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LEGEND

Henry Cow

RIO/Avant-Prog


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walksa@geog.u
3 stars This is not the best HC album, though it still passes the test. However, there is something missing tieing it all together - it comes across as too disjointed and (dare I say it, because I love this kind of music!) a tad boring. For those who love the 'Cantebury scene' though, definately worth it!

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#20166)
Posted Tuesday, February 03, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
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Prog Folk
4 stars Before starting, let's just dispel a few myths: the first being that HC originated from Cambridge (as did Pink Floyd) and not Canterbury, even if sound-wise they approached Kent's capital. The second is how HC is regarded as the RIO par excellence: when the RIO chart was sealed by six groups coming from six lands, Henry Cow was nearing the end of its existence, so in fact very few of its music is sporting the RIO flag, even if of course the spirit and intention was there. As for history, HC's roots can be traced back to 68 with guitarist/violinist Frith and keyboards/windman Hodginson's partnership, as later joined consecutively by Greaves on bass, Cutler (through a common gig with the Ottawa Music Company) on drums and eventually Geoff Leigh (who would depart soon after this album's release) on wind instruments. This album is to be read as Leg End (hence the sox artwork) and quickly became the UFO that every self-respecting progressive artist had to hear (hence its legend) - I never thought I'd be able to pull this one ;-).

Musically describing Henry Cow is not as risqué as you might think (even if they were groundbreaking and never-done before), but if you can picture Gentle Giant/Gryphon pre-classical music, mixed with Zappa's sense of aesthetics, crossed with Soft Machine's zaniness, and Bartok's school of classical composition, you're actually fairly close to the truth. In all truth, Leg End is maybe the most accessible of HC's records because the least dissonant, but that's not saying that this album's music is top 40 material, far from it. You will find atonal, discordant moments two of the last three tracks), but compared to future records of theirs, this is rather lower key.

Out of the most outstanding works ever put out is Amygdala with its stupendous Canterbury jazz-prog ala Hatfield with a more unconventional array of instrument. This tracks rocks, jazzes, kents, classics, sweeps you in the stratosphere and throws you back out after it chewed your brains out, after having trampled down by a Gryphon-like beat. The flipside opener Yellow Half-Moon is also quite awesome, providing chills down the spine once the flute takes centerstage, before quickly leading in the closing section Teenbeat, which will not fail to shred you mind into a pulp-like pasta plate with Frith's fuzz guitar solo.

More unsettling are the two tracks Nirvana and Teenbeat who seems to get entangled throughout the track list; Teenbeat is often axed towards free-jazz and its three parts can be considered like the harder to get music, even if the reprise is much more energetic (Cutler being outstanding, here), as they sound like some kind of Centipede in Septober Energy. The Nirvana thing is book-ending the album's first side and not that spectacular. While a good part of the album's flipside is occupied by two free-jazz/atonal music, neither Chaffing, nor Bellycan are enthralling, but they sandwich the only sung track, the Wyatt-ey Nine Funerals.

Apparently this record was made from a flurry of material to choose from, and I find it rather dismaying that there aren't posthumous releases (at least two or three) of prior-to-debut-album music that have been made available before. Nevertheless, if you are not that much into RIO (or future RIO), but would like to investigate Henry Cow, I suggest that you start with LegEnd, because it only gets more complex and dissonant from this one onward. In the meantime HC's debut stands as my fave from them and could have reached the fifth star had they diddled a little less with atonalities.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#20167)
Posted Friday, April 02, 2004 | Review Permalink
Dick Heath
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Jazz-Rock Specialist
4 stars "Legend" or "Leg End", Henry Cow's first release. The band got a recording contract with Virgin Records in the UK, on the back of winning the one and only "Rockatunity Knocks" competition, John Peel ran on his "Top Gear Show" on BBC Radio One.

It is the HC album which most reminds you of Soft Machine (of the "Volume 2" and Third" period), with its anglo jazz rock, but has less of the dissonance/free form/avante jazz we have discovered on subsequent HC records - really the RIOtag was to come later. Hence a sort Canterbury album - said with some irony when HC were originally based in Pink Floyd's territory of Cambridge.

A great first release and probably the one to ease yourself into RIO.

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Send comments to Dick Heath (BETA) | Report this review (#20169)
Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
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.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#20177)
Posted Friday, January 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In some ways, the Henry Cow collective is the final frontier of prog. The kind of band that has far more in common with avant-garde jazzers than your "average" symphonic prog rock group, Henry Cow grew out of a group of left-wing Cambridge intellectuals who made music that combined sophisticated jazz-rock with atonal, discordant contemporary classical sensibilities. If you're a Gentle Giant fan who can also take delight in Frank Zappa's and Soft Machine's zaniest moments, then Henry Cow's largely instrumental debut Legend is an absolute must.

The opener Nirvana For Mice is a burst of solid jazz-rock that seems to go nowhere, primarily because of the lack of distinct melodies. In some ways, the least accessible piece on the album and one could almost imagine that it's there to scare off the unadventurous. It's followed by a wonderful Tim Hodgkinson composition, Amygdala. An absolutely stunning work, it is one of my favourite bits of progressive jazz-rock ever. Each of the five players shows remarkable dexterity and creativity, from the delicate flute of Geoff Leigh and Fred Firth's outstanding guitar work (this ultra-talented man makes Robert Fripp and Jan Akkerman look like commercial sell-outs!) to Hodgkinson's sax and the sympathetic, astute rhythm section of John Greaves and Chris Cutler. I can't tell you plays the great jazz piano on this one since four members are credited with playing the instrument in the liner-notes!

The third track Teenbeat Introduction is pure off-the-cuff atonal jazzy improvisation that serves as (you guessed it!) an introduction to Teenbeat. The sort of thing that takes a dozen listens just to figure what each musician is doing, it's one of those pieces that shows you just how special (and difficult!) Henry Cow were. The Frith/Greaves piece Teenbeat that it leads to is a great piece that tends to remind me of early Gentle Giant. Ambient, fast and furious, it's a delight to behold, with Frith turning in some dazzling violin work.

The tempo is then turned down a couple of notches by Nirvana Reprise which is a minute long Frith guitar instrumental that wouldn't disgrace Hackett or Howe. Extract from "With the Yellow Half-Moon and Blue Star" is another typically bizzare Henry Cow tune that rides mainly on Frith's violin, but passes through all kinds of phases during its brief two and a half minute tenure, before seguing into the ferentic, King Crimson-esque Teenbeat Reprise, which is probably the most fiery piece of all here. Firth's aggresive lead guitar is backed all the way by some stunning piano which eventually takes over for one of the album's most ambient sections.

The album closes with two more doses of collective improvisation in The Tenth Chaffinch and Bellycan which are great, but perhaps a little too much considering how heavy the album has already been. Thankfully sandwiched in between is another strong composition from Tim Hodgkinson, Nine Funerals Of The Citizen King. It contains the only lyrics you'll actually hear on the whole album, and unsurprisingly, its melody is closer to Robert Wyatt than anyone else. With strong violin backing and some interestive percussion and flute going on, it's yet another effort that will test the patience of even most proggers, but has somehow wormed its way into my affections over time.

Ultimately, the Henry Cow test is one that every would be progger must face, and I can think of no better place to start with than the visceral Legend. I should mention that the version I have was remixed for CD release in 1990 by Hodgkinson and Frith, and Lindsay Cooper (who actually joined Henry Cow from Comus after Legend was recorded) took the opportunity to record some new basoon parts for Amgydala. Not having heard the original, I wasn't the least affected by this, but some purists may well take offence. ... 84% on the MPV scale

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#20180)
Posted Monday, May 09, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Forward jazz-rock with impact that gives a hard blow to spirit that becomes duller in daily life. At first, it was not interesting. However, it becomes interesting if it learns. Moreover, there is feeling like the chamber music in the ensemble, too. It is also interesting that the feeling of the sound looks like ROBERT WYATT somehow. Wonderful album that remains through all eternity as starting point of avant-garde/chamber lock who should commemorate it.

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Send comments to braindamage (BETA) | Report this review (#43178)
Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
James Lee
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It's not fusion, and it's not quite Canterbury...but if you're a fan of either genre, LegEnd may definitely appeal to you.

Time for a big However: RIO/ avant-garde fans may find this a little less to their tastes than other HC albums. There's plenty of the darker, more experimental leanings that one would expect from the RIO founder- but given that RIO was as yet un-proclaimed, it's understandable that this is somewhat of an embryonic album, even for a band known for regular stylistic instabilities.

Not that the songs are rough, nor the playing undeveloped- quite the opposite. Virtuosity oozes from the saxes and drums, and Frith is unique and impeccable on the frets as always. I find his violin/ viola work here to be more interesting when used as an effect, but even in the more strictly melodic passages his multi-instrumental talent is impressive. They're unmistakably up to the task of carrying out the tricky merger of discipline and wild exploration.

Song structure, on the other hand, is a bit hit-and-miss; the album develops many fascinating and evocative harmonic and dynamic shifts, but just as often seems adrift. Unlike most later HC releases, LegEnd struggles to develop and maintain distinctive passages. HC tantalizes me with intriguing setups but just as frequently lets me down by moving back into more (relatively) familiar experimental jazz-rock territory (case in point: "Nirvana for Mice" and "Amygdala", both alternately brilliant and bland). "Bellycan" also embodies my reluctance to really bond with this album; the beginning is tantalizing, but loses me during the latter half- I'd rather listen to Coltrane when I want spiraling sax. However, I readily admit that SOFT MACHINE/ HATFIELD fans will have no trouble getting into Henry Cow's first album, nor will fans of ZAPPA's jazzier offerings. And the confirmed UNIVERS ZERO- style RIO fans will find "Yellow Half-Moon" a perfect precursor (though it does little for me, surprisingly).

High points for me: "Teenbeat Introduction" and "Tenth Chaffinch" are both eerie and chaotically ethereal, hinting at complex structures lurking deep between the notes- exactly what I look for in the RIO genre. "Nine Funerals" is whimsically menacing (or is that menacingly whimisical?) and contain some of the album's finest string moments as well as an uncharacteristic vocal center. Fans of PONTY or KING CRIMSON (of the "Lizard" period, at least), should take to this piece like a duck to water. Given the extreme boldness and talent, as well as historical importance, I should be giving this no less than four...but as a whole, it simply refuses to grow on me as much as other Henry Cow albums.

