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HENRY COW

RIO/Avant-Prog • United Kingdom


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Henry Cow biography
British progressive pioneers HENRY COW was the leading group of the Rock In Opposition* (R.I.O. for short) movement, initiated by their drummer Chris CUTLER. All members of HENRY COW have been involved in collaborations with Canterbury groups and artists at one point or another, and most of them still are. Their music aged amazingly well over the last 20 years due to diverse influences: some of its roots in the Canterbury school, most notably early SOFT MACHINE, other influences (FRANK ZAPPA, BELA BARTOK, KURT WEIL...). The group functioned more or less as a collective, with a true group identity that changed from album to album as members came and went.

HENRY COW's first album, "Legend" (read "Leg End"), is considered by many their most accessible, and makes a good starter. Their sound draws on modern classical music, jazz and experimental music. "In Praise of Learning" was a collaboration with SLAPP HAPPY, which featured in the addition of a real vocalist (the infamous Dagmar KRAUSE), Pete BLEGVAD and Anthony MOORE. However, they sound nothing like HENRY COW. "In Praise of Learning" and "Concerts" are more noisy albums with a fair dose of improvisation. "Western Culture" is the final HENRY COW release, and it represents the next logical step from "In Praise of Learning". "Western Culture" seems the obvious choice as their best album being essentially jazz-tinged modernist classical music for an extended rock band instrumentation but it contains outstanding music: some fantastic, frenetic drumming, biting guitar work, and the usual array of saxophones, clarinets, oboes etc.

After disbanding in 1979, HENRY COW members got involved in multiple side and solo projects:
- Art Bears
- News From Babel
- Slapp Happy
- Tim Hodgkinson
- Fred Frith
- Chris Cutler
- Cutler and Frith
- Cassiber
- British progressive pioneers HENRY COW was the leading group of the Rock In Opposition* (R.I.O. for short) movement, initiated by their drummer Chris CUTLER. All members of HENRY COW have been involved in collaborations with Canterbury groups and artists at one point or another, and most of them still are. Their music aged amazingly well over the last 20 years due to diverse influences: some of its roots in the Canterbury school, most notably early SOFT MACHINE, other influences (FRANK ZAPPA, BELA BARTOK, KURT WEIL...). The group functioned more or less as a collective, with a true group identity that changed from album to album as members came and went.

HENRY COW's first album, "Legend" (read "Leg End"), is considered by many their most accessible, and makes a good starter. Their sound draws on modern classical music, jazz and experimental music. "In Praise of Learning" was a collaboration with SLAPP HAPPY, which featured in the addition of a real vocalist (the infamous Dagmar KRAUSE), Pete BLEGVAD and Anthony MOORE. However, they sound nothing like HENRY COW. "In Praise of Learning" and "Concerts" are more noisy albums with a fair dose of improvisation. "Western Culture" is the final HENRY COW release, and it represents the next logical step from "In Praise of Learning". "Western Culture" seems the obvious choice as their best album being essentially jazz-tinged modernist classical music for an extended rock band instrumentation but it contains outstanding music: some fantastic, frenetic drumming, biting guitar work, and the usual array of saxophones, clarinets, oboes etc.

After disbanding in 1979, HENRY COW members got involved in multiple side and solo projects:
-
Art Bears
- News From Babel
- Slapp Happy
- Tim Hodgkinson
- Fred Frith
- Chris Cutler
- Cutler and Frith
- Cassiber
- The (ec) Nudes
- Skeleton Crew
- The Science Group


* Rock In Opposition (R.I.O.) defines a certain style of progressive rock: complex, dissonant, free - used to describe such bands MIRIODOR and TIPOGRAPHICA, for example.


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UnrestUnrest
Rer USA 2005
Audio CD$10.92
$13.40 (used)
ConcertsConcerts
Remastered
ReR Megacorp 2006
Audio CD$19.32
$17.09 (used)
In Praise of LearningIn Praise of Learning
Rer USA 2008
Audio CD$9.99
$13.40 (used)
Vol. 6-10-Road (40th Anniversary Box Set)Vol. 6-10-Road (40th Anniversary Box Set)
Box set
Rer Megacorp 2009
Audio CD$88.12
$70.94 (used)
Vol. 1-5 Studio (40th Anniversary Box Set)Vol. 1-5 Studio (40th Anniversary Box Set)
Recommended Records 2009
Audio CD$83.49
$74.99 (used)
Western CultureWestern Culture
Rer USA 2005
Audio CD$13.84
$12.99 (used)
Leg EndLeg End
Rer USA 2005
Audio CD$9.99
$8.83 (used)
Stockholm & GoteborgStockholm & Goteborg
Single
Recommended Records 2008
Audio CD$14.64
$22.82 (used)
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HENRY COW shows & tickets


  • Henry Cow, Music For Films, News From Babel and Oh Moscow play the music of Lindsay Cooper on 21 Nov 2014
  • Henry Cow, Music For Films, News From Babel and Oh Moscow play the music of Lindsay Cooper on 22 Nov 2014

HENRY COW discography


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

HENRY COW top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.08 | 163 ratings
Legend
1973
3.43 | 105 ratings
Unrest
1974
3.89 | 125 ratings
In Praise Of Learning
1975
4.19 | 148 ratings
Western Culture
1979

HENRY COW Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.51 | 40 ratings
Concerts
1976

HENRY COW Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

HENRY COW Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.68 | 19 ratings
The Road: Volume 6 - Stockholm & Göteborg (40th Anniversary Boxset)
2008
4.22 | 21 ratings
The Road: Volumes 1-5 (40th Anniversary Box Set)
2009
3.79 | 19 ratings
The Road: Volumes 6-10 (40th Anniversary Box Set)
2009

HENRY COW Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
In Concerto
1977
3.00 | 1 ratings
Unreleased Orckestra Extract
2006

HENRY COW Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Legend by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.08 | 163 ratings

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Legend
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TerryDactyl

4 stars And with a great reeling squonk, the Mighty Henry Cow are born, and it seems to have been a rather difficult birth, of course there's tons of weird facts about how it came to be, and there are many discourses upon how difficult a band the Mighty Henry Cow are, but to my ears the very first time I heard the Mighty Henry Cow, they sympathized and stretched in to fit so perfectly that the only thing I could say after the ravishing was "Where have you been all my life?" as I lit a Kool Mild and took a slug from my bottle of Olde English.

It's like John Coltrane sometimes, other times not so much (Coltrane is better than the Mighty Henry Cow but only because he happened to be a walking god among men) mostly because the Mighty Henry Cow ARE a rock band of some stripe, though the stripes might be vertical or horizontal, depending if you are knocked on the floor by their brilliant beaming ugliness.

Also there's guitars. Coltrane had no guitar. the Mighty Henry Cow would make two really wonderful records, then acquire Dagmar, of whom I'm not incredibly fond, and remain not quite as good as this before disbanding. I can't give either this or the next album Five stars because they aren't quite five star affairs, but for what it's worth, This record kicks asps, and rattle snakes too. Try it and you may I say listen to 'the Cow every day.

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 Unrest by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.43 | 105 ratings

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Unrest
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by claugroi

1 stars This is the first time I rate an album 1-star. The reason is that it deserves so. This album goes against everything I consider to be music. And I'm not even talking about GOOD music, but music in general. It seems to me that the guys arrived in the studio and said "Ok, let's record a new album. Hit anything that makes any noise, but be sure not to hit it with rhythm. Let's make the most chaotic music ever".

No sense of rhythm and melody are to be found here. Also, the sounds are too dissonant. One thing is producing a very jazzy album with sparse and light instrumentation or an eclectic prog album with lots of counterpoint and dissonant layers, but this goes beyond that. It really trespasses the limits of music and becomes sheer torture.

Some reasonable moments do exist, but only for some seconds. For instance, the piano intro of Half Asleep, Half Awake and some oboe or bassoon notes here and there, but most of it is pure improvisation with no goal at all. It seems they just turned the mics on and played anything, literally anything. That's not music to my ears. Music should be a sincere and deep expression of one's artistic inner feelings. There's a big difference between that and making any noise you can. Not even Solemn Music and Bittern Storm Over Ulm, which are the ones that resemble actual songs the most, are enjoyable.

I'm really sorry for this rating. I know some people like this (some even rated it 5 stars, a huge blasphemy in my opinion) and I tend to recognise a band's effort even in the poorest albums, but I just can't stand this.

Some people might say to me I need some time to understand this album and, consequently, enjoy it. Well, I've been listening to this record since 2009 and I don't think I should give it any more tries. I guess I just don't like it and that's it.

All in all, a very dark and unpleasant album. Stay away from it.

