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Fred Frith


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Fred Frith Gravity album cover
4.01 | 63 ratings | 6 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1980

Songs / Tracks Listing

1/ The Boy Beats The Rams (Kluk Tluce Berany 4:54
2/ Spring Any Day Now 3:04
3/ Don't cry For Me 3:28
4/ The Hands Of The Juggler 5:31
5/ Norrgarden Nyvla 2:54
6/ Year Of The Monkey 4:11
7/ What A Dilemma 3:11
8/ Crack In The Concrete 1:24
9/ Come Across 2:47
10/ 4:42
10a/ Dancing In The Street
10b/ My Enemy Is A Bad Man
11/ Slap Dance 2:32
12/ A Career In Real Estate 4:42
13/ Dancing In Rockville Maryland 3:04

Playing time 47.12

Line-up / Musicians

Fred Frith: bass, guitar, violin, keyboards, drums, extra percussion
Hans Bruniusson (1-6,10): drums
Eino Haapala (1-6): guitar, mandolin
Lars Hollmer (1-6): piano, organ, accordion
Marc Hollander (1-13): alto, clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano
Dave Newhouse (7-13): alto, organ
Tom Scott (11): soprano
Paul Sears (7,8,10,11,13): drums
Billy Swann (8,10,11,13): bass

Plus: Olivia Bruynhooge : tap dancing,
clapping; Chris Cutler snare drum, maraccas, clapping, drums;
Tina Curran whirling, clapping, subliminal bass; Frank Wuyts whirling, clapping, recorders, drums, piano, synthesiser; Michel
Berckmans : clapping, oboe, bassoon; Etienne Conod clapping;
Denis Van Hecke: clapping, cello; Veronique Vincent clap-
ping; Asha Swanson final comments

Releases information

1980 - Ralph Records (USA), FF-8057-L (LP)
1990 - T.E.C. Tones (USA), FF-8057 (LP)
1991 - RecRec Music (Switzerland), ReCDec 901 (CD) (version 1)
1991 - RecRec Music (Switzerland), ReCDec 901 (CD) (version 2)
1991 - RecRec Music (Switzerland), RecRec 901 (CT)
1991 - East Side Digital (USA), ESD 80452 (CD)
2002 - Fred Records/ReR Megacorp (UK), ReR/FRO 01 (CD)
1991 CD reissues contain extra material

Thanks to syzygy for the addition
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Buy FRED FRITH Gravity Music

FRED FRITH Gravity ratings distribution

(63 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(51%)
Good, but non-essential (16%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

FRED FRITH Gravity reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Fred Frith's first post - Henry Cow solo project was made with the assistance of Sammla Mammas Manna (tracks 1 - 6) and the Muffins (tracks 7 - 13), which corresponded to sides 1 and 2 of the original vinyl release. The album is informed by Frith's interest in different folk traditions (as were some tracks on Art Bears' debut album) and he referred to it, accurately, as dance music, although it is dance music with a strong RIO twist.

A lot of the album sounds a bit like the rhythm section of the Magic Band backing a variety of World Music artists, but somehow the whole thing hangs together in two coherent halves. This may be accessible compared to some of Frith's output, but accessibility does not equal simplicity and Frith's compositions and arrangements are as challenging for his backing musicians as anything else he's written. The tracks featuring Sammla Mammas Manna occasionally have a Scandinavian feel, but they also range across Europe and even into the Middle East at times. There are catchy melodies, foot tapping rhythms and Fred Frith turning in a finely judged multi instrumental performance including some very nimble violin work. The tracks featuring the Muffins move more towards rock with Frith's ever inventive guitar more to the fore. A particular highlight is a cover version of the old Motown hit Dancing in the Street, which is here given an almost Residents style makeover and incoroporates the sound of 'Iranian demonstrators celebrating the capture of American hostages' according to the liner notes. All of the musicians turn in excellent performances, but special mention should be made of sax/clarinettist Marc Hollander (Aksak Maboul), the only one aside from Frith himself to appear on the whole album.

