Opium for the People

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Opium for the People is a sprawling two-disc collection of the stranger-than-strange, weirdo world of Gong, the over-the-pond progenitors of genuinely ingenious music -- that in many ways is unclassifiable though it is more often than not lumped under the elitist prog rock moniker because of a particular phase in which the founding members had left the group -- and visionary absurdist humor. Encountering the Gong catalog for the first time is a daunting experience: there are over 30 recordings. That's what double-disc compilations like this are for. And this is a good one. It features tracks from most of their important -- read: perversely delightful -- albums such as Camembert Electrique, Flying Teapot, Angel's Egg, and You (these last three make up the now fabled Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy), as well as material from the Planet Gong's Floating Anarchy Live 77 album and 1980s Daevid Allen's New York Gong offering, About Time. Nothing is here from the Pierre Moerlen edition of the band, or from Gilli Smyth's wonderful Mother Gong project, but the essentials are all here and this is a fine overview for the money; you get a double dose of the magic that still is the singular Gong. Warning: chances are, after hearing this, you will end up spending more of your hard-earned cash purchasing some -- or all -- of the individual albums listed here. If so, offset that expense by doing something generating good karma and handing off your copy of this to some other curious,or even unsuspecting, soul. Besides, the handsome slipcase will look good on your shelf forever.

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