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Thread: Henry Cow Discussion

  1. #26
    I'm here for the moosic NogbadTheBad's Avatar
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    Really nice review, I need that box, particularly the second one with the DVD.
    Ian

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  2. #27
    Member Lieto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zombywoof View Post
    Henry Cow are one of those bands who seem to lack any 'transitional' albums. Each album is a completely different, and fully formed variation of Cow. And over 5 studio albums (including "Desperate Straights"), they covered more ground than many groups did in an entire career.
    Well said Ian, and so true. Each one is its own animal. I still need to get Desperate Straights, I always forget about it, but something tells me I will love it.

    Seems like a lot of people are not huge on In Praise of Learning. I love this one, always have. War is such a fun opener, and you have the 2 Cow live staples, Beautiful as the Moon... and the monstrous Living in The Heart. Quite powerful. I love the improv Morning Star too. In the first minute, there is this section were Cooper's Bassoon plays these rapid-fire 16th notes, just AWESOME!

    WC is amazing amazing. Industry is my favorite composition on there, it kills me. One of the best album opener's ever (and that's just the first 30 seconds!)
    "Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible"
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  3. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Lieto View Post
    Well said Ian, and so true. Each one is its own animal. I still need to get Desperate Straights, I always forget about it, but something tells me I will love it.

    WC is amazing amazing. Industry is my favorite composition on there, it kills me. One of the best album opener's ever (and that's just the first 30 seconds!)
    Like you said, Desperate Straights is very much its own beast, yet there's something strangely familiar about parts of it - even though the album is quite heavily the work of Anthony Moore. It is arguably the overall *disparate* (pun yahoo!) Cow record, veering from the seemingly superfluous waltz of the title track through sophisticated pop ("Riding Tigers"), Brecht'ian avant-cabaret and a rather hard-winded stab at pure contemporary composition with "Caucasian Lullaby". I also find it interesting that it's arguably the only Cow creation to be dominated by one specific instrument, namely the piano. There's some great playing to be heard here.

    The trick about Western Culture and pieces like "Industry" and "The Decay of Cities" in particular, rests somewhat in the art of apparent understatement; you somehow need to be moderately seasoned to be able to grasp the incredible level of intricacy in those pieces. While other performers would sway about their chops pretty much individually, the virtuosity of Henry Cow lay on the ensemble execution itself - which could be outright staggering. I can think of no other British band who would have undertaken such a formalist approach to composition or production, still HC's music always seemed to retain a quite intimate sense of emotional charge. "On The Raft" for example, no matter the dissonance, is one of the most beautiful songs I know.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  4. #29
    I like In Praise Of Learning and Concerts best, of the original albums. The boxset also has some great music on it, as well as that fantastic DVD.

    In particular, I love side one of Concerts. I love how they come back to Beautiful As The Moon... with that long sustained fuzz bass note. And I've always found their improvisations very interesting.

    And I've always been impressed that even though most of the band members are apparently still friendly and work together in varying combinations, they always resisted any temptation to do a Henry Cow reunion. I know it was said that even if they did a reunion, they'd not play the old music, so it there wouldn't be any point to calling any such project Henry Cow anyway, but I've always liked that they've left that alone and never did it.

  5. #30
    Chronic Overspender zombywoof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lieto View Post
    Well said Ian, and so true. Each one is its own animal. I still need to get Desperate Straights, I always forget about it, but something tells me I will love it.

    Seems like a lot of people are not huge on In Praise of Learning. I love this one, always have. War is such a fun opener, and you have the 2 Cow live staples, Beautiful as the Moon... and the monstrous Living in The Heart. Quite powerful. I love the improv Morning Star too. In the first minute, there is this section were Cooper's Bassoon plays these rapid-fire 16th notes, just AWESOME!

