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CONCERTS

Henry Cow

RIO/Avant-Prog


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4 stars Henry Cow was one of the more influential and adventurous of the prog rock outfits, creating music that demands something of the listener, not a casual listen. This double live recording presents Henry Cow at a strong point in their performing, tight in a way, but certainly allowing themselves considerable space to explore as well. This album is of considerable interest to Cow fans in particular, but would be a welcome addition to many collections. Musically sophisticated, but with a sense of humor too. Fred Frith is among the most original guitarists in any genre of music.
Report this review (#20201)
Posted Monday, January 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
[email protected]
3 stars The first CD on this double set is great. The first track (Beautiful as the Moon...etc) is, I think, one of the greatest pieces of music recorded by HC (the best is 'iving in the Hear of the Beast' on In Praise of Learning). Krause is here but without Slap Happy, just the 'regular' HC. The second track has Robert Wyatt guesting (on his own song) and it definately works. Ruins, also, is great. The rest of the music is rather inconsistent though, and unfortunately, there are no other vocal pieces to break up the very long instrumentals. There is definately some gold in those latter instrumentals, but it takes lots of listening to find, and then remember, where they are, so not too accessible. So, an absolute must for committed HC fans, but for the rest..?
Report this review (#20202)
Posted Tuesday, February 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album could be subtitled 'The Young Person's Guide To Henry Cow'. In the absence of an official compilation, this is the closest thing we have to a one-stop shop which contains new versions of pieces from every album, a couple of cover versions, a generous slice of live improv and (on the CD version) half an album's worth of studio improv as well. The original issue was a lengthy vinyl double album, but for the CD reissue Henry Cows contribution to Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwall's Dancehall (1 side of a double LP the other 3 featuring Gong, Camel and Global Village Trucking Company. If you ever come across a copy with the initials CG on the label, PM me please).

Side 1 of the vinyl original was taken up with a 23 minute medley originally recorded in 1975 for legendary DJ John Peel's show. It was winning Peel's 'Rockertunity Knocks' contest that helped Henry Cow secure a record deal in the first place, so it's fitting that this session was included. Rather than simply rattle through a few tracks off their latest album, they arranged a continuous medley with new bridging passages. They start with 'Beautiful As The Moon...' from In Praise Of Learning, here played with even more clarity and intensity than the album version. This leads into a new, different version of 'Nirvana For Mice', the opening track from their first LP. The substitution of Lindsay Cooper's bassoon for Geoff Leigh's sax gives the piece a rather different, less overtly jazzy feel. Then we're into 'Ottawa Song', a version of a song known to some from Matching Mole's Little Red Record. This again was a fitting choice, as Matching Mole were the only other UK prog act of the time to make explicit political statements. Dagmar's interpretation of the lyrics is clearer than Wyatt's, and the arrangement almost makes it into a new song altogether. 'Gloria Gloom' is an otherwise unreleased Cutler/Frith composition, and a reprise of 'Beautiful As The Moon...' brings the whole thing to a close. Clear and concentrated, this was Henry Cow at their most accessible.

Side 2 was tracks 2 and 3, recorded on stage with Robert Wyatt. This segment opens with 'Bad Alchemy' from Desperate Straits, featuring Wyatt and Dagmar duetting to great effect, before a segue into a manically uptempo reading of Wyatt's 'Little red Riding Hood Hit The Road'. Following this is a live version of 'Ruins', probably the most complex of their composed pieces. This version is nothing short of amazing, but the real revelation comes in the closing section of the piece where Dagmar sings Fred Frith's violin part from the studio original.

