Issue 2010-015: DVD Special
Reviews in this issue:
- Shpongle - Live In Concert At The Roundhouse 2008
- Riverside - Reality Dream (Duo Review)
- Abigail’s Ghost – Live At RoSFest 2009
- Yes – Rock Of The 70’s
- Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Then And Now
- Gong Global Family – Live In Brazil 20 November 2007
Shpongle - Live In Concert At The Roundhouse 2008
Tracklist: Ineffable Mysteries (10:21), Beija Flor (6:05), Dorset Perception (7:59), Periscopes Of Consciousness (3:35), I Am You (10:20), Star Shpongled Banner (8:20), My Head Feels Like A Frisbee (8:43), When Shall I Be Free ? (8:03), No Turn Unstoned (8:34), Divine Moments Of Truth (11:22), Interlude (1:57), Nothing Is Something Worth Doing (7:44), Once Upon The Sea Of Blissful Awareness (8:17), Around The World In A Tea Daze (13:55) Bonus Material: Shpongle Interview (44:02), Shpongled With Raja Ram (21:33), Event Time Lapse (2:20), Rehearsals (5:25), Raja's Extra (4:05)
It must have been sometime in November or December last year that a DPRP reader dropped me an e-mail telling me that if I liked Porcupine Tree I should check out the new Shpongle DVD. At the time the name did not immediately ring a bell but later I would recognize the name from their collaboration with Alan Parsons on his Valid Path album, where their work on the track Return To Tunguska (which also featured David Gilmour on guitar) was one of the very few highlights on Parson's album.
I followed the recommendation and checked out the DVD and even though I would beg to differ that Shpongle sounds anything like Porcupine Tree (they have much more in common with e.g. Ozric Tentacles, but without the overloads of guitar) it wasn't before long that I was totally swept away by their material. And here we are just a few months later and I own their full back catalogue and have traced down some of their more rare stuff. Shpongle has quickly become one of my all time favourites! This is the kind of thing that only happens a couple of times in a decade with me, so without a doubt we have something very, very special here.
Now, the first thing I need to say is that you should not expect your average (neo) prog rock band here. Most people will probably say that Shpongle isn't even rock and they are probably right. Since the band is one of the projects of DJ Simon Posford it will not surprise you that Sphongle owes a lot more to the electronics and dance scene. As a matter of fact, their style of music is often referred to as Psybient (psychedelic ambient) or Psytrance (psychedelic trance), which might explain why I like it so much since my musical taste has been moving towards Trance in recent years. But hold on, before you start scrolling to the next review you purist! Might I quote Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson from and interview he did around the In Absentia era? When asked if there was still progression possible in the sense of new styles of music being created, Wilson answered that all types of music have been explored and true progression comes from hybrids, when different types of music are combined. And in this definition Shpongle are as progressive as it gets. It combines the feel of trance music with real instruments (you know, guitar, bass, percussion, drums, flute) and musical influences from around the world, but mainly Brazil and India. The result is a fascinating mix which will definitely appeal to the sense of adventure of many prog fans.
Another aspect of Shpongle's music that prog fans will count as a pros is the fact that most of their songs run over seven minutes and feature lots of style and tempo changes. Some of their material is instrumental, while other tracks feature vocals, mostly by Hari Om and/or Michele Adamson, both of which are present in the band for this concert. Beside Simon Posford on keyboards and guitar and the other official half of Shpongle, Raja Ram, on flute, the band consists of Chris Taylor (bass), Harry Escott (cello), Dick Trevor (computers), Andy Gangadeen (drums) and the excellent guitar play of Pete Callard that gives a lot of Shpongle's music it´s Mediterranean feel. Manu Delago makes a guest appearance on Hang Drum (a marvellous cocoon-like instrument that sounds a bit like a steel drum) in the wonderful Nothing Is Something Worth Doing.
As wonderful and varied as the music of the band is, as colourful is the show performed at The Roundhouse. Besides the band, walking around in marvellous costumes, and the female singers who change their outfits several times, there's a group of Brazilian female dancers and a male Indian dancer performing on several tracks. The stage features a round, Floydian projection screen and the walls of The Roundhouse have been equipped with other effects that are used throughout the show. The light show and lasers work very well with the music, even though the footage might be slightly dark here and there. And Raja Ram adds a lot to the surreal feel, dancing around the stage and using weird stage props. All of these elements combined result in an atmosphere that's one big two hour party for band and audience alike !