    WC is amazing amazing. Industry is my favorite composition on there, it kills me. One of the best album opener's ever (and that's just the first 30 seconds!)
    On the contrary, I love IPoL! Here's my ranking:

    In Praise
    LegEnd
    Western Culture
    Unrest
    Desperate Straights
    Concerts (I'm sorry, despite the love it gets, it's the only Cow album I just don't care for. Except for side 1, side 1 is awesome!)
    Check out Colouratura's sophomore release Unfamiliar Skies - out this spring on Melodic Revolution Records!

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  6. #31
    I'm here for the moosic NogbadTheBad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zombywoof View Post
    On the contrary, I love IPoL! Here's my ranking:


    Concerts (I'm sorry, despite the love it gets, it's the only Cow album I just don't care for. Except for side 1, side 1 is awesome!)
    See you need to give this the Ummagumma treatment and pretend the 2nd disc doesn't exist. I adore the first disc and hardly ever play the second. That still makes it brilliant for me.
    Ian

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    There are only 10 types of people in the World, those who understand binary and those that don't.

  7. #32
    Member Lieto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    The trick about Western Culture and pieces like "Industry" and "The Decay of Cities" in particular, rests somewhat in the art of apparent understatement; you somehow need to be moderately seasoned to be able to grasp the incredible level of intricacy in those pieces. While other performers would sway about their chops pretty much individually, the virtuosity of Henry Cow lay on the ensemble execution itself - which could be outright staggering. I can think of no other British band who would have undertaken such a formalist approach to composition or production, still HC's music always seemed to retain a quite intimate sense of emotional charge. "On The Raft" for example, no matter the dissonance, is one of the most beautiful songs I know.
    Amen to that! I have liked this since I first heard it years ago, but only recently do I really "get it" I think.The mastery of Henry Cow was indeed the group itself. Its staggering how they all come together to create this monstrously creative force. On The Raft is quite beautiful. Few pieces can conjure the feeling of rafting down a river surrounded by nuclear fallout. its pretty damn powerful.

    Another thing I noticed is the great keyboard sounds Tim Hodgkinson uses. I have heard few similar sounds, they are a unique part of the cow sound
    "Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible"
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  8. #33
    Desperate Straights is one of my fav albums ever
    But I am such a hopeless Dagmar fanboy

  9. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Sputnik View Post
    I struggle with this band. I have huge respect for them, but they do a lot of stuff I don't particularly enjoy. But still, I keep trying. They are my #1 "broccoli" band.

    Oddly, my favorite by far is Western Culture. I think this one strips away many of the elements I don't like and focuses on intense compositions. It's a rough ride, but to me it is sharp and focused in a way much of their other material is not to me. I just purchased In Praise of Learning fairly recently. I've spun it a few times and I like it better than I thought I would from sampling it. My wife didn't like it, so I have to be judicious when I spin it to preserve the peace. She likes some avant, dissonant stuff, but something about this one rubbed her the wrong way.

    I only have the four studio albums, I don't have any of the live stuff.

    Bill
    Nothing odd about putting Western Culture at the top -I think its their most fully realised written album. It took me by surprise when I first heard it -I loved their first album and half of the second and I saw them live several times as I lived in London when they were around. But I loathed their improvisations and when Dagmar joined , her vocals tested my endurance, and although I saw them maybe three times with her on board, I didn't bother going to their later gigs. They did still get written about in the Melody Maker but everything about them seemed to be about their support of the miners strike or feminism -their interviews were very intensely political but rarely told you much about the music. So when they appeared near me on their final tour I didn't bother going, on the assumption it would be one long free improv with some Dagmar wailing. But then I took a chance on Western Culture and was gobsmacked -they'd gone completely the other way and produced a tightly composed studio album. I loved it and still do, and for me it paved the way for Univers Zero when I first heard them shortly after.

  10. #35
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    I like all of them including Desperate straights. Concerts was the first HC-album I heard and bought.
    Western Culture is quite different from the others, far ahead of its time. Still is. Industry is one of my fave HC tunes.

