Gong is one of the more unique bands of the early 70's and their debut perfectly illustrates why. I personally like to think of them as creative dreamy music for the hippie crowd and not throw them in with the progressive rock genre. Their debut isn't shy with the highly unusual psychedelic-influenced ideas and musical instrument variety the likes of which would make most people run in fear. In fact for these guys, variety is the spice of life and writing songs in the traditional "verse, chorus, verse, chorus" way is a thing they abandoned right from the get go. These guys delivered with a debut album that amazes, excites, occasionally challenges, but it's honestly not for everyone. I don't think for example that Kansas or Van Der Graaf Generator fans would like this album. It's an acquired taste. You pretty much have to be whacked out to fully grasp every nook and cranny of this stuff which includes me I'm afraid!
"Mystic Sister/Magick Brother" begins the album and immediately shows what this band would go on to accomplish for the better part of the next decade. Pure psychedelic madness. Early Pink Floyd fans would eat this stuff up BIG time I believe. All the trademark features are evident too- weird, hippie-inspired hazy female vocals, a Middle Eastern influence in the arrangements, and Daevid Allen's knack for catchy vocal melodies. If I have one complaint however it's that the vocals aren't quite as creative as they would be as soon as Camembert Electrique was released.
"Glad to Sad to Say" is not only a hard song title to actually say, but it's noteworthy for its instantly depressing-like intro with a touch of blues and sadness present, and Daevid Allen's unusual shifty vocals are oddly beautiful and spiritual while lyrically the song is something from another planet (drug-related no doubt). The song is truly haunting. This is not the more carnival-like stuff I normally associate with early Gong at all. I can picture early Alice Cooper writing something as surreal in the early days. "Rational Anthem" sings about changing the world from a drugged out point of view. It's optimistic and melodically extraordinary in a way that reminds me of the late 60's Beatles of all bands. Not sure why. It doesn't really sound like, to name one example, the Beatles "Don't Bring Me Down" because the Gong tune is significantly more upbeat, but I sense similar vibes and influences. It's a psychedelic song for the peace and love message as the lyrics state at the end. I strongly believe Beatles fans would love this tune.
"Chainstore Chant/Pretty Miss T" (haha, amazon won't let me say the song title for fair reasons) is haunting with a bluesy/psychedelic guitar riff comparable to the atmosphere present in "Glad to Sad to Say" which makes for a striking impression. Repeating the line "Pockets full of blood" several times is alarming too. I imagine certain people were probably fearful of this music back in the day. The vocals are really enjoyable and Beatles-like once again. Perhaps the best way to describe this album so far is to imagine early Alice Cooper's outrageous period in the early 70's combined with really catchy and psychedelic late period Beatles-like songwriting. I don't know how else to describe it! "Big bad businessman have you any love" is a catchy hook! Love the guitar solo with whispering female vocals too. "Fable of a Fredfish/Hope You Feel Ok" has some weird swishy studio effects over a vocal melody that's somewhat incoherent and hard to discern but the vibrant guitar strings pop up every so often and are quite extraordinary. I believe underneath this song is a genius idea that's waiting to be understood, and hopefully repeated listens will reveal it for me!
"Ego" is 100% unique! What is this little piece of oddness? My description is probably way off but it sounds like a series of jazzy tempos mixed with ragtime-inspired piano and short bursts of vocal melody occasionally coming out of nowhere to remind everyone it's an actual song (and it works, I'm reminded!) Even the trademark sax briefly makes a welcoming appearance in the middle. However what's equally strange is that this strikes me as a well-crafted tune. Somehow all these oddball ideas click! The high-pitched female vocals are fitting and just add to the unusual nature of the piece. Weird and yet, absolutely fascinating. Dare I call such a song beautiful? "Gongsong" is next... that is, if you're still listening! Hopefully you are. Please don't turn this stuff off- it'll get better the more you experience it, trust me. Anyway this song shifts from gentle and lullaby-like to much funkier and groovier the next. Really hard to make out the lyrics but I'm sure they're related to all kinds of drugs! Maybe a certain green man that comes from the planet Gong. Yes, visit us.
"Princess Dreaming" starts off with sirens that honestly frighten me a lot! Not how a princess should be dreaming ever! The siren effects gradually shift into meowing, and this is even *more* frightening. I believe is the perfect soundtrack to the scariest movie you've ever seen. There's probably a logical meaning behind the song title "5 & 20 Schoolgirls" but I'm not sure what it is. All I know is that the downbeat way the verse melody rolls along with the saxophone chugging is a thing of genius. It all builds to a catchy, hard to understand chorus. Fantastic song. It's not hard to imagine an early David Bowie possibly writing a song as weird as this. The saxophone jam near the end is really melodic. "Cos You Got Greenhair" ends this album, and what an album this is! The song has incredibly creepy bursts of Middle Eastern-influenced flutes playing over an eerie background. Alright this is probably the only really weak song here but it's sort of memorable for the oddness of the flutes and strange, unmelodic vocals that just soar in such an eerie way relentlessly for the entire song.
Overall, highly recommended for people who need to get a little crazy once in a while!