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Casablanca Moon/Desperate Straights
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Casablanca Moon/Desperate Straights

1 Mar. 2003 | Format: MP3

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  • Original Release Date: 1 Mar. 2003
  • Release Date: 1 Mar. 2003
  • Label: Virgin UK
  • Copyright: (C) 1993 Virgin Records LtdThis label copy information is the subject of copyright protection. All rights reserved.(C) 1993 Virgin Records Ltd
  • Record Company Required Metadata: Music file metadata contains unique purchase identifier. Learn more.
  • Total Length: 1:13:07
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B002A2MEHI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,249 in Albums (See Top 100 in Albums)

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Oct. 2000
Format: Audio CD
I doubt here has ever been any other music like this. This CD covers two consecutive releases by Slapp Happy - the first, Casablanca Moon, is a mystical and wonderful journey through an intellectually barbed landscape, peopled by dissolute dilletantes and littered with knowingly arch puns and references; the second, Desperate Straights, is entirely dissimilar, being a collaboration with Henry Cow, everyone's agit-pop heroes of the seventies. Desperate Straights (THAT'S A PUN, BY THE WAY) takes the fragile lyrical constructions and musically brutalises them occasionally to telling effect, but often resulting in ghastly mutilations (whatever you do, don't listen to Caucasian Lullaby). But it's on Casablanca Moon that all the charm an musicality of the band is shown to best effect. The opener 'Casablanca Moon' is a sleazy minor key waltz reeking of seamy ill-doings and the mental collapse of a hapless double agent, no doubt in an Algerian Casbah - and who these days writes lyrics like 'lines of sweat like tinsel/ start to smart his eyes' - genius. 'Mr Rainbow' is a tribute to Arthur Rimbaud, which features a verse as delictae and beautiful as the chorus is grating and awful. The music on CM overall is characterised by a deft naivete - it's pop, but not as we know it. But it's unerringly lovely, and the closer, 'Slow Moon's Rose', is a beautiful lullably - or pastiche of one - which draws the listener into a glittering, arctic world of frozen rivers and silver trellises.
But there are gems a-plenty throughout this CD; Desperate Straights also is not without its moments, but it's too diverse to summarise easily.
Buy this CD - find out why Les Singes ne pensent que s'amuser - and baffle your friends with pointless arty references for months to come.
But DON'T listen to Caucasian Lullably. You've been warned.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 May 2001
Format: Audio CD
Henry Cow and Slapp Happy are an acquired taste and this review does assume that the listener is so acclimatised. Desperate Straights, as originally released, is made up of tracks 12 to 24 on this compilation CD. Sandwiching two albums onto one CD probably made sense to someone at the record company. Listeners are fortunate that worthy did not also decide to change the track order so at least that part of history is preserved, not rewritten.
The musicality and politics of the bands put them at the far left-hand edge of the music/art spectrum in their time (approx '73 - '78 for Henry Cow). Highly avante-garde, elitist and insular, experimental and sometimes completely off the rails the Henry Cow line-up covered a lot of ground in five years of album releases. The Desperate Straights collaboration with Slapp Happy, originally released in '75, puts some of Henry Cow's best dream-like melodies with Dagmar Krause's bewildering vocals. At times these blend tightly, creating hypnotically beautiful edifices such as "A Worm is Turning" and "Riding Tigers" to the lyrically bizarre "Some Questions About Hats". The rhythmic devices used in many of the tracks punctuated by Krause's vocals generate intensely interesting patterns that invite exploration again and again. Not classic Henry Cow but a classic album none the less.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By Larry L. Looney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Finding these two albums together on a single cd was a long-held dream of mine. These are the two albums this quirky and intelligent group recorded for Virgin Records in the early 70s -- one of them after they joined forced with the leg endary progressive band Henry Cow.
Slapp Happy were like no other band of their time -- or since, for that matter, now that they've (Sort of) reformed. The melodies are jagged but hummable -- a disconcerting type of pop music. The lyrics, always intelligent and challenging, are filled with incredible wordplay, humor and obscure philosophical references. This music will make you tap your foot, but it will also definitely make you think -- and we all know exercise is good for us, right?
