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Hugh Hopper - Alive CD (album) cover

ALIVE

Hugh Hopper

 

Canterbury Scene

3.05 | 2 ratings

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Syzygy
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Hugh Hopper pretty much retired from music for a while in the early 80s, and according to the Calyx website even wound up driving a taxi for a while, but in 1984 he started playing again in various projects and in 1985 he teamed up with a group of Dutch musicians under the banner Hopper Goes Dutch. Alive was initially a cassette only release of this band, but it was given a well deserved reissue with extra tracks on CD in 2003.

Working with a band of top flight Dutch jazz musicians was obviously a pleasure for Hugh Hopper, who composed more than half of the pieces and plays with enthusiasm throughout. Musically we're in similar territory to Phil Miller's In Cahoots, but thankfully Hopper's band does not share Miller's enthusiasm for 80s keyboard and guitar synth sounds. The album opens with the Hopper composition Glider, which pretty much establishes the tone for what is to follow; fusion which leans more heavily towards jazz than rock, played with real passion and intensity. There's plenty here to delight the prog fan, with time changes galore in Hopper's compositions and some Zappa-esque interludes on pieces like Turfschip Enterprise (by saxophonist Frank van der Kooy). There are also a few world music influences discernible here and there; van der Zee's Double Booked includes some tabla, while Semenya's Nomali has some African sounding marimba and vocals(presumably played via the keyboard) along with some vaguely carribean sounding sax. The twin saxes are deployed to superb effect throughout, playing as frequently in unison as solo, and the bass is unsurprisingly prominent in the mix. The guitar and drums do not always come through so clearly, however, and the sound quality is sometimes a little muddy.

Alive sees Hopper getting to grips with some of the musical trends that had emerged during his fallow period, both as a player on his bandmate's compositions and to a lesser extent as a composer on his own pieces. In the 20 years that have elapsed since this was recorded he's worked on more ambitious and adventurous projects, and this album could be seen as transitional. Recommended to fans of post Wyatt Soft Machine.

Syzygy | 3/5 |

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