Gong
Downwind


3.5
great

Review

by Robert Davis CONTRIBUTOR (225 Reviews)
September 28th, 2015 | 6 replies


Release Date: 1979 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A bit of a downfall compared to the first two albums of Pierre Moerlen's Gong, but which is more than made up for by a still creative force.

Downwind is the third album from the Pierre Moerlen incarnation of Gong, and like its two predecessors, was heading in a more or less different direction. The album was the first without signature guitarist Allan Holdsworth, who admittedly made many of the songs from the previous two albums so exceptional to listen to. That's not to say that the band didn't recover from his absence however, because Downwind has its own stylistic quirks, just like Gazeuse! and Expresso II.

The first two things you'll notice about Downwind's change in direction is 1) the inclusion of vocals (though only in three of the seven songs here) and 2) the decision to head slightly further towards a more pop/rock-oriented musical style. The former is more obvious than the latter, yet both of these aspects seemed to take away slightly from the over-bearing jazz fusion elements and progressive rock influences which were inherent in previous releases. Of course, only three of the seven tracks here are really affected, and as a result aren't quite so bothersome to the listener either. By far the weakest tracks are opener "Aeroplane" and "What You Know", which are so simplistic in style you'd be forgiven for thinking Pierre Moerlen had decided to go the way of Jeff Lynne and ELO. Yet as soon as you believe that, songs like the excellent "Crosscurrents" and the title track shock you into thinking it's still the same group, but with different ideas. Indeed, "Crosscurrents" and the title track are placed in the album so that they almost make up for the sometimes bland nature of "Aeroplane", and the same can be said for the final two songs after "What You Know".

Another unfortunate flaw here is that the vocals simply aren't good enough to keep listeners engaged-and that essentially also affected Shamal, though to a slightly lesser extent. Whilst the vocal delivery isn't exactly well-refined (the sometimes nasally vocal range threatens to put listeners off going through the rest of the album), the instrumentation more than makes up for it. The title track is by far the best example of this, channelling a beautiful, symphonic overture which progressively becomes more and more prominent towards the end of its gargantuan (slightly less than) 13-minute runtime. Violins, timpani, xylophones and more complement the main percussion rhythms as the band perform excessively experimental and unique instrumentation-it's with songs like this that you understand Gong never really leave the best aspects of former albums behind them. There's even a guest appearance from Mike Oldfield himself on the title track, contributing a memorable, beautiful performance of the solina strings and consequently making us all wish he was with Gong full time.

Nevertheless, the album has other similarly outstanding tracks such as "Jin-Go-Lo-Ba" and closer "Xtasea", but which also seem as if they lack something some of the time. It's not an obvious flaw, but for those who have listened to the first two albums of Pierre Moerlen's Gong, you will understand that Gazeuse! and Expresso II seem stronger and more coherent in comparison. That said, Downwind represents the still beating heart of a band who were, at the time, still firing on all cylinders.



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user ratings (6)
Chart.
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
linguist2011
Contributing Reviewer
September 28th 2015


2333 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Criticism welcome as always.

Jethro42
September 28th 2015


14207 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Excellent review. I own this on vinyl and I remember playing ''Crosscurrents'' on repeat in a distant time. It's really a great track.



I've seen two minor faults into your review. At the end of the 2nd para, it's rather ''What you Know'', and in the last para, you missed an italic with the word ''Gazeuse''



Edit; I think that Jin-Go-Lo-Ba is a Santana song called Jingo (confirmed).

OmairSh
September 28th 2015


13551 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Great album

linguist2011
Contributing Reviewer
September 28th 2015


2333 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks Jethro, they are now fixed.

e210013
September 28th 2015


765 Comments


I'm far away of being a specialist on Gong. I have only their debut album Magic Brother, and I know it isn't their best. However, with so great reviews by you, it comes to my mind that it's time to begin to check more of their stuff.

Anyway, another great review.

linguist2011
Contributing Reviewer
September 28th 2015


2333 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Go right ahead e210013, they're a really underrated band that has spawned so many great releases in the progressive rock/psychedelic fields.



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