Album Reviews

Issue 2004-051

Reviews in this issue:

Gazpacho - When Earth Lets Go
Gazpacho - When Earth Lets Go
Country of Origin:Norway
Record Label:Happy Thoughts
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2004
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Intro (0:46), Snowman (4:26), Put It On The Air (5:08), Souvenir (3:37), Steal Yourself (3:51), 117 (6:22), Beach House (5:06), Substitute For Murder (5:53), Dinglers Horses (4:35), When Earth Lets Go (4:47)

Dries' Review

A year after their album Bravo Gazpacho gives it another shot with this second fruit of their creativity. Because I was not familiar with their previous album I took the chance to also get acquainted with that one. I established an opinion on When Earth Let's Go within two spins. Based on the expectations I had after listening to Bravo this album appeared to be a big disappointment. The voice of Jan Henrik Ohme, while being one of the nicer features of Bravo, is a real turn off for this album. The vocals are flat and do not really have any dynamics and if you add to that the music being more laid back than their previous album you end up with an album that has a laid back/lounge feel. In fact not much different to the direction Marillion is going.

To put it in perspective Marbles in my opinion is one of Marillion's lesser albums. So it does not come as a surprise that I did not really like this album at first. Much of this music is based on atmosphere and soundscapes, while I am a big sucker for melody and rhythm. Then I discovered that the second half of this album is the best half. There should have been more tracks like Beach House that has the aforementioned atmosphere but also inhibits some real nice keyboards loops and guitar melodies. Exactly the same can be said of Substitute For Murder it has more structure and melody than the first five tracks and because of that it is one of the better tracks on the album. Dinglers Horses is building up to a real climax and it does reach this sober climax. The tension created by that effect makes it my favourite track. The keyboards again have a leading role in When Earth Let's Go and take this lead in a convincing fashion that you almost look (listen) past the way the vocals fit this track perfectly.

And then I started using this new found appreciation of the last half and used it to listen to the first tracks again. I re-invented the rest of the album. While still aware of the flat vocals I discovered my first impression of Snowman was much too harsh. Put It On The Air was the track I disliked the most but maybe in a couple of extra spins it might move up a few ranks. Souvenir and 117 are best examples of my first remark (being flat and all). 117 reminds me of Radiohead's album Kid A. It is one of those tracks that on first listen might sound flat but is much more than that if you take the time to get used to it.

As you have noticed I took a strange journey through this album in the hope that my first impression was all wrong. While it did get better with a number of spins it did not quite reach the level of its predecessor.

This is progressive rock on the edge of alternative rock and as with so many bands in that genre I do not like the direction this music is going (more subdued, less melody, more spherical: e.g. Radiohead). Hope Gazpacho corrects it with their next album.

Bart's Review

It is no secret that I really like the music of Gazpacho, and I for one had really been looking forward to seeing the band supporting Marillion on their recent Marbles tour.
The band had worked hard to finish their second album in time for their very first tour, and so it was that when I received my copy of this album just after they had played the first gig of their first tour on May 2nd, it was literally still warm from the press.
As their full-fledged debut album Bravo had contained many songs that had been written in the years before, When Earth Lets Go is in fact their first real album that was written and recorded in a consecutive period of time. It took the second half of 2003 and the first four months of 2004 to complete the album, which is still quite fast if you consider all have full-time day jobs as well.

Their music is of the dark, melancholic type, and holds its own between Muse, Radiohead and present day Marillion, with a hint of Depeche Mode, A-ha and Kate Bush to be found as well. The dark and gloomy subjects of their songs was the subject of many a prank from the Marillion crew during their two-month tour, yet in my opinion their music is nowhere near as depressing as Porcupine Tree or Nick Cave.

Once again the album contains some truly beautiful, melancholic songs. Especially opener Snowman is one of utter beauty. It starts as a serene piano vocal ballad when slowly guitar, bass and drums come in. Then (synthesised) strings come in and it climaxes to a massive finale. Superb.
The other highlight for me is the songs Dinglers Horses. On the previous album most of the drums had been played on a drum computer, but for the new album the band was expanded to a quintet with the arrival of drummer Robert Johansen. Dinglers Horses is his limelight spot, as the song evolves around a Latin rhythm. The chord progression reminds me a lot of early nineties Marillion, as do the vocals. In the last minute the rhythm and music turn 180 degrees into a great climax, in which Thomas Anderson's organ plays a vital role.

Like with the previous album there are various different styles and atmospheres to be found on the album, though overall the songs have a much better flow than on the predecessor. The addition of real live drums give the music a rougher feel, which is especially notably in the psychedelic Put It On The Air, which can best be described as a millennium version of late 1960s Pink Floyd. Jan-Henrik Ohme's vocals are distorted during the verses and clear during the choruses, providing a much better balance than the noisy Mesmer that was on Bravo. A vocoder which is used for the final verse adds to the psychedelic atmosphere and the imaginative and ambiguous lyrics are terrific. Johansen's outstanding marching rhythm echoes Bill Bruford and fits the song really well, and the whole song is filled with so many vocal effects, whispers and echoes that you can listen to it a dozen times and still hear new things every time.

The track California on Bravo was a slightly misplaced venture into a more poppy type of rock. When Earth Lets Go also contains a couple of such songs, like the rocky Beach House, the up-tempo Steal Yourself and the mellow Souvenir. I believe these tracks work pretty well in the overall flow of the album, yet on their own they are rather forgettable pulp. Enjoyable, but not particularly exciting. However, it has to be said that Beach House is the only track on the album in which Jon Vilbo's guitars are allowed a more up-front role - in most of the other tracks the guitars are mixed rather to the back - and it also contains the only one real guitar solo on the album. It is interesting when you compare Gazpacho to a band like U2, this is also a band that produces many guitar driven songs, that barely contain guitar solos. The one time that a Gazpacho song contains a guitar solo it should not come as a surprise that immediately it sounds quite like... indeed, U2!

Personally, I like the band better when they are all dark and gloomy, and fortunately the longest track on the album is a very dark and gloomy one. The oddly titles 117 contains a very long build-up, much in the vein of (a more melodic version of) Muse. The two pages of lyrics Ohme sings are pure food for thought for analysts, as I haven't got a clue what he's going on about. Does it matter? Not at all, because 117 is definitely one of the most beautiful and emotional songs I've heard all year. The synthesised string section reminds me of the Polish band Collage, though obviously this isn't as neo-prog.

Yet another similarity with the band's debut is the use of a guest producer. All the tracks on the album are produced by the band, bar one. Legendary producer Steve Lyon (Depeche Mode, Paul McCartney) had heart the band's first album and liked it so much, that he offered to remix a couple of their songs. The songs remixed where Ghost, off Bravo (treasured by the band for a possible future single release) and Substitute For Murder, one of the first songs the band recorded for the new album.
In all fairness, the song feels a little out of place on the album. The change in production is immediately audible (all songs are connected by sound effects, and Substitute drops noticable in volume) and the song sounds too much like a different band really. It may be because I had already knew the Gazpacho version of the song before I first heard the Steve Lyon version, that I like the original better.
The original version is available for download from the Gazpacho website (only for members of the mailing list) so you can compare the two for yourself. My guess is the band hasn't quite decided yet whether the original is better than the big-name producer one or not. In any case, I like the original better, as it contains a less straight-on verse/chorus structure and has more guitar, more mellotron and a much longer ending, with strange, yet beautiful background vocals.

Last, but not least is the album closer, the stunning title-track. It is beautiful ballad with a very minimal arrangement of just vocals, piano and violin, proving that the band can also produce beauty without using loads of effects and distorted guitars.

As the band is still unsigned to any label, they are constantly seeking possibilities to lower the threshold for people to listen to their music and buy their albums. The nearly 2000 CDs sold during their European tour with Marillion proves that there are plenty people who like their music.
A try-before-you-buy method provided by the band is the weed system. You can download the entire album from the band's website as a 'Weed' file. Weed files are high-quality MP3 files which you can listen to freely for up to three times. If you like the music after those three times you can unlock the files by paying for them, or you could of course go and buy the CD (currently only available through the band's website). A very good way for independent artists to get their music heard, and also a good alternative to illegal downloads.

