Friday, 20 March, 2009

Henry Cow - In Praise of Learning (1975)

In Praise of Learning is an album by British avant-garde rock groups Henry Cow and Slapp Happy, recorded at Virgin Records' Manor studios in February and March 1975. It was the second of two collaborative albums by the two groups and was released in May 1975.
The album cover art work was by artist Ray Smith and was the last of the three "paint socks" to feature on Henry Cow's albums.
In Praise of Learning was the most overtly political album Henry Cow made. Printed on the back of the album cover is filmmaker John Grierson's quote "Art is not a mirror - it is a hammer", and the Tim Hodgkinson 16 minute composition "Living in the Heart of the Beast", augmented by Dagmar Krause's Armageddon-like vocals, made it quite clear where Henry Cow's political aspirations lay. Krause's powerful voice had added a new dimension to their music. The album opener, "War" (Moore/Blegvad) had been recorded the previous year during the making of the first Slapp Happy/Henry Cow collaborative album, Desperate Straights (1975).

"Living in the Heart of the Beast" began as an unfinished instrumental that Hodgkinson presented to the group, which was cut up and performed live in 1974 with improvisational sections added.[1] One such performance, "Halsteren" was recorded in Halsteren in September 1974, and appears in Volume 2: 1974-5 of The 40th Anniversary Henry Cow Box Set (2009). After the merger with Slapp Happy, Hodgkinson commissioned Peter Blegvad to write lyrics for the piece for Dagmar Krause to sing. But after several attempts, Blegvad admitted that he was "out of [his] depth", and Hodgkinson wrote the lyrics himself.

Chris Cutler's lyrics on "Beautiful as the Moon - Terrible as an Army with Banners" were the first song texts he had written, and the song was the first writing collaboration between Cutler and Fred Frith that later grew into Art Bears. The song also became the longest lasting "building block" the band used in subsequent live performances. [in wiki..]
1. "War" (Moore, Blegvad) – 2:25
2. "Living in the Heart of the Beast" (Hodgkinson) – 15:30
3. "Beginning: The Long March" (Henry Cow, Slapp Happy) – 6:26
4. "Beautiful as the Moon - Terrible as an Army with Banners" (Frith, Cutler) – 7:02
5. "Morning Star" (Henry Cow, Slapp Happy) – 6:05

Bonus track on 1991 CD re-issue:
6. "Lovers of Gold" (Henry Cow, Slapp Happy, Cutler) – 6:28
John Greaves - Bass, Piano
Lindsay Cooper - Bassoon, Oboe
Tim Hodgkinson - Clarinet, Organ, Piano
Chris Cutler - Drums, Noises
Anthony Moore - Electronics, Tape, Piano
Fred Frith - Guitar, Violin, Xylophone, Piano
Dagmar Krause - Voice
Geoff Leigh - Soprano Sax
Mongezi Feza - Trumpet
Peter Blegvad - Voice, Trumpet, Guitar
Phil Becque - Noise Oscillator



Spring Day said...

Aaaaaah (what more can I say about such a genius album?)
I've got a CD-re-issue, but without the bonus track, so I think, I'll need to get this too...

Anonymous said...

thanks i'll give it a try - steve.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Juju. Where are you, anyway?