The Histories and Mysteries of Planet Gong

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This two-CD set brings together the two volumes of Histories and Mysteries of Planet Gong, released by Voiceprint in the late '80s. The tracks rank from archive tapes from Gong's early days, to leftovers from Mother Gong's Robot Woman LP, to various experiments recorded between the mid-'60s and the late '80s. The material is performed by Soft Machine, Gong, Mother Gong, the Magick Brothers, and all kinds of lineups, either on-stage or in the basement, but always comprised of, at least, Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth, or Harry Williamson. The tracks are presented in no particular order, for an enhanced surprise effect, giving to the whole album a hodge-podge feel that makes it enjoyable only for devoted fans of the group, people capable of putting these tracks back within their historical context. For fans like these, Histories and Mysteries presents a few handfuls of oddities and historical nuggets. Amidst the non-chronological crisscrossing, Disc One focuses a bit more on the '60s and early '70s. Worth note are the tape collages Gong used for concert introductions (there are also a few more from Allen's days as a radio DJ in the mid-'80s), a live recording of "Pothead Pixies" with French lyrics, a reggae-fied version of Soft Machine's "Clarence in Wonderland" with Kevin Ayers guesting with Gong (from 1972), and the Magick Brothers' "Herbacious Border." Disc Two weights more toward the late '70s and '80s. Worthy of a fan's attention are the 1980 song "Chinese Puzzle," alternate versions of Mother Gong's "Crazy Town" and "Red Alert," the 1977 French single "Opium for the People" (with Allen singing in French!), and the B-side of Gong's first single "Hypnotize You," which features the same schoolyard rhyme that would end up in "Mister Long Shanks" (from the album Camembert Electrique). Some of these tracks are available on other albums, but for the fan who doesn't collect every artifact released by the "Planet Gong", this two-CD set offers a good selection of rare material.

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