GONG — Camembert Electrique

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GONG - Camembert Electrique cover
3.97 | 24 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 1971

Filed under Jazz Related Rock


A1 Radio Gnome 0:25
A2 You Can't Kill Me 6:18
A3 I've Bin Stone Before : 4:55
A4 Mister Long Shanks : O Mother I Am Your Fantasy 3:35
A5 Dynamite : I Am Your Animal 4:30
A6 Wet Cheese Delirum 0:28
B1 Squeezing Sponges Over Policemens Heads 0:10
B2 Fohat Digs Holes In Space 6:18
B3 Tried So Hard 4:35
B4 Tropical Fish : Selene 7:32
B5 Gnome The Second 0:26

Total Time: 39:47


- Daevid Allen ("Bert Camembert") - guitars, bass on "Tried So Hard", vocals
- Gilli Smyth ("Shakti Yoni") - lady voice
- Didier Malherbe ("Blumdido Bad De Grass") - saxophones and flute
- Christian Tritsch ("Submarine Captain") - bass, lead guitar on "Tried So Hard"
- Pip Pyle - drums

About this release

BYG Records – 529.353(France)

Recorded during full moons of May, & June & September, 1971, chez Michel Magne at Strawberry Studios, Herrouville, France

Thanks to snobb for the updates


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Members reviews

siLLy puPPy
No this isn’t quite the “Radio Gnome Triology” despite the first short track being titled “Radio Gnome” but despite the lack of Steve Hillage’s spaced out echo guitar trippiness, Daevid Allen in cahoots with Gilli Smyth manages to create a healthy dose of Canterbury psychedelia on his own terms. CAMEMBERT ELECTRIQUE is the second release by Daevid Allen’s GONG and probably one of the most rockin’ of the entire GONG discography. On this release it is Daevid Allen who plays guitar and bass as well as handling the expected vocal duties. BTW although my remastered copy says the first track is “Radio Gnome” i see it listed as “Radio Gnome Prediction” on the very first vinyl release as well as other subsequent releases. How clever, hmmm?

This is an interesting transition album that feels like it has connections to the heavy psych of the 60s while branching out its tentacles into a new 70s space rock style garnished with all the zaniness and humor that the Canterbury scene was so famous for. If you listen to the old Wilde Flowers and Soft Machine demos with Daevid Allen still in the band, you can trace some of these riffs to those days, only with the addition of Gilli Smyth’s famous space whispering and the excellent addition of Didier Malherbe’s excellent sax and flute to create some really good solid musical madness on this one. This is a great example of how to combine the Canterbury whimsy with space rock, progressive heavy rock and healthy doses of anarchic psychedelia with totally original experimental elements.