When Earth Lets Go is another great album from this Norwegian outfit and though it slightly misses the punch of its predecessor, it is still a very worthy follow-up.


Dries Dokter: 7 out of 10
Bart Jan van der Vorst: 8.5 out of 10

Mona Lisa - Progfest 2000 [DVD]
Mona Lisa - Progfest 2000 DVD
Country of Origin:France
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG 9010
Year of Release:2004
Info:Mona Lisa
Encoding & Sound:Region 0 NTSC

Tracklist: Captif De La Nuit (5:41), Le Petit Violon De Mr Grégoire (5:53), Les Sabots De Lena (6:45), Voyage Avec Les Morts (9:48), L'Échiquier De La Vie (5:21), Les Guerriers (7:21), Tripot (4:27), Les Noces De Cendres (4:06), Au Pays Des Grimaces (8:11), Comme Un Songe (11:11)

Well, I can keep this review short and sweet – This DVD contains exactly the same material as the CD release already reviewed Here. I have very little to add to Nigel’s comments on the musical contents – solid symphonic prog in the Genesis mode, with many similarities to fellow countrymen Ange. As with Ange, knowledge of the French language would be a distinct advantage to get the most out of the material, as the focus is heavily lyrical and theatrical. The musical backing is very good, but it seems that the narrative structure is key to the songs. I also agree with Nigel that the last two tracks are the best.

Nigel is right in assuming that there is a strong visual element to this performance, mainly consisting of various costume changes – very much in the manner of Peter Gabriel circa Foxtrot - but again the language barrier hinders appreciation of any deeper meaning. Vocalist Dominique Le Guennec is undoubtedly the star of the show, whether cavorting around the stage with a violin (but not playing it!) or standing front and centre, wringing every ounce of emotion from the lyrics in the typically intense French tradition. Clown suits, old man masks and women’s clothing are the main elements in a bold performance that you will either love or hate. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt as my lack of understanding prevents me from judging the appropriateness and effectiveness of it all.

The camera work is good throughout, capturing the essence of the performance, and the picture quality and sound are also fine.

As to extras afforded by the DVD medium, there aren’t any. Access to the individual tracks is as far as it goes in terms of utilising the technology. Existing fans of Mona Lisa (and Versailles, as this 90’s band form the core of the revived Mona Lisa) will surely love this record of a sterling show. The addition of the visual element may make it slightly more accessible to newcomers then the audio version, but it is not likely to win too many new fans outside the French speaking community. A subtitled translation of the lyrics would surely improve the impact of the DVD.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Dave Sissons

Jacopo Galli - Timedrops
Jacopo Galli - Timedrops
Country of Origin:Italy
Record Label:Risestar Promotions
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2003
Info:Risestar Promotions
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Answer Me (8:28), Passion Rules (5:58), Timeless Reality (9:06), Beneath the Veil (5:52), Days Have Gone (7:06), Hope? (3:52), Keys to Imagination (6:53), Timedrops (12:23)

Timedrops is the brainchild of Italian multi-instrumentalist and singer Jacopo Galli. Galli comes with the usual list of metal and prog-metal influences, notably Fate's Warning. No record label is present here, nor major distribution channel, which is something of a shame.

Timedrops starts with the eight and a half minute epic Answer Me, which immediately betrays several influences; Arena are primarily present here, which is no bad thing, and Galli apes the neo-proggers effectively. Most of the song, however, takes pages straight from the Drama-period Yes book. Galli is a dead ringer for Trevor Horn's vocals, in fact, and the chorus here reminds me strongly of Machine Messiah. The song moves swiftly from section to section, and displays many prog influences en route.

