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Henry Cow The Road: Volumes 1-5 (40th Anniversary Box Set) album cover
4.66 | 29 ratings | 3 reviews | 72% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
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Boxset/Compilation, released in 2009

Songs / Tracks Listing

Volume 1: Beginnings

1. Pre-Teenbeat I (1:44)
2. Pre-Teenbeat II (1:28)
3. Rapt in a Blanket (5:06)
4. Came to See You (6:43)
5. Amygdala [pre-Legend demo] (3:35)
6. Teenbeat (10:19)
7. Citizen King (5:21)
8. Nirvana for Moles (4:09)

With the Yellow Half Moon and Blue Star

9. Introduction (0:46)
10. Invocation (2:08)
11. Demi-lune jaune (2:10)
12. Three Little Steps (2:13)
13. Red Riff (1:50)
14. Chorale flautando (1:51)
15. Cycling over the Cliff (4:08)
16. First Light (0:51)

Guider Tells of Silent Airborne Machine

17. Olwyn Grainger (2:24)
18. Betty McGowan (6:12)
19. Lottie Hare (1:24)

Total Time 64:22

Volume 2: 1974-5

1. Introduction (1:52)
2. Ruins I (6:35)
3. Half Asleep, Half Awake (4:11)
4. Ruins II (0:59)
5. Heron Shower over Hamburg (2:29)
6. Nix (0:06)


7. Halsteren 1 (1:08)
8. Solo 1 (1:08)
9. Solo Extension 1 (2:21)
10. Halsteren 2 (1:24)
11. Extension 1 (0:17)
12. Halsteren 3 (0:52)
13. First Suspension (4:28)
14. Extension 2 (2:58)
15. Extension 3 (1:19)
16. Solo 2 (1:20)
17. Solo Extension 2 (2:32)
18. Halsteren 4 (0:17)
19. Second Suspension (2:34)
20. Extension 4 (1:58)
21. Solo 3 (0:49)
22. Solo Extension 3 (3:17)
23. Hasteren 5 (1:21)

24-32. Living in the Heart of the Beast (13:46)

Total Time 60:01

Volume 3: Hamburg

1. Fair as the Moon (6:01)
2. Nirvana for Rabbits (4:48)
3. Ottawa Song (3:41)
4. Twilight Bridge (2:04)
5. Gloria Gloom (2:17)
6. Hamburg 1 (4:15)
7. Hamburg 2 (3:27)
8. Red Noise10 (3:16)
9. Hamburg 3 (5:30)
10. Hamburg 4 (2:40)
11. Hamburg 5 (5:25)
12. Terrible as an Army with Banners (3:34)
13. A Heart (9:03)
14. Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road (5:12)
15. We Did It Again (6:31)

Total Time 67:44

Volume 4 & 5: Trondheim

CD 1
1-10. Trondheim I (48:25)

CD 2
1-6. Trondheim II (31:54)
7. The March (6:25)

Total Time 86:44

Line-up / Musicians

Vol. 1:

- Chris Cutler / drums, piano (start of 18)
- Fred Frith / guitar, violin, voice (3,4)
- John Greaves / bass, piano (end of 18,19), voice (7,18)
- Tim Hodgkinson / organ, alto saxophone, melodica, clarinet, voice (7)
- Geoff Leigh / tenor saxophone, flute, voice (7,9,16 - not on tracks 3 & 4)

- Amanda Parsons / conversation (6)
- Ann Rosenthal / conversation (6)
- D.J. Perry / spoken passages (9,16)
- Dave Stewart / celesta, conversation (6)

Vol. 2:

Tracks 1-5

- Lindsay Cooper / oboe, bassoon
- Chris Cutler / drums
- Fred Frith / guitar, viola, piano (1)
- John Greaves / bass, piano (3)
- Tim Hodgkinson / organ, alto saxophone

Tracks 7-23

- Chris Cutler / drums, glass bowls, clatter
- Fred Frith / electric guitar, acoustic guitar, prism
- John Greaves / bass, clothes pegs
- Tim Hodgkinson / organ, clarinet, also saxophone

Tracks 24-32

- Lindsay Cooper / oboe, bassoon, piano
- Chris Cutler / drums
- Fred Frith / guitar, viola, xylophone
- John Greaves / bass
- Tim Hodgkinson / organ, alto saxophone
- Dagmar Krause / voice

Robert Wyatt / voice (28, 32)

Vol. 3:

