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Henry Cow - Concerts CD (album) cover


Henry Cow



3.66 | 80 ratings

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3 stars Mix of bliss and out-there...

Concerts was released in the late 70s and contains live tracks from a number of different tours between 1973 and 1975. Because of this, it features a number of different Henry Cow lineups, including both instrumental lineups and the line-up with Dagmar Krause on vocals. The music is in turn equally varied. The first track, a 22-minute medley of some of their best tunes to 1975 (but also including an interesting cover of "Gloria Gloom", the Matching Mole song), is the one with Dagmar Krause on vocals. It is awesome, and the main reason for getting this box set. I really like Krause's vocals, and In Praise of Learning (the album featuring Krause) is my favourite Henry Cow album. There is an odd feature of this recording, in that for the first few minutes, only the drums, bass and electric piano are in the recording, after which all of a sudden (as if someone flicked a switch on the mixer after realizing their mistake) the guitar and woodwinds kick in. The second track combines "Bad Alchemy" and Robert Wyatt's "Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road" (no 1), with Robert Wyatt guesting on vocals. Another great track, and a great archive as Wyatt did not play live very often at all. The third track is a live version of "Ruins", the instrumental from the album Unrest. This is pretty good too. But that is where the bliss ends and the out-there music starts. The last two tracks on the first CD involve two improvisations from Groningen in 1974, aptly titled "Groningen" (and "Groningen Again"). These are pretty difficult listening, and not something most will want to spend time listening to more than once. They don't really go anywhere, and while yes they add diversity, I am not sure most would consider them to be very musical. The second CD contains all instrumentals, including two improvs played by the instrumental line-ups, as well as three tracks recorded in studio at the Manor in 1973 and original released on the "Greasy Truckers" compilation. Two of these studio tracks are about as avant as avant-garde gets, a collection of odd noises, while the last ("Keeping Warm in Winter" contains slightly more traditional sax/clarinet solos followed by a more musical piano-led ending with some nice guitar effects. The second CD opens, however, with a quiet and building improv aptly itled "Oslo" which has some very nice sections, even some short beautiful parts, although at over 25 minutes it could test the average listener's patience. The CD ends with an improv "Udine" (recorded in Udine, Italy, in 1975) that is somewhat similar to the Groningen improvs, if perhaps more lively. A great archive, this double-CD set is obviously a must-have for Henry Cow fans. While I like improvised music, I don't think the improvs here are nearly as successful as the more structured pieces. For me, it is the opening medley that is the highlight, but it is so good it makes it worth seeking out this collection. On balance (which averages across all tracks and takes into account every minute), I give this set 6.7 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

Walkscore | 3/5 |


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