For those familiar with the band's material, let me clear up some confusion about the setlist. You might be disappointed to see only two short tracks from the Nothing Lasts... album here, but rest assured: Beija Flor is actually the original name for the Outer Shpongolia - Levitation Nation suite and continues with both Periscopes Of Consciousness and Schmaltz Herring after Dorset Perception (which works excellently sandwiched in between these tracks). Later in the performance When Shall I Be Free? does include The Stamen Of The Shamen as well, thereby adding the Nothing Lasts... material up to a very acceptable 18 minutes. The bands debut album is present with the popular Divine Moments Of Truth, while the rest of the show is composed of tracks from their second album (Tales Of The Inexpressible) and no less than 4 long tracks from their at that time not yet released fourth album (Ineffable Mysteries From Shpongleland). Taking into account that this new album was only released one year later the renditions some of these sound remarkably much like the final studio versions. This and close watching and listening seems to prove that not all you hear is actually a live performance. Whereas the trained Shpongle ear will note the differences there are most certainly overdubs and some backing tapes being used here. But to be honest, who cares if the result is all the more enjoyable.
The setlist is highlight after highlight. After the Indian flavoured opener follow several tracks with a more uptempo Brazilian influence and the amazing Michele Adamson performs dressed as a belly dancer dragged from a harem. In I Am You a slower, much more electronic feel is presented and it features both female singers dressed as if they're at a masquerade in Renaissance times. After the reggae/dub flavoured Star Sphongled Banner and intro of My Head Feels Like A Frisbee the Brazilian fun returns. No Turn Unstoned and Divine Moments Of Truth call for more electronic grooves. After an Interlude of some typical weird Raja Ram narration the show continues with the atmospheric Nothing Is Something Worth Doing and ambient Once Upon The Sea Of Blissful Awareness. A show like this can only be closed by a big party track, and what better one than the journey that is Around The World In A Tea Daze.
I could write page after page about this DVD but it's best if you get a taste yourself. Check out the DVD promo on Youtube. A further search will find you more material from the show. Besides the artwork by Storm Thorgerson (of Pink Floyd fame) the DVD also comes with almost 80 minutes of extra's among which 70 minutes of various interesting and fun interviews with Simon Posford and Raja Ram and footage of the rehearsal for Nothing Is Something Worth Doing. As such, the DVD comes as a double layered disc to fit it all in.
This DVD has rarely left my player ever since I bought it. The setlist is virtually identical to what my own choice of Shpongle´s best material would be (and as such is an excellent start to get to know that band's music), the show is stunning and besides the lack of a 5.1 surround mix there´s very little I can find to complain about this excellent release. It´s one of those shows you´d wish you´d been at and the best thing to do is play it again, and again, and again ... I cannot recommend this DVD enough. Proggers, open your minds and get Shpongled !
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10
Riverside - Reality Dream
DVD 1: Intro & The Same River (11:31), Out Of Myself (3:39), Volte - Face (8:47), Rainbow Box (3:36), 02 Panic Room (4:09), Reality Dreams III (5:01), I Turned You Down (5:05), Dance With The Shadow (11;30), Parasomnia (7:45), Second Life Syndrome (16:13), The Curtain Falls (9:38)
DVD 2: Encores: Before (6:08), Ultimate Trip (13:46); Live Performances: Beyond The Eyelids (7:56), Loose Heart (4:55), Back To The River (6:15), Conceiving You (3:39), I Believe (4:20), Lucid Dreams IV (6:39), Reality Dream II (4:45); Behind The Curtain (a film by John Vis); Photo Gallery; Credits
Menno von Brucken Fock's Review
This Polish progressive outfit led by bass player/lead vocalist and main composer Mariusz Duda is a well known act throughout Europe. They even managed to tour in North America as well. Their astonishing debut Out Of Myself in 2003, was followed by Second Life Syndrome (2005) and Rapid Eye Movement (2007). The band shows to be influenced by acts like Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree and even now they sometimes play music from these aforementioned bands. The music by this quartet ranges from ambient to progressive metal, but mainly it's slightly psychedelic progressive rock.
The concert was filmed using multiple cameras, both in fixed positions as well as carried by a professional camera crew. As usual the editing of a DVD takes time, therefore this concert from 17th May 2008 has been released just in January this year (2010). The concert features three tracks from the debut album and four from their third Rapid Eye Movement album, but the emphasis is clearly on their second album Second Life Syndrome, represented with six tracks.
