Review Summary: The third instalment in Gong's "Radio Gnome Invisible" trilogy marks the end of their psychedelic progressive rock period and stands as possibly their best album.
Pot Head Pixies, Flying Teapots, Radio Gnomes, Octave Doctors and Zero The Hero ; mention those phrases to any fan of the early 70's Canterbury Scene and they will undoubtedly recognise them as themes and characters from the Radio Gnome Invisible
trilogy by Gong. The band seemed to have an ever changing line-up throughout their history but, for once, the core personnel remained identical to that which created the previous album Angel's Egg
for this third and final instalment in the trilogy. The eccentric humour which dominated the previous two releases is still evident on here but the music has become more performance oriented with lead guitarist Steve Hillage, in particular, taking centre stage to display his considerable talents.
In contrast to the two previous albums in the trilogy the structure on here tends more towards extended instrumental jams rather than the more concise Daevid Allen inspired flights of fancy. The keyboard sounds are noticeably more prevalent and take on a space rock atmosphere while the guitar sounds also have a stronger role in the arrangements. The quirkiness and creativity displayed on previous works is still present in abundance but the band function in a more cohesive fashion, as is demonstrated superbly on the masterful space-rock tinged "Magick Mother Invocation/Master Builder". This piece of music is undoubtedly one of the band's finest moments and starts with an ominous chant across a layer of swirling cosmic keyboard sounds setting the scene for what is to come. The chanting develops with an Indian motif while mesmerising flute sounds float across the aural landscape and Didier Malherbe's saxophone takes over the spotlight with some jazzy soloing. Twittering birds briefly interrupt the flow of the music before an organic bass line and off-beat drumming propels it forward into a glorious morass of otherwordly sounds and textures which builds and builds to an intense conclusion. Another highlight is "A Sprinkling of Clouds" which brings the listener back down to earth with some soothing keyboard passages and serves to maintain the cosmic aural landscape. A hypnotic underlying rhythm section courtesy of Mike Howlett and Pierre Moerlen snakes in to anchor the ensuing jam with Steve Hillage's lead guitar interspersed with Malherbe's trilling flute.
Elsewhere on the album the typically whimsical Daevid Allen dominated escapades such as "Perfect Mystery" and "A P.H.P.'s Advice" serve to break up the more substantial pieces of music with doses of the inimitable Gong humour. These shorter excursions recall their earlier work but it is definitely the extended pieces which escalate this album above that which came before in the trilogy. "The Isle of Everywhere" is an extended trippy jam with an inexorable funky bass-line meandering beneath spacey keyboard trills, smooth jazzy sax and the sighing vocal effects of Gilli Smyth. Album closer "You Never Blow Your Trip Forever" continues with the style and themes expressed on "The Isle of Everywhere" and also features samples from the whole trilogy in an attempt to bring a conclusion to the story.
This album encapsulates better than any other Gong record the near perfect match between the band's philosophy and boldness and the performers' musical sensibilities. The most obvious contributions are provided by lead guitarist Steve Hillage, saxophonist/flautist Didier Malherbe (often referred to as Bloomdido Bad de Grass), and the adventurous rhythm section of Mike Howlett and Pierre Moerlen. However, the band's cohesiveness as a whole, due in some part to the continuation of the same line-up from the previous release, goes a long way in contributing to the integrity of the album. Gong's approach would change on subsequent releases whereupon they would veer more towards the jazz-fusion end of the progressive spectrum. But as a lucid and entertaining representation of their Canterbury Scene period, this release stands as possibly their best work.