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

2017-10-18
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart $amp; Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Seven That Spells - Cosmoerotic Dialogue with Lucifer – Is it a dialogue or one-way harangue? That's what you might ask emerging from this full-bore psychedelic freak-out of ferocious proto-metal fighting to stay alive (or conscious) against some...  (2010) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues