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


Henry Cow



3.96 | 176 ratings

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3 stars By this point in HENRY COW's existence they had moved well beyond the comfortable Canterbury sounds that underpinned their first few years, abandoning all conventionality and becoming nothing less than a chamber orchestra using rock instruments to play avant-garde music.

If this doesn't sound like your cuppa tea, it won't be.

It's certainly not mine. But ... oddly, I enjoy this album. There's a spark here, an earnestness, a political awareness that commands my attention. And the addition of a vocalist (DAGMAR KRAUSE from SLAPP HAPPY) serves to give the music direction. The album is structured around the studio version of 'Living in the Heart of the Beast', an extended piece the collective developed on tour, but it's not an epic in the accepted prog rock sense. It consists of a beginning (a bleak left-wing analysis of the Beast - modern capitalist society) and an end (a call to action), sandwiching a central section that beggars description, so complex are the time signature changes and instrumentation.

There are two improv jams ('Beginning the Long March' and 'Morning Star'), both titles referencing socialist icons. The other songs are the nearest you'll get to conventionally structured pieces here - that is, not really very close. 'War', for example, manages to pack a great deal - a mini-epic, if you will - into just over two minutes.

It's easy to see why the collective didn't make money from their music. This fare simply does not appeal to the sensibilities we've been raised to value. However, if you're able to put aside your desperate search for a steady rhythm and a hook melody, you'll enjoy the dark atmospherics of the improvs and appreciate the numbing complexity of the material.

I can't quite give this four stars - how could I honestly say that this album would be an excellent addition to any prog music collection? But it is a worthy disc nonetheless.

russellk | 3/5 |


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