- Chris Cutler / drums
- Lindsay Cooper / oboe, bassoon, piano (8,9,10,11)
- Fred Frith / guitar, piano (1,4,12,13)
- John Greaves / bass, voice (3)
- Tim Hodgkinson / organ, alto saxophone
- Dagmar Krause / voice

- Robert Wyatt / voice (14,15)

Vol. 4 & 5:

CD 1
- Lindsay Cooper / recorder, oboe, bassoon, flute, piano (7,8,9), tapes, voice
- Chris Cutler / drums, flotsam, telephone mouthpieces, amplification, voice
- Fred Frith / guitar, violin, 6-string bass, xylophone, tubular bells, tapes
- Tim Hodgkinson / organ, clarinet, voice, tapes

CD 2
- Lindsay Cooper / oboe, bassoon, jaw harp, voice, tapes
- Chris Cutler / drums, jetsam, telephone mouthpieces, amplification, piano
- Fred Frith / guitar, 6-string bass, xylophone, tapes
- Tim Hodgkinson / organ, clarinet, alto saxophone, mbira, voice, tapes

Releases information

Volume 1 (of 2) of the 40th Anniversary Box

Contains 5 Volumes:

Recommended Records ReR HC7 - 2009 (Vol. 1: Beginnings)

Recommended Records ReR HC8 - 2009 (Vol. 2: 1974-5)


Tracks 1-5:

Unmarked tape, 1974

Tracks 7-23:

Recorded by Jim Smagge at the concert with stereo reel-to-reel at the Verenigingsgebouw Halsteren on 28 September 1974
Concert mix by Charles Fletcher, we think

Tracks 24-32:

Recorded at Theatre des Champs-Elysees, Paris on May 8 1975, probably by cassette, by unidentified hand.
Live concert mx by Sarah Greaves

Recommended Records ReR HC9 - 2009 (Vol. 3: Hamburg)

Recommended Records ReR HC 10 & 11 - 2009 (Vols. 4 & 5: Trondheim)

Thanks to James for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy HENRY COW The Road: Volumes 1-5 (40th Anniversary Box Set) Music

HENRY COW The Road: Volumes 1-5 (40th Anniversary Box Set) ratings distribution

(29 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(72%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(21%)
Good, but non-essential (7%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

HENRY COW The Road: Volumes 1-5 (40th Anniversary Box Set) reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The Henry Cow box set was a long time coming. It was first mentioned publicly as a possibility at least a decade ago, and rumours have circulated on the blogosphere (along with any number of bootleg recordings) ever since. Was it worth the wait? The answer is an almost unequivocal yes. The set as a whole covers Henry Cow's existence from 1971 - 78, with Tim Hodgkinson, Fred Frith and Chris Cutler forming the nucleus of the band. John Greaves was with the band until mid 1976, and Box 1 covers the period up to his departure (with a slight overlap). Concerts, their only previously available live release, also belongs in this box.

Disc 1 covers the years leading up to their first album, Leg End. Early versions of several pieces from Leg End are featured; the most interesting is perhaps the full version of Fred Frith's dance score With the Yellow Half Moon and Blue Star, a 13 minute piece of which only a fragment made it onto their debut album. The work in progress versions of Teenbeat, Citizen King and Amygdala show just how far their abilities as composers and arrangers developed in those formative years, and just how musically ambitious they were. A pair of unreleased Fred Frith compositions clearly show his folk club background, while the brief John Greaves piano piece Lottie Hare is like a very early foretaste of Kew.Rhone. During this period their sound mutated; their first works are of a piece with Egg and Robert Wyatt's Soft Machine, but they soon developed a darker, more strident and complex tone. It was all a bit too much for Geoff Leigh, who departed between Leg End and Unrest (although he remained on good terms with the band and was an occasional guest on stage and in the studio in the years that followed).

Disc 2 sees the arrival of Lindsay Cooper, the first classically trained member of the band, and her bassoon and oboe helped to move the sound further away from jazz and closer to contemporary avant garde music. First on the menu is a live runthrough of some Unrest material. Even when they were performing composed pieces Henry Cow could surprise their audience - here, the main body of Half Asleep Half Awake is played in the middle of Ruins, the two radically different pieces blending together seamlessly. Next we get a quartet version of the band (minus Lindsay Cooper; things got messy around the time of the alliance with Slapp Happy) working through instrumental sketches of what would later become Living in the Heart of the Beast. Finally we get the 6 piece version of the band with Cooper and Dagmar Krause giving a taut, clenched fist reading of Living in the Heart of the Beast, including some scarily intense guitar from Fred Frith and a guest vocal by Robert Wyatt. Overall this is perhaps the least successful disc in box 1 - as good as LITHOTB is, hearing what is effectively an instrumental version immediately followed by the same piece of music with vocals is a bit too much of a good thing. It's fascinating to compare the two, but it doesn't necessarily make for a great back to back listening experience.

