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


Henry Cow



3.96 | 169 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Henry Cow was always a difficult band to pin down, and even more so after joining forces with the avant-pop eccentrics of SLAPP HAPPY. The collaboration was no doubt mutually beneficial, but sometimes it just brought out the weirdness in everyone involved.

That much is obvious after hearing the first demented verses of "War", the opening cut off their 1975 album together. Hearing it for the first time, I was immediately reminded of the "Laughing Song" (from the 1978 "Duck Stab!" EP) by THE RESIDENTS, at the time an all but unknown group but certainly not unfamiliar with either half of this double ensemble.

So, what to call the augmented band? Slapp Henry? Happy Cow? Neither label does justice to the awesome cacophony of the awkwardly named "Beginning: The Long March", or the even more challenging "Beautiful as the Moon - Terrible as an Army With Banners". The former title references Chairman Mao; the latter The Song of Solomon, which ought to show you the scope of their combined erudition. Henry Cow's agenda typically leaned to the far left, but don't worry: their music was even more radical than their politics.

And Dagmar Krause was certainly a unique vocal stylist, to say the least. Her contributions here may seem almost superfluous at times, especially next to some of the truly powerful instrumental experiments. Check out the final, epic moments of the 15+ minute "Living in the Heart of the Beast", offering an exciting alternative to the other kind of Symphonic Rock in vogue at the same time.

This was never an album designed for casual entertainment. But of course there's no such thing as a casual Henry Cow fan, right? Their music demands a level of committed listening sometimes lacking even among the most adventurous Progheads. I can't say I'm always up to the challenge myself, but judging at least from other reviews here at Progarchives there are plenty of dedicated listeners more than able to fill in the blanks.

"In Praise of Learning"....what an appropriate title. Sometimes the curve can be steep, but the rewards will always match the effort.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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