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Send comments to James Lee (BETA) | Report this review (#46571)
Posted Wednesday, September 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
a.clough@gold
5 stars "Prog" has many manifestations. The mixture of rock,classical anf jazz which is typical of it can pull in a number of directions. If you don't care so much for the flamboyant arrangements of classical themes and bombastic musical rhetoric this might well be the album for you. Here, all the various stylistic elements are truly integrated to make a modern cross-genre chamber music. Its supposedly not easy music and its true it makes little use of musical cliche but it is not abrasively avant-garde in that its full of gentle and melodic passages alongside more agressive and improvised sections. This album always sounds longer than it is. Usually, I'd conceed, this is a bad sign indicating boredom but I have loved this album for over 25 years so I think its and indication of the amount of detail and ideas that are crammed in. Perhaps I should say its hard to believe that so much has been crammed in so short a time. Every Cow album has a lot going for it but they were never again as focussed as this.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#55294)
Posted Tuesday, November 08, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars n May of 1968, two students of the University of Cambridge (and distinguished musicians) are going to mount a band. The two boys, a called Fred Frith and another Tim Hodgkinson, initially intended to mount barely a band or of jazz or of blues, main influence of the two, however, both had a taste and a vision broader a lot musical and diversified for imprison his recent project in an alone style. Both also they decided that did not need media for adulate or will be adulated, what will they want even was show their work with total liberty, expondo their visions musicals and politics without rotulações or prejudices. But despite of inside-out to itself "will sell" or it imprison his sound, both never had no problem in touch with others groups or artists that had a better commercial relation or of more success than they (as the Software Machine, Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield), or that had a vision musical still more radical than the group (like the percussores of the Krautrock, the German group Faust), and that subsequently would be Big value for the artistic enlargement and musical of the band, that would be very well utilized by them. It decided itself also that others musicians of equal calibrate went called for be part of that project and that followed of the same influence political-musical of their founders. In 1972, Chris Cutler, a distinguished English drummer, the bass player John greaves and the instrumentalist Lindsay Jogging enter for the team of the Henry Cow, if not closing the classical formation of the group, at least serving of base for the first one (and marvelous) adventure of the band in study. It recorded between the end of 1972 and middle part of 1973, Legend doubtless is the initial landmark of the movement that would go to be defined in the end of the years 70 as RIO, or Rock In Oposition. Here, even still suffering from an influence of the school fusion Canterburiana and of the Crimson of 1969, the so peculiar elements to the group (Break of sonorous times, mixtures of several styles musicals, extremely complex melodies and sometimes to difficult of accompany) already were found (and very) in that work. To first music, to classical "nirvana will go mice" looks us show that the band would traverse a more conventional sound in his I initiate, but already us astonishing for the sonorous effects and musicals that to same in the sample in him elapse of its duration. Upon elapsing of the album, we perceive then that Frith, Hendkinson and his supporters want even is going to flee of any sonorous style defined, as we be able to perceive in the three part of "Teenbeat" and more specifically in "With The Yellow Half-Moon And Blue Stat", where solos unruly complex and necessary rhythms at the same time join with. The group in the end of the disk puts us the political character that the even presented, of sometimes radical form, in his sound and performance (in some shows of the band, the flag of the old Soviet Union be raised in the stage) in the somber one "Lulls to Sleep Funerals Of The Citizen King", in him the band sings of a melancholy, however highly somber form, about the misfortunes It imposed for with the society, without doubts closing with golden key that innovative and different work. To layer of the album also is deed for flee of any vision conventional esthetics, putting in the layer barely the picture of a half, fleeing of the visual grandeur of Roger Deans, Hipgnosis and Paul Whiteheads so in force in the period. Doubtless, a marvelous disk, but also a precursor, where from him, a news forms of the progressive sound be done would be carried out.

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Send comments to Gabriel_XMT (BETA) | Report this review (#83962)
Posted Monday, July 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars HC is HC (hardcore), complex and eclectic.

4 stars - occasionally worth 5 stars, and I give extra points for the authority etc. (which things of authority? skills? potential?), because some art seems to be quite worthless in this album. 2 stars for tracks 9 and 10. It could be three stars for this album... ? no.

Nirvana for Mice (1. 4:53) is nice one, cohesive fast avant-jazz song with many different elements. Strong bass&brass couple with drums running on background. Sax bouncing little bit almost all the way, but not teasingly, like sax tends to do - but it's fart (y) s(t)imulation of mice. 0:52 - 1:02 reminds me of Dream Theater's "take the melody and let it sound like something else with different rhytm" - also instruments are different. -- At the end of the song there's Magma. Starting at 3:54, following with three parts which are also Magma rhytms, and at the very end with Magma-vocals! Gong instruments on background.

I like Amygdala (2. 6:47) as second (or first) best song (masterpiece it is). Note!: Compare the beginning of it to the ending of Nirvana for Mice. 1:20-> this is musiic that I like very much, sounds funny but not too much. And shows why I like experimental - you could "get" "stuff" from some experiments. Slow moving Zappa guitar. 3:44 folky rhytms, Mike Oldfield. I think this whole song as folk, somehow. 4:00 aah, and I can't help loving these wind-instruments (before and after 4:00). 5:34 Gong again. I seldom like smooth waters and loose melodies, but this is like diverse nature and maintains same atmosphere and feelings.

Maybe the best song Teenbeat (4. 6:57) grew from its introduction. Eastern sax and choir. This song has more rapid changes to unequal parts also the atmosphere is changing. Different jazz kits. Musically inspiring. 3:00 sliding but rappy violin crowns the cake. Very psychoactive pattern, synopsis, fills the end. Reminds me of Diana Deutsch's musical studies. And the whole album, of course sounds little like canterbury too - also with its mathematics (and for example Magma's math). I don't know much about atonality, but

there's four "arty" songs. They don't grate on my ear, but I don't admire them too much. Teenbeat Introduction (3. 4:32) expanding and growing for Teenbeat. Nirvana Reprise (5. 1:11) , full, considered modification, but gets me sleepy. Tenth Chaffinch (8. 6:06), whining (zeuhl opera), noises, scenery, blah. Bellycan (10. 3:19), imagining of scoping inner body..

Extract from "With the Yellow Half-Moon and Blue Star" (6. 2:26) is little bit like Nirvana Reprise (nice price for mice) with intervals and impression of guitar (full orchestra) - strange that I like the sax.

Teenbeat Reprise (7. 5:07) , fast beat, electic guitar, instruments like fire igniting, dying, igniting... And dramatic sudden end (It may seem stupid to point one little part of the song, but I think i got some point) still the tension continuing on next song.

Nine Funerals of the Citizen King (9. 5:34). This is song - with singing. It's pleasant and you can understand the complexity of HC maybe better when listening this. Instrumental level is also interesting, though vocals are instrument. Refreshing careful mystic. Peculiar (somehow chantey) psychedelic melody. 2:16 dramatic (blah, let it be).

Songs are attached to each other. There's warm feeling in me through "experiments", unlike it could be expected. Tracks 2 and 4 gets me, others are a bit lame.

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Send comments to progressive (BETA) | Report this review (#87753)
Posted Sunday, August 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Canterbury jazz, with complex rhythms, and symphonic even classical overtones, the melodies seem a bit contrived, but after a couple of listenings they will come to you in splendid harmony. Not an easy listening experience for sure.

A highlight for me is the song Amygdala, with beautifull melodies and ever-changing mood, slow melodics and some slightly harder guitar passages. Teenbeat takes 7 minutes or so to get interesting, but the final 4 minutes are worth your attention. and the reprise is really good, with more upfront easier to comprehend symphonic layers of jazz. Nine Funerals is the only song featuring vocals, but luckily not so much.

At moments this is rather good, but it's difficult to enter, and you have to really want to like it to really appreciate it. For historical significance it can't be discarded, but this is only for fans of the RIO genre (for historical relevance), and the really die-hard canterbury fans.

Approach with caution, and don't expect flamboyance, or cheerfulness.

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Send comments to tuxon (BETA) | Report this review (#95390)
Posted Sunday, October 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This album, which I only recently discovered, completely blew me away.

It's SO enjoyable, there's SO much going on... As other reviewers have pointed out, anyone interested in the instrumental side of Gryphon (especially the NON-medieval stuff), Gentle Giant, National Health or Zappa's UNCLE MEAT will definitely enjoy this. "Don't expect cheerfulness" one reviewer warns... Well, it's true that some of the melodies sound a little severe (in an early 20th century, neo-classical kind of way) but the music changes constantly, which makes it terribly hard to describe (just like PFM's early albums, although Henry Cow are - of course - completely unromantic) and you'll come across many moments of breath-taking loveliness. Apart from just TWO noisy free-jazz sax solos (don't let 'em fool you, there's one in the opening track!) LEG END contains absolutely nothing that's not easy to listen to. But you need to sit down and really listen. This is not music you do the dishes to.

So what exactly is there to enjoy? Well, I wrote a few things down... You'll hear lively flute solos accompanied by lyrical electric guitar arpeggios... Lots of tiny fugue-like passages which are taken up in turn by flute, bass guitar, clarinet and violin... Tongue-in-cheek sax melodies which come straight out of 1950s cabaret... Rapid lead guitar solos just as exciting as the one Steve Howe plays on "Awaken"... Splendidly recorded improvisations on bass, lead guitar and percussion which may remind you of the craziest moments in "Interstellar Overdrive"... And much, much more...

The album ends on a splendid song which somewhat reminds me of Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill (although I've only ever attended their "Mother Courage"). It's sung by the entire band in splendid multi-part harmony, with gorgeous arrangements for viola and violin. I read somewhere this song contains the first overt statement of Henry Cow's marxist ideas. If so, theirs was a very British kind of Marxism (closer to Groucho than to Karl) and clearly related to the Canterbury Scene: the lyrics refer to Gertrude Stein ("the mama of Dada") and to Lewis Carroll's immortal poem "The Hunting of the Snark".

At the time of writing, I haven't lived long enough with LEG END to know if it's really on the same level as, say, OF QUEUES AND CURES or LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC. Nevertheless, it seems undeniable that this is one of the true masterpieces of progressive music.

P.S. I just noticed I actually based my review on the so-called "original mix" from 2001. Earlier editions of the album may have sounded murky, but that 2001 mix is crystal clear. I've therefore decided to award it five stars. Meanwhile, THIS version, the older one, is getting four. Thank you for your patience!

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Send comments to fuxi (BETA) | Report this review (#146504)
Posted Tuesday, October 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
russellk
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Ah, the land of the terrible pun, where Canterbury-style soft sock - I mean rock - meets jazz. Not quite a legend, this album does point the way towards the future emergence of the so-called 'rock-in-opposition' genre. Therefore it is a must-listen for every serious student of progressive rock.

A must-listen, but definitely not a must-own. This album is not radical enough for the RIO fan, too serious and atonal for the Canterbury fan, and altogether too weird for the majority of prog lovers. That said, it's certainly a challenge worth taking up. Be patient: the dissonance doesn't last long and starts to make sense after a while ('Teenbeat' in all its guises is a very interesting listen), and there are some stellar moments (the guitar in 'Teenbeat reprise', the way 'Amygdala' develops, and the splendid 'Nine Funerals'). Other tracks don't work for me: the improv 'The Tenth Chaffinch', for example, offers a fascinating soundscape but lacks the spark this sort of experiment ought to have.

The HENRY COW socialist collective would go on to record better and far more challenging albums than this, but 'Leg End' is definitely the place to start. And if you're not lured to go on any further, at least you can tell the occasional prog-snob in the forums that you've listened to it!

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Send comments to russellk (BETA) | Report this review (#167131)
Posted Tuesday, April 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Rating: B+

Henry Cow are THE iconic avant-garde progressive rock group (Frank Zappa doesn't count, since he only marginally fits in the genre), known best for starting the Rock In Opposition movement and for their swansong, the masterpiece Western Culture. Before the days of Rock In Opposition and lamentations of western society, however, Henry Cow was a magnificent band playing Canterbury styled prog music, albeit with heavy avant-garde sensibilities. Never is that more present than on their standout debut, the brilliant Leg End, which is both their most accessible album and among their best (behind only Western Culture, and about equal with Unrest).