This is a solid, assured album that is one of the more accessible examples of the RIO genre. It had a remendous impact at the time, particularly when you consider that Frith was also composing and playing for Art Bears and was shortly to form Massacre when this was recorded. It's an excellent piece of work, but Frith would go on to achieve greater things in his solo career. 3.5 stars really, rounded up to 4.

Review by Easy Money
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars This is one of Frith's more accessible records, but it is hardly commercial. These are, for the most part, fairly short songs that mix traditional Persian and East European instrumental dance music with progressive rock, lounge exotica and Frith's unique brand of avant-garde improvisation. The progressive rock sections bear some resemblance to artists like Zappa, Fripp and Snakefinger. Frith and his band mates play a lot of acoustic stringed instruments such as violin, mandolin and acoustic guitar, but Frith also adds a lot of heavily sustained electric guitar melodies in the classic progressive rock tradition of Hackett, Manzanera and once again, Fripp.

Some songs on this album are worth special mention. Norrgarden Nyvla starts with a short quirky intro and then lays into a nice Indo- Persian groove. Frith plays a violin solo that might remind some of David Cross on The Talking Drum. After that lengthy section the whole song breaks down into an odd but catchy triple-tracked guitar melody that wouldn't sound too out of place on an early 70's Zappa record.

The track What a Dilemma is a driving avant hard rock song that is similar to Frith's noisy Massacre band, or some of King Crimson's more harsh tunes. A Career in Real Estate is a trip around the world musically that doesn't sound contrived or pretentious. Despite numerous style and meter changes the whole song hangs together thanks to Frith's ability to create coherent melodies that tie the different sections together. The only song that doesn't meet the standards of the rest of the album is his cover of Dancing in the Streets. The version by Martha Reeves will never be topped, the cover by Black Oak Arkansas isn't bad either, but this version is boring and tedious and contains none of the original's magic.

Fred Frith is one of the best composers to come out of the world of rock music. His ability to write interesting melodies with constantly shifting time signatures is unparalleled in this genre. If you want to check out his music, this album is a good place to start.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars In my not so humble opinion, RIO is probably the most inventive, and certainly the most experimental of all of the subgenres of prog rock that we celebrate here. RIO albums are usually strange to the ear, but can also be beautiful, eerie, disturbing, and even sometimes unlistenable. This one falls into all the above categories except the last one.

First of all, my copy of this album, the ESD release, has six bonus tracks, so it is about 25 minutes longer than the tracks listed here. All the better.

At times, this album recalls Frith's work in the group Henry Cow (Hands Of The Juggler), at other times, you can hear a Zappa influence (Norrgarden Nyvla, the bonus track Moeris Dancing) or Captain Beefheart (Crack In The Concrete and Dancing In Rockville Maryland). There is even a song that sounds like The Residents (What A Dilemma).

This is a treat for any RIO fan.

Review by VanVanVan
4 stars After hearing Fred Frith's first solo album Guitar Solos, I wasn't sure what to think. Despite being a big fan of Frith's work in various other groups, that first album, while certainly innovative and experimental, didn't strike me as particularly interesting to listen to. Despite this rather lukewarm first impression, I decided to give this album a chance after reading that Frith had described it as a "dance" album, with influences from folk and world music.

Indeed, I would say that this is a marked improvement over Guitar Solos. Infinitely more fun to listen to, there's nonetheless a wild spirit of adventure and experimentation that makes this the perfect blend of avant and accessible. There's a lot of variety on Gravity, from eastern European folk dances to chaotic and experimental soundscapes. A great album from a great musician.

"The Boy Beats the Rams" begins with a bit of a noisy blend of percussion and other sound effects before a faint, somewhat eastern sounding string part strikes up. This is joined by some rather atonal guitar and the track takes on a decidedly dissonant tone. Despite this, it's not hard to listen to at all, though it does feel more like an introduction to the rest of the album than it does a standalone track. It's still a very interesting listen, however; it's a nice avant opening to the album and a cool piece of experimental music.