The Toya Studios (Lodz - Poland) is a very nice venue with a large stage. Behind the band several impressive framed images, like immense paintings, on stage an old radio and next to the elaborate lighting, there are several screens on which video images are shown throughout the concert. As the venue is not as big as 'our' Heineken Music Hall, the screens have not been used to film the players or close ups from their hands and instruments. Watching the images, my impression is that the screens have not been used to the full and the videos are not always uplifting.
The quality of the sound is superb and if I hadn't been impressed by the individual members of the band long before, this would be the time to do so, because especially Duda renders a magnificent performance, both the vocals and the bass playing are outstanding. Because the four members of the band more or less have to stick to their designated spots, because of their instruments or footpedals, the static performance has been 'enhanced' by stripes, dust particles and 'rain' throughout the whole concert as if some of the tapes used were dating from over 60 years ago. Lots of rather disturbing images have been added to enliven the show but certainly not to my liking. Because sepia, purple, green and red seem to be the colors of choice and most of the time the performers are in the shade and cannot be seen with their usual tans for more than a few seconds, the show is rather 'dark'. Especially guitarist Piotr Grudziński seems to be afraid to move more than two inches and to open his eyes when filmed close up, while heavyweight drummer Piotr Kozieradzki seems to have this fixed facial expression of utmost concentration, without any smile or attempt to communicate with the audience. Even keyboard player Michał Łapaj, in the live shows responsible or the background vocals as well and Duda are far less interacting with the audience in comparison to the live performances on the second DVD. Furthermore there seem to be hardly any improvisations and smoke, while these are elements we are familiar with from the usual shows by Riverside.
On the second DVD we have two encores from the concert, a film by Dutchman John Vis, who filmed to setting up of the stage and the band during their preparations for this event as well as the soundchecks. The photo gallery and the credits are the inevitable 'musts' and the additions of live tracks from Canada and Europe are the living proof that this band is really awesome although the sound quality is far less than the featured concert, but still very acceptable.
In conclusion I would say the band is absolutely in brilliant form but you can enjoy the music best with your eyes closed. This 'best of' live on CD I would have rated at least 9 out of 10 but because the performance as a hole is utterly boring and/or not pleasant to watch because of the distracting additions, the DVD is rated less. Even the enjoyable bonus features cannot save this DVD. The live CD remains highly recommended and in my opinion a must for all fans of Riverside, Porcupine Tree and perhaps also Opeth.
Dave Baird's Review
Riverside were one of the prog happenings of the last decade, almost out of nowhere they burst onto the music scene with four albums, all of the very highest quality. Of course there are many bands that have also release great albums, but for one reason or another Riverside got picked-up by the public and were catapulted close to the top of the genre in a relatively short time. Now I'm ashamed to say that despite really loving this band, I've never seen them live, so I was very much looking forward to seeing this DVD.
There's the usual sort of build-up, some time-lapse photography of the stage being setup, then cut to the walk from the dressing-room with Riverside songs being tuned in via-the-radio-effect, a bit worn but innocuous. Already though there are hints of what's to come, colour-fade, false scratches on the film, quick zooms and cuts to multiple shots, white-outs and simulated burning film; it's video for the attention-deficit/MTV generation, it's as though the video has been used as a showcase for the software tool to show off all the different effects you can cram into as short a time as possible. It's all very Lasse Hoile, but with less taste and on steroids.
That in itself would be bad enough, but to add insult to injury, the band look as miserable as hell. They are mostly stationary with very little interaction between one-another. OK, I know, it's all about the music, but I want live to mean live, and that means a little excitement too, hell, even the crowd are mostly anonymous throughout. Guitarist Piotr Grudziński is on a plinth for the whole set and does move off it, he hardly seems to look at the rest of the band either, seems lost in his own dreamy world. Drummer Piotr Kozieradzki is lost behind his mammoth kit and isn't seen to smile once. The main man, Mariusz Duda, occasionally tries some audience interaction, but it seems a little forced. Maybe some credit to keyboardist Michał Łapaj who does seem to be having some fun, showing some emotion and jumping around a bit.
