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Henry Cow - The Road: Volumes 6-10 (40th Anniversary Box Set) CD (album) cover


Henry Cow



4.34 | 22 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars The second boxset from HC is the real gift in these 40th anniversary series, since the first part contains pretty well everything that was legally available from them. With this second box, Henry Cow makes theirs all of those illegal boots and gives us a few jewels along with the boots. Please read the separate reviews for the Stockholm & Goteborg and the DVD , since they are also available (at least I understood) separately. So Past the sixth (Swedish) volume and its 75-76 line-up co,mprising of Dagmar, Lindsey and Georgie for the feminine camp, and of Chris, Fred and Tim on the male side, you?ll find the odd appearabnces of john greaves, Anne-Marie Roelofs , Geoff Leigh and Dave Chambers in very small quantities. So, onwards past the Swedish chapter.

Disc 7 is called Later and Post Virgin (which is self-explanatory) and obviously worrying of the 76-77 period , when the group will effectively become a RIO group. A few boot tapes were recuperated and cut by Cutler and arranged/mixed/mastered by Bob Drake. Surprisingly enough I find the sound often quite good despite the sources being on two-track cassettes, which is quite a relief, since I was expecting a few sonic cringing moments. Four concerts are featured here, one from London early 77, two from The Netherlands in summer of 77 and one from France or Belgium (both have a city called Chaumont) in late 76. The real surprise is that the London concert is very Canterbury-esque and it could easily be Caravan or Hatfield having a tough time digesting the supper served that night. The dissonances are kept to a minimum and maybe the vicinity of the KLent capital is partly responsible. Anyway, Leg-End seems to be the inspiration of that night, as the presence of Teenbeat might hint.. The first Holland piece (in Vlissingen) is definitely more dissonant chamber rock that was generally their concerns those days. Definitely more bizarre are the Chaumont concert tracks filled with dissonant percussions and wind instruments thus being reminiscent of Unrest, thus probably making it a difficult night for the Chaumont crowd in attendance that night, but no more than the previous Vilssingen track. The four Amsterdam tracks of very average sonic quality and present HC on a more Canterbury-esque (ala National Hatfield) but it?s going much tougher and rougher than in London and veers dissonant /Ubnrest instead of legend. This seventh disc is a pleasant surprise, despite some expected poor sonic qualities.

Disc 8 has Late for a moniker is a March 78 Bremen radio jazz broadcast, so sonically we are woprry- free as Radio Bremen is as spotless as the BBC is in terms of released recordings.. What's unfortunate for me is that with Dagmar absent HC was very much in an Unrest mood, which means that the show was often heavily dissonant but seemingly entirely written and composed with very little improvs around. Most interesting is the 6-movements15-mins New Suite especially in its early part present a few Crimsonal traits and one can wonder if Frith has not changed first name from Fred to Robert. Excellent stuff. However the following Bremen piece is definitely more dissonant and lasts a good deal longer and comprised the Erk Gah piece already heard on the previous two discs. Both in this Bremen piece and the New Suite, there are moments where the music is fairly reminiscent of Univers Zero (the bassoon is helping), but by now the two groups have met (UZ opened for HC in Brussels) and the RIO chart has been signed , but the dissonant and nearly atonal in the final section of the disc is not an easy listen.

Disc 9 is a very late Cow and the only Cd with short duration time, clocking at less than 40 mins (all the others are hovering around 75). Indeed some tracks emanate from the Italian summer tour or 78 and the rest come from the Drury Lane Rio festival in March 6, 78, both dates quite close to the dismissal of Henry Cow. But it's relatively interesting to see that the RIO chart did have a slight effect on HC?s music as all five groups are now aware of each other and although not competing, they're pushing their individual boundaries beit personally, collectively and group-wise. The more interesting track on this disc are the Drury Lane one, partly because they are recorded from the desk (by a Samla crew member), while the Italian tracks were from cassettes and had to be more reworked by the excellent Bob Drake.

Disc 10 is a DVD and would probably be The most satisfying piece of this boxset if the 76 concert in French Switzerland had not been concentrating on the IPOL album (which is not my fave), and therefore contains a lot of Dagmar vocals . The full concert was well filmed and has excellent sound, but I'll give it one flaw: both Lindsey Cooper and Georgie are almost invisible and have no close-ups due to the band placement and camera accessibility AND Dagmar conveniently positioning herself in front of her two female cohorts. Female competitiveness, I suppose. Anyway outside these considerations, this DVD has everything to make the normal HC cow salivate, yours truly included.

Other aspects: despite a very interesting accompanying booklet, the individual Cds come with almost insufficient booklets, therefore meaning that they'll never be available outside this boxset. The boxset itself is unfortunately rather conventional and will probably age badly with the paper and cardboards getting maximum wear during transport. No doubt adhesive transparent plastic sheet will be needed in order to preserve the object from falling from grace due to wear and tear. The back spine of the boxset makes it clear that this is the second installment of a three-part collection, which will have us wondering what else Henry Cow has got on the backburner and when is desert happening.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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