"Spring Any Day Now" is a much more accessible track, with a very cheery, even catchy melody starting off immediately. A variety of wind instruments, guitars, and percussion create a very musically dense track, making the main melodies sound deceptively simple. To me this track really sounds like a sort of combination between the surf rock of the 60s and folk- dance music; it's an incredibly bizarre combination that nonetheless works.

"Don't Cry For Me" begins with the same kind of minimal percussion that began "The Boy Beats the Rams," but this track takes a more structured direction, combining a strong bass line with multiple guitar and keyboard parts to create a kind of avant-folk aesthetic. Strong melodies abound, but at the same time there's a lot of very weird arrangement that gives the music a fascinating experimental edge. The track concludes with a recording of some noisy clapping and other sound effects that transitions into the next track.

"Hands of the Juggler" is another great track that combines a lot of the sound and instrumentation of folk music with Frith's off kilter, experimental tendencies. This experimental side is perhaps more explicit than on the previous two tracks, with a middle section that features increasingly crazed percussion, and dreamy and dissonant chords. This section transitions beautifully into another eastern folk dance section, with what sounds like a violin backed by bass and, of all things, accordion. It's this instrumentation that plays the track out, finally giving way to a bizarre but strangely fitting outtro that consists of some chanting vocals and what sounds like a timpani.

This outtro makes another seamless transition into "Norrgarden Nyvla," one of my favorite tracks on the album. With one of the outright catchiest melodies I've ever heard from Frith, this track is just so cheerful and charming, in addition to being perfectly arranged that even the bizarre electric guitar solos don't detract from its accessibility. This is the poster child in my mind for great, accessible, experimental music: far less difficult than anything on Guitar Solos or any of Henry Cow's albums, "Norrgarden Nyvla" is still a great, experimental track that blends genres and mixes styles to create incredibly appealing music.

"Year of The Monkey" comes next, going back to a more explicitly experimental style. Chaotic and atonal music makes up about the first 30 seconds of the track before a keyboard part comes in that almost has a carnival vibe to it. Various string sounds and of course guitars add additional music behind the repeating keyboard motif, and eventually a noisy chorus of wind instruments takes over in a way that reminds me of some of the music on The United States of America's self titled album.

"What A Dilemma" begins with distorted, dissonant guitars pounding out a rhythmic chord pattern while other instruments solo over this background. This is probably the closest to the wild experimentation of Guitar Solos that Gravity comes, but even so it begins to take on a more standard form midway through the song, as the distorted riffs are traded in for a bass line and a more melodic guitar part. As these parts are being developed and a bit of the distortion and dissonance begin to return, the track ends, very suddenly kicking off the next piece.

"Crack In The Concrete" is another strange track, with a very avant-jazz sort of feeling compared to the folkier sound of many of the earlier tracks. It's also very short, with only about a minute and a half of bass-backed, experimental guitar music before the track comes to an end.

"Come Across" kicks off with a great, driving piano and bass part that are quickly joined by some winds and guitar. This is another of my favorite tracks on the album, by turns jazzy, cinematic, and decidedly avant-garde. Several great solos help the track set itself apart, with multiple instruments taking the front of the stage throughout the track before finally ending in a dreamy fadeout.

"Dancing in the Street/My Enemy Is a Bad Man" comes next, starting off with percussion and what is either a keyboard or a very distorted guitar playing over a somewhat noisy blend of sound effects. It's a fairly melodic piece despite its very avant, bizarre instrumentation; while at times the background noise comes close to taking over the track the melody is always at the front of the mix. When the motif switches midway through it takes on a much happier disposition, with guitar and piano cheerfully dueting in a way that recalls the carefree music of the early days of rock and roll. The track fades out as these instruments continue to play before finally ending in silence.

