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3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Open Spaces
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 15 January 2011
For anyone whose life is so empty that they take an interest in such things CMU stood for Contemporary Music Unit, which despite being a bit pompous is actually not a bad summary of what this band was all about. The late 1960s / early 1970s was of course an era in which a lot more `went' than the present day, and in their own way CMU `went' as well an many another now desperately obscure British band. In Larraine Odell they had a singer far more persuasive than a lot of prog rock bellowers (and don't get me started on Jon Anderson even though he's anything but a bellower) and they had an instrumental prowess which while it reeked of technical accomplishment was never an end in itself. To top all this off it's clear too that their record collections stretched from the Kinks to John Coltrane, which is never a bad thing.

This would explain why they do a creditable rendition of Pharaoh Sanders's "Japan" and manage to make it sound completely natural, as opposed to a piece of cod exotica.

To this reviewer's ear the presence of a flute can have the effect of pinning something in time and this works with regards to "Mystical Sounds" which is a floating, vaguely ambient thing enhanced in no small measure by Odell's understated vocal.

"Henry" was written by Odell and her drummer husband Roger. Lyrically it's about as far from the hackneyed themes of the day as it was possible to be, being about a young man sinking into general dissipation and ultimately death, while instrumentally it's enhanced in no small measure by guitar solos informed in equal parts by Pat Martino and Britain's own Terry Smith.

The closing title track is effectively atmospheric and as much as anything here indicative of how far this band could reach, and effectively at that.

Passing time has of course had the effect of setting the seal on their catalogue, but no matter. Discovery is one of life's straightforward joys.
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on 22 December 2008
One of a handful of non-folk acts deployed by Transatlantic Records to broaden its appeal, the Contemporary Music Unit (or less wieldy CMU) was precisely that. The brainchild of guitarist Ed Lee (author of an academic tome on music from medieval folk to contemporary progressive rock), it brought the differing musical influences of its six members to the table of this 1971 debut in a melding that put the D in diversity. Folk, reggae and wilfully experimentalist rock skate over a modern jazz blues surface a touch too erratically as to lend the album the focus it would benefit from on occasion, yet there was clearly something here and opener `Henry', Pentangle-like `Mystical Sounds', eastern-tinged `Japan' are attention-getters while the eerie title track is hypnotically timeless.
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