  11. #36
    Side one of Unrest is my favorite Henry Cow by far. (that's the first three tracks if you've only heard the CDs.)
    I bought the LP in '74 or '75, saw it in a local record shop in rural Illinois. I'd never heard of them but the title and artwork etc intrigued me. I loved it from the first note. Made a big impression on me. Not so much in showing me something I'd never imagined, but more like an affirmation, a solid confirmation that there were people doing this sort of thing and able to actually put it on records. (that happened once again for me in the late 70's with the punk and what came after it explosion.)

    BD
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  12. #37
    chalkpie
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    Great thread Mike! You know I did a huge Cow binge weeks ago - I listened to the 4 studio albums and Concerts multiple times each, and honestly I can't choose a favorite because each one has something truly unique to offer and is an artistic statement unto itself. I love the fact that Cutler plays traditional grip also .....never knew that until the videos starting popping up on YT. This is truly desert island music for me due to its immense detail and density. John Greaves is also a major bad ass, and of course Frith is just a most wonderful musician with enough talent and creativity for 2 or 3 lifetimes. Start digging into his solo works for more from this "family".

    The improvs of "Unrest" really resonated with me this time, there is some structure there at times, but I love the aural painting this group achieved....'music' alone didn't cut it for what they wanted to say, so they went further and also used 'sound'....I think there is a distinction there. I wish I would have seen the Frith and Co. trio at the Stone in NYC years ago but something came up. I still have never heard remixes and not sure I want to either.

    THE COW!

  13. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by Udi Koomran View Post
    Desperate Straights is one of my fav albums ever
    But I am such a hopeless Dagmar fanboy
    Same here

    Quote Originally Posted by NogbadTheBad View Post
    See you need to give this the Ummagumma treatment and pretend the 2nd disc doesn't exist. I adore the first disc and hardly ever play the second. That still makes it brilliant for me.
    You forgot the second half of the Ummagumma treatment-
    After 10 years out of laziness or boredom or both, you listen to it whole just to find out how brilliant the parts you always skipped are
    This also holds for Unrest.

  14. #39
    Boo! walt's Avatar
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    Hearing Legend,Unrest,Concerts..et al many years ago for the first time.....sure nuff' turned my head around.Challenging,perplexing at times,i didn't 'get it' right off.

    Like much good music that challenges the(my) ear,it opened itself up to me more with each listen.

    The improv cd of the Henry Cow box(Trondheim) is some of the most amazing music i've heard.

    Viva la Vache!!
    Last edited by walt; 03-06-2014 at 12:20 PM.
    "please do not understand me too quickly"-andre gide

  15. #40
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Triscuits View Post
    I've been wondering if I was the only person who considered Desperate Straights part of the Henry Cow canon.
    Difficult to say it isn't (thopugh a debate is possible), but I'm not a fan of Dagmarr's voice >> which is why IPOL was the second-last HC before DS
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from heroin-addicts to crazy ones

  16. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    The improvs of "Unrest" really resonated with me this time, there is some structure there at times, but I love the aural painting this group achieved....'music' alone didn't cut it for what they wanted to say, so they went further and also used 'sound'....I think there is a distinction there.
    The improvs on Unrest - which I see as a kind of continuous section - differ from most other HC studio "free forms" in that they were meticulously reprocessed and submitted to numerous manipulations afterwards, resulting in a sort of "improsition" concept which was quite fresh for its time (Egg had tried something mildly similar with "Boilk" on their second album, and obviously Faust and Can were doing related things albeit with other outsets). I personally think this is where their "free" and "tight" aspects melt together on a more integral level (and "Half Asleep; Half Awake" takes this diversity to its most successful extreme, IMO). That part of "Deluge" where the outline ostinato from "Ruins" is repeated before ending in a drunken oddball tune (by Greaves) remains one of my fave closing segments of any rock album.
    Last edited by Scrotum Scissor; 03-05-2014 at 09:35 AM.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  17. #42
    Progga mogrooves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Triscuits View Post
    I've been wondering if I was the only person who considered Desperate Straights part of the Henry Cow canon.
    I consider it a Slapp Happy LP. Pop music for smart people.
    Michael: "Harold, don't you have any other music, you know, from [last] century?"
    Harold: "There is no other music....."