So visually not great, what about the music? Well it's perfect, not a note out of place, beautifully produced. Do they play that well live or is there a lot of post-production smoothing out any errors? Regardless it's too polished. Live music calls for a certain edge, energy and even error, at least compromise compared to studio recordings. I hear little evidence of that here. Oh yes, the multi-layered guitars are obviously not there, but the transitions from this part to that are so smooth it's unreal. Maybe I do them a disservice and they're so good they just play like this all the time. Duda and Łapaj are standout here, the former showing what a totally fantastic bass player he is with a style totally his own, with the most tremendous voice, but the whole band is really incredibly good, beyond good even. OK, sure they're not playing at the level of Dream Theater, but it's not easy-peasy stuff either... One wonders if it's not just better to listen to the studio versions of the CD's instead.
The DVD is meant as an overview of the Reality Dream trilogy of albums (Out of Myself, Second Life Syndrome, Rapid Eye Movement), and when presented together the songs do sometimes sound a bit too thematically same-y. Maybe that's deliberate as it is a linked trilogy, but that's how it comes across. And that's about it for the gig itself, one one hand perfect, on the other flawed. I find it deeply underwhelming and a missed opportunity for this amazing band.
So what of the extras? First-up there's a short film "Behind The Curtain" which shows the band preparing for the gig through to the meet-and-greet after the show. There's no narrative, just footage, and it's really rather nice, very well done. I find it funny that nearly every time we see guitarist Piotr he's practicing - maybe he really does play that damn good live? Michał on keyboards shows his sense of humour too. I guess if I was a younger man and bonkers about Riverside I'd re-watch this many times as you see much better the character of the band members. The second major extra is a handful of live performances from various gigs over the years and these to my mind are far more interesting than the main feature, regardless that the recording quality isn't as high. Why is that? Well the band seem alive and far more into the performance, the raw edge is there and it sounds real. All of these bonus tracks are excellent with the final track Reality Dream II really catching the eye as it's filmed before their "mainstream" breakthrough. It's before they had their signature guitars for instance, Piotr playing an Ibanez Jem and Mariusz on a MusicMan Stingray. This is a great footage showing the evolution if the band, although I would have liked to have seen some even older footage - maybe they're keeping that for the documentary DVD due for release in 2020...
So overall a disappointment for this reviewer with the main feature coming across as sterile and over-produced. Some mitigation in the extras, but not enough to warrant a recommendation to casual buyers. Certainly a must-have for Riverside aficionados, but even some of them will fall asleep half-way through...
MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK : 7 out of 10
DAVE BAIRD : 6 out of 10
Abigail’s Ghost – Live At RoSFest 2009
Tracklist: d_letion, Romantique Life, Cinder Tin, Sneak Peek, Close, Sellout, Cerulean Blue, Plastik Soul, Monochrome, Black Lace, Mother May I?, Gemini Man; Waiting Room, Annie Enemy
There aren’t many progressive bands hailing from the depths of Louisiana, yet with two DPRP recommended albums to their name, (Selling Insincerity and D_letion) Abigail’s Ghost is one such band that is now firmly on the map.
A five-piece founded by two high school friends, Bones Theriot (lead vocals, guitars) and Kenneth Wilson (bass guitar, backing vocals), this debut DVD captures the best from both albums in a live setting. Well I use the term ‘live setting’ with a heavy dose of journalistic licence. The band has plenty of life, but the RoSFest audience seems to have been shipped in from the local retirement home, or maybe even a step further down the line!
Now held in a 1,200 seater indoor venue in historic Gettysburg, the Rites of Spring Festival has rightly established itself as one of the world’s leading prog events. Veterans, (John Lee’s) Barclay James Harvest headlined the final night in 2009, with Lazuli, Frost* and Moth Vellum sharing the second day bill with Abigail’s Ghost. This may have been an experiment on the promoter’s part to see how a heavier and younger band would fare. Having heard more crowd noise at a sponsored silence, it’s probably one they shall not repeat.
That in no way reflects on the performance and energy shown by the band. From the off the quintet displayed a high level of energy, especially rhythm guitarist Randy LeBoeuf. The rest of the band is tight and focused. As with the albums I’m particularly impressed with drummer John Rodrigue. Theriot is a more relaxed frontman but his guitar playing is sublime. Sadly the vocal harmonies which are such a key component of the band’s sound are lost in this show, with keyboardist Brett Guillory far too low in the mix.
