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THE PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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The Penguin Cafe Orchestra biography
THE PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA, a considerably eclectic musical ensemble, first came to band founder Simon Jeffes in the form of a dream-like vision. Jeffes, an English-born multi-instrumentalsit and composer, came up with the idea to compose music that suited the imagery and mood of the dream he experienced. By the time the moment had passed, he had a clear idea of where to go musically, and a poem that seemed to have fallen into his lap with no effort: ''I am the proprietor of the Penguin Cafe. I will tell you things at random.''

Along with cellist Helen Liebmann, Jeffes formed the band that came to be referred to as PCO in 1973. While many different lineups were tried out over the course of the band's career, there never really was one set group of musicians that would be considered the core lineup. Simon Jeffes composed most of the music himself. In 1976, the group's first studio album, ''Music From The Penguin Cafe'', was released by Brian Eno on his experimental label, Obscure Records. The album has seen several subsequent re-issues since then, and is still readily available.

The large list of members The Penguin Cafe Orchestra had seen over its lifespan have all performed and recorded with a very diverse bunch of musicians including Jeff Beck, Paul McCartney, Caravan, Bob Geldof, Camel, and so on. The group took influences from all of those fellow artists and more, creating one of the most diverse musical atmospheres for them to write and record within. The future seemed bright. That potential for greatness may have never been fully realized, however, for tragic circumstances halted the band's growth on December 11, 1997. On this day, Simon Jeffes died of an inoperable brain tumor.

In total, The Penguin Cafe Orchestra released only five proper studio albums, one EP, and a handful of live recordings, including a full ballet entitled ''Still Life at the Penguin Cafe'', composed entirely by Jeffes. The ever-changing, ever-evolving sound and presentation of the ensemble's music led to multiple types of audience outreach and support. Fans of all types of music have found something to love about the group's output over the years. They have been labeled as everything from Chamber Jazz, to Experimental Folk, to Avant-Garde Rock music and Neo-Classical, and everything in-between. All of the styles and influences are seamlessly weaved throughout the group's catalogue to create a very rich listening experience rivaled by few.

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Music From the Penguin CafeMusic From the Penguin Cafe
Remastered
Caroline 2008
Audio CD$5.14
$9.16 (used)
A Brief HistoryA Brief History
Import
Virgin 2001
Audio CD$4.50
$3.22 (used)
Preludes Airs & YodelsPreludes Airs & Yodels
Import
EMI Europe Generic 1996
Audio CD$5.14
$2.44 (used)
Concert ProgramConcert Program
Import
Penguin Cafe 2011
Audio CD$14.40
$17.92 (used)
Signs of LifeSigns of Life
Editions Eg Records 1990
Audio CD$21.99
$0.94 (used)
Union CafeUnion Cafe
Import
Penguin Cafe 2011
Audio CD$11.39
$21.81 (used)
Penguin Cafe OrchestraPenguin Cafe Orchestra
Remastered
Caroline 2008
Audio CD$16.16
$20.28 (used)
HistoryHistory
Box set · Import
EMI Import 2011
Audio CD$17.03
$22.80 (used)
Broadcasting From HomeBroadcasting From Home
Remastered
Caroline 2008
Audio CD$52.29
$10.37 (used)
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THE PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

THE PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.46 | 17 ratings
Music From The Penguin Cafe
1976
4.38 | 20 ratings
Penguin Cafe Orchestra
1981
3.94 | 12 ratings
Broadcasting From Home
1984
3.57 | 7 ratings
Signs Of Life
1987
3.20 | 5 ratings
Union Cafe
1993

THE PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.80 | 5 ratings
When In Rome
1988
3.50 | 2 ratings
"Still Life" At The Penguin Cafe
1990
3.67 | 3 ratings
Concert Program
1995

THE PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THE PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.23 | 4 ratings
A Brief History
2001

THE PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
The Penguin Cafe Orchestra Mini Album
1983

THE PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Broadcasting From Home by PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA, THE album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.94 | 12 ratings

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Broadcasting From Home
The Penguin Cafe Orchestra Eclectic Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars The Penguin Cafe Orchestra is as eclectic as prog gets, way beyond the usual parameters of the genre, far removed from bubbly Moog runs, blistering Rickenbacker bass rumbles, laser-guided electric guitar solos and thrashing Hammond organ. Quite the opposite, PCO was formed in that glorious period of 1973, when music from all genres were actively incorporated into the progressive fold, a laboratory of incredible adventure (and stamina) , still ear-friendly in the 21st Century. Not really surprising as the classically trained young 70s musicians flocked to the Rock idiom en masse, wanting to be part of this youthful exuberant cultural movement that had taken over the artistic world. Simon Jeffes was a gifted composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist who wished to put into music the dreams he slept through, very much in a neo-classical mode using an array of stringed instruments (violin, viola, cello) as well as the rare and bizarre such as Harmonium, Spinet, Ukulele, Cuatro, Soloban, Dulcitone, Omnichord etc'.....

