For the 40th Anniversary of HENRY COW, the progressive avant-rock group, their label ReR MEGACORP has released three five disc retrospective boxed sets, THE ROAD Vol. 1-5,THE ROAD Vol. 6-10, and THE STUDIO Vol. 1-5. The first two contain unreleased studio and live material, and the third their "canon" (Leg End,Unrest,Desperate Straights (their collaboration with SLAPP HAPPY), In Praise of Learning (with SLAPP HAPPY) and Western Culture. All the sets come in sturdy boxes that when set side by side form a b&w group picture and logo. 'THE ROAD Vol. 1' has an empty jewel case (Vol. 4 & 5 is a 2 disc set) where you can handily store your copy of Concerts. Formed in 1968 and disbanded in 1978, HENRY COW's influences included rock, blues, classical, opera, jazz and of course, the avant-garde. Their compositions are complex, challenging and extremely original, but they are also dedicated improvisors who would sometimes perform improvise concerts. Many of their albums (1, 3 and 5) are mainly instrumental. They were one of the first bands signed to the then fledgling Virgin Records. In 1978 HENRY COW initiated the Rock In Opposition (RIO) movement, a collective of progressive bands united in their opposition to the music industry that refused to recognize their music. Representing England, the other founding members were STORMY SIX (Italy), SAMLA MAMMAS MANNA (Sweden), UNIVERS ZERO (Belgium) and ETRON FOU LELOUBAN (France). Here's a run down on the albums included:
'LEG END' (aka 'LEGEND') (Released August 1973) The band: Geoff Leigh - saxophones, flute, clarinet, recorder, voice Tim Hodgkinson - organ, piano, alto saxophone, clarinet, little bells, voice Fred Frith - guitars, violin, viola, piano, voice John Greaves - bass guitar, piano, whistle, voice Chris Cutler - drums, toys, piano, whistle, voice with guests: Jeremy Baines - pixiphone on "Yellow Half-Moon" Sarah Greaves, Maggie Thomas and Cathy Williams - chorus on "Teenbeat" the songs: 1. "Nirvana for Mice" (Frith) - 4:53 2. "Amygdala" (Hodgkinson) - 6:47 3. "Teenbeat (Introduction)" (Henry Cow) - 4:32 4. "Teenbeat" (Frith, Greaves) - 6:57 5. "Extract from 'With the Yellow Half-Moon and Blue Star' " (Frith) - 3:37 6. "Teenbeat (Reprise)" (Frith) - 5:07 7."The Tenth Chaffinch" (Henry Cow) - 6:06 8. "Nine Funerals of the Citizen King" (Hodgkinson) - 5:34 other credits: Produced by HENRY COW Tom Newman - recording engineer Mike Oldfield - recording engineer (first part of "Nirvana for Mice") Ray Smith - cover art
'UNREST' (Released May 1974) the band: Tim Hodgkinson - organ, piano, alto saxophone, clarinet Fred Frith - stereo guitar, violin, xylophone, piano John Greaves - bass guitar, piano, voice Chris Cutler - drums Lindsay Cooper - bassoon, oboe, recorder, voice the songs: 1. "Bittern Storm over Ulm" (Frith) - 2:44 2. "Half Asleep/Half Awake" (Greaves) - 7:39 3. "Ruins" (Frith) - 12:00 4. "Solemn Music" (Frith) - 1:09 5. "Linguaphonie" (Henry Cow) - 5:58 6. "Upon Entering the Hotel Adlon" (Henry Cow) - 2:56 7. "Arcades" (Henry Cow) - 1:50 8. "Deluge" (Henry Cow) - 5:52 other credits: Produced by HENRY COW Phil Becque - recording engineer, mixing engineer (side 1) Andy Morris - recording engineer Mike Oldfield - recording engineer (part of "Ruins") Ray Smith - cover art Remastered for CD by Matt Murman
'DESPERATE STRAITS' (Released March 1975) Credited: SLAPP HAPPY/HENRY COW the band: Dagmar Krause (credited as "Dagmar") - voice, Wurlitzer ("In the Sickbay") Peter Blegvad - guitar, voice Anthony Moore - piano Tim Hodgkinson - clarinet, piano ("Caucasian Lullaby") Fred Frith - guitar, violin John Greaves - bass guitar, piano ("Bad Alchemy") Chris Cutler - drums, etc. with guests: Geoff Leigh - flute Pierre Moerlen - percussion ("Europa") Mont Campbell - French horn Mongezi Feza - trumpet Nick Evans - trombone Lindsay Cooper - bassoon, oboe the songs: 1. "Some Questions about