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GONG
ANGEL'S EGG (Virgin Records/EMI)

Reviewed by Sherman Wick



The recently re-issued Angel's Egg is one the best recordings by the late '60s and early '70s French and English progressive and space rock collective. Gong was known for long meandering pieces of psychedelic jazz-fusion incorporated with cabaret, world music and umpteen additional disparate and odd influences.

The record contains an enormous range of musical styles - this is both the recording's strength and weakness. It's amazing the deft skill that they exhibit in various acid tinged idioms, yet the music could also be more focused and succinct. The almost eight minute song "Other Side of the Sky" is effective despite, or maybe because of its genre jumping. It begins as Miles Davis-like jazz fusion meets extensive synthesizer experimentation only to add hippy trippy scat singing and chanting. The guitars, synthesizers, horns and singing build to a rollicking and weird conclusion highlighted by hard to believe chants of "hare, hare supermarket/ hare, hare London Bus." Other songs like "Sold to the Highest Buddha" don't fully execute their ultra strangeness. The lyrics are again highly unusual, but the musical gets muddled in plodding prog-rock inertness. "Oily Way" is the closest the band gets to a pop song. It begins with a repeated flute riff before transforming into a chugging rock song with a strong melody, chorus and lyrics loaded with counterculture love for peace, disdain for authority and anti-establishment rants. The collective's musical range is displayed on whimsical songs, "Prostitute Poem" and "Givin' My Luv to You." The former mixes French cabaret, gypsy or klezmer style music with alternately French and English lyrics. It's equaled in its playfulness by the latter, a bar full of singers in chorus with a lone slightly out of tune piano accompaniment. This is a good, if typically rambling, introduction to Gong's music.

© 2005 - Sherman Wick