For good reason, this is widely seen as a good starting point into avant-garde music. It opens with two fun, Canterbury-esque tracks, the standout "Nirvana for Mice" with its iconic theme (or, at least, a main theme that's good enough to be iconic) and the equally excellent, more drawn out "Amygdala". It's not until track three, "Teenbeat Introduction", that their avant-garde leanings start to appear. Across the three parts of "Teenbeat" (intro, main song, and reprise, interrupted by one shorter track), Henry Cow deliver some of their finest moments, particularly on the reprise. Like the first two tracks, there is a strong Canterbury sensibility, but the horn work is far darker and more dissonant than the light, jazzy playing on the first two tracks. It's tough listening at first, but it soon reveals a well-thought-out structure, and is easily the highlight of the CD (when taking all three parts together).

Thankfully, the album loses nothing for the final two tracks, especially the standout vocal piece, "Nine Funerals of the Citizen King" (the only one on the album, excepting the last fifteen seconds of "Nirvana for Mice"). With another fantastic main theme this time augmented by whimsical, half-spoken, half-chanted vocals, "Nine Funerals of the Citizen King" is a perfect example of Henry Cow at their very best, and a perfect closer to the album. Leg End may not be as intense or mind-blowing as Western Culture, but it's a remarkable debut from a band that would go on to do remarkable things, and, as mentioned, it's a good entryway into the difficult to penetrate genre of avant-garde.

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Send comments to Pnoom! (BETA) | Report this review (#169687)
Posted Saturday, May 03, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Spacey and Jazzy Canterbury music, with a hint of the RIOisms that Henry Cow would start experimenting with later. It's a little difficult to think of this as Rock in Opposition, but in many ways, it's the very beginning of it. Henry Cow is awesome, and this album is my second favorite of theirs after In Praise of Learning.

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Send comments to kabright (BETA) | Report this review (#170380)
Posted Friday, May 09, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Legend is the debut album from avant garde rockers Henry Cow. I´m new to Henry Cow but it´s clear that I have been missing out on something fantastic when listening to Legend. This is very very complex and challenging music that will take me years to fully comprehend but is instantly enjoyable all the same and that´s the way I like it. It´s very intriguing IMO and be warned that if you do not have patience for complex avant garde rock this will probably make you very frustrated.

The music is very influenced by Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention and of the jazzy part of Soft Machine´s music. If you take the most avant garde rock compositions from Zappa and mix them with some free jazz sections ( which are nicely structured and not as chaotic as it sounds at first) and just a touch of Canterbury ( mostly in the sole vocal track Nine Funerals of the Citizen King) you´re just about there. Henry Cow is a very original band though so this is no ripp-off. There are many great songs on the album and I´ll mention Amygdala ( My favorite) and Nine Funerals of the Citizen King as being standout tracks in masterpiece quality. Songs like these are some of the most beautiful avant garde rock songs I have heard so far. I must admit that Songs like Teenbeat Introduction and Tenth Chaffinch is a bit too trying for my patience. They are simply too avant garde even for me. They are not unbearable to listen to, but strange dissonant sounds with only sporadic percussion isn´t something I can endure for a very long time without going insane. I like the more structured songs much better.

I´ll enjoy the more avant garde songs in time I´m sure as I can hear the potential, but lacks the total understanding yet. But that´s great. I don´t want everything on an album laid out imidiatly. The really good albums always take me years to get through but then they usually last forever.

The musicianship is one of the most fantastic things on the album. It´s beyond outstanding. I have searched my mind to try and remember the last time I heard something this unique and bands like Magma and Dun comes to mind but it is very seldom I have heard anything this excellent.

The production is a story of it´s own. The drum sound is just brilliant. Very speedy percussion parts are emphasised brilliantly and everything is perfect in the mix.

I´ve given it some thought and even though I was gonna give this album 4 big stars after my initial listen I have listened to Legend many times since and grown even happier about it every time. This will have to be one of my very rare 5 star albums. Highly recommendable to people into avant garde rock with jazzy tendencies. Masterpiece.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#174972)
Posted Monday, June 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars As the band was initially formed with open mind, you definitely need an open mind in enjoying the music of Henry Cow which has been categorized as RIO (rock in opposition). And this album was actually the first culmination of the founding fathers Fred Frith and Tim Hodgkinson, fellow students in a blues club at Cambridge University in May 1968. Since the meeting, they played together to fine tune their musical tastes and horizon starting from the blues style. They dared then to support Pink Floyd's concert in June 1968, not even one year since their first inception!

It took couple of years until approximately 5 years when they're ready with this debut album. The album kicks off with "Nirvana For Mice" which has significant components of jazz-rock fusion which does not seem to have a structure or a direction. That's the challenge in the music of Henry Cow because this song is a good example of music with no melody - or at least you can hardly identify the melody. If this is the first time you listen to Henry Cow, you might stop the CD and do not want to replay. But hold on ..the next track "Amygdala" is an excellent composition especially (for my personal taste) is the evocative flute-work by Geoff Leigh coupled with Fred Firth's stunning guitar work. This can be considered as one of the best jazz-rock compositions. It continues with "Teenbeat Introduction" which shows the complexities of Henry Cow and at the same time it creates a challenge for us to understand what the musicians are trying to do. The violin work that appears in this track creates special attraction to me. The music changes into a slower tempo with the next track "Nirvana Reprise" which sounds to me like a bridge with guitar instrumental.

