Tomorrow I fly to Bordeaux with Anekdoten to headline a French festival, so it seemed appropriate to share some French Symphonic Prog recorded in 1973/74 under the direction of pianist Cyrille Verdeaux. Three members of Gong appear on the record including Steve Hillage on electric guitar, Dider Malherbe on tenor sax and Tim Blake on synths.
The record is credited as Clearlight Symphony – unsurprisingly the album was released on Richard Branson’s arty Virgin label and followed in the footsteps of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells concept with 20 minute sides titled Part one and Part two. Virgin Records decided that Tubular Bells (the title) had registered more in the public’s mind than the artist that created it (Mike Oldfield). They decided to call the album after the piece – the label imagining that from a marketing point of view that the public might be attracted to this album in the same way. Abandoning this plan for their second release, Forever Blowing Bubbles was credited to Clearlight and released in the same year. It was of course extremely difficult to equal the runaway success of Tubular Bells as Mike Oldfield himself was to discover on the release of his second album Hergest Ridge in 1974. Although Hergest Ridge made it to No.1 in the UK it was toppled by Tubular Bells soon after – a nice problem to have.
Clearlight Symphony is an intriguing album with melodic passages, moments of chaotic madness and on Side 1 Steve Hillage’s distinctive guitar style. Percussionist Gilbert Artman of Lard Free also appears (expect posts about them at some point in the future). Christian Boulé and Martin Isaacs appear on guitar and bass respectively on Side 2. There’s also lots and lots of pianos and mellotrons galore in some kind of melodic Psychedelic, Progressive, New Age, Classica,l Jazzy head trip. What’s not to like?