Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5
Gong usually falls into the progressive rock catagory, but the definition only applies superficially. They do tend to drift through many musical sections as folks like ELP do, they have ridiculous concepts for their albums, and later on the instrumental prowess is definitely in place, but the execution and character is completely different. First off when the band finds a groove, they are prone to sticking to it and not suddenly shifting gears for complexity's sake (as too many prog bands seem to do). Gong has an incredibly goofy charm and never comes off as the least bit pretentious. Cambridge export Daevid Allen is more of an oddball tour guide through an acid-fried fairy land with wife Gilli Smyth as the oversexed sidekick of sorts. This element is readily apparent on this disc.
Flying Teapot is Gong's first major foray into their Radio Gnome Invisible universe. This includes plenty of lyrics involving Pot Head Pixies and Octive Doctors. To be honest I've never been willing to dive into the Gong mythology or try to follow the "story," but the music is high quality that you don't really need to. The sound here harkens back to psychedelia's 1967-68 prime while adding enough new elements to stand out. There are plenty of infinitely echoing glissando guitars and vocals makeing everything else shimmeringly dense. As an added bonus, Steve Hillage is present (credited as Stevie Hillside on sperm guitar and slow whale) with his phenomenal space rock guitar.
The album starts out strong with "Radio Gnome" introducing Gong's sound world perfectly with wacky sound effects and vocal blurbles all set to a galaxy streaked background. "Pot Head Pixies" would have made a great rocking psych-single if not for its self defeating title (can't see the FCC happy with that one). Gilli Smyth gets her showcase near the end of the disc with the strangely nasty "Witch's Song." Apparently Gong still plays live and Gilli Smyth is somewhere around age 70. Is she still singing this with the band? The thought scares me a little, although good for her if she is.
There are two more epic tracks present, and one of them is a little bit of a downer for me. "Zero The Hero And The Witch's Spell" is classic Gong repleat with nine minutes of tripped out lyrics, amusing voice acting, and truly interstellar sounds. "Flying Teapot" often gets the accolades here, and it has some cool stuff, but the main riff is a little too derivitive sounding for my tastes. It sounds like a riff that almost every garage band stands around jamming out to. I tend to hold Gong to a slightly higher standard, but I guess we can't get a "glorious Om riff" in every song.
The other thing that keeps me from putting on the album as much is the lack of a first rate drummer. I have to admit that I discovered these albums backwards and by the time I got here I had become an unabashed Pierre Moerlen fan (although I have yet to hear his later jazz-rock version of Gong). Pip Pyle is a fine player here, but doesn't play with Moerlen's jazzy polyrhythmic intensity. As with "Flying Teapot," I'll chalk this one up to personal preferences rather than mistakes from the band.
Not quite the height of Gong's powers, Flying Teapot is awful close. I like the next two albums even better, but Flying Teapot is still a respectable and often fantastic opener to Gong's Radio Gnome Invisible set.
Note: There are a lot of shady looking reissues of the Radio Gnome albums. I have somewhat expensive Japanese issues, which more than delivers the sonic goods. I would be wary of the Charly reissues as those don't have the best reputations. Charly certaintly burned me on their terrible sounding Red Crayola reissue.
Gong - Flying Teapot (Radio Gnome Invisible, Pt. 1)