Overall, this is really a complex album in general with sort of unique enjoyment when you can get away the expectation of melody. I would say this is a composition-based album. The use of lyrics in "Nine Funerals Of The Citizen King" and stunning violin work combined with percussion make this album is an excellent choice for prog heads who want a challenge. Keep on proggin' .!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW (i-Rock! Music Community)

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#179766)
Posted Sunday, August 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Leg End is not something I would classify as "avant-garde," at least not against whatever litmus tests used to categorize progressive music. To my ears, this is a little bit more like eclectic progressive rock music. It blends jazz and quirky elements, but the arrangements are very strong (most of the time). Many of the pieces transition right into the next one, which is something that can be a good or a bad thing depending on how it is executed. In my opinion, there's not one bad transition here from one track to the next. I suspect that much of the music should appeal to Gentle Giant fans; I know it appeals to me.

"Nirvana for Mice" The first track on the album begins with a pleasant jazz section that migrates into more experimental rhythms. The bass work stands out the most to me, even though the saxophone playing is over-the-top. The vocal section at the end seems out of place and ends the piece abruptly.

"Amygdala" This is a fine piece, with mellow instrumentation and an exceptional arrangement, and easily my favorite on the album, especially with the backing synthesizer work. The piano and guitar playing are excellent, but the flute is fantastic. Sometimes the piece makes me think of "Cadence and Cascade" from King Crimson, but this is highly original stuff. This is music that makes me thirst for more of its kind.

"Teenbeat (Introduction)" The introduction, it seems, is nearly as long as the piece itself. I won't say much about it because it is not anything I ever want to hear again; suffice it say, it's "Moonchild" junior- louder and even more unpredictable.

"Teenbeat" Fortunately, the introduction gives way to something more structured and more pleasing, with exceptional drumming and a backdrop of choir. At times the guitar is subtle, and at others, it stands out. Frith's guitar playing here is some of the best I've heard in recent times, and it reminds me of Gary Green at the top of his game. In fact, the whole piece is evocative of good Gentle Giant. The jazzier sections are so much fun to listen to.

"Nirvana (Reprise)" Once again, I stand in awe of the guitar presence (even though there are no other instruments). I find it unfortunate that the piece was not elaborated upon (since it's one of my favorites here), but it is excellent for what it is.

"Extract From 'With the Yellow Half-Moon and Blue Star'" This is one of the quirkier tracks, but it does have a clear composition. I enjoy it for the most part, though there are some elements that grate against the ear. And even if it's slightly unappealing, it's a terse two-and-a-half minutes.

"Teenbeat (Reprise)" The sudden start, plus the distorted guitar and upbeat bass playing, make this a really exciting track. The drumming is wild, and the piano adds a softer touch in the midst of the musical fray. Still, there are quieter moments that feature some great instrumentation. This is more like jazz rock than anything.

"The Tenth Chaffinch" I love the first minute of this, but then it becomes a little too (and then far too) weird for my tastes. There are some spooky voices that permeate the middle section, something that would likely frighten small children. The doodling on the piano lends to this effect. There is a droning note that carries on while what sounds like a Vocoder goes over it. This is tied with "Teenbeat (Introduction)" for the worst track on the album.

"Nine Funerals of the Citizen King" With all the instrumentals, one would be tempted to believe Henry Cow has no vocal abilities to speak of, but finally, there is proper singing, and it's well done. There are layers of voices over sparse instrumentation. When the music does thunder in about three minutes in, it sounds regal, with rolling toms and trembling saxophone.

"Bellycan" Electronic noises dominate the beginning of this track. It's rather disjointed and stilted, which is an unfortunate way to close the album. Perhaps Henry Cow was just finishing their album in such a way that the hearers would know where they would be going musically.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#194591)
Posted Sunday, December 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars HENRY COW's debut is an eclectic blend of SOFT MACHINE and Frank Zappa with a dash of Rio / Avant thrown in the mix. Lots of wind instruments are used. And check out the lineup: Geoff Leigh, Tim Hodgkinson, John Greaves, Fred Frith and Chris Cutler.

"Nirvana For Mice" opens with horns, drums and bass and it sounds amazing. I wish the whole song sounded like that, although the change a minute in is still good but with less melody and some dissonant sax. "Amygdala" features some flute before a minute and then the tempo picks up 1 1/2 minutes in. The drums and sax stand out before it calms back down with piano. The tempo continues to change. "Teenbeat Introduction" features some dissonant sax with light drums that come and go. It blends into "Teenbeat" which is both intense and crazy to begin with. Intricate sounds follow then a swinging sound 2 minutes in. It's followed quickly by a collage of beautiful sounds. Violin 3 minutes in with clarinat to end it. "Extract From "With The Yellow Half-Moon And Blue Star"" includes a good guitar melody for a minute. Some guest pixiphone on this one as well. I have no idea what that is either. A great sound before 3 minutes. "Teenbeat Reprise" is my favourite song on here. An uptempo song with some fantastic guitar, drums and bass on it. The guitar gets quite aggressive. "The Tenth Chaffinch" has a spooky organ and synth intro with dissonant sounds coming in with no real melody. An experimental song with some cool percussion after 5 minutes. "Nine Funerals Of The Citizen King" actually has vocals ! This song reminds me of early SOFT MACHINE or Barrett era FLOYD. Violin 2 minutes in. A dramatic horn / drum section a minute later. Vocals return after that.

Just a great album that I highly recommend.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#252274)
Posted Sunday, November 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars This, the first album by Henry Cow, is almost more like the sound of Soft Machine than the rock in opposition that the band came to represent. The music is much more jazzy, and jam laden than their subsequent releases, but still has the off the wall compositions, and free style playing that marks all of their albums.

