GONG — Camembert Electrique (review)

GONG — Camembert Electrique album cover Album · 1971 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
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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