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7 Feb 2017

Here & Now “Give & Take” 1978 UK Space Psych Prog

Planet Gong 1991

Here & Now “Give & Take” 1978 UK Space Psych Prog
Here and Now are very heavily patterned in the mold of Radio Gnome era Gong, complete with silly vocals, but luckily they also borrow from Gong’s best features, with some great guitar solos over driving riffs and spacey keyboards. The band’s members even use silly pseudonyms in the credits, just like Gong used to. Stephen “Steffy Sharpstrings” Lewry plays the part of Steve Hillage, providing effects-laden and glissando guitar parts. Keith “Missile Bass” Bailey plays the part of Mike Howlett. Keith “Kif Kif Le Batter” Dobson plays the part of Pierre Moerlen on drums. “Gavin da Blitz” (real name unknown) plays the part of Tim Blake on synths. According to the Planet Gong web site, H&N formed in 1974 as a loose collective to perform festivals in England, and eventually began an association with the real Gong after meeting Daevid Allen. In 1977, under the name Planet Gong, H&N toured the UK and France with Allen and Gilli Smyth. Two of the backing singers for that tour, named “Suze da Blooz” and “Annie Wombat” provide vocals (including space whisper) on this album. Once back on their own, H&N were distinguished by charging no admission for their concerts, only taking donations. Musically, this CD is enjoyable, an interesting footnote to the history of space rock. Generally, I’d say Gong fans should like this, but others should probably start with the originals for investigating this genre…….by Jon Davis……. 

Here & Now’s debut album is a stunning, if slightly inconsistent effort; when it’s good, it kicks serious donkey and ranks up there with the very best space/prog has to offer. You will be hard pushed to find better. 

If you’re familiar with “Floating Anarchy” (listed under Gong), then you’ll have an idea of what you’re in for, as this is “The Here and Now Band” referred to on that album. Here & Now mix punk, reggae influences and space rock into a sound reminiscent of Gong and Hawkwind, and it’s easy to hear where the Ozric Tentacles got their sound from (the Ozrics regularly supported Here & Now in the early 1980s before their first album release). 

The first track is actually entitled “What You See is What You Are” on my original vinyl copy - and on the Here & Now fan sites. A catchy, spacy keyboard hook is joined by a unison female vocal and the bass/drums/guitar pile in with a driving riff for a pair of verses and chorsuses that are pleasant but don’t attempt to progress. But the interesting bit is to follow; the instrumental section kicks off into a different dimension - a spine-tingling space bridge that could have been lifted from “You”, but with the Here & Now twist; Kieth da Bass driving Kif Kif le Batteur’s jazzy percussions under some superb Hillage-esque guitar from Steffi Sharpstrings - we get the feeling that this is something the Ozrics would like to have achieved. 

“Nearer Now” is a well-written song with fabulous “walky” bass lines. There seem to be snippets of early Pink Floyd and Hawkwind here. There’s a punky edge, and the song is in a fairly standard format - but somehow this is unmistakably prog rock, with the catchy yet unpredictable melody lines, contrapuntal instrumental parts and ambiguity of key base. Around 3:40 the instrumental section kicks in, and Steffi S provides spine-tingling and melodic guitar solo lines treading once more into Steve Hillage’s shoes with something that might have come from “Green”. 

“Grate Fire of London” is the centerpiece for me. An absolute masterpiece in itself and worth the price of the album. Smoky keyboards swirl around ambient guitars as Sooze ba Blooze sings “I’m gonna find you again” in a pure voice - comparisons to Annie Haslam may be appropriate here, but the space whispers are more similar to Shakhti Yoni. Percussion and bass increase the dramatic tension, and we get colours of “Angel’s Egg”, but with added chaos and sirens. The instrumental section from around 5:02 onwards is peculiarly regressive in some ways, in that it hearkens back to “Flying Teapot” and even “Camembert Electrique”, but with Keith’s pounding bass lines. Steffi’s unison guitars and Kif Kif’s precision drumming confirm the “Camembert…” links - but the music does not kick in, leaving anticipation for what happens next… 

…which I find somewhat unsatisfying. Keith’s bass has a fantastic rich sound, da Blitz works some great spacey keyboards, Sharpstrings provides some really subtle stabbing accompaniment - but the overall effect is of a very repetitive and unimaginative song “This Time”. When the change comes it’s chaotic - but in a disorganised way. The “stream of consciousness” male vocals are probably the best feature of this track - although I might take issue with the line “If you wanna lot of chocolate on your biscuit join a club…” 

“Seventies Youth” is delightfully “Dippy Hippy” and a simply wonderful song. At the same time, it is the foundation of the songwriting path that Here & Now would follow. The albums that come after this, up to “Been and Gone” all develop the style presented in this track - but are very hard to track down. Notable points; It’s just a great song with superb textures - not harmonically adventurous, but slightly Bowie in flavour, and very psychedelic. 

