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Desperate Straight Import

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Import
  • ASIN: B000E1Z1BI
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,816,262 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Some Questions About Hats
  2. Owl
  3. Worm Is at Work
  4. Bad Alchemy
  5. Europa
  6. Desperate Straights
  7. Riding Tigers
  8. Apes in Capes
  9. Strayed
  10. Giants
  11. Excerpt from the Messiah
  12. In the Sickbay
  13. Caucasian Lullaby

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
When Slapp Happy and Henry Cow joined forces two albums resulted. The first was the monumental Henry Cow centred "In Praise of Learning", one of the most uncompromising and complex rock records ever. The second was this collection of basically Slapp Happy penned songs. This collection owes more to the Brecht/Weill school of art songwriting and is quite poppy is places, especially on tracks such as Peter Blegvads "Strayed". I am even reminded of some of Mike Westbrooks work. The songs are melodic, succinct and quite playful and in some ways signals the post Henry Cow project between Krause, Frith and Cutler as the Art Bears.
This is a charming album, unlike anything Henry Cow was involved in at that time. Of note are the tracks "Bad Alchemy" which would later appear on the "Concerts" album and the excellent "Riding Tigers". The final track "Caucasian Lullaby" does not really fit here, a rather austere instrumental which does tend to meander.
Only ever available as a poor mid-price double header with "Casablanca Moon" on Virgin, this version is very welcome indeed. This release is wonderfully remastered by Bob Drake who did such a top notch job on the recent Art Bears box set. It's also nice to see Peter Blegvad's original cover reproduced here. All in all this is a fine addition to ReR's re-release programme of all Henry Cow's studio albums.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Song writing doesn't get any more `left field' than the material on this singular gem. Okay that's the hype out of the way, now down to the business of justifying it.

The merging of Slapp Happy and Henry Cow looked unlikely on paper, what with the former being exponents of odd, vaguely `art house' songs and the latter being a band for whom the term `progressive' could have been coined. But for a couple of albums -the other one being `In Praise Of Learning'- they pulled it off. On DS they concocted a programme of songs for the last days of the world and in Dagmar Krause they had one of the most distinctive singers on the planet to put them out.

Thus, `A Worm Is At Work' is the product of individuals destined perhaps forever to look askance at the world, while the odd ditty that is `Europa', complete with horn chorale and chanting of a distinctly secular nature, is simultaneously modest and overblown.

The title track, incidentally, is an instrumental waltz for the most remote -and thus probably empty apart from the pianist and drummer- ballroom on the planet.

So anyone intent on joining a bemusing, slightly whimsical cult can start with this album as a kind of primer.
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Format: Audio CD
Desperate straights is one of my favourite albums of all time - along with The White album,Uncle Meat,The Madcap laughs and The Velvet Undergrounds' 1st.
Chris Cutlers'intricate but loose drumming is the backbone to the wonderful words and tunes.Add to this Dagmars' otherworldly voice and a kind of junky musical complexity, and you have something which is truly unique.
In fact,if I had a band,the avant garde /pop sound on this album is what I would aspire to (but would probably never acheive).And many's the time I sat and dwelt on their subtly amusing words;'Giants exist to deceive'they retreat if they're clearly perceived'(from 'Giants').A true wonder.
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Format: Audio CD
A worm , Extract , Riding and SomeQuestions .... four really good tracks . The rest rather dull , dated and meandering .

" In Praise of Learning " stands up , but this mixed collection doesn't .
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x892f600c) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x89203f48) out of 5 stars Very satisfying collaboration 10 May 2009
By Elliot Knapp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Looking back, the decision to join forces made by German art-pop band Slapp Happy and Canterbury avant-garde jazz/prog etc. ensemble Henry Cow seems like an especially strange one, especially considering it was the mid-1970's. Bizarre though it seems, the merger produced two excellent albums, not to mention plenty of unreleased material and future collaborations. Although Desperate Straights, the first of the team-ups, isn't necessarily the best place to start for either Slapp Happy or Henry Cow, fans of each group should find that the album combines the best of both bands without sacrificing either group's individuality.

Like the first Slapp Happy album(s) (the history of their second album is too complicated to go into now--I recommend Acnalbasac Noom above the other options), Desperate Straights is primarily structured around the lyrics of Peter Blegvad, sung by the peerless Dagmar Krause, set to music by both Blegvad and Anthony Moore. Of course, since Henry Cow is along for the ride, there are many exceptions and much of the instrumental backing is made complete thanks to their collective virtuosity.

Compared with Slapp Happy's first two albums, this one's much more out there--Dagmar's chanteuse-style of previous releases often gives way to a much more elastic, otherwordly sound. Her German accent gives the English lyrics a unique sound, and she's obviously in complete control of her tone and phrasing as she waltzes through alien avant-garde, cabaret, prog-jazz and weird rock styles without breaking a sweat. Of course, it helps that Blegvad's lyrics are great--concise, multi-layered, surreal, bizarre and often hilarious. Take "Some Questions About Hats," which is just that, featuring such classic lines as "Can one pit hats against vicious things, pernicious things? Licorice? Fish with wings?"

While the spirit of Casablanca Moon is still at play, fans of that album who are unfamiliar with Henry Cow may find themselves scratching their heads at the dearth of straight-up pop tunes. "Bad Alchemy" sees Dagmar doubling an angular piano line while Fred Frith and Chris Cutler go hog wild on the guitar and drums, respectively (Cutler's drumming all over this album has to be some of the most creative and entertaining I've ever heard). "Giants" is a dialog between a father and daughter set to creepy, swirling clarinet and piano. Though the structure is very progressive, the songs are actually chock full of hooks and most clock in at less than 3 minutes. "A Worm At Work" has that irresistibly catchy "no no no no no stop that cynical line!" refrain, "Strayed" sounds like a Velvet Underground outtake without the cutesy lo-fi feel, "Riding Tigers" and "Excerpt From Messiah" rock with a generous helping of pathos. Throughout, Henry Cow lends a totally off-kilter hand with unconventional wind arrangements, crazy jazz, but the tightly-written nature of the songs reins them in from their usual sprawling and more challenging sounds (for a darker take on this sound, check out the Henry Cow/Slapp Happy In Praise of Learning).

Really, the only thing holding this fine, challenging and eclectic batch of experimental pop from five stars is the length--"Caucasian Lullabye" and "Desperate Straights" (less so) seem present to take up space, and without them this would be a very short album indeed. But with such entertaining music, it's hardly a serious complaint. If you're new to either band, check out Acnalbasac Noom for Slapp Happy or Leg End for Henry Cow. If you like what you hear, you'll probably enjoy Desperate Straights.
HASH(0x902204ec) out of 5 stars Slapp happy/Henry cow winning combo 7 Jan. 2014
By Nick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Vinyl Verified Purchase
Another example of the majesty and power that is Henry cow, and with the addition of slapp happy an entirely new creature was born. Dagmar Krause vocals are avant pop legend great purchase. Great for any prog/ avant collector.
HASH(0x90220444) out of 5 stars The highlight of the proceedings was Dagmar's beautiful, exotic voice 13 Feb. 2016
By SJ Bang - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I remember this album from the 70's. I found the music oddly appealing.
The highlight of the proceedings was Dagmar's beautiful, exotic voice.
This album is a small masterpiece, and at the time unlike, anything else going on.
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