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Henry Cow - In Praise Of Learning CD (album) cover

IN PRAISE OF LEARNING

Henry Cow

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.89 | 123 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Third album from HC, yet not a true album from them as it is more of a collaboration between them and fellow RIO weirds Slapp Happy. Two albums were recorded almost at the same time by both groups together, one being released under Slapp Happy's name and called Desperate Straights, while the second one is this present one. Again graced with the same Sock artwork than its two predecessors, but in a red colour this time, fitting the communist ideals of both groups. BTW: Area also were far-left activist who made some very political albums, most notably Arbeit Macht Frei and Wyatt's Matching Mole with their second, Little Red Record were not left much behind in terms of explicitness. This album is much more accessible than the abominable Unrest, and might even, be more than LegEnd as well if you like your music sung. But beware Dagmar Krause's voice is not everyone's cup of tea, even if this is one of her more normal vocal performance of her career.

Indeed with 8 musicians on board (plus two guest musos on two tracks), the possibilities to make interesting music is much greater than just a quartet. The opening War is an explicit lyric track where Krause's rather strange vocals fit the biting lyrics, and is actually a Slapp Happy song, reworked. The 15-min Living In The Heart Of The Beast is rounding up the first side of the album, and is easily the album's centrepiece. The "epic" is reminiscent of an early Univers Zero (with vocals, though) crossed with some Wetton- era Crimson.

The flipside gets off to a brilliant track "Beautiful as the Moon, Terrible as an Army With Banners", which is an improvisation, but it is much less free-form than what was found on Unrest and much more listenable than it. Indeed this tracks sounds like early Kraftwerk, Popol Vuh or Tangerine Dream (the pink era), rather than the obtuse free jazz of Pharoah Sanders or Ornette Coleman. The Morning Star (the UK's communist newspaper) is another improv, but slightly more accessible than what was done in Unrest. Closing off the album is maybe my fave track of the album, Lovers Of Gold where Krause pulls her best-ever performance.

Past the IPOL album release, Henry Cow would then absorb some of Slapp Happy's members, most notably singer Krause, thus effectively killing Slapp Happy, While this HC album could make a good introduction to Henry Cow's musical adventures, you might want to check out LegEnd album as well.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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