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Skeleton Crew


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Skeleton Crew Learn to Talk/Country of the Blinds album cover
4.03 | 10 ratings | 1 reviews | 40% 5 stars

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Boxset/Compilation, released in 2005

Songs / Tracks Listing

Disc 1
-Que Viva/Onwards and Upwards 7.37
-TheWay Things Fall (back apart) 2.33
-Not my Shoes 2.15
-The Washington Post 1.31
-We're Still Free 4.10
-Victoryville 2.49
-Los Colitos/Life at the Top 4.35
-Learn to Talk 3.52
-Factory Song 4.49
-It's Fine 4.16
-Zach's Flag 3.01
Sick as a Parrot 2.57
Automatic Pilot 1.28
Hook 2.14
Killing Time 2.27

Playing time 50.41

Disc 2
-The Country of Blinds 4.13
-The Border 3.31
-The Hand that Bites 5.35
-Dead Sheep 3.23
-Bingo 3.38
-Man or Monkey 2.32
-Foot in Hole 3.09
-Hot Field 2.37
-The Birds of Japan 4.04
-You May Find a Bed 6.16
Sparrow Song 1.29
Safety In Numbers 3.18
Howdywhoola Too 2.47
Second Rate 5.32
New Orleans Stomp 3.14
Hasta La Victoria 3.24

Playing time 59.09

Line-up / Musicians

Tom Cora: cello, bass, accordion, drums, contraptions, singing
Fred Frith: guitar, 6-string bass, violin, home-mades, drums, singing
Zeena Parkins: organ, electric harp, accordion, drums, singing

On Los Colitos: Robl, Lu and Katrin - extra voices
On Hook: Dave Newhouse - alto sax, percussion

Releases information

Fred Records/ReR Megacorp Rer/FRO 8/9

Thanks to syzygy for the addition
and to syzygy for the last updates
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SKELETON CREW Learn to Talk/Country of the Blinds ratings distribution

(10 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(40%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (10%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

SKELETON CREW Learn to Talk/Country of the Blinds reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This timely reissue and remaster of Skeleton Crew's two studio albums is excellent value. In addition to presenting the original albums in sparkling clear sound, they have both been expanded with selections from the various live cassette releases that they issued in the 80s. The albums have been reviewed in detail individually, so this review will focus more on the additional material.

Learn to Talk is a highly enjoyable slice of RIO tomfoolery. As a genre, RIO has a reputation for being rather serious and dour a lot of the time, but artists like Robert Wyatt, Slapp Happy and Sammla Mammas Manna have an anarchic, Dadaist sense of humour that is much in evidence here. The use of tapes, especially Ronald Reagan's voice, gives the album a slightly dated feel, but the energy and inventiveness of the double one man band line up is still staggering. There are four live tracks included from 1982 -4. Sick As A Parrot is a radio/tapes sound collage incorporating a few bars of Y Viva Espana, which segues into Automatic Pilot (lyric: 'I'm on automatic pilot'). Hook is of historical interest as it features Dave Newhouse of The Muffins, who toured with Skeleton crew but appeared on neither studio album, while the album closes with Frith and Cora tackling Massacre's Killing Time - a power trio masterwork played by a power duo. Superb guitar from Frith, magnificent cello/bass from Cora and somehow they manage to play the drum parts as well - breathtaking, and much the strongest of the bonus tracks.

On Country Of The Blinds the two one man bands were joined by Zeena Parkins, a one woman band, which gave a more varied sonic palette. No tapes this time, the beguiling complexity of the duo was taken to another level and the vocal arrangements became deeper and more layered. Six live tracks are included, most of them of excellent sound quality. Frith's guitar is more prominent than on the studio recordings, and the good humour and unique interplay of the band is obvious - on Cora's solo showpiece Howdyhoola Too audience laughter is clearly audible. Second Rate is probably their most overtly political song and is delivered with almost brutal directness and shows just how tight they could sound. More unexpected is an accordion driven version of Jelly Roll Morton's New Orleans Stomp, which is played with verve as gypsy jazz. Proceedings are brought to a close with Hasta La Victoria, which recalls the chaotic sound of Learn To Talk.

In some ways this is an object lesson in how reissues should be presented. The live material is as strong as the studio recordings (although the extras on disc 1 are of less than pristine sound quality) and there are no alternate versions of any of the album tracks. Rather than filling the discs with extraneous material, the additional tracks have been selected to complement and add to the original albums. Skeleton Crew were unique and have an important place the development of 80s RIO. This collection is a fitting monument both to the band and to the brilliant Tom Cora, whose untimely death deprived the world of a remarkable musical talent. Strongly recommended.

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