Henry Cow — In Praise of Learning
(ReR Megacorp ReR HC3, 1975/2000, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2000-10-01
For readers familiar with In Praise of Learning I need say no more than, “Here it is, come and get it.” This release captures all the wonderful strangeness of the original in pristine digital clarity. So if you’re like me, and looking to get some of your old vinyl favorites on CD, wait no longer for Henry Cow. For readers unfamiliar with the album, it’s a little harder to decide what to say. This loose band of musical and political radicals produced some of the most original music of the rock era. Their uncompromising approach to music brooked no bending to commerciality or accessibility. The lyrics read like modern poetry, without many rhymes, though with much reason (no “ooh, baby, baby”); the music features no catchy themes you’re likely to find yourself humming (though that first part of “War” ends up going through my head a lot: “Tell of the birth, tell how war appeared on Earth”). Sure, Dagmar’s voice can be a little grating (OK, a lot grating), but there’s a reason for everything with these art rock pioneers. She can sound much sweeter when the music calls for it. Fred Frith’s guitar is outstanding, and the rhythm section of John Greaves (bass) and Chris Cutler (drums) handles the jagged arrangements (there are no grooves here) forcefully. Even after 25 years, this album sounds fresh and alive.
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