Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5
Released in the same year as Downwind, Time Is The Key represents another shake-up in the band's line up. Moerlen and bassist Hansford Rowe are in fact the only hold-overs from the last album. Fortunately, this doesn't result in a loss of quality and Time Is The Key stands as another great album.
On first glance, Time Is The Key seems to focus on shorter compositions with it's longer track listing. This is a little misleading as the band stitches several compositions into song suites. The first four tracks comprise one of these while the stretch from "Sugar Street" to "Esnuria Two make up another.
The first four tracks are by far the highlight of the album. The focus here is on a jungle of percussion, handled completely by Moerlen by way of overdubbing. It's a fantastic display, especially with the vibraphone playing, with the rest of the band simply adding keyboards and guitars to provide a bit of sonic coloring. As a suite, I even prefer this to the heights of Downwind.
From here the album picks up a strong jazz/fusion vibe. The more conventional instruments take up more of the center stage and provide for more ensemble playing. There are no vocal numbers as on the last album, so everything flows nicely. I guess as a reward for hanging around, Rowe gets one composition credit on "An American In England," although it's far from a standout.
The second suite here pales to the opening tracks, but still provides some highlights. "Sugar Street" is amusing white boy funk, while the drive of the bouncing riff of "The Bender" recalls the early 70's Gong. "Arabesque Intro & Arabesque" nails the fusion sound with some great guitar runs from Allan Holdsworth.
Not quite as consistent as Downwind, Time Is The Key does scale some high peaks. It's just too bad that the first side of the album is almost perfect (except for Rowe's still ok track), while side two doesn't display quite as much genius.
Pierre Moerlen's Gong - 1979 - Time Is The Key