"Slap Dance" sounds like its name would suggest: the folk dance theme is back, though shades of atonality keep the listener ever so slightly off-balance. This motif is occasionally interrupted by a more melodic saxophone melody that gives the track a nice sense of balance between order and chaos. The bass makes another great appearance here as well, keeping the track firmly grounded rhythmically even when it's at its craziest.

"A Career In Real Estate" returns to a very folky feel, though it eschews the eastern European vibe for one far more rooted in Americana. A very loose, pitch-sliding violin part recalls to my ears Appalachian folk music, whether that is an intentional influence or not. This folky motif is alternated with a much darker, ominous, distorted guitar-led theme that very much gives the track a "dark/light" sort of melodic conflict that's very interesting to listen to. It is on this latter theme that the track ends before the last track begins.

The album ends on "Dancing in Rockville, Maryland," a very experimental sounding track without a lot that you could point to and call "melody." Bass, guitars and percussion create a noisy amalgamation of sound for the first section of the track. Eventually, however, a rather serene piano part takes center stage, and the rest of the instruments fall away, leaving only the keyboard to carry the track to its conclusion and the conclusion of the album.

This, I think, is the place to start if you want to get a feel for Frith's solo music. I would argue that this is even more approachable than a lot of Henry Cow stuff, and in my opinion it's far more interesting than Guitar Solos. A great album for fans of avant-garde music and perhaps even a good entry point for those who have found the genre daunting in the past.


Review by frippism
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It's hard to actually review Fred Frith for the very first time. Probably one of the biggest geniuses of the avant-garde field, Frith manages to successfully both be a composer, a songwriter, and an improviser. Most who do enjoy his music will enjoy the more composer/ songwriter side. Frith his the uncanny ability to write very complex tunes. But the great thing about him is that he manages to mesh great pop sensibilities to his music without making them at times absolutely irresistible. This album is the epitome of Frith's pop sensibilities- one of his most accessible and fun albums, though very complex, at times dissonant, at times unnerving, and many times beautiful.

The first side here was actually recorded with "famous" RIO band Samla Mammas Manna, while the other side was recorded with US Canterbury-influenced band The Muffins, along with other dudes such as former Henry Cow bandmate and octopus drumming epic man Chris Cutler! Both sides are filled with what would become for me, Frith's easily recognizable melodies. Mad fun, always crazy, jumpy, angular, and complex. The album starts off with "The Boy Beats The Ram" which I feel is a bit of a bizarro ride of tribal drums with violins and weird guitars. Fred Frith is the master of guitar sound and his treble-y sound and distortion sounds are a big part of what makes this album great. Frith's distortion is abrasive, thick, while his clean sound is sharp, deadly precise, no funny business. The tune could turn some people off, which is funny, considering the absolutely delightful dance-pop number that comes right after "Spring Any Day Now"- which is easily one of Frith's most memorable tracks. Jazzy, kinda bluesy, with a horn section that will get you to shake you glut. Never mind that much of it is in 5/4 and never mind the weird time signature bits. It is Frith at his most charming, his most fun. It is nice to see the contrast in the first two songs as I feel it is what makes the album so entertaining- it's fun, it's humorous, lighthearted, though always a bit off, always keeping you on your toes, always taking pop music and meshing it a bit to make you slightly uncomfortable, slightly nervous.