The more organized compositions sound to me like Canterbury mixed with Frank Zappa's early avant garde pieces, with a bit of free jazz thrown in to the mix.

My favorite songs on this album are Teenbeat and Teenbeat Reprise, both featuring soloing over nicely off beat rhythms.

A good starting point from a great band.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#264887)
Posted Sunday, February 07, 2010 | Review Permalink
JLocke
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I still remember the first time I listened to Henry Cow's Leg End. I was blown away by the off-the-wall nature of the music, yet at the time also very impressed by how much musical merit and beauty the compositions themselves have.

Much of what you will hear on this album is very Avant-Garde and Jazzy, yet it's also a great starting place for new Henry Cow listeners, because so much of the album is actually pretty accessible. The content is rich and varied, featuring a wide range of varied instruments from clarinets and saxophones, to guitars, basses and pianos, to even Whistles and Toys. All of those elements combine to create a very unique, yet surprisingly listenable treat!

At times the music will flow into very peaceful, melodic passages that give breaks between the more rough sections, and it creates a nice balance, I think. Clearly the musicians featured in this band are more than capable musically, yet they choose to write music is an unconventional way that nobody before them quite did, and that makes for some killer moments that are unique only to this album. I think that's why a lot of people enjoy this type of music so much; it's much harder to replicate or recycle when the melodies and riffs are breaking every rule all the time.

Again, I cannot stress just how amazing it is to me that such original, off-the-wall music could also be so much fun to listen to right from the beginning. A lot of music I won't appreciate until I've listened to it several times, but right from the first time I listened to Leg End all the way through, I loved it. I think plenty of others will have the same reaction, so I recommend this album as a starting place foe getting into the band. There is just so much substance here that makes it worth listening to, even for people who may not be naturally drawn to avant-garde style music.

I still don't think every Prog fan will appreciate this, though most will, in time, and if they allow themselves to. However, for most of us who enjoy different types of sounds anyway, I think you may be surprised as to just how much you enjoy Leg End, and how fast. That's why I think it deserves a very, very high 4.5 out of five. It's original, vast and essential for those who wish to find out what this style of music is all about. It is truly one of the more remarkable albums I own. You just have to hear it to understand what I'm talking about. Almost nothing album this album is familiar, yet somehow, it pleases the ear much quicker than many of its peers. A perfect springboard for newcomers, and an all-time classic for the veteran fans. In my opinion, you simply can't be a true fan of this style of music without first hearing Leg End. It's quite an experience.

Very happy listening.

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Send comments to JLocke (BETA) | Report this review (#270306)
Posted Monday, March 08, 2010 | Review Permalink
The Quiet One
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A Legendary Record?

Henry Cow's debut, Legend (or Leg End), is the first 'RIO' album I own. However, as for what 'RIO' stands for, 'Rock in Opposition', I have to concur with Robert (Epignosis) that this sounds much more like a band that plays eclectic prog rather than avant-garde.

If I had to sum-up in a couple of words what this album sounds like, it would be the following: a jazzy group (there's really no 'rock' elements whatsoever) that sometimes gets into free jazz grounds, featuring the quirkiness and complexity of Gentle Giant. Yes, that would be it, and as you should figure out with that short summary, this album is indeed not an album for any Prog listener, though I think any Eclectic Prog fan with a slight appreciation to jazz should be able to get into this.

The band right from the start, with 'Nirvana for Mice', engages you completely with their originality and clever songwriting. It has it all: the jazz prominence with the sax and the kick-ass rhythm section, the occasional quirkiness and the brilliant composition overall. After that, Henry Cow is still able to surprise you with their originality and complexity, mainly with the magnificent 'Amygdala' which is like those gentler tunes by Gentle Giant which are done beautifully and still offer a lot musically, the Zappa-esque 'Teenbeat Reprise' with some really fine guitar playing by Fred Frith, and finally the Canterburish, vocal-focused 'Nine Funerals of the Citizen King'.

Unfortunately Legend does have some few flaws, like the free-jazz/experimental tune 'Teenbeat Introduction' which simply has no coherence, although for some that may be something good, and the badly done, 'Bellycan', with its electronic sound being out-of-place in this rather jazzy-sounding album, it's a pity because I do hear some good ideas behind the mess that that tune is. However, taking in consideration that this is a debut album, those flaws are more than acceptable considering the maturity and quality of the rest of the album.

Overall, an excellent Prog record that standouts mainly for its original playing and composition style. I highly recommend this to all fans of Gentle Giant, Frank Zappa, quirky jazz rock and of Eclectic Prog in general.

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Send comments to The Quiet One (BETA) | Report this review (#286243)
Posted Sunday, June 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Avant-garde can be a very noisy, sometimes aimless genre, but these guys do it right. Throughout this album, they switch from slick Canterbury-style jazz (like on "Nirvana for Mice") and very unique and extremely listenable avant (such as on the introduction to "Teenbeat"). The entire album is a well crafted piece, but the conclusion, "The Nine Funerals for the Citizen King" wraps it up nicely with the unique vocals, harmonized beautifully by the guitar (which sounds almost like a synthesizer) and well complemented by the violin! Another favorite of mine is "Amygdala" as it almost sounds like something from Hatfield and the North and includes a flute solo which is very unique for even the Cow. Frank Zappa once said, "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture" and this record aptly fits that quote as it defies words! If you like creative and innovative music, just go buy it. You won't be disappointed.

One last word about the sound quality: whereas many avant artists such as Captain Beefheart (RIP) had rather murky sounding records, something that I appreciate about Henry Cow is their production is extremely clean and crisp, allowing the listener to hear every nuance of the recording, which is essential for this kind of music as it requires close attention to detail to understand. Truly a class act.

