PIERRE MOERLEN'S GONG — Downwind (review)

PIERRE MOERLEN'S GONG — Downwind album cover Album · 1979 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Sean Trane
First Gong album under Pierre Moerlen's name, Downwind is a surprising album in many ways, but at least with the evocative artwork, we know who's the boss. Although seeing the line-up of the group on this album is resembling the one f Expresso II, it has al all-star guest cast of Taylor and Lockwood (again), the returning Malherbe but Stevie Winwood and Mike Oldfield. Actually I suspect some of the tracks on this album being recorded during the Expresso II recording sessions.

The surprising (for Gong) hard-blues rocking tracks (both written by Moerlen and outsider O'Lochlain) of Aeroplane and What You Know are much reminiscent of Heavy Tune (of Expresso II), the former and latter having some "acceptable" vocals, with lots of riffy guitars and if there was not Benoit Moerlen playing vibraphone over these tracks, you'd never guess you're listening to a Gong album. Not that these tracks are bad per se, but they're a bringdown, especially in their pedestrian rhythms and forget the usual Gong light-hearted moody music. The very tedious cover of Jin-Go-Lo-Ba (this was an insane bet that I would've never taken), is completely lacking the power of the Santana original, even if the vibes addition is somewhat interesting, but it is not catastrophic either, by all means.

But things get on more familiar grounds with the superb 13-mins+ Far-Eastern-sounding title track, giving excellent interplay where everyone gives their maximum, including Moerlen's splendid drumming, Malherbe on flute & sax and Oldfield playing up a wild guitar solo; The preceding Crosscurrents being much in the same vein, but not as stunning. Yes with these tracks do bring us back to the good ol' days and there is more. On the flipside, Emotions and the closing Xtasea are also fine jazzy tunes but very atmospheric tracks where Lockwood's violin plays wonders in the slower parts, the later finally picks up speed and a searing guitar solo add so much-needed drama.

While Downwind is not a pure Gong album (hence the new moniker), It could be grouped with Expresso or Gazeuse on your shelves, as it is not that different both in musical continuity ( but we weren't really used to so much vocals and straight rock songs with this combo anymore) and in quality (just half the album is really worthy, IMHO). So if you liked those and still crave for tuned percussions (vibes), then go for this one. I myself have decided to pass up on it, I made a PM'sG compilation for one, and for two, I've had enough of vibraphones with the previous Gong albums.

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