Gila - Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Garden Of Delights
Catalog Number: CD 046
Format: CD
Total Time: 40:57:00

This being a Garden Of Delights release, you know that you are going to get a quality recording, even if the source material isn't the master tapes but a great to pristine condition LP. Plus you know you're going to get extensive liner notes detailing the artist's history, or at least the portion that relates to the particular album when there is more than one re-release of said artist. This is the case with Gila's Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (1973). The title and content of the album is taken from a book written by Dee Brown about the "expulsion and extermination of native Americans." Three Native American texts were included in the book (translated by Brown), and these Conny Veit (guitars, vocals, flute and Moog) adapted into three of the album's original 7 tracks ("In A Sacred Manner," "Sundance Chant," and The Buffalo Are Coming."). There is an 8th track that is a previously unreleased studio track.

The music itself is acoustic based, though electric guitars are a factor. Popol Vuh's Florian Fricke plays grand piano and/or mellotron on each track. The late Sabine Merbach provided vocals, and Daniel Secundus Fiechelscher plays drums, percussion and bass. Because this is a fairly low key album, it is also one that is very melancholy. Of course, given the subject to be anything but would underlie the intent of the album. While you can't expect to hear anything that is strongly influenced by Native American music styles, the music nevertheless does evoke a sense of the US in the late 1800's mainly by the use of mood and tone colours. While I'm sure it's mere coincidence, "This Morning," which opens the album, sounds like a mix of Yes, CSNY, Nazareth, and Pink Floyd. In the case of the latter, I think of "Fearless." There are numerous subtle moments on this track where the beautiful piano stylings of Fricke and the guitars of Viet (both 12-string and electric are concerned. This is a beautiful and haunting song. Instead of being up front, Viet's guitar leads are back in the mix. This balance continues with "In A Sacred Manner," where beneath his vocals, he's playing delicate leads. And on "Young Coyote" it is just Viet on his 12-string, though it sounds like their must be two of him. Because his playing has both bass and percussive elements, you don't really notice that it is only a man and his guitar. Viet extracts such full and warm sounds from it, that there is nothing lacking in this track. Fiechelscher's percussive talents are at the forefront of "The Buffalo Are Coming," both in his dynamic use of the kit, and the thundering, pounding percussion that mimics the hooves of buffalo. In this we find the only moment where the music might be said to have Native American influences.

Another highlight of the album, perhaps the highlight, if you could call it that, is the pairing of "Black Kettle's Ballad" and the instrumental "Little Smoke" (though they are separate tracks). "Black Kettle's Ballad," is the only track that deals directly with the incident at Wounded Knee. Even when the arrangement is energetic, there is a great deal of sadness in the vocal delivery. It leads into the a very melancholy "Little Smoke," with it's sliding guitar notes and Fricke's piano ... here the sense of sadness is greatest. There was a recent thread on about sad songs (and depressing ones, as well) -- while I didn't name it at the time, this one would well qualify. Here again I would use the word haunting.

While perhaps there is some historical value in including it, the bonus track is otherwise of a lesser quality that the tracks that make of the core album. Gila here seem at once a little more arty and a little bit like Gerry And The Pacemakers, as if the latter were a psychedelic band. And saying that, The Animals come to Viet here sounds a bit like Eric Burdon.

I have been listening to this off and on over the last few weeks, and can tell you that, despite it's grim subject matter, is a gem of an album. Very much worth seeking out.

This Morning (5:40) / In A Sacred Manner (4:42) / Sundance Chant (4:09) / Young Coyote (3:18) / The Buffalo Are Coming (7:20) / Black Kettle's Ballad (4:24) / Little Smoke (5:08) / Bonus track: Mindwinds And Heartfrost (5:56)

Sabine Merbach - vocals
Conny Veit - vocals, guitars, flute, vibraphone, and moog
Daniel Secundua Fiechelscher - drums, percussion, bass
Florian Fricke - mellotron, grand piano

Gila (1971)
Night Works (1972)
Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (1973/2000)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin DE

Added: October 26th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1158
Language: english


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