Hats" (Moore, Blegvad) - 1:49 2. "The Owl" (Moore) - 2:14 3. "A Worm is at Work" (Moore, Blegvad) - 1:52 4. "Bad Alchemy" (Greaves, Blegvad) - 3:06 5. "Europa" (Moore, Blegvad) - 2:48 6. "Desperate Straights" (Moore) - 4:14 7. "Riding Tigers" (Blegvad) - 1:43 8. "Apes in Capes" (Moore) - 2:14 10. Strayed" (Blegvad) - 1:53 11. "Giants" (Moore, Blegvad) - 1:57 12. "Excerpt from The Messiah" (Handel, arr. Blegvad) - 1:48 13. "In the Sickbay" (Krause, Blegvad) - 2:08 14. "Caucasian Lullaby" (Cutler, Moore) - 8:20 other credits: Produced by Simon Heyworth, SLAPP HAPPY & HENRY COW Artwork by Peter Blevgad Remastered for CD by Bob Drake
'IN PRAISE OF LEARNING' (Released May 1975) Credited: HENRY COW (with SLAPP HAPPY) the band: Tim Hodgkinson - organ, clarinet, piano Fred Frith - guitar, violin, xylophone, piano John Greaves - bass guitar, piano Chris Cutler - drums, radio Dagmar Krause (credited as "Dagmar") - voice Peter Blegvad - guitar, voice, clarinet Anthony Moore - piano, electronics and tapework Lindsay Cooper - bassoon, oboe with guests: Geoff Leigh - soprano saxophone Mongezi Feza - trumpet Phil Becque - oscillator the songs: 1. "War" (Moore, Blegvad) - 2:25 2. "Living in the Heart of the Beast" (Hodgkinson) - 15:30 3. "Beginning: The Long March" (Henry Cow, Slapp Happy) - 6:26 4. "Beautiful as the Moon - Terrible as an Army with Banners" (Frith, Cutler) - 7:02 5. "Morning Star" (Henry Cow, Slapp Happy) - 6:05 other credits: Produced by Phil Becque, HENRY COW & SLAPP HAPPY Ray Smith - cover art Remastered for CD by Matt Murman
'WESTERN CULTURE' (Released 1979) the band: Tim Hodgkinson - organ, clarinet, alto saxophone, Hawaiian guitar, piano, vocals ("Viva Pa Ubu") Lindsay Cooper - bassoon, oboe, soprano saxophone, sopranino recorders, vocals ("Viva Pa Ubu") Fred Frith - electric & acoustic guitars, bass guitar, soprano saxophone (background "On the Raft"), vocals ("Viva Pa Ubu") Chris Cutler - drums, electric drums, noise, piano, trumpet (background "On the Raft"), vocals ("Viva Pa Ubu") with guests: Annemarie Roelofs (July-August 1978 sessions only) - trombone, violin Irène Schweizer - piano ("Gretels Tale") Georgie Born - bass guitar ("½ the Sky", "Viva Pa Ubu"), vocals ("Viva Pa Ubu") Dagmar Krause - vocals ("Viva Pa Ubu") the songs: (History and Prospects) - 18:10 1. "Industry" (Hodgkinson) 2. "The Decay of Cities" (Hodgkinson) 3. "On the Raft" (Hodgkinson) (Day by Day) - 18:17 4. "Falling Away" (Cooper) 5. "Gretels Tale" (Cooper) 6. "Look Back" (Cooper) 7. "½ the Sky" (Cooper, Hodgkinson) (Bonus tracks) 8. "Untitled" (silence only) - 1:29 9. "Viva Pa Ubu" (Hodgkinson) - 4:28 10. "Look Back (alt)" (Cooper) - 1:21 11. "Slice" (Cooper) - 0:36 other credits: Produced by Etienne Conod & HENRY COW Chris Cutler - cover art Remastered for CD by Bob Drake
'THE STUDIO Vol. 1-5' is a treasure trove for any adventurous listener. If you're new to the band, start with 'LEG END,' almost all it's tracks are composed instrumentals, or "DESPERATE STRAIGHTS," a collaboration with SLAPP HAPPY since all of it's tracks are of three to five minutes in length, and all but one feature vocals. If you're hooked, pick up the rest; 'UNREST' and 'IN PRAISE OF LEARNING" (with SLAPP HAPPY) both have a 50/50 ration of composition to improvisation. 'WESTERN CULTURE' features two LP-like side long instrumental compositions with some bonus tracks. The 2CD 'CONCERTS' is like an early mini-distillation of the live boxed sets and contains an excellent BBC Session medley and a great live recording of one of their best compositions, "Ruins." If you're interested in these sets don't delay much longer, they are currently out-of-print but Amazon.uk still carries them and is actually the cheapest way to go, they deduct the added VAT (tax) for foreign orders. They're also still available from the ReR MEGACORP site. Hit THE ROAD and get them all before it's too late......