Musically, common comparisons are made to modern prog giants Porcupine Tree, to which I’d add the modern energy of bands such as Karnivool, Souljourners, Three and Fair To Midland, with a touch of the sophistication of latter-day Sieges Even.
Audience put aside, this DVD showcases the true on stage experience of Abigail’s Ghost.
As with their two albums, this package has been released by the band’s own label. It’s pretty limited on bonus features which is a real missed opportunity for the band to introduce themselves to their fans. Surely it doesn’t take too much to film a video interview, or a diary of their RoSFest experience. The booklet is just a single sheet; again a missed opportunity. However it’s well filmed, the sound is good and with an hour of fantastically played and performed live music this should be a sound investment for fans and newcomers alike.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Yes – Rock Of The 70’s
Tracklist: Astral Traveller, Everydays, Then, No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed
Following the release of 2001’s Magnification album, Jon Anderson announced that in future Yes would concentrate on live performances and DVD releases (in preference to studio albums). To date his predictions have proven to be correct although I doubt that even he would have foreseen that the band he and Chris Squire launched nearly 42 years ago would once again be touring without him.
With no recent Yes shows available on DVD since Songs From Tsongas ~ 35th Anniversary Concert (recorded almost 6 years ago) unsurprisingly the bands archives have been plundered to fill the gap. Following relatively close on the heals of The Lost Broadcasts DVD, Voiceprint have dug even deeper into the aforementioned archives and come up with this half hour sequence of early Yes promos. Although neither the DVD, its packaging or the Voiceprint website give any insight as to the origins of the recording I can confirm that it was originally made by Belgian Television over a 4 day period at the beginning of September 1970. In the midst of a lengthy European tour at the time it was no doubt prompted by Yes’ burgeoning popularity in Belgium appearing at the Huy music festival that same month.
All four songs featured here were taken from the much maligned Time And A Word album, released less than two months earlier. Although the album (and the soundtrack to this DVD) features the original Yes line-up with Peter Banks playing guitar, he had already been replaced by Steve Howe at the time of filming. This however did not deter the producers in much the same way as Atlantic Records would eventually ditch the original album artwork in favour of a band photo which included an understandably sheepish looking Howe.
Full marks for the choice of songs which includes the longer and more proggier offerings from TAAW as opposed to the more obvious radio friendly tunes like Sweet Dreams and the title track. Less adventurous however is the filming which is pure sub Beatles (ala A Hard Days Night and Help) with the Yes ‘Fab Five’ indulging in zany antics in prominent Belgian locations.
Following footage of the bands arrival at Brussels airport (minus the hysterics that greeted The Beatles at JFK 6 years earlier) they are seen in the studio performing Astral Traveller. Visually it’s engaging (once you get over the sight of Howe miming to Bank’s guitar parts that is) ending with a character dressed in a black coat and bowler hat turning to the camera with a green apple in his mouth (an obvious reference to The Beatles’ record logo).
The vision of Jon Anderson floating down river perfectly suits the pastoral opening to Everydays but it all gets rather silly for the jazzy instrumental section which sees the band being chased around the historic town of Bruges by a girl dressed as a nun! It’s all a far cry for the quasi-religious piety of the bands later songs.
The video for Then is more effective featuring the band at the end of a windy causeway in what looks like the seaside resort of Ostend. The orchestra sounds a tad incongruous in this context but Chris Squire does a wonderful send-up of the Banks/Howe situation by pretending to play organ (and looking very convincing) whilst keyboardist Tony Kaye does likewise on bass (looking less convincing).
The final clip No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed sees the entire band risking life and limb by racing around a country park in a small beach buggy at ridiculously high speeds. Some may recall a short snippet from this same footage appearing in the YesYears documentary from a few years back.
In between each song, attempts are made to interview individual band members with derisible results. Both Steve Howe and Bill Bruford struggle to find a single thing to say whilst Squire resorts to describing the contents of his wallet in deadpan Monty Pythonesque fashion.
As the end credits rolled (to the strains of Sweet Dreams) I was left wondering why this and The Lost Broadcasts (which ran for only 43 minutes) were not combined as a single DVD. It would have at least provided a more acceptable justification for the price tag although as it stands Rock Of The 70’s still has several points in its favour. The songs for one thing still sound pretty good to my ears, benefiting from a surprisingly good sound reproduction, whilst the colour footage has also stood the test of time remarkably well.