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Send comments to Zombywoof (BETA) | Report this review (#402836)
Posted Friday, February 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Whether LegEnd by Henry Cow is an "RIO" album or not seems to be a matter of debate. For my part, I would say that the term "RIO" is meaningless when applied to anything released before the actual RIO festivals were set up, because the participants in them had very little in common musically beyond being shunned by the record companies and having an avant- garde approach to progressive music. It makes somewhat more sense to apply the label to works by the original bands after the festivals kicked off, since it would only be natural for them to draw more on each others' ideas after working so closely together, and it makes perfect sense to apply it

So, if LegEnd isn't RIO, what is it? For my part, I think it has an undeniably Canterbury- influenced sound, making it no surprise that Henry Cow members would crop up on undeniably Canterbury albums from time to time. It sounds, in fact, like the group taking the Soft Machine's work on Third in a different direction from the free jazz that legendary group would drift into on its fourth and fifth studio albums, opting instead to add a few elements of chamber music, draining out the spaciness and adding some wild Gentle Giant instrumentation and complexity (and some vocal harmonies when it comes to the matter of the Citizen King). It's certainly an interesting mixture and a good start for the group, though their most original work was yet to come.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#507267)
Posted Monday, August 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Henry Cow's debut album - it's extremely difficult to put this one into words - first few things that come to mind are complex, difficult, Canterbury, whimsical, technical, Zappa - in a word - BRILLIANT. To have come this far in Prog, it's understandable that many folks may be less than thrilled by something like this. Henry Cow comprise of a band whose members have been performing their art since the end of the 60's. Notable members include guitarist Fred Frith, who is as individual as BOB FRIPP and organist Tim Hodgkinson, who likes to manipulate his sounds with fuzz, as well as playing saxes and clarinet. Drummer Chris Cutler plays his instruments with anything but conventionalism. With all the foundations laid out by Frank Zappa, Caravan, Egg, Soft Machine and the like, the Cow compose a selection of innovative, complex, and challenging music, both melodic and atonal, featuring a good dose of improvisation. To make an 'off-beat' sound somewhat 'normal', and sax work outside of 'regular' and familiar patterns, these guys know what works. At the end of the day, it's all good fun, intellectual, and unique sounding. The distinctive 'Sock' artwork on the cover (by Ray Staff) has become something of an icon for the group, adorning their next few releases - top stuff from an artistic point-of-view.... Having a young MIKE OLDFIELD (not so long out of KEVIN AYERS' band) engineering part of the first track, Nirvana For Mice, doesn't hurt. It's really cool that Oldfield's roots started within the Canterbury sub-genre of Prog. My words barely scathe the tip of the iceberg with this amazing album, but it qualifies as an absolute masterpiece of the progressive music genre. 5.

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Send comments to Tom Ozric (BETA) | Report this review (#554465)
Posted Saturday, October 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars What an incredible debut of this funny made bandname called Henry Cow. I've never heard a band before who was so much influenced by the avant-garde period of The Mothers of Invention (Uncle Meat, Weasels ripped my Flesh) as Henry Cow. Henry Cow took over the avant-garde/ free-jazz, polyrythmic and atonal absurdities and also much of the soundscapes of the Mothers. Well, it did them some good: the level of complexity and variety of themes was never before so high on a debut-record.

Henry Cow is not just a copy of the Mothers, but they build on the strong foundations of the Mothers. I'm glad that Henry Cow mostly was inspirated by the instrumental madness of the Mothers and less by the craziness in vocals.

Leg-end (yes, even the name this record is funny) offers some great compositions with fast inimatable complex parts and of more slow and more minimalistic free-jazz parts. The music is mainly instrumental, but on side two there are two vocal parts: one of them belongs to the trend of using voice as an instrument.

On this record a large variety of instruments can be heard, like saxes, flute, clarinet, organs, piano, violin and of course guitars, bass and drums. Imagine all the possibilities created by such an amount of instruments!

Well, this is a highly entertaining record which will be enjoyed by fans of the Mothers of Invention, and also by fans of the Canterbury scene (which also was much influenced by the Moters and therefor has a comparison soundscape as Henry Cow) who like complex and avant-garde music. This record is busy broadening the world of music by trying to create new complexities and (poly)rythems. We (prog-listeners in general) should thank them for it! Five stars.

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Send comments to the philosopher (BETA) | Report this review (#601188)
Posted Monday, January 02, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars And with a great reeling squonk, the Mighty Henry Cow are born, and it seems to have been a rather difficult birth, of course there's tons of weird facts about how it came to be, and there are many discourses upon how difficult a band the Mighty Henry Cow are, but to my ears the very first time I heard the Mighty Henry Cow, they sympathized and stretched in to fit so perfectly that the only thing I could say after the ravishing was "Where have you been all my life?" as I lit a Kool Mild and took a slug from my bottle of Olde English.

It's like John Coltrane sometimes, other times not so much (Coltrane is better than the Mighty Henry Cow but only because he happened to be a walking god among men) mostly because the Mighty Henry Cow ARE a rock band of some stripe, though the stripes might be vertical or horizontal, depending if you are knocked on the floor by their brilliant beaming ugliness.

Also there's guitars. Coltrane had no guitar. the Mighty Henry Cow would make two really wonderful records, then acquire Dagmar, of whom I'm not incredibly fond, and remain not quite as good as this before disbanding. I can't give either this or the next album Five stars because they aren't quite five star affairs, but for what it's worth, This record kicks asps, and rattle snakes too. Try it and you may I say listen to 'the Cow every day.

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Send comments to TerryDactyl (BETA) | Report this review (#1172558)
Posted Thursday, May 08, 2014 | Review Permalink

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