Exposé Online banner

Michael Mantler / Edward Gorey — The Hapless Child and Other Inscrutable Stories
(WATT4 831-828-2, 1976/1999, CD)

by Jeff Melton, Published 2000-05-01

The Hapless Child and Other Inscrutable Stories Cover art

It's a rare project that extracts elements of the written word and transfers them eloquently to an audio performance. Composer/trumpet player Michael Mantler's first major success with this approach was with 1976's star-studded adaptation of the twisted children's stories of Edward Gorey. Who better to relate the tales of woe than Robert Wyatt with Terje Rypdal on lead guitar backed by a crackshot jazz rhythm section including Steve Swallow on bass and Jack DeJohnette on traps. Mantler's then wife, Carla Bley handled the keys on the album, providing a solid piano foundation (and her use of fuzz Clavinet). Rypdal's tortured guitar adds a presence of tension and dismay to each track on the album. His brief solos on "The Insect God" and the title track are some of the high points of the disc. The interplay of Bley/Swallow/DeJohnette is also a constant joy especially on "The Doubtful Guest." Probably the most upsetting pieces on the disc are the final two, if only for their imagery and impassioned delivery: "The Remembered Visit," which features an odd promise made after meeting with an old man. While on the title track Wyatt is at his more dire and forlorn as he croons the tragic story of Charlotte Sophia. Regardless, the album is a seminal work and holds up to the test of time as high art with an unsettling vision of its disturbed characters. The six stories can also be found separately in Gorey's bound work, Amphigorey where the imagery is visualized with his drawings. The Hapless Child is one of my top ten re-releases of the year.


Filed under: Reissues, Issue 19, 1999 releases, 1976 recordings

Related artist(s): Terje Rypdal, Robert Wyatt, Jack DeJohnette, Edward Gorey, Michael Mantler, Steve Swallow

Latest news

2020-10-14
Audion Is Back in Business – Our esteemed colleague Alan Freeman has restarted Audion Magazine after a seven year hiatus. The new incarnation is available online on their Bandcamp site. Audion's history goes back to 1984, and included 58 issues up to 2013. Issue #59 is available now, and #60 is in the works. » Read more

2020-10-06
Romantic Warriors IV – Krautrock (Part 2) Is in the Works – Zeitgeist Media, the people who have brought us the great series of documentary films chronicling the history of progressive rock, are working on the second installment of their examination of German music. Krautrock 2 will focus on artists from Münich such as Guru Guru, Amon Düül II, Xhol Caravan, Kraan, Witthüser & Westrupp, and Popol Vuh. » Read more

2020-09-09
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more

2020-09-05
Gary Peacock RIP – Legendary bassist Gary Peacock, veteran of many recordings and performances with Paul Bley, George Russell, Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, and many more. » Read more

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Tony Levin - Waters of Eden – Over the last half dozen years, King Crimson bassist Tony Levin has produced a small but impressive body of work on his own Papa Bear Records, including World Diary (1995), a collection of...  (2001) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues