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Henry Cow - Concerts CD (album) cover


Henry Cow



3.64 | 77 ratings

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4 stars 1976 was a very busy year in Henry Cow's career. The band had just released a fruit of their collaboration with a German avant-rock outfit Slapp Happy, In Praise Of Learning, and was busy touring western Europe (for nearly two years continously). At that time, Anthony Moore and Peter Belegvad left the project with Dagmar Krause becoming the lead vocalist of Henry Cow. The sextet got a chance to play alongside Robert Wyatt, who had just completed his newest album Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard. Too busy to record an album, Henry Cow gathered all the worthwhile live material they had and released a double album Concerts.

The album consists of twenty two tracks on two LPs. Disc one starts out with a medley of "Beautiful as the Moon; Terrible as an Army With Banners", "Nirvana For Mice", Matching Mole's political statements "Ottawa Song" and "Gloria Gloom", and the reprise of "Beautiful as the Moon". Than come two pieces recorded with Robert Wyatt himself, "Bad Alchemy", a fruit of collaboration between John Greaves and Slapp Happy's Peter Blegvad, and "Little Red Riding Hood Hits The Road", which comes from his memorable solo release Rock Bottom. After his unfortunate accident, Wyatt was unable to play drums, devoting fully to perfecting his signature vocals. Next, "Ruins", is a 16-minute jam over Henry Cow's piece from Unrest."Groningen" and "Groningen Reprise" are two improvisation-driven tracks, which close the first LP.

Side A of the second disc is fully occupied by an atonal, free-form piece "Oslo" with half-an-hour of disturbing, dissonant noodlings with Dagmar Krause moaning somewhere in the distant background. One might be tricked into regarding this in the same way as other pieces. However, these kinds of melody-less, single-layered, improvised pieces far beyond being just aimless noodlings. Time and its subjective meaning plays a crucial role in "Oslo". Side B comprises tracks from Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwall's Dancehall sessions (recorded a few months after their debut, Legend), which also included Camel, Gong, and Global Village Trucking Co. (a very interesting album, by the way). The four tracks are also fully improvised, but are far more entertaining than the aimless "Oslo". In fact, at moments I feel like they would, but are highly likely more accessible than "Oslo". At moments, they might remind of Pink Floyd's Ummagumma. As always is the case with Henry Cow, the titles of these tracks are excellent - "Off the Map", "Cafe Royal", "Keeping Warm in Winter".

Similarly to thier studio releases, the instrumental skill of all the Henry Cow members is superb. It appears that they actually do not need studio equipment and possibilities it brings to sound good. Fred Frith's unique guitar style is as always spot-on and the multi-instrumentalist abilities of Tim Hodgkinson are really highlighted here. Lindsay Cooper's bassoon, oboe, and flute give the band a unique, chamber-like feel, which often provides a much-needed rest from tiring free-jazz work-outs. John Greaves' bass is a very pleasant suprise. On studio releases, his playing always seemed to stay in the shadow of other musicians. Concerts perfectly showcases his great skill.

All in all, Henry Cow's only official live album (excluding those released long after the band's departure) is a quintessence of what the group really was. Concerts features diverse, varied compositions, which display the incredible loads of live energy and technical know-how that Henry Cow's members have. The album portrays the band in great form, full of fresh musical ideas. Like studio releases, it needs to be given time and numerous listens to be fully comprehended. Recommended!

ALotOfBottle | 4/5 |


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