The album continues with Passion Rules, which reflects the somewhat heavier side of the album, and the metal influences are clearly visible here. The guitars never overpower the ever-present keyboards, though, and in general an excellent balance is struck. It is followed by the shifting time signatures of Timeless Reality, in which the uncited Yes influence is once more clear. Dream Theater is also audible here, but Galli misses some of the production sheen, making the song more sparse than the metal stylings would indicate. Still, the musicianship is impeccable and the variety is on display.

This eclectism is found throughout the album. The slow Genesis-esque start of Beneath the Veil belies its entrance into the strange tonalities of its instrumental middle section. This moves into one of the nicest parts of the album, including a fine dual guitar solo. Galli has learned well Yes' lesson of "put your best melodies after strange atonal sections" (think Relayer), which means you're never sure of whether that melody is so nice on its own, or just in contrast to the prior section!

Galli's Fate's Warning influence is best displayed on Days Have Gone - for the most part. The rest of the song makes me think of the varied stylings of Hamadryad. Hope? displays a lovely ballad, again with a notable guitar solo, before branching out into Metallica et al, returning to the ballad to round it off. Keys to Imagination is the instrumental track on the album, and displays Galli's undoubted technical ability on all the instruments. The final track is the 12-minute epic Timedrops, which (as by now is expected) displays the same variety of styles, time signatures and keys as the rest of the album.

Galli's technical ability cannot be faulted, particularly on the guitar, and Timedrops is an excellent effort that deserves wider recognition. The album's main weakness is the way every song moves through multiple sections without letting them develop; there are many, many good ideas, but they're not always allowed to come to full fruition. Hope?, in particular, could be a lovely ballad and the highlight of the album. It also lacks a few truly memorable vocal melodies. If you like your music varied, though, particularly for fans of Yes, Timedrops certainly doesn't disappoint, and is certainly worth searching for.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

David McCabe

Charles Brown - Thru The Flames
Charles Brown - Thru The Flames
Country of Origin:Canada
Record Label:Fossil Records
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2003
Info:Fossil Records
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Rising Of The New Moon (4:30), Eye Of The Storm (4:40), A Journey In Time (4:40), The Journey Begins (3:33), The Gate Of The Mists (3:59), Vertical Ascension (3:29), Winds Of Eolus (3:30), Altar Of Sacrifice (2:39), Absolute Zero (3:36), Radiation Zone (2:51), Thru The Flames (3:45), The Sunlight Never Dies (2:02)

Thru The Flames is the fourth solo release from Colorado guitarist Charles Brown who not only covers the guitar slot but is primarily responsible for the writing, overall musicianship, programming and production. The only other musician credited on the album is keyboard man Matt Bassano. It is not made clear as to what role Matt plays in the keyboard department and as Charles Brown has a good command of not only the guitar and the guitar-synth, but also the "instruments" his guitar-synth is producing, then only detailed listenings will reveal a more accurate picture.

I had read much regarding the music of Charles Brown prior to this review (unusual for me) and my initial reaction was of disappointment. Perhaps I was just expecting a different type of music or a more varied programme, either way it meant that I started afresh on the second run through some weeks later. What I found the second time round was a distinctly rocky album, great guitar riffs, strong keyboard sections and a varied selection of sounds for the solo sections. A prime example of this can be found in Absolute Zero which has some interesting parts played on the Roland guitar synth intermingled with the more traditional guitar solo sounds.

The opening track Rising Of The New Moon starts with solo classical guitar followed by new-agey synth line before the 'band' join in with chord crunches. This is followed by a strummed acoustic guitar and delicate flute-like sound section - variations then follow in a similar fashion interspersed with guitar solos. Eye Of The Storm treads in similar fashion with a nylon strung guitar which again heralds the big rock riff. A great riff followed by an infectious guitar riff, guitar solo, quieter section, riff, 'keyboard' solo, riff etc fading with the nylon guitar. A slightly different quieter opening section opens A Journey In Time but a similar formula then follows. Now all this sounds like I am coming to a big negative about the tracks, but although the formula is somewhat repetitive the music is full of melodic hooks and strong themes.

