Concerts, from those masters of avant-garde progressive rock Henry Cow, was originally released in 1976, sandwiched in between the studio albums In Praise of Learning and Western Culture. Remastered here by Bob Drake and reissued by ReR Megacorp, this 2CD set of far reaching imrov's and complex progressive rock, free-jazz, and avant-garde can now really be enjoyed by longtime fans of the band.
Making up Henry Cow at this time period was Lindsay Cooper (bassoon/flute/oboe), Chris Cutler (drums), Dagmar Krause (vocals), Fred Frith (guitar/piano), John Greaves (bass/vocals/celeste), Tim Hodgkinson (organ/clarinet/sax), with Geoff Leigh replacing Lindsey Cooper for some of the performances here on the CD. The first five tracks on CD 1 are BBC recordings from 1975, and the band covers some Henry Cow classics like "Beautiful As the Moon" and "Nirvana For Mice", not too mention a great version of The Soft Machine's "Gloria Gloom". If you like "out there" avant-garde music, you will love the dissonant and disjointed forays into worlds unknown that the band teeters off into here. For some, the addition of Dagmar Krause on vocals added an ominous element to the band's music-depending on your vocal tastes you may or may not like what she called "singing", but she certainly adds a unique flair to the music of Henry Cow. "Bad Alchemy" and "Little Red Riding Hood Hits the Road" sees Robert Wyatt joining the band for some historic moments recorded at the New London Theater. The remainder of the first disc are tracks recorded from Italy and Holland, the standout being the killer yet offbeat jazz/avant-garde gem "Ruins". You never know what to expect with these guys, as the listener is hit will all sorts of off-kilter passages created by sax, flute, oboe, bassoon, guitar, keyboards, and voices. There's not a shred of anything resembling "commercial music" anywhere here!
The second CD kicks off with a lengthy improvisation recorded in Oslo, Norway in 1975 and is titled "Oslo". Free-jazz nuts will totally go ape-shit with this piece, as it hits you like some head-on asteroid crash between Ornette Coleman and Frank Zappa. The remaining tracks on this set were recorded at The Manor in Oxford in 1973, and features Geoff Leigh on reeds and woodwinds. Hodgkinson plays some nice piano on the suite "Keeping Warm in Winter/Sweet Heart of Mine" while Leigh floats in and out of the mix with various instruments, and listen for Frith's rampaging guitar licks occasionally screaming into earshot like some rabid monster waiting to be let loose.
This is a really great reissue all around. The sound is wonderful, and the booklet packed with info and interviews. For those new to Henry Cow, be prepared for lots of improvisations here, and don't expect anthing resembling a catchy melody. If you are cool with that, then jump on and experience one of the most avant-garde acts to ever grace the prog rock scene, Henry Cow.
1) Beautiful As the Moon, Terrible as an Army With Banners
2) Nirvana For Mice
3) The Ottawa Song
4) Gloria Gloom
5) Beautiful As the Moon (Reprise)
6) Bad Alchemy
7) Little Red Riding Hood Hits the Road
10) Groningen Again
9) Off the Map
10) Cafe Royal
11) Keeping Warm in Winter/Sweet Heart of Mine