Simon Jeffes led the PCO on many sessions with artists as varied as Bob Geldof, Jeff Beck, Caravan, as well as providing a slew of soundtracks for various media projects. Steve Nye on piano was a regular contributor as well as the legendary Caravan man Geoffrey Richardson (viola, guitar, bass, shaker, penny whistle) as well as drummers Mike Giles of KC fame and Trevor Morais of Quantum Jump/Rupert Hine.

The music lies somewhere afield of Anthony Phillips, directly south of John G. Perry's solo work on which Jeffes guested rather brilliantly. An all-instrumental album of brief yet vivid pieces, 'Broadcasting From Home' is a sheer delight to wade through, especially if the listener is okay without the usual electric powerfuses and into a more acoustic environment. And as with Canterbury and the British jazz-rock scene, there is more of that sassy tongue in cheek humor with funny titles like 'Sheep Dip', 'More Milk', 'Prelude & Yodel', 'Now Nothing' and that perennial favorite 'In the Back of a Taxi', among many others. Every track is a raw, unpolished nugget of genius, extremely original and completely devoid of plagiarism of any kind, boldly forging a new kind of prog where no one had dared yet to venture. In this, the PCO remains a distinct anomaly of surreal proportions, much to the delight of prog adventurers looking for a new fix. Much more cinematic (and complex) than ambient electronic , more influential than soundtrack music for film, the PCO is the last frontier before entering the outright classical world of the great composers and thus deserves immense praise for its artistic vision as well as the legacy of a British prog scene always on the lookout for the odd and bold. Sadly, Simon died in 1997 of a brain tumor. His dreams and his music lives on.

4.5 domicile tuxedoes

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 A Brief History by PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2001
4.23 | 4 ratings

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A Brief History
The Penguin Cafe Orchestra Eclectic Prog

Review by nickel

4 stars First things first: Do not judge this album based on the first track! It's my least favorite track here. At least give this a listen through track 4... then you'll have a good feel for this.

This is an excellent "best of" collection from Simon Jeffes' Penguin Cafe Orchestra. This is not a bad place for newcomers to start as it does span the full history of the band. However, as is the case with any compilation, especially in Prog or Art Rock circles, listening to the full original albums is preferable. That's the only reason this has 4 stars rather than 5. I just can't give a greatest hits collection 5 stars on principle.

That said, this music is fantastic instrumental acoustic... kind of a "progressive folk" vibe. Every track is 4 or 5 stars! PCO is known to find a groove and jam on it for a few minutes. This may sound repetitive in some cases to others, but it's actually quite enjoyable to listen as they take a simple riff and build on it and add layers while the riff repeats underneath (if you know Scale the Summit's type of music, this is not too different... just acoustic rather than metallic). Good for an engaging listen or as background music while working the ol' desk job.

Highlights include "Telephone and Rubber Band" and "Music for a Found Harmonium" which are the PCO's two most famous tracks (used on soundtracks, commercials, etc). Other highlights: the melancholy-turned-to-beauty of Prelude & Yodel; the playfulness of "Heartwind" and "Giles Farnaby's Dream"; the juxtaposition of a quietly surging rhythm section underneath sad piano (think Michael Giacchino's music from TV show "Lost") on "White Mischief";

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 Music From The Penguin Cafe by PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA, THE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.46 | 17 ratings

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Music From The Penguin Cafe
The Penguin Cafe Orchestra Eclectic Prog

Review by locomiqui

3 stars This first PCO album is great. the style could be a mixture of jazz, Experimental Rock, Rock in Opposition and something of eclectic music. I love this band and this album since I saw the sleeve, always have been interesting for the progressive rock new proposals and this band was the case. Can you imagine the penguins-mans? Well, I think is very funny but you realize that this is a conceptual band. I recommend PIGTAIL that is an atmospheric song very smooth and you can dream and imagine a lot of things with this one, and The Sound Of Someone You Love Who's Going Away And It Doesn't Matter. Simon Jeffes was an excelent musician and the leader of PCO who unfortunately died in 1997.

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 Penguin Cafe Orchestra by PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA, THE album cover Studio Album, 1981
4.38 | 20 ratings

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Penguin Cafe Orchestra
The Penguin Cafe Orchestra Eclectic Prog

Review by thellama73
Collaborator 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.

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 Penguin Cafe Orchestra by PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA, THE album cover Studio Album, 1981
4.38 | 20 ratings

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Penguin Cafe Orchestra
The Penguin Cafe Orchestra Eclectic Prog

Review by 1967/ 1976

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)

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