The Journey Begins is different combining ambient chord structures with synth lines earlier in the piece followed with a Country style guitar lurking inside. The Gate Of The Mists brings back the heavier structure but this time a more strident, brassy, keyboard background. Vertical Ascension is a more out and out guitar rocker opening with a hammering on solo before the main riff takes up the cause - again the keyboard structuring is strong and solos abound.

It is probably the predictability of the arrangements that let the album down as Winds Of Eolus, Altar Of Sacrifice, Absolute Zero, Radiation Zone and Thru The Flames offer little to vary the albums flow - good tracks in their own right, but by this point I was looking for things to change. The Sunlight Never Dies does however close the album nicely with acoustic guitar serving a more delicate guitar solo. We also reviewed Charles' last album Earth Voyage and reading between the lines and from Jonathan's comments I gather that both albums follow in similar footsteps, safe to say that this is therefore the direction Charles Brown wants to take us with his music.

So taking this on board I would say that where this album really misses out can probably be tied to two main areas, firstly the tracks cry out for a band, not only as it would add a greater dynamic, but because I feel that the music would come alive with the input of a drummer and a solid bass man. A vocalist would also serve to broaden the overall commercial strength of the music and I feel sure many a singer would welcome the opportunity to deliver some lyrics over these strong pieces. I am also sure that this fact has also not eluded Charles Brown and I am doing him a great injustice by saying this - however I mention it here as it really would be great to hear this music transformed and to have a suitable canvass for Charles' guitar. The second area, and one that is perhaps more within grasp, would be slightly more variation within the album. There are some very delicate moments to be found on Thru The Flames, but these are short lived sections. I would like to have heard the classical guitar explored more as with the splendid version of Sarabande which appears on the Mystic Visions album.

Overall Thru The Flames is an enjoyable album - check out the samples and further information at Fossil Records.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

Bob Mulvey

Daevid Allen and Euterpe -
Obscura No 1 : Studio Rehearsal Tapes '77
Daevid Allen and Euterpe - Studio Rehearsal Tapes 1977
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:BMOVP001CD
Year of Release:2004
Info:Planet Gong
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Mystic Sister (3:03), Magick Brother (7:22), Sittin' In A Teashop (4:29), Have You Seen My Friend (4:09), I Am The Rapist (2:25), Brothasista Invocation (2:30), Wee Bit More (6:00), Prostitute Poem (4:19), 5&20 (3:58), Time Of The Bananamoon (4:38), Deva Goddess (8:26)

Daevid Allen with Hugh Hopper and Pip Pyle
Obscura No 2 : Brainville - Live In The UK

Brainville Live In The UK
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:BMOVP002CD
Year of Release:2004
Info:Planet Gong
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Fohat Digs Holes In Space (9:47), Who's Afraid? (7:27), Flowers Gone (10:15), Shadow (4:29), Thinkin' Thoughts (2:28), Hope For Happiness (10:10), Bullshit & Be (5:27)

Seems as if the artists who were prudent enough to keep their own personal archives in good order are reaping the benefits of the endless fascination of fans for rare and unreleased material. Daevid Allen is the latest musician to open his vaults to public scrutiny by issuing, via the Voiceprint label, a series of 20 limited edition titles. Covering all aspects of Allen's career, the first two releases feature rehearsals with Spanish group Euterpe for a 1977 Gong reunion and a 1998 concert of Allen with Pip Pyle and Hugh Hopper.

The 1977 studio rehearsals feature Allen and Gong colleague Gilli Smyth along with Pepe Milan, Juan Biblioni and Cloudhairy Pepe Riba. Opening track Mystic Sister is classic Gong with Allen's glissando guitar accompanied by the space whisper of Smyth. The acoustic guitars of Milan and Biblioni then take over for a fine rendition of Magick Brother, the violin of Riba and (uncredited) congas adding a slightly different slant to this classic Gong number from the 1969 album of the same name. Sittin' In A Teashop is a fairly whimsical song that revisits the pothead pixies and flying teapots. With the quirkiness that only Gong know how, the song incorporates a hoedown in its midst before ending in a reprise of the lyric sung/spoken in an American accent. Quite bizarre, yet endearing at the same time. Have you Seen My Friend?, the only track from the sole album that Allen recorded with Euterpe (1976's Good Morning), manages to recreate a spacey feeling using the acoustic instruments. It has to be said that despite these being rehearsal tapes, the quality of the recording (at the Bananamoon Observatory in Majorca) is very good.

