre Moerlen's Gong) on Virgin. None of them could be called essential, but they are often unfairly dismissed. Following Allen's departure, Gong developed a jazz fusion sound that featured some superb playing, but which lacked the quirky humour and psychdelic touches of the previous incarnation. 'Shamal' was probably the closest in spirit to Allen's Gong, and four pieces are on here, including the title track (which also features this CDs only vocals). The remaining tracks are taken from 'Gazeuse' and 'Espresso 2', and it is on these tracks that Pierre Moerlen's leadership is stamped. They feature a percussion heavy sound, with vibes, marimba and glockenspiel playing intricate interlocking patterns. The other players, especially the excellent Allan Holdsworth, get to play complex solos above it all. If you like the kind of jazz fusion purveyed by the likes of Brand X, Mahavishnu Orchestra or later incarnations of Return to Forever there's a lot to enjoy on this collection. Just don't expect any pot head pixies or flying teapots. 

While I like and appreciate Daevid Allen's lineups of this band, I love Pierre Moerlin's much more. I just enjoy the percussion based tight fusion much more than Allen's loose, pixie gnome fantasy silliness.
This collection takes all of it's tracks from the first three Moerlin led Gong albums, Shamal, Gazeuse (or Expresso) and Expresso II. When I purchased this collection, none of those albums were yet available on CD. This is a fine introduction to this version of Gong. The songs are all fantastic fusion, as good as any the famous fusion bands of the seventies were creating. Who says you have to come from a jazz background to be really good at this style? The Expresso album particularly are in a tuned percussion style that Bill Bruford also excelled in with his Holdsworth/Stewart/Berlin band around the same time.

Tracks Listing

1. Heavy Tune (6:26)
2. Cat in Clark's Shoes (7:43)
3. Night Illusion (3:48)
4. Golden Dilemma (4:55)
5. Winful of Eyes (6:23)
6. Three Blind Mice (4:51)
7. Expresso (6:00)
8. Soli (7:41)
9. Shadow of (7:52)
10. Mandrake (5:02)
11. Bambouji (5:10)

Total Time: 65:51

Line-up / Musicians

- Mireille Bauer / marimba, vibraphone, glock, toms
- Francois Causse / congas
- Allan Holdsworth / electric guitar, acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar, violin, pedal steel guitar
- Bon Lozaga / rhythm guitar, guitar
- Didier Malherbe / Tenor sax, flute
- Benoit Moerlen / vibra, marimba, percussion, tubular bells, glockenspiel, claves, xylophone
- Pierre Moerlen / drums, glock, marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, timpani, tubular bells
- Francis Moze / Fretless bass, gong, acoustic & electric piano
- Hansford Rowe / bass, rhythm guitar
- Mick Taylor / lead guitar
- Darryl Way / violin

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