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Henry Kaiser - Heart's Desire CD (album) cover


Henry Kaiser



3.05 | 2 ratings

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3 stars Henry Kaiser is an eclectic guitarist from California, perhaps best known in prog circles for having collaborated with Fred Frith on a couple of duo albums as well as in the supergroup French Frith Kaiser Thompson (with Frith, John French, and Richard Thompson). On his own, he has produced numerous albums, many of them of the highly experimental variety. Kaiser had a working band too, though, and this band is the subject of this 1990 live album release from the Henry Kaiser Band.

As a guitarist, Kaiser is quite versatile; he's the only artist I know of that would cover both The Grateful Dead and Captain Beefheart on the same album (he's done this twice now). On the one hand, he's a diligent student of the Jerry Garcia school of guitar improvisation, and his band's 20 minute rendition of "Dark Star" (to open the show, no less) retains the spirit of the best Dead performances while clearly showcasing his own singular and wide stylistic spectrum. It helps, too, that the legendary Tom Constanten (late 60s Dead keyboardist) is the keyboardist in his band -- shades of the "Live Dead" album flow through this rendition from start to finish. On the other hand, Kaiser is the disciplined technician, an expert at "Beefheart style" guitar, and reproduces the lovely "Flavor Bud Living" here; he has also covered several other Beefheart tracks on other albums.

Most of this set is taken up by covers (Kaiser is not known for his songwriting), with occasional originals by singer/2nd guitarist Bruce Anderson ("River's Edge" is pretty cool). Other vocal duties are handled by female singer Cary Sheldon. Both singers do a decent job if unremarkable. The covers seem to be designed to be as eclectic as possible: Bacharach/David, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Captain Beefheart, The Andy Griffith Show Theme, Richard Thompson, The Band, and good ol' Karlheinz Stockhausen. This variety keeps the long (77 minutes) concert CD fun, and Kaiser's impressive guitar stylings keep things exciting, executing a nice balance between faithful recreation and improvisational fire.

Either this album or the studio CD "Those Who Know History are Doomed to Repeat It" are good places to hear Henry Kaiser in "rock band" mode. I don't seem to hear about him much anymore, but for a while there in the 80s and 90s, he was a formidable presence on the avant garde scene.

HolyMoly | 3/5 |


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