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Henry Cow - The Henry Cow Legend [Aka: Legend or Leg End] CD (album) cover


Henry Cow



4.14 | 230 ratings

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4 stars Henry Cow's debut album came out after they had been around in one form or another for about 5 years, so there was a lot of material to cherry pick for this album. This is Henry Cow's most accessible effort, and is probably the best place for newcomers to start, but better things were to come.

Henry Cow never stopped evolving, and each album has a distinct identity of its own. They drew on a whole range of influences, from rock to contemporary classical to free jazz and beyond. This is their jazziest album, a feeling reinforced by the twin saxes of Geoff Leigh (who was to leave shortly after this was released) and Tim Hogkinson. The album opens with the twin horn riff of Nirvana for Mice, a deceptively straightforward sounding piece. Listen to what's happening underneath the main theme and there's all manner of interesting interplay between John Greaves' bass and Chris Cutler's never predictable drums. A brief massed vocal leads into the almost tranquil Amygdala, where Leigh's flute and Frith's guitar meander in a purposeful way over Hodgkinson's organ chords. Some atonal twin horn duelling leads into Teenbeat/Teenbeat Reprise, the track proper featuring some blistering sax solos and the rhythm section firing on all cylinders, and a brief reprise of 'Nirvana' brought what was side 1 to a close.

Side 2 kicks off with a brief Fred Frith piece before Teenbeat Reprise picks up the pace again - this time it's Fred Frith's manic violin, possibly paying homage to Stefan Grapelli, which leads the proceedings. The Tenth Chaffinch is a studio improv of the kind that Henry Cow would do much better on Unrest and In Praise of Learning - there are some good ideas here, but 6 minutes is probably twice as much as was required. The album proper closes with a strange Tim Hodgkinson song, apparently about the French revolution.

Leg End is an astonishingly assured debut album. Every bar of music is crammed with ideas, nobody coasts and there is little superfluous material. Whilst there are some parallels with contemporary acts like Soft Machine and Egg, Henry Cow was a unique act which was to cast a long shadow over the more experimental, avant garde end of prog for decades to come. Essential listening.

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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