If disc 1 gives a good overview of Henry Cow's skills as composers, disc 2 plunges into the altogether more challenging waters of their group improvisations. The CD also alters the running order of the vinyl original. 'Groningen', Groningen Reprise' and 'Udine' all come (I believe) from a Dutch tour where they played as a quartet without Dagmar or Lindsay Cooper. In parts of these pieces you can hear fragments of what would become 'Living In The Heart Of The Beast' on In Praise of Learning. The interplay is often stunning on these tracks. 'Oslo' features the full 6 piece line up in almost half an hours worth of extremely free improvisation, including Dagmar apparently speaking in tongues about half way through. On all the concert recordings Frith's guitar is superb, and he also manages to work in some manic xylophone passages. The remaining tracks on disc 2 were earlier recordings from 'Live At Dingwall's Dance Hall', and they sound like a set of studio improvisations recorded between te departure of Geoff Leigh and Lindsay Cooper joining. Leigh is credited on the sleeve, but any contributions he made are inaudible and his name is also absent from the composer credits. These are not as advanced as the studio improvs on Unrest and In Praise Of Learning, but they are a welcome addition to this reissue.

Concerts was excellent value on vinyl, and is even better as a CD reissue. It functions as a good introduction to the many faceted beast that was Henry Cow, and gives tasters of their previous albums without spoiling them.

Report this review (#20203)
Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Masterpiece of live album of HENRY COW released in 1976 "Concerts". It is a work in which Robert Wyatt participates by the guest. The medley only of live and the improvisation for 20 minutes are collected. It is symbolized in "Ruins", and the thrill and power are live works of eminent.
Report this review (#54854)
Posted Sunday, November 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars After the quirky and bizarre IPOL album, HC who had "gelled" together with Slap Happy, melted apart from them but singer Dagmar Krause remained with HC. The CD-version of this album is more of compilation or odds and bits album: a BBC Peel session, a session with Wyatt, a Norwegian concert improv (the source of this album) and works-in-progress of bits of a previous epic made up the vinyl, to which has been added the Greasy Trucker session. Quite a filled to the brim live album, which could be HC's definitive statement. Graced with a somber and sober artwork, this is a terribly important album in terms of RIO history!

Starting on a great almost 23-min Beautiful As The Moon, this extended track is a medley of tracks coming from LegEnd (Nirvana for Mice) to IPOL (Terrible as An Army), through a cover of Matching Mole's Gloria Gloom. This track was reputed for HC getting a recording contract (even though I find that Krause's presence on this track quite strange, given the date) and listening to it, it is no wonder it did!

The next two tracks come out as my favorite from this album (even toping the first medley) and starts with some usually strange Krause vocals, but duetted by bassist John greaves over a Frith ragtime piano piece, but halfway through changing to a great improve of Little red Riding Hood, where Wyatt's scats works wonders, but Greaves' bass soars over the organ work. A superb moment giving Greaves' Bad alchemy a prophetic title, since the two bits are not quite sticking together, due to some shaky linking chords between the sections. As for the 16-mins+ Ruins, it also starts roughly, but soon gets into a great groove, before getting into an improvised mostly acoustic section where they go for the full dynamics: from the demented groove to the calm almost inexistence dissonant ending.

The next two pieces (and the last of the CD version Udine) are bits coming from a Dutch tour and will find themselves worked into the superb Living In The Heart Of The Beast on the IPOL album. The two Groningen pieces are quartet-based (Copper and Krause not having joined yet, I believe, and Leigh having already left) and shows them in typical improvisation mood, showing a good tightness and ability to anticipate each other. My preference goes to the second part, which holds a devilish groove with frith soaring like an eagle and Cutler guarding Hades' entrance to the underworld!

The second disc starts in a difficult mode, with a 26-min improv, named Oslo (after the city it was recorded in and at the base of this album) and holds lesser interest for those not into free-jazz-type of music. However I find their Oslo improv a little less obtuse than their Unrest album, with cooper present and surprisingly enough Dagmar who only gets a few yelling moments (a good thing mind you ;-), but overall, the track doesn't offer much in terms of riveting music.

Outside the closing track, Udine (easily the best "thing" on this disc), the rest of the tracks come from that famous Greasy Trucker session, which is mostly dissonant/atonal improvisations, except maybe (just maybe) for the closing section of Sweet Heart Of Mine, none of which are particularly interesting (particularly the awful Café Royal), unless you're into that kind of stuff.