This indeed was time of the birth of the space age hippie music and Daevid Allen’s decade long roster of ideas that were suppressed and underdeveloped really were allowed to bloom for the first time on CAMEMBERT ELECTRIQUE. This is really a fun album! Musically, lyrically, rhythmically etc. Just look at the zany titles of the songs: “Mister Long Shanks, O Mother, I Am Your Fantasy,” “Dynamite: I Am Your Animal,” “Fohat Digs Holes In Space!” This is just wonderful music being melodic, demented, innovative, unique, experimental, daring, sacrilegious, comical, uproarious and above all spaced out, maaaan! While most of GONG’s discography displays complex band interactions, this is the one that screams out that it’s Daevid Allen’s baby and what a cute and adorable little baby it is! Sadly Daevid passed away recently on 13 MARCH 2015. Thank you Daevid for all this excellent music and R.I.P. No doubt this music will entertain for a very long time to come :)
What a huge improvement over Magick Brother! This is actually the beginning of Gong as we all know and love. Tim Blake was actually to join the group at this time, but Pip Pyle didn't like his synth noodling, so it had to wait until Pip left the group. Of course you don't have Steve Hillage here, he was in a Uriel/Egg spinoff called Khan at the time (whose Space Shanty from 1972 is an essential album of Canterbury prog). Aside from Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth you have Didier Malherbe, Pip Pyle, and Christian Tritsch. This is a more aggressive and rocking than usual Gong, particularly the more polished followups on Virgin (the Radio Gnome trilogy). "You Can't Kill Me" sounds like classic Gong, but they really rock out. Quirkiness as you expect show throughout the album. "I've Bin Stone Before" is a rather obvious imitation of Bob Dylan (I'm thinking "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"), but with added on Hammond organ. They get into space rock like "I Am Your Fantasy" with glissando guitar and Gilli Smyth giving her space whispers. "Fohat Digs Holes in Space" is another great piece of space rock with glissando guitar and repeating bass line. "Tropical Fish: Selene" certainly shows this band was starting to have greater ambitions. Although you might find some Pot Head Pixies on the album artwork, the mythology of Planet Gong had not yet been developed (that obviously would be found on the Radio Gnome trilogy). This album really blew me away and any fan of Gong should own this! It's also one of my favorites off BYG/Actuel (in fact, it was the last release on the Actuel subsidiary). The original LP also came with two inserts that included lyrics to all the songs and that typical quirky Daevid Allen artwork. Highly recommended stuff!
This is interesting but a bit overrated album. One can easily recognize influences from Barret era PINK FLOYD, some bizarre and comic Zappa surrealism and sax playing a la VAN DER GRAAF's Dave Jackson. Overall it is somewhat too adventurous and not very accessible listening, even though several strong tracks are catching up on the first listen, like "You Can't Kill Me", the BYRDS-like folk-rock guitar of "Tried So Hard" and a prototype of their later space-jam trips "Fohat Digs Holes in Space". Radio Gnome concept was already introduced here in several tracks and a cover design. A decent early GONG, but the best albums were yet to come.
The first truly top-flight Gong album - really, the first top-flight album of Daevid Allen's career - might not quite have the epic, spacey passages brought to the table by Steve Hillage in future albums, but otherwise sees the band's classic sound firmly in place and firing all cylinders. The songs range from mildly updated psychedelia such as You Can't Kill Me, a hippy protest song spiced up with some killer sax from Didier Malherbe, to incredibly ahead-of-its-time material like You Tried So Hard - which, with its driving guitar line and earnest vocals, sounds in its first half like the sort of material the shoegazer/indie scene in Britain would cook up decades later, before the song breaks out into all kinds of experimental directions. The band's quirky sense of humour is in full force, and exists in perfect balance with its progressive musical aims - a fact that's true of precious few Gong albums from the early 1970s - so it's one of the absolute best places to start exploring the band's work.
Sean Trane
An undeclared start of the Radio Gnome trilogy (much like The Hobbit is like the prelude to Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings) as some characters are introduced here but not fully developped. They will take their world of sillyness to a point that most of the musicians will play one or two roles in the trilogy and actually taking a surname (or two) to fit the music. As Daevid Allen could not head back with Soft Machine to England because of passport problem , he stayed in Normandy and soon joined a hippy community-band (it was that or the catholic youth choir ) and started with Welsh freakpoet and girlfriend Gilly Smyth (later to be his wife) this weird Planet GonG world and this probably came after they overdosed of over-ripe Camembert cheeses.

If you take out the four short tracks that bookends both sides of the vinyl (they total 1.5 min), you are down with seven tracks, two of which are still regularly performed in concert nowadays - Dynamite and You Can't Kill Me. Side 1 is very energetic but to tell you what happens on a given track would take at least one page per track. The regular and irregular but constant changes in each track is a trademark of GonG and certainly helps fitting well with the concept and even sillier/funnier with the lyrics.

Side 2 is more endearing to me with their first real masterpiece in Fohat Digs Holes In Space that strongly hints at the stuff they will be reknown for in YOU. Tropical Fish/Selene is another gem that should be heard. Even at this early stage, Allen uses some of his Glissando (aluminium bar used to slide over the strings but not resulting as the bottleneck used in blues) guitars effects , but although Trisch doubles in on bass and guitar , they had a guest guitarist also. Didier Malherbe is marvelous on sax. Pip Pyle will later be seen in Canterbury bands.

The unfortunate thing about early GonG albums is that they were released under so many different labels , versions and semi-legal releases that it is quite hard to follow their Gnome Trip unless you have the inner sleeve to go along with. I despaired for years but recently Charly released a miniLp sleeve (pricey but strongly recommended to appreciate Gong to the utmost) under the Victor label: Catalogue number VICP 61171. Finally the GonG oeuvre getting respect.

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