Gilli Smyth's poem I Am The Rapist is performed over a percussion background (again uncredited) which slips into Brothasista Invocation where cosmic glissando guitar, violin and space whisper intermesh in a short piece that acts as a balance to the harsher preceding track. Wee Bit More opens with the line "When I flip my wig..." (when?!!) and leads into one of the stand-out tracks of the release, a well arranged, melodious piece that shows how good Allen's material can be in an acoustic setting. More Gong numbers follow with Prostitute Poem from the 1973 album Angel's Egg and a further revisit to the Magick Brother album with 5 & 20, this time round played with a predominant banjo accompaniment (and this was the year of Punk in the UK!).

The album is finished off with Time Of The Bananamoon (or Bananamoon Reggae) which sounds very like a spoof by Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, and finally Deva Goddess (from Allen's then recent solo album Now Is The Happiest Time Of Your Life) which rounds things off in an excellent manner, one of the other highlights of this release that Gong heads will want to check out.

In complete contrast is Brainville Live in the UK. No details on the recording date and venue can be found on the sleeve, although I believe it was recorded at The Lanterns in Ashburton, on 18 June 1998. Brainville is a collaboration between three musicians who have one time or another played in Soft Machine (namely Daevid Allen, Hugh Hopper and Pip Pyle) and Bongwater mainman, Shimmy-Disc label owner and Noise New York Studios producer in residence, Mark Kramer. Apparently Kramer was unable to travel to the UK for the performances and so the live album just features the three ex-Softs. As Kramer is, as well as Hopper, a bass player, the Brainville sound is very heavy at the bottom end. Despite only having one bass player, the mix on the live CD still features a grinding and dominant bass sound, probably because Hopper himself did the mix!

Described by Allen as "The most eccentric three-piece jazz rock outfit of the Canterbury school", I wasn't sure what to expect. Having not heard the only Brainville studio album (The Children's Crusade) I didn't have any preconceived ideas, although I knew the album had been received with a fair degree of disappointment. However, I was pleasantly surprised! Any notion of comparing this release with the whimsy, ethereal, space rock of Gong or with the jazz of Soft Machine, should be pushed aside. This is a seriously heavy album on which Allen plays guitar like I've never heard him play before. The Gong classic Fohat Digs Holes In Space (from the defining album Camembert Electric) kicks things off with searing guitar, rumbling bass and Pyle concentrating most of his efforts into performing on his cymbals. Midway through, Allen does tone his guitar down to provide some of the more characteristic glissando effects but, even so, this version is a million miles from the original recording.

Who's Afraid is an interesting ditty based around a repeating bass line and increasingly demanding vocals enquiring just who is afraid of a variety of things from spiders to looking stupid. With some astonishingly wild guitar, the relative simply song structure is compulsively engaging. A ten-minute freak-out is the best way to describe Where Have All The Flowers Gone?. Imagine The Pink Fairies mixed with Hawkwind and Motorhead and you might come close to what to expect from this track! Shadow lowers the tone a bit with some lovely bass playing from Hopper. Thinkin' Thoughts is rather non-descript but the version of Hope For Happiness (from the first Soft Machine album) is an abstract lesson in musical deconstruction and reconstruction. The tempo has been taken right down with the sprightly jollity of the original being replaced by a dark, foreboding atmosphere. Final track Bullshit & Be actually features a chorus but is spoilt by the overuse of cymbals, particularly the hi-hat, by Pyle which interferes with the frequencies occupied by the guitar and ultimately becoming very annoying; it should have been a lot further back in the mix for my liking.