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 In Praise Of Learning by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.89 | 125 ratings

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In Praise Of Learning
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars HENRY COW had joined forces with the German trio SLAPP HAPPY as they collaborated to make the album "Desperate Straights" under the SLAPP HAPPY name. "In Praise Of Learning" sees this collaboration continue only this one is released under the HENRY COW name. This collaboration would end shortly after this album was released. Still this melding of the two bands makes "In Praise Of Learning" quite different from their previous two studio albums. More avant-garde i'd say plus having Dagmar Krause on vocals changes the mood completely. I am used to her vocals from the ART BEARS albums but those who haven't heard her sing before don't usually view her participation as a positive. Including guests we get eleven musicians involved with the making of this record. SLAPP HAPPY would fold after this recording when Dagmar announced she was staying with HENRY COW as the COW would tour a lot the following year or so. She would return to SLAPP HAPPY though as witnessed on their 1980 release "Acnalbasac Noom".

"War" is only 2 1/2 minutes long and was composed by the SLAPP HAPPY duo of Moore and Blegvad. Both Blegvad and Krause sing on it and Dagmar is quite passionate here. I like the brief instrumental sections. "Living In The Heart Of The Beast" opens with Frith ripping it up with some dissonant guitar leads. Krause comes in vocally and I like this song already much better than the first tune. It settles down before we get some more aggressive guitar. A calm follows with piano and Dagmar returns in a reserved manner. It turns dark before 3 minutes as we get a complex instrumental section that really impresses. Vocals are back before 4 1/2 minutes. Another calm a minute later as the vocals stop and the sounds become intricate. Vocals are back and they do get passionate at times. Another calm before 7 1/2 minutes with organ. Violin joins in from Frith after 8 minutes. It will kick in again but settle back quickly. This is so good ! Vocals are back before 12 1/2 minutes as it stays fairly relaxed. Great, great track composed by Tim Hodgkinson.

"Beginning- The Long March" like the final track "Morning Star" were joint efforts by the two bands. The first is experimental throughout as various sounds come and go. I like this instrumental a lot, it's a real trip. "Beautiful As The Moon-Terrible As An Army With Banners" is a Frith / Cutler composition. It opens with reserved vocals and a laid back sound with plenty of piano. It does become a little more passionate then settles back before 3 minutes. It picks back up before 4 minutes with an excellent instrumental section. Dagmar is back late. Another excellent track. "Morning Star" ends it as we get dissonant horns and random drum patterns to start and more. Avant is the word and it continues throughout. An adventerous instrumental to close out the album.

A very solid 4 stars. I really enjoy everything about this except for the short opening track.

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 In Praise Of Learning by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.89 | 125 ratings

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In Praise Of Learning
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Henry Cow - In Praise of Learning (1975)

Among us are those listeners who want an adventure with a bite. They indure the layers of sophistication, the psychedelic effects and sheer heavyness of the music. They have often found VdGG's 'Pawn Hearts', a few King Crimson classics and perhaps had some experience with Magma. As a great next step I would like to recommend giving this specific Henry Cow record a couple of spins, for it is a great avant-prog record that will satisfy listeners of the beforementioned bands.

Henry Cow is known as one of the bigger English avant-garde groups. All musicians involved (and especially Fred Frith on guitar, Tim Hodgkinson on organ and Chris Cutler of drums) are of the highest level, making the music as professional and well performed as the best of Magma line-ups - an almost unmatchable level of musicianship. On this third record the band cooperated with female vocalist Dagmar Krause, who in style shows some resemblance to Peter Hammill when it comes to pronounciation and intensity. The political anti-war lyrics are written in poetic English and fit the developed atmosphere of the music.

The album opens with the short acid track 'War' with hellish vocals by Krause and Canterbury-like vocals of Glegvad. However, on the first side the centerpeace, the fifteen minuted avant-prog epic 'Living in the heart of the beast' steals the show. On side two a shorter but equally impressive doomish avant-prog track 'Beautiful as the moon, terrible as an army with banners' is accompanied by two avant-garde compositions that might initially put of some progressive rock listeners.

'Living in the heart of the beast'. What if Peter Hammill's evil twin sister was to line up with Lizard-era Robert Fripp, backed-up by Christian Vander's bombastic and doomish artistic vision in a recording studio in the center of Canterbury? Add some layers of avant-garde exploration and you might have an idea why this piece is such an highlight of the progressive genre. Heavy, sometimes atonal, brooming, exploding, dark and profetic in lyrical style. I would like to add some words of admiration for the brilliant ending section that reminds me a bit of the kick I can get out of Mahavishnu's 'Hope'.

