Gong are – and were – a completely indefinable and free-thinking outfit. They are still touring and touching minds, even after the death of founder Daevid Allen but this trilogy of albums was the best music that they ever produced…
Incantations is the fourth record album by Mike Oldfield, released in late 1978 on Virgin Records. After a two-year pause following Boxed, Mike Oldfield released a new epic project, this one spread over four vinyl sides and devoted to Native American themes rather than hewing once more toward the Celtic end of the spectrum. Included was Oldfield's musical adaptation of "The Song of Hiawatha," which had a nice sense of the dramatic when it came to dynamic range. After this, Oldfield would not return to album-length concepts for quite some time.
As the title suggests, this is the definitive edition of Etta James' Tell Mama long-player. For this single-disc release the original album is augmented with five previously unissued tracks – documented during James' four Muscle Shoals sessions circa '67-'68. The question of why a rural Alabama town became a conduit for some of the most memorable and instantly identifiable grooves may still be up for debate. The evidence exists in droves and Tell Mama could certainly be considered exhibit A. These sessions feature the same impact that would redirect several first ladies of soul. Notable among them are Dusty Springfield's Dusty in Memphis, Aretha Franklin's I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) and to somewhat lesser acclaim, Jackie DeShannon's Jackie. Tell Mama showcases some of the unique and admittedly darker qualities of what might best be described as R&B noir. "I'd Rather Go Blind," "Steal Away," "I'm Gonna Take What He's Got" all exemplify the essence of the blues – making the best of a bad situation.
With 1984's Discovery, Mike Oldfield seems to be back on track, utilizing the vocal power of Maggie Reilly and the drum playing of Simon Phillips to create some rather appealing selections. "The Lake" is a simply gorgeous instrumental inspired by Switzerland's Lake Geneva, the location in which the album was recorded, while "To France" is a powerful pop/rock tune based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. Both Reilly and Barry Palmer share the vocal duties throughout the tracks, signifying Oldfield's subtle emergence into a more pop-infused atmosphere. "Tricks of the Light" is a wonderful instrumental that relies on the keyboard to give it energy, while even so-so efforts like the title track and "Poison Arrows" come off as upbeat and inspired. Discovery peaked at number 15 in the U.K., and even though it didn't garner much attention elsewhere, it serves as one of Mike Oldfield's most entertaining releases from the decade.