  18. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by alanterrill View Post
    Nothing odd about putting Western Culture at the top -I think its their most fully realised written album.
    Yeah, apparently not. I was sort of surprised that so many here put WC at the top of their lists, I always though their other albums were the fan favorites. I also feel that WC is their more fully realized album. I'm going to spin this and the other HC albums over the coming week to see if anything has changed in my assessments.

    Bill

  19. #44
    Member Phlakaton's Avatar
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    Upon Entering the Hotel Adlon - OMG - everytime I hear it I get something new from it. The 51 second mark - with the wind instruments in unison rolling over the staggering bass and drums - SO GOOD. Ridiculous how cool their improvs were.

  20. #45
    I'm here for the moosic NogbadTheBad's Avatar
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    I'm having a Henry Cow day, starting with Unrest.
    Ian

    I blame Wynton, what was the question?
    There are only 10 types of people in the World, those who understand binary and those that don't.

  21. #46
    Member Guitarplyrjvb's Avatar
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    Western Culture for me too. I only got it after Leg End an In Praise of Learning. I rank 'em as I've listed them! I probably need to get Unrest and Concerts, too.

  22. #47
    A few years ago, Henry Cow's former U.S. label - East Side Digital- told them - and I quote: "The reason there are so few sales (in America) is that no-one here cares for this band anymore. The music has not aged well, and the public's tastes have changed". Though they had all long moved on, most of the old band members were somewhat shocked, felt insulted or were a bit saddened to hear this.

    To free up some storage space, East Side Digital sent about 1,000 units of each Cow to rer usa AT NO CHARGE, and let the band out of whatever may have been left of their old contract. Those units, which had been gathering warehouse dust for years, were mostly shifted in a few short months, paving way for the Bob Drake re-master/ re-issues, and the ensuing three Henry Cow box sets. My point being that some of us still find this band's music relevant, excellent, uncompromising, rewarding to hear and ahead of its time.

    The thumbnail to the left is my personal fave, but I love them all, and can't understand some people's non-plussed attitude towards sides 3 & 4 of "Concerts". It seems the BBC (side 1) gets all of the accolades, but to my ears, Side 3, "Oslo", is the real gem. It's one of the highlights of the band's recorded career, and is a half-hour adventure for the ears, if given a chance. Although they were technically coming from the world of "Rock" music, as improvisors Henry Cow were up there with the best (Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuovo Conso, AMM, Music Improvisation Company, etc.), if merely because their overall craft incorporated immense amounts of time devoted to free-form experimenting - much more so than their mostly composed, recorded output might suggest.

    Anyway, their catalog still sells, because it's good stuff, Maynard.

  23. #48
    Howdy Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prehensile Pencil View Post
    "The reason there are so few sales (in America) is that no-one here cares for this band anymore. The music has not aged well, and the public's tastes have changed".
    Yeah, because it was at the top of the Billboard charts until just recently.

  24. #49
    I'm not even in the band and I'm insulted by East Side Digtal's assumption. Their loss.

  25. #50
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prehensile Pencil View Post
    A few years ago, Henry Cow's former U.S. label - East Side Digital- told them - and I quote: "The reason there are so few sales (in America) is that no-one here cares for this band anymore. The music has not aged well, and the public's tastes have changed". Though they had all long moved on, most of the old band members were somewhat shocked, felt insulted or were a bit saddened to hear this.
    They might have turned off a lot of their former and/or potential fans with severely re-made initial versions of the 3 sock albums....

    Just a thought.
    Steve F.

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