Conclusion. This record falls between the border of eclectic progressive rock and avant- garde, yet serves best of both genres. A great daring record that should not be skipped by listeners of eclectic prog, Canterbury, zeuhl and avant-garde/rio. Five stars.

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 In Praise Of Learning by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.89 | 125 ratings

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In Praise Of Learning
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Henry Cow was always a difficult band to pin down, and even more so after joining forces with the avant-pop eccentrics of SLAPP HAPPY. The collaboration was no doubt mutually beneficial, but sometimes it just brought out the weirdness in everyone involved.

That much is obvious after hearing the first demented verses of "War", the opening cut off their 1975 album together. Hearing it for the first time, I was immediately reminded of the "Laughing Song" (from the 1978 "Duck Stab!" EP) by THE RESIDENTS, at the time an all but unknown group but certainly not unfamiliar with either half of this double ensemble.

So, what to call the augmented band? Slapp Henry? Happy Cow? Neither label does justice to the awesome cacophony of the awkwardly named "Beginning: The Long March", or the even more challenging "Beautiful as the Moon - Terrible as an Army With Banners". The former title references Chairman Mao; the latter The Song of Solomon, which ought to show you the scope of their combined erudition. Henry Cow's agenda typically leaned to the far left, but don't worry: their music was even more radical than their politics.

And Dagmar Krause was certainly a unique vocal stylist, to say the least. Her contributions here may seem almost superfluous at times, especially next to some of the truly powerful instrumental experiments. Check out the final, epic moments of the 15+ minute "Living in the Heart of the Beast", offering an exciting alternative to the other kind of Symphonic Rock in vogue at the same time.

This was never an album designed for casual entertainment. But of course there's no such thing as a casual Henry Cow fan, right? Their music demands a level of committed listening sometimes lacking even among the most adventurous Progheads. I can't say I'm always up to the challenge myself, but judging at least from other reviews here at Progarchives there are plenty of dedicated listeners more than able to fill in the blanks.

"In Praise of Learning"....what an appropriate title. Sometimes the curve can be steep, but the rewards will always match the effort.

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 Unrest by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.43 | 105 ratings

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Unrest
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Henry Cow was always a group positioned very near the event horizon where music and noise overlap, and that boundary was further blurred on the band's aptly titled 1974 album. Unrest, indeed: this is music tailor-made for sleepless nights.

Imagine a modern chamber orchestra, masquerading as a rock 'n' roll band and commissioned to improvise the score to an experimental ballet, juxtaposing oboes, clarinets, bassoons and violin against the usual array of electric guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. That might give you a vague idea of their sound, but I doubt it.

There are moments here, mostly during the second, more improvisational half of the album, that might leave you wondering who is more insane: the septet of players actually performing this racket, or yourself for willingly listening to it. The opener 'Bittern Storm Over Ulm' bounces forward on an awkward but not unattractive melody, in my limited experience maybe the closest the Cow ever came to a legitimate pop song. But all bets are off after that uneasy truce; check out the bizarre, pre-verbal chanting in 'Linguaphonie' for proof.

And what exactly is creating that distorted buzzing hum, in 'Ruins' and elsewhere: synthesizers? Maybe some sort of electronically fuzzed horn? I suspect it's Fred Frith, up to his usual tricks. What that man does to a guitar almost borders on abuse, god bless him.

In the end the album is easy to admire, but harder to actually enjoy...at least for anyone not schooled in advanced musicology. I'm not suggesting you need to be a complete brainiac to appreciate Henry Cow, but it couldn't hurt. A four-star effort with two-star popular appeal: hence my fickle three-star recommendation.

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 In Praise Of Learning by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.89 | 125 ratings

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In Praise Of Learning
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Out of the box.

Here it is in all its Rock in Opposition glory - tread careful dear listeners and question what is music? 'War' begins the journey with some absolutely insane time sigs and free form jazz sax over the strong off beat. The tuneless female vocals of Dagmar Krause are perhaps the most challenging aspect and really will take some getting used to for certain listeners. It is unlike anything you will hear but is kind of similar to the experimental side of Bjork. Krause's emotions are charged sounding like someone spat in her socks. But this is the best song on the album.

