Kew Rhone Original recording reissued
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Not long after bassist John Greaves parted company from seminal politoco-avant-prog superstars Henry Cow, he hooked up with guitarist, lyricist and Renaissance man Peter Blegvad (also a Cow alumnus) and singer Lisa Herman to produce one of the great lost albums of the seventies. Surreal, infuriating, complex and silly in just about equal parts, Kew Rhone was probably never going to set the world alight, but the fact it was released on the same day as Never Mind The Bollocks didn't do it any favours.
Kew.Rhone is a singular record, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum. There are faint whiffs of the Cow and their forebears (Soft Machine, Zappa etc); there's a hint of Carla Bley's Escalator Over The Hill too. In fact Bley and then husband Mike Mantler are on the record (as well as providing the studio facilities); this association marked the continuation of the pair's interest in British art rock and probably accounts for the presence of free jazz giant Andrew Cyrille on the drums.
With such a line-up, the music probably couldn't have helped but be a bit odd. But when you add Blegvad's luminous (or should that be numinous) poetry to the mix, things get a whole lot weirder. Kew.Rhone's texts are stuffed full of anagrams and assorted wordplay; some songs refer to themselves or other songs on the record. And I can't think of any other songs anywhere that invite you to examine the illustrations on the sleeve for clarification ("Pipeline"). Peel's foe, not a set animal, laminates a tone of sleep.
Those who feel that obvious displays of intellectual prowess involving references to archaeology, pataphysics and other arcana have no place on a rock record may have trouble with this sort of thing. But there's plenty more to hold the attention; Blegvad's laconic drawl and Herman's pure, unaffected tone make a nice double act, plus there's the complexities of Greaves' musical settings to consider. These are every inch the equal of the texts in their complexity; tidily anarchic, stuffed with blunt, vaguely jazzy harmonies and melodies that wander unpredictably. "Twenty Two Proverbs" could almost be from a Bernstein musical. Sort of. There's something that's simultaneously catchy and ungraspable about the whole thing, which just might explain its appeal. Ludicrous, serious and (if the truth be known) much more seditious than the Pistols ever were. --Peter Marsh
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Top Customer Reviews
The album opens with a slightly clumsy intro which stacks some main thematic ideas in a kind of big band arrangement - then after the inauspicious start we are into the superbly energetic "Twenty Two Proverbs", in which a list of aphorisms are set with chromatic chord progressions and wonderful points of arrangement (close vocal harmonies and mixtures of solo and ensemble singing). This also has a blistering heavy electric guitar solo by Peter Blegvad in its centre.
"Seven Scenes..." is introspective and atmospheric with a lilting jazzy middle section... this is music with wide ranging expressive vocal melodies. The piano playing by John Greaves is also especially notable on this track.
"Kew.Rhone" and "Pipeline" - these pieces are real highlights - great playing, great compositions, great rhythm and feel, great complex melodic and harmonic progressions. And... Mike Mantler's trumpet solo on "Pipeline" - awesome!
"Catalogue..." returns to introspection at the start and runs through some quite demented ostinatos and virtuosic fast singing... always growing in intensity throughout the piece
There is a bit of a dip in quality with "One Footnote" which is short, brash and humorous. "Three Tenses Onanism" has a nice piano intro but ultimately comes across as unnecessarily rambling and atonal - it is perhaps the most extremely avant garde piece on the album with a vocal by Peter Blegvad.Read more ›