I know these tracks so well that I can speak about each for hours, dismantling the little bits. "Don't Cry For Me" is delightfully annoying. I'd never been so happy to get a headache. Frith simplifies the melody so much, that it's almost a fly in your ear, pretty much only three notes. And along with the groovy fun bass line, it's so addicting yet so delightfully annoying that you find yourself unsure whether to dance or turn the music off! That melody can drive anyone insane, but once you get accustomed to the melody and the song, it becomes plain fun. Skipping now to "Norrgarden Nyvla" which is probably Frith's most well known tune. That is because the melody is so uplifting and unforgettable it's only natural. Frith's guitar with the piano in the background make it so uplifting. The 15/8 time signature is used so well here- the bar always ends in a sort of cliff hanger, it makes the song it much more nervous, like it is always about to fall but never does. "Year of the Monkey" picks up exactly where "Norrgarden Nyvla" left off, and again uses many layers of recording to attack the listener from many angels. The looping piano line is so cool, that with everything around it you feel like your in a smoky saloon filled with surrealists and philosophers. The recorders and the tribal drums are a good time too. The feeling as this album goes along, is that it retains the former dissonance seen in the first track. The weird guitars come back, the bizarre funky bass and the constant weird, kind of jazzy, kind of tribal drums. In "What a Dilemma" you get absolutely stormed with Frith's layers of dissonant guitars.

And then towards the end, it all becomes good fun! The tracks retain their poppy nature, their groove, while of course still being a bit of a parody on dance music. Towards the end, Frith even covers "Dancing In the Street". It ain't perfect, but the great rhythm behind it and the fun keyboard sound make it worthwhile. Suddenly it almost feels like the Residents. A slightly off melodic delivery makes the song the song feel as if Frith is actually consciously making the decision that he's interpreting the world of popular music through his eyes, he's translating it into his own musical world.

And that's what makes this album great- it is an Expressionist take on popular music and popular culture. Frith's take on avant-garde music is always challenging, but it is many times fun, and more interestingly, socially conscious, which make the music make sense, and give the album it's own great sense humor.

You want Frith, you start here.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This was Fred's first solo album after leaving HENRY COW. It really is a celebration of dance from different cultures throughout the World. The original cover art was painted by Robert Wyatt's wife Alfreda Benge which incorporates the album's title "Gravity" with the subject of dance. As others have mentioned SAMMLA MAMMAS MANNA played on side one of the original vinyl (1-6) while THE MUFFINS played on side two (7-13). Fred also gets additional help from Chris Cutler, Tina Curran, Michel Berkmans (UNIVERS ZERO) and others.

"The Boy Beats The Rams" opens with some brief laughter then intricate sounds take over including this spacey atmosphere. There is a lot humour on this album and the mood is good which shouldn't be a surprise when the subject matter is dancing I suppose. Accordion comes in and then it all builds before 2 minutes. A catchy beat follows. "Spring Any Day Now" is upbeat, catchy and fun. "Don't Cry For Me" features clapping and percussion throughout then the bass, mandolin, organ and more join in. Clapping only ends it. "The Hands Of The Juggler" is one of my favourites. We get violin and a repetitive rhythm for almost 1 1/2 minutes then they change it up and the tempo picks up. Killer stuff. Drums, violin, accordion and more before 3 1/2 minutes. "Norrgarden Nyola" is such a feel good song and I really like the guitar around a minute. "Year Of The Monkey" opens with some craziness then a rhythm with guitar takes over. More craziness later.

"What A Dilemma" is another favourite of mine. An abrasive rhythm with violin leads the way and it sounds even better when the drums join in around 1 1/2 minutes. How good is this ! "Crack In The Concrete" brings to mind the word random. "Come Across" is uptempo with a good rhythm and horns. "Dancing In The Street / My Enemy Is A Bad Man" is next and the first part is an instrumental cover of that Motown song with samples of Iranians in the background who were celebrating the capture of Americans back in the day. Weird. Man it would suck to live in Iran. The second part of this two part track is mostly guitar and percussion. Cool tune. "Slap Dance" is short but I really like it. It's the brief angular guitar section before a minute that reminds me of ANEKDOTEN that does it for me. "A Career In Real Estate" contrasts the beat with violin to the more dramatic and powerful sections. "Dancing In Rockville Maryland" has these intricate and punchy sounds before it settles right down with piano 1 1/2 minutes in.

An interesting and entertaining listen that is worth 4 stars.

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