Although Time And A Word had a lukewarm reception in the UK, within 6 months of their appearance on Belgian TV the band would have a No.1 follow-up in the shape of The Yes Album. Also during an eventful 1971 keyboard superstar Rick Wakeman and the Fragile album would enter the equation. This DVD on the other hand is an entertaining memento of a slightly more naive but still creative period in the bands history.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Then And Now
Tracklist: Then: Sydney 1972 - I'm Gonna Have You All, Black And Blue, Captain Bobby Stout, Mighty Quinn, The Hit Scene Interview, One Way Glass (59:59) Now: Burg Herzberg 2005 - Dancing In The Dark / House Of The Rising Sun, Father Of Night Father Of Day, She Was / Blinded By The Light, Demolition Man, Davy's On The Road Again, Mighty Quinn, The 2008 Interview (71:34)
At the beginning of the year I reviewed the expansive (but not expensive) Bootleg Archives Volumes 1-5 CD collection by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. The label responsible has dug even deeper into the MMEB archives to come up with the material for this companion DVD. The title Then And Now is explained by the inclusion of rare footage from 1972 (just a year after the bands formation) and a more recent festival appearance in 2005. A disclaimer on the back of the DVD case states “Due to the archival nature of the material, sound and picture may vary occasionally” but don’t let that put you off.
The ‘Then’ portion of the DVD was filmed at The Roundhouse Theatre, University of New South Wales, Sydney in May 1972. This was the bands second visit to Australia having toured there the previous year supporting Deep Purple in a package that also included Free. The aforementioned disclaimer is obviously a reference to this black and white footage which was recorded by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for their ‘Get To Know’ programme. By all accounts colour didn’t reach Aussie TV until 1974. Such is the grainy picture quality and slightly murky sound however it could have just as easily been filmed in 1962 as 1972.
Fortunately these shortcomings do not distract from the quality of the performance and if nothing else only goes to prove it’s vintage. Before the set a taped “There’ll Always Be An England” blares from the PA system, obviously a bold joke on Mann’s part at the expense of the Aussie audience. The keyboardist is joined on stage by original MMEB line-up Mick Rogers (guitar, vocals), Chris Slade (drums) and Colin Pattenden (bass). The stage setting is typical for a 70’s university gig (i.e. very basic) but the bright lighting does at least provide a clear view of individual band members. They are clearly enjoying themselves making the most of the cameras presence to turn in an exuberant and skilful performance.
The Sydney set has obviously been pruned to suit the running time of the TV programme but still gives a good overview of the band during that tour. The material is atypical late 60’s prog with a definite blues bias which is especially evident in Rogers’ guitar and vocal style. The band is not averse to stretching out the songs with lengthy, semi-improvised instrumental excursions with Rogers’ sometimes indulgent soling receiving lively support from the rhythm partnership of Slade and Pattenden. In between his solid Hammond chords, Mann’s Moog playing is mostly experimental with gimmicky sound effects interspersed with the occasional inspired solo. When he announces the closing and familiar Mighty Quinn, Mann drolly states that it’s from an era when he used to be a pop star.
An interview involving all four band members follows and was taped by ABC during the same 1972 tour. Rogers comes across as a very serious young man whilst Mann displays a laconic and elusive persona. Despite the earnest efforts of the interviewer little is revealed although Mann does confirm that MMEB deliberately avoided the intricacies of other prog bands of the time, an obvious reference to the likes of Yes and ELP. This section of the DVD concludes with Manfred Mann Chapter Three (the jazzy forerunner to MMEB and a different lineup) in a rare and early example of a promo video performing One Way Glass complete with a rousing brass section.
In marked contrast the ‘Now’ section features the band in an open air performance filmed in glorious colour in the summer of 2005. The setting is the Burg Herzberg festival recorded by the German Rockpalast programme and we join the set partway through just as dusk is falling. Although House Of The Rising Sun is credited as one half of a medley with Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark, only the latter song is performed. By way of compensation and prior to the encore of (once again) Mighty Quinn, Rodgers plays an un-credited and stunning solo version of another Springsteen tune, For You. Apart from the occasional long shots, the images are sharp with excellent colour saturation particularly when night sets in and the stage lighting comes into its own.
