Pierre Moerlen's Gong: Downwind
Pierre Moerlen's Gong
Downwind (BMG Japan)
Pierre Moerlen (drums, vibraphone, percussion),
Didier Malherbe (sax), Terry Oldfield (flute), Steve Winwood (Moog, Korg synthesizer), Mike Oldfield (guitar), Hansford Rowe (bass).
Composed by Pierre Moerlen.
Recorded: Througham, England, Summer 1978
Rating: 88/100 (learn more)
Vibes player Pierre Moerlen gathered quite an interesting crew for this fusion recording. In addition to Didier Malherbe, one of the founding members of the original Gong lineup, and regular Gong member Hansford Rowe, Moerlen is joined by rock hero Steve Winwood. This time out the part of "rotating guitarist" is played by Mike Oldfield, the same award-winning, platinum record seller and composer responsible for the highly successful Tubular Bells from several years previous. Mike Oldfield's brother Terry Oldfield, who has since gone on to become a prolific composer in his own right, plays the flute.
The vibes gave Gong a sound separate and apart from its jazz-rock contemporaries. The instrument's warm tones lack the hard bite that jazz-rock fans almost always demand from any lead instrument. But Moerlen wisely uses his axe's rhythmic qualities as a framework for his compositions, which take full advantage of both the melodic and rhythmic aspects of the instrument. Plus there is always an electric guitar or saxophone or synthesizer around to help supply some drama.
"Downwind" is a syncopated piece relying on a somewhat understated African beat. Strangely, or perhaps in honor, Moerlen plays a cycle of vibraphone riffs that sound very suspiciously like certain sections of Oldfield's Tubular Bells. When Oldfield enters, the resemblance becomes more than suspicious. Someone should be charged. But the point is that this is Oldfield's bag. He is good at it. Does he improvise? I am not quite sure. I know Malherbe is improvising, so I can call this jazz. Winwood is lost somewhere in the mix. Terry Oldfield's flute sounds Olde English. A very impressive percussion midsection leads us up the castle steps and toward the incessant ringing of those bells – I mean vibes.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky