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Fred Frith - Gravity CD (album) cover

GRAVITY

Fred Frith

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.01 | 34 ratings

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Syzygy
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Fred Frith's first post - Henry Cow solo project was made with the assistance of Sammla Mammas Manna (tracks 1 - 6) and the Muffins (tracks 7 - 13), which corresponded to sides 1 and 2 of the original vinyl release. The album is informed by Frith's interest in different folk traditions (as were some tracks on Art Bears' debut album) and he referred to it, accurately, as dance music, although it is dance music with a strong RIO twist.

A lot of the album sounds a bit like the rhythm section of the Magic Band backing a variety of World Music artists, but somehow the whole thing hangs together in two coherent halves. This may be accessible compared to some of Frith's output, but accessibility does not equal simplicity and Frith's compositions and arrangements are as challenging for his backing musicians as anything else he's written. The tracks featuring Sammla Mammas Manna occasionally have a Scandinavian feel, but they also range across Europe and even into the Middle East at times. There are catchy melodies, foot tapping rhythms and Fred Frith turning in a finely judged multi instrumental performance including some very nimble violin work. The tracks featuring the Muffins move more towards rock with Frith's ever inventive guitar more to the fore. A particular highlight is a cover version of the old Motown hit Dancing in the Street, which is here given an almost Residents style makeover and incoroporates the sound of 'Iranian demonstrators celebrating the capture of American hostages' according to the liner notes. All of the musicians turn in excellent performances, but special mention should be made of sax/clarinettist Marc Hollander (Aksak Maboul), the only one aside from Frith himself to appear on the whole album.

This is a solid, assured album that is one of the more accessible examples of the RIO genre. It had a remendous impact at the time, particularly when you consider that Frith was also composing and playing for Art Bears and was shortly to form Massacre when this was recorded. It's an excellent piece of work, but Frith would go on to achieve greater things in his solo career. 3.5 stars really, rounded up to 4.

Syzygy | 4/5 |

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