All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

197

Henry Cow: Concerts

Nic Jones By

Sign in to view read count
Whereas most "progressive" bands of the 1970s seemed to progress in the direction of ever-increasing virtuosity, in a manner not unlike the snake that consumed its tail and simply carried on, the members of Henry Cow were far stricter adherents to a truly progressive ideology. In the case of this live two-disc set—originally released in 1976 and recently reissued in expanded, remastered form—their approaches make for a body of music that serves as an overview of just how much ground the band actually covered during its golden age. The fact that these musicians did so without becoming paid-up members of some technocratic elite is to their resounding credit.

This is well indicated by "Off The Map, "Café Royal and "Keeping Warm In Winter/Sweet Heart Of Mine, played as one continuous piece by the same lineup that cut Legend (East Side Digital, 1973). The degree of discontinuity between these two bodies of music is notable, not least because the level of improvisation in this instance seems a whole lot more pronounced. The contrast also serves as indication of a collective willingness to branch out into musical territory beyond the remit of even the loosest notion of a rock band.

This theme of contrast is also notable when the improvised sections of this set are viewed against the formality of the songs. The band only used vocals intermittently in the course of its career on record, and Dagmar Krause had one of the most distinctive voices of this or any other age. Her musical identity in itself is as individual as Fred Frith's approach to the guitar, for example, and these are just two examples of a number that could be cited within the context of this music; on "Beautiful As The Moon, Terrible As An Army With Banners, performed as part of a medley, she carries a melody of almost iconoclastic individuality.

The band's only quartet recordings are preserved on "Groningen and "Groningen Again, the titles of which highlight the arbitrary nature of titling, inasmuch as both pieces were recorded in the Dutch city of that name. The benefit of hindsight, dubious though it always is, seems to reveal a band straining against form at the same time as it stayed shy of entirely open freedom. The result is music that wins the listener's attention through detail as much as the raising of its collective voice. That said, a singular power is also in evidence.

Trying to verbally encapsulate what this band did is a pretty pointless exercise. Besides, the time it would take can be far more constructively used in listening to the music, especially when Bob Drake's fresh remastering has had the effect of giving it an unprecedented immediacy. The sublimation of individual musical personalities to the needs and works of the collective might just nail it, however.


Track Listing: CD1: Beautiful As The Moon, Terrible As An Army With Banners; Nirvana For Mice; The Ottawa Song; Gloria Gloom; Beautiful As The Moon (Reprise); Bad Alchemy; Little Red Riding Hood Hits The Road; Ruins; Groningen; Groningen Again. CD2: Oslo (Tracks 1-8 inclusive); Off The Map; Caf

Personnel: Lindsay Cooper: bassoon, flute, oboe, piano, recorder; Chris Cutler: drums, piano; Dagmar Krause: voice, piano; Fred Frith: guitar, piano, violin, xylophone; John Greaves: bass, celeste, voice, piano; Tim Hodgkinson: organ, piano, clarinet, alto saxophone. Geoff Leigh: tenor and soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet, recorder (CD2:9-11) Robert Wyatt: voice (CD1:6,7).

Title: Concerts | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: ReR Megacorp

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Out in the Open CD/LP/Track Review
Out in the Open
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Contemporary Chaos Practices CD/LP/Track Review
Contemporary Chaos Practices
by Don Phipps
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Changed Beings CD/LP/Track Review
Changed Beings
by Chris May
Published: November 16, 2018
Read We Must Mustn't We CD/LP/Track Review
We Must Mustn't We
by John Sharpe
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Two Infinitudes; The One You "see" and the One That Is You. CD/LP/Track Review
Two Infinitudes; The One You "see" and the One...
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Always Forward CD/LP/Track Review
Always Forward
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 15, 2018
Read "Locked & Loaded" CD/LP/Track Review Locked & Loaded
by John Kelman
Published: May 26, 2018
Read "Love Wins" CD/LP/Track Review Love Wins
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 19, 2018
Read "Playmates" CD/LP/Track Review Playmates
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 14, 2018
Read "Vanished Gardens" CD/LP/Track Review Vanished Gardens
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 10, 2018
Read "In This Together" CD/LP/Track Review In This Together
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: February 28, 2018
Read "J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969 - 1984" CD/LP/Track Review J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969 - 1984
by Chris May
Published: March 15, 2018