Disc 3 takes things up to the departure of John Greaves, the bulk of it drawn from a concert in Hamburg, along with 3 tracks recorded in Italy with Robert Wyatt as guest vocalist. The structure of the Hamburg concert is similar to the Peel session on Concerts; Beautiful (or rather Fair)as the Moon... bookends renditions of Gloria Gloom, Nirvana for Mice (rabbits on this occasion) and Ottawa Song, the difference here being the inclusion of a lengthy improvisation (an integral part of any Henry Cow performance) before ...Terrible as an Army with Banners brings things back into sharp focus. The interplay between the musicians is breathtaking; the running order and bridging passages were never the same for 2 consecutive performances, but the composed pieces are delivered seamlessly and the switch from freeform to rigorously composed and arranged music is likewise accomplished with jaw- dropping ease. The Robert Wyatt tracks are a nice bonus, including a rip roaring version of We Did It Again.

Discs 4 and 5 see Henry Cow once again performing as a quartet. John Greaves had departed and not yet been replaced, while Dagmar was ill. With a tour of Scandinavia to complete, the remaining musicians (Frith, Hodgkinson, Cutler and Cooper) hit on an innovative solution. Each concert was improvised in darkness or by candlelight, with only a couple of fixed reference points. In addition to their regular instrumentation, tapes were prepared which could be triggered by Cooper, Frith or Hodgkinson at any time - one of the tapes included Henry Cow's recorded output to date, so at times you get to hear Henry Cow improvising live with Henry Cow in the studio. It's a dark, mysterious journey but it's also highly rewarding and worth listening to closely. As Chris Cutler pointed out elsewhere on the web, it has the logic and structure of a composition despite being almost totally improvised. Rock music didn't go any further out than this in the 70s; essential listening, and worth purchasing the box for on its own.

The booklet contains a lot of interesting material, especially reminiscences by former band members. John Greaves and Geoff Leigh contribute warm, witty memoirs that don't gloss over the low points but which make it clear that the high points more than compensated for them. Elsewhere there are sketchier reminiscences from other band members and some interesting commentaries on the music itself, generally by the composers themselves, along with a detailed chronology of their touring history.

The Henry Cow box is an object lesson in what a box set should be - informative enough for the most obsessive fan, comprehensive, remastered beautifully (the sound quality is variable, but having heard some of the source material Bob Drake has once again worked wonders) and extremely well packaged. As always there are one or two minor gripes - a few minutes of Henry Cow before Chris Cutler joined would have been interesting, for instance - but for anybody with an interest in RIO/Avant prog this is essential stuff. Established fans will get a clear picture of the band's development (something their studio work only hints at) and an insight into the contributions made by the different members, and newcomers may understand just why this obscure, long-defunct band of wilfully obscure musical eccentrics continue to inspire such a fanatically loyal (if not exactly numerous) following to this day. An emphatic 5 stars.

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Late 00's and it's been over 30 years since RIO fans have had any legitimate material emanating by the band that pretty well started it all, and all of a sudden come three 5-Cd box-sets, two of them filled with previously unavailable material (legit anyway) , while the last one is just five studio albums already available (they include Desperate Straights from Slapp Happy as one), thus leaving out the double Cd Concerts aside,(or maybe disseminated through the other box-sets).

Disc 1: The music here concentrates on pre-76 live material and I must say, I was hoping for a lot of material dating from prior to Leg End., and there is only one disc. Thus, this Beginnings Cd worries from 68 until 73, knowing the apart some three songs, the rest is from 71 at the earliest. And if you read my review of Leg End stating that Cambridge (HC's home town) was a town in Kent, a few miles out of Canterbury, this album is more proof of that. Another review of Robert Wyatt's first solo album End of an Ear could've been the earliest RIO-related album ever. Indeed this first disc goes out of its way to show that without Soft Machine's very existence, a far away rock movement might also not have seen the light of day. For it is clear that Frith and Co were definitely looking at the Machine and Caravan for inspiration , not only instrumentally, but in the vocal dept. Frith does a credible cross of Wyatt and Sinclair on vocals, while Hodgkinson pulls a credible Ratledge/Sinclair and Leigh a Brother Jimmy and Gentle Elton. Among the highlights are Came To See You, the 10-mins Teenbeat. Beginnings is definitely the most interesting Cd in these two boxsets, IMHO, although there are more worthy stuff to come.