With only one disc (the first) of good to excellent tracks, and the other filled with boring improvs: junk as my girlfriend would say, as she storms out of the house! And for once, I can only agree with her as I eject the disc from the deck. Hardly the treasure chest promised, this HC double album is at least interesting because all sides of the group are presented! Too bad the improvising facets wins in terms of space, though!

Report this review (#131480)
Posted Friday, August 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I have developed a love / hate relationship with this live double album from HENRY COW. If they had just released the first disc only it would easily be a four star record for me, but the second disc(which is filled with improvs) is a difficult listen to say the least. This is a valuable document though with some great information in the liner notes, including an interview the band did for some young Swedes where they tell them(among many other things) that their major influences were early SOFT MACHINE and MOTHERS OF INVENTION. There are also 2 pages taken from their road diary which is very interesting.

The first five tracks are a medley of songs they did at the BBC Broadcasting House in 1975. The sound quality is great, and the band who did this medley in concerts back then do it perfectly and seemingly without effort. Piano and female vocals(Dagmar Krause) dominate the first part of "Beautiful As The Moon- Terrible As An Army With Banners" but I like the latter section when the angular guitar comes in. "Nirvana For Mice" opens with sax as lots of intricate sounds come into play a minute in, including some great bass from Greaves. It calms right down 3 1/2 minutes in as different sounds come and go. It picks back up 5 minutes in to the end. "The Ottawa Song" features solemn vocals from Dagmar as guitar comes and goes.There is more energy 2 1/2 minutes in. Not a big fan of this one.

"Gloria Gloom" is a MATCHING MOLE cover and I like it a lot. The guitar after 1 1/2 minutes is fantastic. Lots of atmosphere 3 minutes in as the vocals stop. It becomes almost eerie as it blends into "Beautiful Is The Moon". This is another outstanding track with some piano, drums and fuzz organ. Amazing sound. The next 2 songs were taken from a concert with Robert Wyatt at New London Theater also in 1975. "Bad Achemy" is basically Wyatt and Krause singing together with piano accompanying them. "Little Red Riding Hood Hits The Road" is from "Rock Bottom" and is my favourite track on this double recording. Wyatt does his vocal melodies then follows it up with vocals. 1 1/2 minutes in is an incredible section. Love this song. Some good guitar 3 minutes and the drumming is outstanding. "Ruins" is from their "Unrest" album and is remarkable. Check out the organ in the first part of this song ! After 4 minutes it changes to a chamber rock style. Some raw guitar 10 minutes in with vocal melodies a minute later from Dagmar. The last 2 tracks(improvs) on the first disc require some patience and are a let down for me after all that has gone on before.

Disc two is pretty much the band experimenting and improvising. I agree with Syzygy that the final song "Udine" is by far the best of the bunch.

Overall a 3 star recording although I can't see playing disc 2 anytime soon. Still this is a valuable recording for me.

Report this review (#163717)
Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars This collection of different live recordings has many ups and downs. First of all, the sound quality is spuious at best. Some parts are clear, but never perfect. Some parts are rough and distorted. And some sound like the microphones were just scattered around the stage without respect for the instruments.

Also, I'm not sure why, but Dagmar Kraus' vocals usually annoy me. Her Lotte Lenya impersonation just doesn't strike a chord with me.

Despite all that, Henry Cow created some of the most interesting music of it's time. The compositions, if you can call them that can be eerie and disturbing, sounding like total disarray, but somehow in control.

The best parts here are when the band actually sets up some sort of rhythm for Frith and company to create solos and other noises over.

This is a good album, but I'd recommend getting the studio albums over this one.