It is a short song so we soon roll onto the epic 15 minute sonic noise of 'Living In The Heart of the Beast' and nothing prepares the listener for this excursion into avant hyper weirdness. More odd metrical sigs are augmented by distorted fuzzed guitar and then it stops and Chris Cutler's piano in solitude is heard. Dagmar Krause is the vocalist and she is the queen of dissonance. She even has multi tracks on her vocals at one point. The sound is a beserk Magma sound, and then very atonal anti-jazz woodwind dominates with Lindsay Cooper's beserk bassoon and Geoff Leigh's triumphant trumpets. The xylophone of Fred Frith is peculiar but is a trademark Henry Cow effect. Several instruments join together and play their own tune and then are suddenly amalgamated with 4 strong blasts. The percussion of Cutler is incredible with off sync explosions and weird cymbals tishes. Peter Blegvad's clarinet is changing melodies constantly, John Greaves' bass keeps an odd rhythm that interplays with the trumpets of Cutler and then a violin takes over played beautifully by Frith. The strange competing of musicians and ferocity of time sig changes is frightening. It is certainly one of the most astonishing pieces of avant-garde music bringing to mind the madness of Frank Zappa meets The Residents at it's most experimental.

Henry Cow's lyrical content is focused on Marxist ideologies and revolutionary idealism. The previous song is actually a call to arms against Marxist capitalism and is intended to spur on the communist party to power. The band were revolutionaries themselves with their peculiar approach to music. This album was part of a long term collaboration with Slapp Happy and is as far removed from the Canterbury influences in their first albums as one could get. It embraces the 'steaming cess pool of human conformity' as far as Marxism is concerned, and attempts to recreate music structures and forms. In this case it is a very complex and difficult album to enjoy by many listeners. The left wing politics and communism is a strong point of the lyrics and will turn some off.

The high emphasis on creativity and recreating new musical ideas is a compelling component of the sound. This is continued with 'Beginning: The Long March' with a ferocious oboe and sonic rhythm in the intro. A crash down of percussion and piano and other angry instruments heralds the new soundscape which is a disjointed fractured musical outburst of cacophonic dissonance. This continues with sporadic musicality and odd bursts of musical instruments with out any time sig, without any melody or any semblance of harmony. It drones and groans as a serrated violin trys to take over, but low piano crashes in. A metronome knocking is heard and broken guitar splashes. The sax and horn blasts sound like cars speeding on a motorway. Now we are really into unchartered waters as the sound gains in intensity, no sig or melody still but an unnerving disturbia of disharmonious drone.

The discordance of this is now put into striking contrast with the next song, where vocals return on 'Beautiful as the Moon - Terrible as an Army With Banners'. The sig is splintered still but this has more resonance with a listener who may have been turned away by some of the previous RIO. The bass and drums are in sync yet the metric is decidedly acrimonious, especially with the rather pleasant vocals for a change. It is easy to listen to after a while as the ears are attuned to the oddness of it all. The sig actually begins at last and gains speed with guitar flourishes. The piano begins an out of melody improvisation as the percussion and bass pound. Then another piano tinkers along and all the other instruments fade out. The off tune twin piano solo becomes quite unsettling sounding as though it is falling down a flight of stairs, and then a loud blast of vocals and guitars come in like a train wreck and ends it. Are we having fun yet?

'Morning Star' based on the UK's Communist paper, is a saxophone with percussion hybrid and the non-cohesiveness of the sound is jarring. More very weird sounds on instruments continue but the percussion is extreme improvised jazz on 'Lovers of Gold'. The members sound as though they are all playing their own tune but it somehow fits in a discordant way. Perhaps reminiscent of King Crimson's 'Providence' or their other improv jam sessions. Krause sings again as the drones become ominous. She has a melodic voice but the music is disjointed. At this point one may be ready for anything with a beat or signature, it is very discomforting.

This album is not for the faint hearted as at times the unmusicality is too much for the ears to bear. It is refreshing to hear after listening to the mediocrity poured out on the radio. The band could be viewed as revolutionary pioneers and would definitely have made many artists and listeners sit up and take notice. I am not sure how many times one could sit through this but it will cause one to ponder on what makes music 'music'. In fact it can be argued that the album is a protest against conformity of musical structures or virtuosity. Is Henry Cow a genius band of artists or just a bunch of improvising rejects kicked out of the conservatorium? There is no disputing the artists are incredibly talented and deserve attention. In any case this is as original and as unconventional as it gets, perhaps even unsurpassed in terms of the influence on the avant-prog scene.