Disc 2 is representing the 74-75 live era, the one around the release of the studio album of Unrest, and indeed the feeling is completely different on this Cd. As one can expect, there is much less Canterbury soundscapes and the usual goofy bonhomie that goes along with it, although there are still many strong and long moments in here, such as the first six tracks coming from an unmarked tape of early 74 where Drake does wonder with the sound. And HC do wander on the dissonance path, the tracks from Unrest oblige. Two or three of these tracks come from the Unrest album, but appear in a different light, more accessible than the studio version. Then come the Halsteren tapes where they did a big jam/improves lasting over a 30 minutes, where most of the sub-tracks are dissonant, the group being reduced to a Geoff Leigh-less quartet and most of the tracks were given names at the time of Drake's rebuilding job. I'm not a big fan of this second set, but most likely, I'll warm up to this. The last part of this Cd is a first throw of the IPOL epic Heart Of The Beast with a Robert Wyatt intervention. Rather interesting and definitely worth listening.

Disc 3 is mainly a German radio concert for NDR's then Jazz Workshop in late March 76 and still features John Greaves on bass, and to say the least, dissonant music , The music holds mostly in one block, some of it coming from the IPOL album, while there is an excerpt from Matching Mole's Gloria Gloom. In general the feel is dissonant but not free form like the upcoming Trondheim concerts. The last tidbits from this disc are from Italian and French sources and a cover of Little Red Robin from Rock Bottom, with another appearance from Wyatt himself, seemingly charmed by Dagmar and Lindsey's feminine presence (from the picture shown anyway). This third disc is definitely worth hearing as well.

Disc 4 & 5 are probably the hardest to take, both on them from Trondheim and with a little editing could sat on a single disc, rather than sit on two half-filled discs. This is especially true because of the nature of the music on this double disc affair. This is more of a "musique concrète" than free-form improvised rock or jazz, thus implying the music is atonal rather than dissonant. The group operates as an instrumental quartet (no bass), but I sure hope that most of the Tronheimers that braved the Artic summer chills were at least aware they would get dished this kind of music ahead of time. I'd have hated finding out that Dagmar was missing and that Greaves was not yet replaced by Georgie and get dealt this bunch of non-sense music (no offence to HC) that aggresses at best or bores at worst Anyway this double Cd is best left alone. Even if there are some accessible moments, it's a real shame that they've made it a double mandatory release along with the other discs in the boxset.

In conclusion, the first of the three boxset makes this RIO enthusiast only moderately happy, as the Trondheim concert over two Cds are a bit too much to be painless. Of course the first Cd of this is to my taste, but I'd rather have had the choice to make up my boxset from choosing from the 10 discs: my choices being, vol 1, 2, 3; 7 & 10 (the Dvd)....

Review by ALotOfBottle
5 stars After the breakup of Henry Cow in 1978, the musicians went their own way. The same year, Chris Cutler, the band's drummer and its most politically-involved member, founded an independent record label, Recommended Records. At the break of the new century, Cutler mentioned at one point that he was planning a compilation of Cow's previously unreleased live recordings, which resulted in numerous rumors around the internet. Several years later, in 2009, Recommended Records released the long-awaited 40th Anniversary Box Set. The Road: Volumes 1-5 is the first part of the set.

For a band with a musical vision as inventive and complex as that of Henry Cow, the recording studio was without a doubt the most comfortable environment, opening a new plethora of technical possibilities, such as overdubbing, pre-recorded tape effects, and electronic sounds. And yet, as opposed to many bands whose style relies heavily on studio equipment, Henry Cow display an incredibly high amount of confidence and knowhow in a live situation.

