Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Shadows: Shadows Of


I’ve written about Gong before, a couple of times, and mentioned them in passing. They are a band that I really enjoy, and nevertheless remain pretty obscure. You could probably get a doctorate in the band’s history—it has formed, splintered, reformed, renamed, and changed members more times than one can count. Nevertheless, there’s a website that tries to chronicle Gong's various changes and permutations (as well as other bands from the Canterbury Scene).

I got into Gong through its late 1970s-early 1980s incarnation as a fusion band led by Pierre Moerlen, featuring lots of mallet percussion. The original, spacy, psychedelic version of the band was less interesting to me—although there was brilliance, there was also lots of weird, hard to listen to stuff to wade through. For the most part, the Moerlen-led band was tight, had interesting songs with an unusual amount of percussion and, maybe most importantly, featured incredible musicians, including Allan Holdsworth on guitar. If you don’t know who Allan Holdsworth was (he passed away earlier this year), find his music on the Internet. Days before his death, a 12 CD box set of his solo albums from 1982-2003, entitled The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever, was released. The title was taken from a proclamation on the cover of an issue of Guitar Player in 2008, and it isn’t an overstatement. That’s not to say that there aren’t other guitarists who changed the way guitar was played, but he’s certainly one of them. He was the favorite guitarist of Eddie van Halen; Tom Morello and Frank Zappa, among others, have cited him as an influence.

But the main reason that I’m going back to the Gong well for this theme, which has many possible topics, is that I recently had a chance to meet another of the musicians who played on this song, percussionist Mino Cinélu. Cinélu later played drums for Holdsworth, was in Weather Report, played with, among others, Pat Metheny, Peter Gabriel, Miles Davis, Sting, Kate Bush, Herbie Hancock and Branford Marsalis, and led his  own bands. Mino participated in a panel that I attended recently about copyright law and music, which was led and organized by my friend Heather--who makes her second appearance in SMM--and also featured prominent lawyers and a musicologist who have been involved in some of the most well-known music copyright cases in recent years. Although I’m a lawyer, that’s not my field, and it was fascinating.

Afterwards, we, of course, repaired to the bar for drinks, and I had a chance to chat with Mino, mentioning that I was a huge fan of Gong (particularly the one album of theirs that he appeared on), and Holdsworth, and had participated in an interview with Pierre Moerlen when he, and another formation of Gong, played at Princeton when I was a student. He couldn’t have been a nicer guy, and we’ve been in contact a few times since, most recently to confirm that he, in fact, performed in the live version of “Shadows Of” from the video above, because the Internet shockingly had conflicting information.

It was recorded at the Reading Festival in 1976, and featured Pierre Moerlen and his brother Benoit, also a percussionist, Holdsworth, bass player Francis Moze, percussionist Mirelle Bauer, woodwind player Didier Malherbe and Cinélu. Although the sound quality isn’t great, the performance is, despite the fact that it lacks the amazing acoustic guitar solo of the original, which was a rarity for Holdsworth (or, for that matter, Malherbe's great flute solo).

The Reading Festival that year was a prog-fest, although not exclusively. Other performers included Camel, Phil Manzanera/801, and Brand X. Other non-prog acts included AC/DC (listed in very small type), Black Oak Arkansas, Rory Gallagher (both in very big type), Ted Nugent, and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. And, as they say, many, many more.

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