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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Mother Gong

The Best of Mother Gong

Review by Gary Hill

A compilation of material from various discs by Mother Gong, this is an intriguing CD. The group performs a unique form of progressive rock that is thoroughly rooted in jazz traditions. The vast majority of the vocals on this disc are essentially poetry readings over music. The music itself ranges from quite normal fusion to very avant-garde arrangements wandering off from time to time to just plain weirdness. For those who are looking for an adventurous CD and an introduction to this band, this would be a great place to start. The songs all blend into one another. Which is a pretty impressive feat considering that this is a compilation. The only complaint is that after a while, the whole CD starts to sound a lot alike, but Mother Gong's sound remains enjoyable.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2001 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Augment and Lady
A very cool jazzy sort of prog approach, owing quite a bit to the Floyd "Dark Side of the Moon" era starts this cut. It moves forward into a solid jazz groove after a time, then wanders into space. This is a wonderfully varied jazz intro, and that is just the intro. As the introduction ends, the cut takes on a weird sort of spoken word texture with political recitations. It jumps back up after a time with beautiful music accompanying more triumphant and sedate recitations. It ends in more weirdness.
Lament
Saxophone begins this instrumental piece and another pretty, but somewhat melancholy melody ensues, carrying the cut forward. This is a very pretty piece in a great jazzy prog style.
Time Is a Hurrying Dog
Playful and bouncy, this little cut is very brief.
Weather
A nice jazzy groove creates the mode for this cut. It gets quite spacey after a time and dissolves down to textural, spacey keys for a time. Then a smooth saxophone melody brings the cut into its next phase.
Technamid
An electronically based jam, this one is a nice groove, albeit brief.
Disco at the End of the World
This is very weird disco music, very faithful to the disco sound, but with a very strange texture.
Machine Song
This one is an almost Frank Zappaish cut with very strong fusion elements and some fairly seductive female vocals.
Superboots Improv
This piece starts off much more fusionish and sedate, but with a very freeform sort of mode.
Quantum Improv
More freeform material, this cut is a lot more animated and weird. It is sort of a jazz take on a Hawkwind space jam.
Wild Child
Starting with a great jazz sort of texture, this one turns to more of a balladic sort of style. The cut has a general building process to it, in terms of intensity. "Wild Child" is one of the most potent cuts on the CD.
Zen
Xylophone type sounds begin this cut, and the track takes on a chiming sort of Japanese percussion sound. This one includes another recitation.
Today is Beautiful
Starting with good jazzy tones, the cut wanders toward complete chaos in a free form, experimental sort of jam. Then a rhythmic pattern that feels just a little like a heartbeat calls out a grounding pattern and the cut pulls together in a more cohesive and melodic prog manner. The instruments dance around each other in this progression for a time til the vocals enter. The cut builds from this point, and this is another high point of the collection.
Water
Water appropriately begins this cut in the form of the sounds of gently stirring water. The music is electronica with a bit of jazzy reed instruments serving as a companion to the poetry reading that makes up the vocals to the cut. Other nature sounds join the water as the track carries on. The cut wanders around in a jazzy sort of jam for a time to end.
Magenta Part 1
Atmospheric tones begin this one and serve as the backdrop for this poem.
It's You and Me
Weird looping vocals form the main crux of this odd piece. An electronic sort of rhythm and heavily processed real vocals in a great jazz format complete the picture. The cut wonders off in a bit of a jam later.
Love Poem
Acoustic guitar forms the central theme to this one, but more jazzy textures begin building on that format. This "love poem" is definitely a poem, but quite odd in its theme. The cut gets very strange as the theme becomes more and more unusual.
Children's Song
Playful and fun textures appropriately make up this interesting cut. The piece becomes quite potent in its arrangement, but still keeps a childlike texture to it.
Trees
A good jazzy sort of jam, this one gets quite powerful and the poetry reading here is considerably strong.
She's The Mother Of...
Another jazzy sort of arrangement, this one includes a gospel sounding sort of vocal performance on the chorus. Weirdness takes over after a time.
Faces of Woman
This is another excursion into weirdness.
Wapu-Spirit of the Bush
A sedate piece with nature sounds, this one serves as a calming conclusion to the CD.
 
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