Disc 1, entitled Beginnings, comprises recordings from the LegEnd period, with Geoff Leigh still a full-time member of the quintet. The overall style presented on this album could really be classified as the Canterbury sound. It opens with "Pre-Teenbeat", a composition in two parts, and is followed by two vocal pieces, which had never been released on any album. These flaunt the influence of bands such as Soft Machine, Caravan or even Matching Mole, with fuzz organ very much in the vein of Mike Ratledge, Dave Sinclair or Dave Stewart. Next come the pieces from Henry Cow's debut album. Tim Hodgkinson's composition "Amygdala Extract" and Fred Frith's "Teenbeat" perfectly showcase the group's well-rehearsed sound characterized by near-flawless musicianship and equal input from all of the members. They are not exactly the same tracks as those on the original album, but they employ the main themes and ideas of the source pieces. "Teenbeat" features Dave Stewart, the keyboardist of Egg and Hatfield and the North, who provides light celeste touches and participates in a conversation in the background. The live-cut version of "Citizen King" is astonishingly similar to the studio version and is followed by "Nirvana For Moles" (originally released as "Nirvana For Mice"). The full version of "With the Yellow Half Moon and Blue Star", for which we have got the taste on LegEnd, is divided into eight movements. One is likely to detect the familiar melodies and passages from the studio album. "With the Yellow Half Moon and Blue Star" is probably my favorite piece out of the whole box set with its truly magical, inexplicable uniqueness. The disc closes with the three-part "Guider Tells of Silent Airborne Machine". A title of every part appears to be a name and a surname. This is by far the most experimental track on the album, pointing the way towards the band's future style.

Disc 2 comes from the Unrest era, with Lindsay Cooper onboard. Geoff Leigh left the group during their tour of the Netherlands as he could not stand the tension in the band and was unable to keep up with the touring schedule. "Introduction", with a dark, Stravinsky-like feel, quickly transforms into a contrastingly bright piece "Ruins I". As one goes on listening, one is likely to discover that the sudden yet natural changes in pace and mood are very common. The following track, "Half Asleep, Half Awake", composed by John Greaves, is built around a catchy motif. The "Ruins" theme returns in "Ruins II", quickly resolving into "Heron Shower Over Hamburg" (originally released as "Bittern Storm Over Ulm"). This track showcases Fred Frith's signature improvisational style, relying on his distinctive fuzz guitar sound. "Halsteren", which was recorded in Halsteren in the Netherlands (naming a live-cut piece after the city it was recorded in is common practice), uses the opening passage of "Living in the Heart of the Beast". Putting them in different musical landscapes really shows its modal ambiguity. "Halsteren" is divided into seventeen segments, such as "Extension", "First Suspension" or "Solo Extension". The rest of the disc is occupied by Henry Cow's 13-minute political statement "Living in the Heart of the Beast", with the line-up featuring vocalist Dagmar Krause. Robert Wyatt, the Canterbury scene pioneer and mastermind, provides his unique vocals for this piece. The recording quality on this one is slightly less perfect than on the previous tracks, but is nonetheless true to the impressive studio version.

Disc 3 was recorded in Hamburg. Once again, the band name some of their tracks by transforming recognizable phrases (for instance, "Nirvana For Rabbits" instead of "Nirvana For Mice"). They feel incredibly comfortable in the odd time signatures. "Ottawa Song", "Twilight Bridge", and "Gloria Gloom" are Robert Wyatt's compositions (the last one comes from Matching Mole's politically-charged Little Red Record). These are less reliant on improvisation and are kept in a more "popular" song convention. "Hamburg" is an ambient piece divided into five parts with "Red Noise 10" in between them. Next, the theme of "Beautiful As The Moon" comes back, followed by "A Heart". Robert Wyatt's input comes back with "Little Red Riding Hood Hits The Road", which comes from his memorable solo album Rock Bottom. The disc is closed by a loud jam on Soft Machine's 1968 hit "We Did It Again", with Wyatt singing.

Discs 4 and 5 are almost entirely occupied by a lengthy ambient improvisation "Trondheim". The piece might appear as aimless noodlings, but an experienced listener will discover that it goes far beyond that. It should really be regarded as a thought-provoking provocation. Its single-layered flatness and sterility expressed by improvised dissonant parts plays an important psychological role. Even an accurate description of every single note on "Trondheim" will not properly carry the musical metaphor. The subjective meaning of time plays a crucial role here. Towards the end, it becomes a little more ariose. The box is closed by "March", which brings in a repetative melodic sequence.

The Road: Volumes 1-5 presents numerous different periods of Henry Cow's existence; from atonal ambient workouts to fast-paced jazz-rock jams to mellow, melodic, Canterbury-style pieces. Henry Cow was without a doubt a unique band and despite its dynamic, ever-changing style, two elements remained the same: excellent musicianship and incredibly clever musical detailing. Each listen to any of their works reveals many new factors and qualities. This box set is not only a very important historical document, but also an exceedingly addictive listening experience.

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