I can't think of another songwriter to whom I can properly compare Peter Blegvad -- a look at the constantly-endangered life of a spy, always living on the edge; a song about reincarnation; a look at Michaelangelo through the suspicious eyes of a contemporary; a paean to French poet and enfant-terrible Arthur Rimbaud; a re-working of a section from Handel's 'Messiah'. Beginning to get the picture? There was no subject off-limits to Blegvad on these albums -- and his career has shown that this is an integral part of his songwriting ethos to this day. He has continued to amaze his listeners in the years since these albums were released.
Dagmar Krause's voice MUST be heard to be appreciated. German-born, she sounds as if she were raised on a mixed diet of Brecht-Weill-Eisler political ballads, opera, and pop music. She can coo, she can warble, she can shriek, covering all bases in between as well. Admittedly an aquired taste, her voice is one of the imminently recognizable, integral parts of Slapp Happy's 'sound'.
And then there's Anthony Moore. His keyboard work, as well as his occasional songwriting, comprise the remaining piece in the puzzle that is Slapp Happy. Never 'in your face' with his playing, he nonetheless contributes irreplacably to the overall effect. 'The owl', 'Slow moon's rose', and 'Apes in capes' are all Anthony Moore compositions, and show him to be a fine writer with his own style.
Instrumentally, the basic group of three was augmented on both of these albums. On the first by some of England's finest progressive musicians of the day, gathered together at Mike Oldfield's Manor Studio by producer Steve Morse. It's basically a re-recording of most of the songs from 'Acnalbasac noom', which is also available (for those who prefer the less-produced, earlier recording).
By the time 'Desperate straits' was recorded in 1974, Slapp Happy had begun working in tandem with Henry Cow, and the two groups merged soon after its release. Rather than the based-on-compositions improvisational style that was favored by the Cow on their lps, and to a greater extent in concert, the merger with Slapp Happy reined them in a bit for this recording -- but their roles here give it a sound that could never be mistaken for anyone else. Fred Frith's mind boggling guitar work, Chris Cutler's instantly-recognizable drumming style, Lindsay Cooper's work on oboe and bassoon, Tim Hodgkinson's keyboards and clarinet, and the impeccable bass of John Greaves, all added immeasurably to the album's personality.
Again, this is pop music for the listener who enjoys being challenged -- challenged to think and ponder the words, to appreciate the lines played by the different instruments as they wind and weave their way in and out of each other's paths...and challenged to take a step beyond -- WAY beyond -- the music that our good buddies at the major record labels would have us swallow, spoon and all (...and say, 'Thank you sir, may I have another...').
If you've never heard these folks, start here -- later, you can look back and remember where the worm at work in the core came from...
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Can one wear uncanny hats? 26 Jan. 2000
By Philip Welsh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
...And thus Desperate Straights' opener, "Some Questions About Hats," set the tone, and a marvellous tone it was. Slapp Happy's last proper album, ably backed by the Cow and various members of the Faust enclave, reminds me more than anything else of those dada-caberet-ditties apparently sung but never recorded at the Caberet Voltaire (the club in Zurich, not the band) by Hugo Ball and his band of Merry Men (and Ladies) -- naive yet erudite ("Europa" and "In the Sickbay" especially), infinitely playful ("Giants") while appallingly sentimental ("Riding Tigers"), and unlike anything else anyone has pulled off since. The arrangements fit Dagmar's voice like a pair of torn garters.
I was used to RecRec's far-less-practiced-or-produced "Acnalbasac Noom" album of Wümme/Nettleback/Faust-era demos before I heard "Casablanca Moon," the other album on this CD. I recommend the former, though CM does have its charms, especially "The Drum" and then "Haiku" -- it's just that the arrangements go a bit overboard at times, to my taste. But the songs are equally wonderful.
I've had these albums for 15 years and never tired of them. Thank [insert deity of preference here] that Polygram finally released its bizarre strangehold on "Sort Of," the first Slapp Happy album, and it's finally coming out on CD this Spring!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
surreal 13 May 2000
By "undeletablearchive" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Slapp Happy were two very arch gentlemen, Peter Blegvad and Anthony Moore, and German female vocalist Dagmar. Blegvad announced SH as 'Naive Rock; the Douanier Rousseau Sound'. While that is certainly a fine description of 'Sort Of' and 'Acnalbasac Noom', it is not so true of the two records presented here: 'Casablanca Moon' (a session-rendered reworking of 'Acnalbasac Noom', which was made, like 'Sort of', with members of Faust); and 'Desperate Straights', made with Henry Cow. Casablanca Moon features, like all SH's work, highly worked, miniature songs with dense, literate, wordplaying lyrics. It relocates the fascinatingly clunky, oompah sound of 'Acnalbasac' to a silken, string-driven Euro environment which brings to mind work like Serge Gainsbourg to produce a surreal record of psychological lounge pieces.
