Review of Go (1976) by Go
I mainly discover music in a tree-like fashion. I research the music I enjoy, learn who performed it and who collaborated with its performers and then try to seek out similar bands, genres, albums and songs.
That process is exactly how I came across the name of Stomu Yamash’ta, who I found after noting his presence playing both harmonica and percussion on the Hans Werner Henze album that I reviewed last week.
In particular, in researching Yamash’ta’s discography, I came across Go, his succinctly-titled rock supergroup that includes him on percussion and keyboards, Steve Winwood on vocals and keyboards, Al Di Meola on lead guitar, Klaus Schulze on synthesizers and Michael Shrieve on drums.
Understandably, I was excited and I chanced a listen to their debut album: a self-titled venture from 1976. And I am not enthused to report that it was far more mediocre than I expected—even disappointing in some parts.
The first tracks rings through with some distinctly 70’s sci-fi hums, before moving into “Nature”, a mishmash of styles featuring Barry Manilow-styled croons fading in and out of the King Crimson-esque instrumental, setting the tone for what one would hope would be an increase in both energy and tempo from this point forward.
However, such moments are few and far between. “Crossing The Line” is a remarkably cheesy cut with a forgettable chorus that makes the group sound like a poor Pink Floyd imitator, but a decent guitar solo from Pat Thrall midway through somewhat saves it.
The next track, on the other hand, almost immediately redeems itself with a funky refrain helped by backing vocals from the UK-based group Thunderthighs, with whom Steve Winwood’s vocals mesh surprisingly well.
The horn section also lends itself to the mix, courtesy of Paul Buckmaster’s arrangements. The resounding bells at the tail end of the track round it out into another transition track, “Stellar”, which seems to fit in a similar group as another three tracks that are less than two minutes in length, serving as ambient transitions between the lengthier cuts.
Go—from what I heard—is an album full of wasted opportunities. Half-baked vocal lines, middling instrumental sections, and painstakingly average musical ideas seem to be the standard here, while the occasional moment of genius serves as the exception to the rule.
This is perfectly encapsulated in “Space Theme”, a song that features an incredibly catchy bassline that just seems to go nowhere, despite the copious track-to-track transitions.
This collection of songs is chock-full of tracks that seem to go everywhere all at once (“Carnival”) juxtaposed with tracks that seem to go nowhere all at once as well (“Space Requiem”).
The high point of the album, undoubtedly, comes on the 11th track, “Ghost Machine.” Winwood’s vocals, the clearly talented rhythm section and both the lead and rhythm guitar of Al Di Meola and Chris West—respectively—come together in a quite satisfying way that makes me wish the whole album was this good.
Sadly, this track is limited to two minutes, while horribly lacklustre tunes like
“Crossing The Line” are given a nearly seven-minute runtime.
Ultimately, save a few choice cuts, the album is a losing effort, and I am unhappy to report that despite the rich musical backgrounds of the artists and the fantastic album art, the relative obscurity of this record is well-warranted.