Pierre Moerlen's Gong - Live
(CD 2011/1980, 41:50, Esoteric Records ECLEC2251)

Pierre Moerlen's Gong -
Leave It Open

(CD 2011/1981, 40:49, Esoteric Records ECLEC2250)

The tracks:
  1- Downwind
  2- Mandrake
  3- Golden Dilemma
  4- Soli
  5- Drum Solo
  6- Esnuria
  7- Crosscurrents
Leave It Open:
  1- Leave It Open
  2- How Much Better It Has Become
  3- I Woke Up That Morning, Felt Like Playing Guitar
  4- It's About Time
  5- Stok Stok Stok Sto-Gak
  6- Adrien

Esoteric Recordings

My original LPs have been worn out by the many repeating listening sessions and also the CDs have been much listened to, so these re-releases are more than welcome. Maybe they will rekindle the interest in the much too young deceased drummer, percussionist and band leader Pierre Moerlen. He was already famous for his work in the hippie group Gong and for working with Mike Oldfield during the time of Exposed (1979). When head poncho Daevid Allen left Gong, Moerlen grabbed power and steered the group toward jazz-rock. After the excellent records Shamal and Gazeuse (both 1976), the highlight for the group was reached with the albums Downwind (1979), the absolute classic Time Is The Key (1979), Live (1980) and Leave It Open (1981).

The album Live can be regarded as a 'best of ' with tracks from the albums Downwind, Gazeuse and Espresso II (1978), amongst others. Bassist Hansford Rowe snorts and frets with all his might, guitarist Bon Lozaga has clearly found his proper place in the band, brother Benoit Moerlen mistreats the vibraphone as if Sunday will never come, new boy Francois Causse hits everything he can get his hands on, while chief Pierre keeps pushing the music with his excellent drumming. When Mike Oldfield and Didier Malherbe join the party in opener Downwind in order to play extended soli, the fun reaches new heights.

One year later Leave It Open was the last record Arista Records released - oh everlasting shame - before the record company dropped the band. Again the now familiar mixture of driving drumming with heavenly xylophone tinkling while the guitarist solos like never before. Big surprise is the well-known saxophonist Charlie Mariano who joins on four of the six tracks and who makes very clear he fitted in well with this incarnation of Gong. Leave It Open was the last major feat of Pierre Moerlen. Despite a new start of the band at the end of the eighties, Moerlen gradually descended in a pit of financial, musical and especially physical decline until his untimely death in 2005. Therefore these re-releases do him justice.

Unfortunately there are no extra tracks. This is a real shame especially in the case of Live. Fortunately the sound quality is excellent and so I am, just as all those years ago, again in jazz-rock heaven.

***** André de Waal (edited by Peter Willemsen)

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