Did I say 'surreal'? 'Desperate Straights' goes further, toward downright WEIRD. Here, the music slides across the Art Brut continuum leftwards of Rousseau to the area inhabited by darker, weirder people like Lear and Dadd. The tracks are small chamber rock hallucinations which are deeply strange, but compulsive. Alongside pieces like 'Some Questions about Hats' - curious, even disturbing - are beautiful songs like 'In the Sickbay', a dream of convalescence on a listing sunlit ship; and 'Europa', a lost child's paean to a warstruck continent. Blegvad and Moore pull the latent umbra out of Henry Cow and also boost that group's low-level intricacy. And Dagmar finds a new way with her unique voice: witchy, but cute. Despite the untypical and lugubrious Cutler/Moore improvisation 'Caucasian Lullaby', 'Desperate Straights' is High Art, one of a handful of essential progressive rock artefacts.
This CD compilation is a fine place to start with this group. Slapp Happy are utterly unique in the history of rock, surrealists out of time who turned to sound rather than paint, and they remind us in a quiet, subversive way of just how radically self-defining and single-minded popular music can be.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Dagmar is Always Worth A Chance 28 Sept. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
After first hearing Dagmar Krause sing on Henry Cow's, In Praise of Learning, I was hooked. I went on to buy the first Art Bears album and then this 2 on one CD. Casablanca Moon and Desperate Straights. Casablanca Moon has a complicated history. This is the second recording of the original. I haven't heard the original, although I plan on acquiring it. I've heard that this is a better version of that album. This was recorded shortly after the original, for the band's new label, I believe. The second album on this CD, Desperate Straights, sees the band getting more progressive.
Wow! These two albums are GREAT.
The Secret, The Drum, and Haika for me, are the two most addictive songs on Casablanca Moon. The Secret is probably the best tune. Very beautiful. Catchy, enjoyable.
Almost all of the songs range from 2 - 3 1/2 minutes on both CD's, but don't be fooled, this is progresssive rock. Actually the brevity of the songs is an enjoyable thing. Each song glimmers like a little gem. Being a huge Dagmar fan, it is especially nice to me that her voice is basically considered an essential element to each moment of both albums. She sings nearly always throughout, with just a few exceptions...It is all very experimental sounding. Just as in Henry Cow's, In Praise of Learning, expect to hear music unlike anything you've heard before. It is easy to see how these two bands ended up hooking up.
The second album, Desperate Straights is more progressive than the first and enjoys a better production. It is the stronger album in my opinion. It starts out with Some Questions About Hats. Even diehard Dagmar fans will be taken aback a bit with the weirdness going on here. Then, after the initial shock sets in, a desire to hear this song again and again prevails.
Let's see, other highlights on Desperate Straights:
A Worm Is At Work (excellent!!)
Bad Alchemy
Europa (perhaps the best...)
In The Sickbay
I can't wait for these albums to be remastered. I don't know when it will happen but it eventually will, I'm sure. If you are a Dagmar fan, don't wait though. Life is too short, it could be years! Buy this while you can! I'm by no means complaining about the sound quality here though. It is not an issue, I just would like to see a remaster. Dagmar's voice is so fascinating and unique that I think I could listen to a beat-up, scratchy old record and still love every minute.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Casablanca Moon is Genius 28 Aug. 2007
By Dave Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Casablanca Moon is just plain brilliant rock music with a slightly twisted pop sensibility. Desperate Straights is a little difficult to listen to unless you're into music that will challenge your senses.
Personally I love these guys. Dagmar Krause has a voice that is at once charming and beautiful, only to turn around a moment later and tear you to shreds. The songwriting is complex and yet very accessible.
This along with The Art Bears and Henry Cow are among my very favorites.
Beyond highly recommended music. Essential.
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