Report this review (#264414)
Posted Friday, February 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A neat cross-section of Henry Cow live performances, featuring a mix of improvisational and composed tracks. Some of the material from the likes of Unrest and In Praise of Learning is somewhat more approachable in the live context than in the cold, stark presentation they received on the studio albums, so those beginning to explore Henry Cow's RIO output might want to start here. Unfortunately, I can't give this one a glowing report because the recording quality is so variable - the first side or so of the album (Beautiful as the Moon; Terrible as an Army With Banners / Nirvana For Mice / Ottawa Song / Gloria Gloom / Moon Reprise) has great sound quality because it was recorded for a Peel session, but the rest is much more variable, with Ruins and Groningen suffering particularly badly to my ears. Had this not been the case, this might have been a four-star piece, but as it is I can only go to three.
Report this review (#545995)
Posted Saturday, October 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars 1976 was a very busy year in Henry Cow's career. The band had just released a fruit of their collaboration with a German avant-rock outfit Slapp Happy, In Praise Of Learning, and was busy touring western Europe (for nearly two years continously). At that time, Anthony Moore and Peter Belegvad left the project with Dagmar Krause becoming the lead vocalist of Henry Cow. The sextet got a chance to play alongside Robert Wyatt, who had just completed his newest album Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard. Too busy to record an album, Henry Cow gathered all the worthwhile live material they had and released a double album Concerts.

The album consists of twenty two tracks on two LPs. Disc one starts out with a medley of "Beautiful as the Moon; Terrible as an Army With Banners", "Nirvana For Mice", Matching Mole's political statements "Ottawa Song" and "Gloria Gloom", and the reprise of "Beautiful as the Moon". Than come two pieces recorded with Robert Wyatt himself, "Bad Alchemy", a fruit of collaboration between John Greaves and Slapp Happy's Peter Blegvad, and "Little Red Riding Hood Hits The Road", which comes from his memorable solo release Rock Bottom. After his unfortunate accident, Wyatt was unable to play drums, devoting fully to perfecting his signature vocals. Next, "Ruins", is a 16-minute jam over Henry Cow's piece from Unrest."Groningen" and "Groningen Reprise" are two improvisation-driven tracks, which close the first LP.

Side A of the second disc is fully occupied by an atonal, free-form piece "Oslo" with half-an-hour of disturbing, dissonant noodlings with Dagmar Krause moaning somewhere in the distant background. One might be tricked into regarding this in the same way as other pieces. However, these kinds of melody-less, single-layered, improvised pieces far beyond being just aimless noodlings. Time and its subjective meaning plays a crucial role in "Oslo". Side B comprises tracks from Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwall's Dancehall sessions (recorded a few months after their debut, Legend), which also included Camel, Gong, and Global Village Trucking Co. (a very interesting album, by the way). The four tracks are also fully improvised, but are far more entertaining than the aimless "Oslo". In fact, at moments I feel like they would, but are highly likely more accessible than "Oslo". At moments, they might remind of Pink Floyd's Ummagumma. As always is the case with Henry Cow, the titles of these tracks are excellent - "Off the Map", "Cafe Royal", "Keeping Warm in Winter".

Similarly to thier studio releases, the instrumental skill of all the Henry Cow members is superb. It appears that they actually do not need studio equipment and possibilities it brings to sound good. Fred Frith's unique guitar style is as always spot-on and the multi-instrumentalist abilities of Tim Hodgkinson are really highlighted here. Lindsay Cooper's bassoon, oboe, and flute give the band a unique, chamber-like feel, which often provides a much-needed rest from tiring free-jazz work-outs. John Greaves' bass is a very pleasant suprise. On studio releases, his playing always seemed to stay in the shadow of other musicians. Concerts perfectly showcases his great skill.

All in all, Henry Cow's only official live album (excluding those released long after the band's departure) is a quintessence of what the group really was. Concerts features diverse, varied compositions, which display the incredible loads of live energy and technical know-how that Henry Cow's members have. The album portrays the band in great form, full of fresh musical ideas. Like studio releases, it needs to be given time and numerous listens to be fully comprehended. Recommended!

Report this review (#1559716)
Posted Saturday, May 7, 2016 | Review Permalink

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