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Henry Cow - Concerts CD (album) cover


Henry Cow



3.62 | 58 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars After the quirky and bizarre IPOL album, HC who had "gelled" together with Slap Happy, melted apart from them but singer Dagmar Krause remained with HC. The CD-version of this album is more of compilation or odds and bits album: a BBC Peel session, a session with Wyatt, a Norwegian concert improv (the source of this album) and works-in-progress of bits of a previous epic made up the vinyl, to which has been added the Greasy Trucker session. Quite a filled to the brim live album, which could be HC's definitive statement. Graced with a somber and sober artwork, this is a terribly important album in terms of RIO history!

Starting on a great almost 23-min Beautiful As The Moon, this extended track is a medley of tracks coming from LegEnd (Nirvana for Mice) to IPOL (Terrible as An Army), through a cover of Matching Mole's Gloria Gloom. This track was reputed for HC getting a recording contract (even though I find that Krause's presence on this track quite strange, given the date) and listening to it, it is no wonder it did!

The next two tracks come out as my favorite from this album (even toping the first medley) and starts with some usually strange Krause vocals, but duetted by bassist John greaves over a Frith ragtime piano piece, but halfway through changing to a great improve of Little red Riding Hood, where Wyatt's scats works wonders, but Greaves' bass soars over the organ work. A superb moment giving Greaves' Bad alchemy a prophetic title, since the two bits are not quite sticking together, due to some shaky linking chords between the sections. As for the 16-mins+ Ruins, it also starts roughly, but soon gets into a great groove, before getting into an improvised mostly acoustic section where they go for the full dynamics: from the demented groove to the calm almost inexistence dissonant ending.

The next two pieces (and the last of the CD version Udine) are bits coming from a Dutch tour and will find themselves worked into the superb Living In The Heart Of The Beast on the IPOL album. The two Groningen pieces are quartet-based (Copper and Krause not having joined yet, I believe, and Leigh having already left) and shows them in typical improvisation mood, showing a good tightness and ability to anticipate each other. My preference goes to the second part, which holds a devilish groove with frith soaring like an eagle and Cutler guarding Hades' entrance to the underworld!

The second disc starts in a difficult mode, with a 26-min improv, named Oslo (after the city it was recorded in and at the base of this album) and holds lesser interest for those not into free-jazz-type of music. However I find their Oslo improv a little less obtuse than their Unrest album, with cooper present and surprisingly enough Dagmar who only gets a few yelling moments (a good thing mind you ;-), but overall, the track doesn't offer much in terms of riveting music.

Outside the closing track, Udine (easily the best "thing" on this disc), the rest of the tracks come from that famous Greasy Trucker session, which is mostly dissonant/atonal improvisations, except maybe (just maybe) for the closing section of Sweet Heart Of Mine, none of which are particularly interesting (particularly the awful Café Royal), unless you're into that kind of stuff.

With only one disc (the first) of good to excellent tracks, and the other filled with boring improvs: junk as my girlfriend would say, as she storms out of the house! And for once, I can only agree with her as I eject the disc from the deck. Hardly the treasure chest promised, this HC double album is at least interesting because all sides of the group are presented! Too bad the improvising facets wins in terms of space, though!

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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