The band (or at least the sound) is noticeably tighter although Rodgers is still prone to the occasional blues inflected guitar ramblings. He and Mann are joined this time by Steve Kinch (bass), Geoff Dunn (drums) and Noel McCalla (vocals). Along with organ and synth, Mann displays a preference for electric piano particularly effective for the familiar strains of Blinded By The Light and Mighty Quinn. During the latter Rodgers plays the infamous and crowd pleasing riff from Smoke On The Water. His party piece however comes during Father Of Night, Father Of Day where his guitar gives a very accurate impersonation of a formula one racing car going through its motions. For his part McCalla exhibits admirable stage presence with a soulful rendition of Davy's On The Road Again that’s not a million miles from his predecessor Chris Thompson’s but with added swing.
The DVD concludes with an interview with an older, wiser and more humorous Manfred Mann recorded in May 2008. The questions focus on the origins of MMEB, the earlier tour of Australia and Mann’s synth technique. Completing the package is an insightful booklet with extensive notes from self confessed Mann fans and aficionados Mick Maloney and Nigel Stanworth. Certainly a must for MMEB devotees but also worth checking out by anyone that has an interest in prog in its infancy.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Gong Global Family – Live In Brazil 20 November 2007
DVD: You Can’t Kill Me, Radio Gnome Invisible, Fohat Digs Holes In Space, Oily Way, Outer Temple, Inner Temple, Master Builder, Tropical Fish, Selene, Dynamite
CD: You Can’t Kill Me (6:39), Radio Gnome Invisible (8:23), Fohat Digs Holes In Space (11:15), Oily Way (3:25), Outer Temple (2:12), Inner Temple (2:07), Master Builder (8:07), Tropical Fish (6:16), Selene (7:05), Dynamite (8:23)
My first encounter with Gong goes back as far as some 25 years I think and the album in question being Gazeuse. As a young lad I had just discovered rock music and I remember that looking out my window I could peep through the window of a neighbourand his son had a huge writing on the wall. Believe it or not the top line read Uriah Heep and underneath was Gong.
Why would I start with such a story, musically I never expected Gong to sound like they did back then, because I was already more into the Black Sabbath music, and Uriah Heep is closer to Sabbath. Therefore it was not for years I rediscovered Gong. Ever since that moment, about 10 years back, I have become a fan of Gong.
With Gong you never know what you are going to get. Alas we have here a DVD accompanied by a soundtrack CD - the info from Voiceprint states that both CD/DVD are of the same length not counting the lead and end titles on the DVD. These products are sold individually, but are covered together in this article.
Our journey through the unexpected starts with You Can’t Kill Me. Nothing is truer it seems as Deavid Allen is – at the time of the recording – 69 years of age still going strong. For this concert Allen is supported by Josh Pollock (guitar and megaphone), Fabio Golfetti (guitar), Fred Barley (drums), Gabriel Costa (bass) and Marcelo Ringel (saxophone). As always hearing (seeing) Gong play is a terrific experience and all musicians deliver a high standard performance. The show brings us music out of four old Gong albums’ (Camembert Electrique, The Flying Teapot, Angel’s Egg and You). All songs have easily withstood the time.
Kicking off with You Can’t Kill Me to be followed by Radio Gnome Invisible, at the time Radio Gnome was released, Gong and Frank Zappa were already compared, and still the comparison holds. Zappa and Allen both are masters of improvisations and of course strange compositions. I must admit that I find the song even stronger in this performance than I have ever witnessed or heard before. The performance is very energetic. Fohat Digs Holes In Space is to follow and even more energetic than Radio Gnome. Continuing the set is a larger portion out off Radio Gnome Invisible Part 2 - Angel’s Egg comes around.
It leaves no doubt in my mind that Daevid Allen is still going strong, combining superb musicianship, compositions with enthusiastic personality and solid performing. His ability to assemble groups of musicians to form bands also is astounding. Allen’s compositions are not at all easy to pick up, with a lot of different time signatures.
The packaging of the DVD as well as the CD are simple but of good quality. The real Gong lover will have no problem, but not knowing what to expect listening to Gong, don’t leave after a tiny outtake but listen or watch longer or more. The music needs to grow on you. Or it never will. There is no room for in between here. You either like or dislike it.
The show has been captured to ”tape” at high quality, has been mastered, engineered and produced so tight at times you could swear you were listening to a studio recording. But it actually is live!
For the true fanatic of the scene I would say a must have, however if you are not much into Canterbury scene it might give a good start to the music.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10