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The Penguin Cafe Orchestra - Penguin Cafe Orchestra CD (album) cover


The Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Eclectic Prog

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4 stars Interesting band this Penguin Cafe Orchestra, probably the last 70's Prog band to born. This is the creature of Simon Jeffes and have a strange line-up with other 10 musicians and in my opinion Penguin Cafe Orchestra is a chamber version of E.L.O., not just to be accurate but not so much to give a rough idea of the music offered. This is the 2nd album and the title is "Penguin Cafe orchestra". This album was recorded at the Penguin Cafe between 1977 and 1980. All the songs was wrote by Simon Jeffes except for "Paul's Dance" (Jeffes and Nye), "Cutting Branches" (traditional), and "Walk Don't Run" (by J. Smith). If you search the band and the album in Wikipedia this album is scheduled as instrumental Folk. This is correct but also not proper correct. Ok, the music is Folk but since the structure of the songs are also close to Canterbury or Krautrock I think that Penguin Cafe Orchestra as band (and as album) are good also as Prog band. In a good substance if you think a strange mix between Amazing Blondel, Fairport Convention, East Of Eden, Mike Oldfield, Aktuala, Popol Vuh and Clark Hutchinson (all in acoustic version) and Mozart with renaissance music and you think a great ballad version of this mix in Folk field you have Penguin Cafe Orchestra. In general if you think that King Crimson was the best for complexity, Penguin Cafe Orchestra in the chamber version of King Crimson but without their complexity!

I do not have a favorite song in this album but sure "Pythagora's Trousers", dominated by viola is the more Rock song in this album. "Walk Don't Run" in this version is great. The rest of the album is in the direction that I have described above, in some moments more close to Krautrock and in some moments more close to Folk.

In definitive if you not love chamber music or atmospheric Folk I think that Penguin Cafe is a difficult band (and album). Vice versa Penguin Cafe Orchestra is your band (and album)

Report this review (#362144)
Posted Thursday, December 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars Aside from having one of the best album covers in the history of recorded music, this self-titled second album from the Penguin Cafe Orchestra is also one of the most unique, humorous and downright pleasant records I've ever encountered.

The Band is the creation of Simon Jeffes (alas, no longer with us) who wrote all the music and meticulously rehearsed his diverse group of extremely talented musicians. He also played about a dozen of the instruments himself. The sound he created is difficult to define. Most record stores list the PCO under New Age, which in my opinion is absurd. The truth is that the songs are a mishmash of Jeffes' eclectic influences including, but not limited to, jazz, world music, classical, ambient, lounge and maybe even a little pop. It's all instrumental and all acoustic, although I suspect there has been a certain amount of studio manipulation on one or two tracks, and all delightful.

I mentioned before that the music is humorous, and indeed it is, but not in a Frank Zappa, or even Spike Jones, kind of way. It makes you laugh in the same way a small child laughs when he sees something wonderful and utterly unexpected. It is the humor of joy unbridled. This is revealed in track titles like "Telephone and Rubber Band" and "The Ecstacy of Dancing Fleas." Elsewhere, the album ventures into slightly more sober territory, while still not taking itself too seriously. "Cutting Branches For A Temporary Shelter" remains one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. At times it's almost heartbreaking.

Let me tell you folks, to produce an album so relentlessly innocent and optimistic without it turning into insipid treacle is no small feat. Simon Jeffes has achieved it, and yet remains unjustly obscure.

Report this review (#369806)
Posted Saturday, January 1, 2011 | Review Permalink

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