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Henry Cow - The Road: Volume 6 - Stockholm & Göteborg (40th Anniversary Boxset) CD (album) cover


Henry Cow



3.88 | 22 ratings

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3 stars Erk Gah!

A wonderful archive of their live concerts in the late 70s, this album is a must-have for Henry Cow fans. This album is volume 6 in the 10-CD 'The Road' box set. It was simultaneously released on its own on the strength of its excellent sound quality, having been recorded by Sveriges Radio (the Swedish equivalent to Radio Bremen, or perhaps the BBC, known for their excellent recordings). This being Henry Cow, a lot of the material here is improvised free, which sometimes works very well and sometimes does not. The tracks labelled "Stockholm" and "Goteborg" are improvisations named after the cities where they were recorded. These are, like their other improvs, mixed but of interest. Other great tracks here include the wonderful version of "Ottawa Song" and "The March", which work very well. But the real gems here, and the prime reason for getting this collection, are the full version of "Erk Gah (Hold to the Zero Burn)", the Tim Hodgkinson composition that would have made it onto the next Henry Cow album after Western Culture if they had remained together, and their cover of Phil Ochs' song "No More Songs". "Erk Gah" is most similar to Hodgkinson's pieces on "In Praise of Learning" (my favourite Henry Cow album), with Dagmar Krause singing throughout. The composition is very angular, with many harmonic leaps and odd time signatures, and it is a major accomplishment that Krause is able to sing it so well! The track is full of tension, with many quiet parts, sometimes interrupted by loud fast bursts, and flows directly into another Hodgkinson composition "A Bridge to Ruins" which acts as a natural ending to this wonderful quirky piece. Definitely difficult listening in the RIO mode, but much (but not all) of its is very musical, or at least very innovative. "No More Songs", meanwhile, is very straightforward. I have always thought this one of Phil Ochs' best songs, and while Henry Cow/Krause generally play it straight their interpretation lends additional emotional weight. I really like Krause's singing, and she does a great job with this. These two pieces, and "Ottawa Song" and "The March", are the tracks I have found most rewarding on repeated listens. Thinking of a rating, though, I have to admit the excellent pieces take up less than half of the 63 minutes that make up this release. Like their album "Concerts" the improvs take up the majority of actual time, and they are not something one will want to listen to over and over. Across the entire album, I rate the average quality around 7.3 out of 10, which places this within the 3 PA stars realm. But those two/four tracks I mentioned make it absolutely essential for true fans. Of course, if you are a die-hard Henry Cow fan, you will want to get the entire 10-CD The Road box. But if you are not ready to commit to that, but liked "In Praise of Learning" and "Western Culture", then this album would be a natural follow-up.

Walkscore | 3/5 |


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