These first two releases in the Bananamoon Obscura series are quite a revelation. The quality of the recordings are better than one could have hoped from such an enterprise. Packaging is kept to a minimum (the CDs come in a card sleeve, and that's it!), as is the information included on the sleeves. For releases that are essentially full price, I would have liked to have been provided with a bit more information on the recordings, the circumstances surrounding their coming to being, and even the date of recording! Still, as a strictly limited edition of a 1000 copies, I suppose the rarity value is suitable compensation.


Daevid Allen & Euterpe: 7 out of 10
Brainville Live In The UK: 7.5 out of 10

Mark Hughes

Mother Gong - Tree In Fish
Mother Gong - Tree In Fish
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:VP281CD
Year of Release:2004
Info:Gilli Smyth

Tracklist: Simple I (1:27), Four Horsemen (2:37), Buddha's Birthday (3:02), Faces (With Tom the Poet) (3:01), Cafe Reflections (3:02), The House Is Not The Same (4:14), Tree II (4:21), Greenfields (4:17), Wilful Housewife (3:40), Song Of Skye (5:39), She Smiled (2:39), Crying (2:02), Medicine Woman (1:55), Aere (6:40)

The CD booklet states that the CD contains two further tracks, Simple II (0:40) and Short Edit...La Dea Madri (1:03). However, neither of these tracks was on the CD.

Mother Gong, one of the numerous Gong off-shoots who first came to light with their 1978 album Mother. More towards the jazz end of the spectrum, a lot of the material, particularly live, was based on improvisations (or as they like to call them, 'spontaneous compositions') behind the poetry readings of bandleader Gilli Smyth. Tree In Fish was originally released in 1994 on the small US-based Tapestry label, and contained a mixture of improvised studio material and recordings from the 1991 US tour. The current 'reissue' by Voiceprint, is rather a misnomer as only five of the original 17 tracks appear on the newly released version. The rest of the album is compiled from various recordings contemporaneous with the original release, although no information on dates and places is provided.

If you are a fan of Mother Gong then you will probably know what to expect from this release. If you are just curious about the band and are expecting a variation on the classic Gong sound, then beware. Eight of the fourteen tracks are jazz improvisation backing Smyth reciting her poetry. I'm afraid to say that I found most of this complete twaddle; some of it even made Jim Morrison's efforts seem respectable (and that is saying something!) Stuff like "Those black riders fly across the horizon with their terrible swords of doom cutting down the sacred forest" (Four Horsemen), "I am a wicked witch and sex worker, you are seeker and finder and guardian of trees" (Faces), "Trees merge, trees do not fight trees, I am a tree" (Trees; seems to be rather a lot of arboreal imagery!) and "Men cry, men do cry, men should cry, men can cry, men will cry, all toys gone, lovelorn" (Crying) is of very little literary merit (to me at least) and seems desperately dated. The backing music is nothing spectacular either, although I have to say I couldn't really bear to listen to it too deeply as the poetry was simply too much to wade through repeatedly.

As for the instrumental pieces, Simple I was a spacey, ethereal number with Smyth's trademark space whisper, Buddha's Birthday a reasonable sax and drums piece, Cafe Reflections featured vocals that come a bit close to Yoko Ono at her best (worst!), whilst Greenfields is a jolly ditty that was one of the better ensemble pieces (and also featuring fellow Gong Stalwart Didier Malherbe). The album was redeemed somewhat by the presence of two tracks. Aere comes, in places, close to the parent Gong sound, quite mysterious and foreboding, while Song Of Skye stands out because it is a quite excellent piece of music. Acoustic guitar, fretless bass and mellow sax combine to produce a lovely instrumental number.

Two decent instrumentals is insufficient an incentive for anyone other than hard-core Mother Gong fans to part with hard-earned cash for this release. Although one hates to be totally negative, and Smyth has survived long enough to have found an audience of her own, I really can't see this release finding favour with anyone but the smallest minority of progressive rock fans.

Conclusion: 4 out of 10

Mark Hughes

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