“Improvisation” is just that. 11 minutes of blissful Here & Now style improv - although you just know that the structure was pre-arranged… H & N demonstrate what it is to play with feeling - this is how it’s done, boys and girls, and this would only be out of place on an Ozrics album because it outclasses the Ozrics all over. Otherwise, you might be forgiven for thinking this was the Tentacular ones with Hillage on lead and beautiful and sometimes slightly disturbing female backing vocals. Enjoy this one at maximum volume and dance around your clothes, which are probably in a pile on the floor by now… 

But close the curtains, OK ;0) 

Easily the proggiest of Here & Now’s output of the 1970s and 1980 (the remainder of their albums focus on progressive songwriting, incorporating ever deeper punk and reggae influences), “Give and Take” possesses something of a mysterious otherworldly quality and comes highly recommended, despite the fact that I can’t really award masterpiece status, mainly because of “This Time”….by Certif1ed …………….. 
I must say that a previous reviewer gave the break-down of this album in detail, and I agree with what was said, but I dislike giving an album a rating without some banter…. The very first offering by Here and Now (that I know of) was actually 1977’s ‘Floating Anarchy’ - a collaboration with Gong, where Space-Rock meets Punk. 'Give and Take’ is H&N’s debut release and really enjoyable. Very crisp production, and the musicians involved are bursting with energy ; the drummer is really good and he has a great sound, and the overall music incorporates Gliss guitar and fiery Hillage-like leads, bubbling synths, energetic bass and a sort of rebellious humour that works fine, not unlike Daevid Allen’s ideals. A very consistent effort, with honourable mentions for 'What You See is What You Are’ , 'Grate Fire of London’ and 'Improvisation’. And for sure the Ozric Tentacles picked up something from this bunch of Space-Heads. Quite essential. 4.5 stars………. by Tom Ozric ……………. 
Give & Take was recorded without Daevid Allen, who had fallen ill after the release of Planet Gong’s LP Live Floating Anarchy in 1978. The remaining members released it under their former name, Give & Take. Honestly, it makes no difference. If you don’t look at the name on the CD and put it on, you could be tricked to believe it is a genuine early Gong album. Every element that constitutes the seminal space rock outfit’s sound is reproduced to perfection: soaring guitar (courtesy of Steffy Sharpstrings, who would be drafted for the 1990s Gong reunion), sweeping synthesizers, psychedelic melodies, accelerating beats, and hypnotic pulses – they’re all there. The main difference resides in the quality of the compositions. They don’t reach the same level of musical excitement; they lack Allen’s cast of characters. The opener “What You See Is What You Get” is the strongest number, a tight song in two parts, first distilled from the best material on Angel’s Egg and later hooking up on a riff that emulates the ground-laying space rock of You. This twin brother of a band gets suspiciously close to plagiarism in “Grate Fire of London,” in which a female vocalist (either Suze Da Blooz or Annie Wombat) sings suggestive lines heavy on echo exactly like Gillie Smyth in “Prostitute Poem” (among other songs). The surprise comes with “Improvisation,” an inspired, hard-driving space rock jam the likes of which Gong itself rarely recorded. Give and Take is much stronger than the group’s later exercises, but it remains only an enjoyable curiosity for Gong aficionados. A long-out-of-print collector’s item, this album has been reissued on CD by Tin Toy in late 2001… François Couture……….. 
Sometime in 1977, Mike Howlett recommended his former Gong band colleague Daevid Allen to watch a concert of the hippie-punk bands Here & Now. Allen was so impressed by the group that he and his team created the Planet Gong project. To all: 

“I started to feel like an actor, but I did not know what was going on I would like to have a lot of fun with you, but I would like to have a lot of fun with you , Expensive equipment … how were these kids? 

Planet Gong gave a series of free concerts, one of which was also recorded (see "Live Floating Anarchy 1977”). At the beginning of 1978, Allen had enough of the tour again and the short chapter Planet Gong was finished. The rest of the band went on again, again under the name of Here & Now. After the sound of the live bootleg “What You See … Is What You Are”, which Here and Now had played together with the punkers of Alternative TV (each band recorded an LP page), it appeared 1978 the first studio album of the group. 

Daevid Allen has left his mark on “Give And Take”. Spacious guitars and bubbling synths dominate the album, long, wagging jams and the typical hippie-not singing. Occasionally there are also exalting female vocal lines à la Gilli Smyth. A typical Spacerock disc, based on the Radio Gnome period of Gong, is “Give And Take”, which is hardly different from the Planet Gong live album. “You’re Seeing You,” the dreamy “Grate [sic!] Fire Of London,” and the final “improvisation” would not be noticeable on “You” or an early solo album by Steve Hillage. A bit more straightforward and more song-oriented, the music is less prodigious, psychedelic and wretched, but sometimes the punk-pastime of the group shimmers through, especially with regard to male singing and certain monotonous repetitive song structures. In “This Time” there are e.g. A monotonous punk / wave singing, as described e.g. Typical of the alternative TV mentioned above, to which spatially the synthesizers bubbed. 

All in all, “Give And Take” is a nice addition to the collection for anyone who is interested in Gong and their environment. You can not get new things here, there are a few lengths and a few boring and uninspired jobs (for example, “Nearer Now”, “Seventies Youth”), and the group around Steffi Sharpstrings is also not afoot. Nevertheless, the bulk of the “give and take” commandment should be fun to everyone who feels part of the interest group mentioned above…. Achim Breiling……. 

Line-up / Musicians 
- Steffy Sharpstrings / guitar, vocals 
- Keith tha Missile / bass, vocals 
- Gavin da Blitz / keyboards, synthesizers 
- Kif Kif Le Batter / drums, guitar, vocals 
- Suze da Blooze & Annie Mandrake / Choir of Angels 

A1 What You See Is What You Are 5:23 
A2 Nearer Now 5:42 
A3 Grate Fire Of London 7:33 
B1 This Time 4:46 
B2 Seventies Youth 5:00 
B3 Improvisation 11:04 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..