Friday, March 13, 2015

Gong - 1989 - The History & The Mystery Of The Planet Gong

The History & The Mystery Of The Planet Gong

01. Intro (from Christmas Party 1973) (1:02)
02. Captain Shaw And Mr. Gilbert (Recorded by Daevid in 1964) (1:12)
03. Love Makes Sweet Music (Daevid Allen & Soft Machine Radio Broadcast 1968) (1:06)
04. Riot 1969 (with Soft Machine in France plus DLT Interview) (1:40)
05. Dreaming It (Earliest Live Recording of Gong 1969) (5:32)
06. I Feel So Lazy (Live in Los Angeles 1972) (4:25)
07. And I Tried So Hard (Live in Los Angeles 1972) (5:26)
08. Radio Gnome Pre-Mix (Studio Out Take 1973) (3:06)
09. Pot Head Pixies (Live 1973) (1:26)
10. Clarence In Wonderland (Radio Session with Kevin Ayers) (5:16)
11. Where Have All The Flowers Gone? (Recorded in Deya Spain 1976) (5:42)
12. Gong Poem (Recorded with Clive Williamson 1976) (1:40)
13. Deya Goddess (Recorded in Deya Spain 1976) (8:25)
14. Opium For The People (Studio Version Sung in French) (4:21)
15. Red Alert (Recorded in Wales 1980 with Mother Gong) (2:14)
16. 13-8 (Studio Session 1981 Featuring Guy Evans & Dave Sawyer) (3:58)
17. Gliss-U-Well (Studio Version 1981 with Dider from the Tape "Words Fail Me") (1:13)
18. Future (Taken from Australian Tape Only Release "Living on the Brink") (1:14)
19. The Dream (with Gilli Smyth & Tom the Poet Australia 1985) (4:06)
20. Chernobyl Rain (Kansas Mix Invisible Opera Co.) (3:48)
21. Let Me Be One (Recorded Live in Glastonbury 1988 (6:10)

My journey into Gong territory began rather inauspiciously in 1989 with this obscure little compilation. Actually, that's not entirely true - a few months earlier, I had come across the LP Expresso (the American pressing of Gazeuse!), by the Pierre Moerlen-led jazz/fusion version of the band. So to go from that to this... it was mighty confusing for a budding prog fan like me that didn't have the Internet yet to look these things up and make some sense of it. I think I even sold this a couple of years later, but I ended up missing it, and purchased it a second time. See, though it's a pretty random pick of outtakes of variable quality, there's actually quite a few songs on here I would not want to be without.

It takes about 5 tracks before any real music happens, as the first few opening tracks are mostly little soundbites meant to provide some slices of pre-Gong history -- such as a clip from when the police shut down a Soft Machine concert in France during some student riots (with Daevid (?) having some very choice words for the cops). But by track 5 we're into the early Gong, with the lovely, live "Dreaming It", a song I have not seen on any other album, though I did see a live clip from French television circa 1971. It's a simple bass-driven mantra number, with Allen's spiritual wailing, inspirational and yearning. Other great moments include Gong's Peel Session with Kevin Ayers, performing Kevin's now-classic "Clarence in Wonderland", a wonderfully raw take on the punky "Opium for the People"; some very lovely acoustic Daevid Allen solo material like "Deya Goddess" (pure bliss; also included on his Now Is the Happiest Time of Your Life LP), the superb ska-rocker "Chernobyl Rain" (with the Invisible Opera Company)....

Come to think of it, there's actually very little "Gong" on this CD, at least in the classic incarnation of which most prog fans are aware (Radio Gnome stuff y'know). But there's such a variety of stuff here that you're bound to find something you like, even if it's a comedy skit ("Captain Shaw and Mister Gilbert"... man is that wacky), a capella group chanting ("Let Me Be One"), spoken word poetry ("The Dream", "Gong Poem"), relaxing instrumentals ("13/8"), or what have you.

If you really want classic Gong stuff, and won't accept any substitutes, you're bound to be disappointed; however, this comp still throws you a few bones with rare versions of "Pot Head Pixies", "And I Tried So Hard", and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone". But the focus here is on covering the breadth of Daevid Allen's many musical projects (not just Gong, either) over three decades. Not all of it is great, but don't dismiss it entirely, or you may find yourself buying it again like I did.

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