Gong — Camembert Eclectique
(A GAS CD 001, 1970/1995, CD)
by Steve Robey, Published 1995-07-01
Seminal French space prog band Gong may be best known for their pioneering work in the early to mid 70s, as evidenced by the indispensable Radio Gnome Trilogy of albums: Flying Teapot, Angels Egg, and the space fusion masterpiece You. These albums helped launch the admirable solo careers of Steve Hillage, Daevid Allen, and (to a lesser extent) Tim Blake and Mike Howlett. The pivotal album which preceded this trilogy was wittily titled Camembert Electrique; however, material recorded prior to this album has been largely unavailable outside of haphazard compilations (The History and Mystery of the Planet Gong) and patchwork albums (Magic Brother). Now a new chapter has been added to the early Gong archives. Because it is titled Camembert Eclectique, and has cover art almost identical to the aforementioned similarly titled album, the cover bears the caption "not what you think..." One listen to this CD, released by GAS (Gong Appreciation Society) records, reinforces the notion that this CD is quite different from what we usually expect from Gong. The cast features Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth, Didier Malherbe, Christian Tritsch, and a variety of lesser known players. Although a few of the pieces are well known to Gong fanatics ("Dynamite/I Am Your Animal," "Time of Your Life," and "Garcon Ou Fille" — later titled "Est Que Je Suis"), many are previously unheard cuts. Most notable among these is the 13 minute "Hauted Chateau Rehearsals," which attempts to recreate in the studio an approximation of their live show at the time. Spooky spoken parts give way to fiery guitar solos, adding a valuable asset to the Gong canon. Allen was heavily into tape loop experiments as well, and one of his first and best efforts is included here, "Gongwash Indelible." It's subtle, but very effective upon close listening. The aforementioned "Dynamite" appears in two versions, each one decidedly rawer and more sinister than later versions. Those who have heard the late 70s album About Time (under the name New York Gong) will recognize the bouncy "Big City Energy," which later became "Jungle Window" for that album. In all, this CD is packed with many crucial additions to the Gong fanatics collection. But is it indispensable? Probably not, since the sound quality is sub-par, and while this sometimes adds a bit of charm and mystery to the proceedings, it may detract from the audiophile's listening experience. If you're not already a Gong fan, you ought to proceed with caution before buying this disc. Certainly it's not Gong at their best (for that, refer to the Radio Gnome Trilogy mentioned above). To its credit though, this may be the best example of early Gong yet released. This album is to Gong what Inedits is to Magma: a raw collection of out-takes and jams, revealing interesting new sides to a well-known band. For a bootleg-type collection of odds and ends, you could do a lot worse than get this CD.
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more