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 Legend by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.08 | 163 ratings

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Legend
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by the philosopher

5 stars What an incredible debut of this funny made bandname called Henry Cow. I've never heard a band before who was so much influenced by the avant-garde period of The Mothers of Invention (Uncle Meat, Weasels ripped my Flesh) as Henry Cow. Henry Cow took over the avant-garde/ free-jazz, polyrythmic and atonal absurdities and also much of the soundscapes of the Mothers. Well, it did them some good: the level of complexity and variety of themes was never before so high on a debut-record.

Henry Cow is not just a copy of the Mothers, but they build on the strong foundations of the Mothers. I'm glad that Henry Cow mostly was inspirated by the instrumental madness of the Mothers and less by the craziness in vocals.

Leg-end (yes, even the name this record is funny) offers some great compositions with fast inimatable complex parts and of more slow and more minimalistic free-jazz parts. The music is mainly instrumental, but on side two there are two vocal parts: one of them belongs to the trend of using voice as an instrument.

On this record a large variety of instruments can be heard, like saxes, flute, clarinet, organs, piano, violin and of course guitars, bass and drums. Imagine all the possibilities created by such an amount of instruments!

Well, this is a highly entertaining record which will be enjoyed by fans of the Mothers of Invention, and also by fans of the Canterbury scene (which also was much influenced by the Moters and therefor has a comparison soundscape as Henry Cow) who like complex and avant-garde music. This record is busy broadening the world of music by trying to create new complexities and (poly)rythems. We (prog-listeners in general) should thank them for it! Five stars.

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 Western Culture  by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.19 | 148 ratings

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Western Culture
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Henry Cow transmogrified into Art Bears during 1978 - producing the first Art Bears album, predominantly containing Fred Frith and Chris Cutler songs, and this final Henry Cow piece, dedicated to instrumental pieces by Lindsay Cooper and Tim Hodgkinson. These represent, in my view, the absolute best instrumental material the band produced in their post-Canterbury avant-garde period.

It's possible to properly call this material RIO - the RIO festivals having kicked off by this point - but whatever tag you put on it, this is startling industrial chamber rock combining occasional moments of tranquility with clattering, noisy rockouts that sound like rusting factory machinery coming to life for a jam session. And yet, unlike much of the instrumental material on In Praise of Learning, there's an immediateness and openness to these instrumentals which had eluded Henry Cow since their debut album. Cooper and Hodgkinson find a space here where they can indulge their every experimental whim without feeling the need to drive the listener away, making this album just plain more listenable than the two previous albums. A fine ending for a truly innovative band.

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 Legend by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.08 | 163 ratings

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Legend
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Tom Ozric
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Henry Cow's debut album - it's extremely difficult to put this one into words - first few things that come to mind are complex, difficult, Canterbury, whimsical, technical, Zappa - in a word - BRILLIANT. To have come this far in Prog, it's understandable that many folks may be less than thrilled by something like this. Henry Cow comprise of a band whose members have been performing their art since the end of the 60's. Notable members include guitarist Fred Frith, who is as individual as BOB FRIPP and organist Tim Hodgkinson, who likes to manipulate his sounds with fuzz, as well as playing saxes and clarinet. Drummer Chris Cutler plays his instruments with anything but conventionalism. With all the foundations laid out by Frank Zappa, Caravan, Egg, Soft Machine and the like, the Cow compose a selection of innovative, complex, and challenging music, both melodic and atonal, featuring a good dose of improvisation. To make an 'off-beat' sound somewhat 'normal', and sax work outside of 'regular' and familiar patterns, these guys know what works. At the end of the day, it's all good fun, intellectual, and unique sounding. The distinctive 'Sock' artwork on the cover (by Ray Staff) has become something of an icon for the group, adorning their next few releases - top stuff from an artistic point-of-view.... Having a young MIKE OLDFIELD (not so long out of KEVIN AYERS' band) engineering part of the first track, Nirvana For Mice, doesn't hurt. It's really cool that Oldfield's roots started within the Canterbury sub-genre of Prog. My words barely scathe the tip of the iceberg with this amazing album, but it qualifies as an absolute masterpiece of the progressive music genre. 5.

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