Henry Cow
Leg End


4.0
excellent

Review

by Kusuriuri USER (7 Reviews)
May 4th, 2016 | 12 replies


Release Date: 1973 | Tracklist


To anyone in-the-know with the once-bustling Canterbury Scene, Henry Cow remain one of the scene's most treasured anomalies and require no introduction as such. For those who aren't, you will find them familiar if you're in any way shape or form knowledgable about the so-called "Rock In Oposition" scene which thrived through out the 1970s. You may also be aware of them if you're connected with the "Avant-Prog" style (Essentially Progressive rock but with Avant-Garde/Free Jazz and modern classical as influences as opposed to the older, more standard [For lack of a better word] versions of those genres). Whether or not you are familiar with them from any of those is irrelvant, but it speaks of how far a band is willing to unravel their creativity that they can be easily associated with so many scenes; Henry Cow was arguably the most immediately unique spawn of all of the scenes I mentioned previously, and to me, they are a showcase of what "Progressive" Rock is really about - No bounds, no limits, and genre tags are completely irrelevant. This statement grows truer and truer the further you explore their discog, but on Legend (or Leg End), the band proves that even when they're playing a lighter version of what would be themselves later, their imagination is still leagues ahead of the rest.

Henry Cow's sound here is perhaps the easiest to describe in their discography. Simply put, you have an ensemble of twisted but surprisingly charming Jazz melodies (Including the horns) unravelling over a hefty dose of atonality and dissonance taken straight from the works of the likes of Béla Bartók, all covered up with the Zappa-esque whimsy that was common among many rock British "Underground" rock outfits from the time. If you've been immediately turned off from the record and this review by the previous statement linking this to Zappa's campiness, don't fret; While it was and still is hardly a novel concept to drench your music with that kind of humor, Henry Cow make it work by contrasting most of their peers (And in a lot of occasions, Zappa himself) by never letting it turn into their identity or main flare - By all means, the real spectacle here is in the band members themselves. None of the band members are slouches; These are some seriously talented people at their craft, and while they could inexcusably fall under the much maligned "Wank" territory, Henry Cow are among the few that not only don't care, not only embrace it, but use it to their advantage - It's hard to imagine how some of these compositions, especially some of the looser ones found particularly around the middle of the record, could've ever been done without musicians as maddeningly skilled as they are.

If you go back to the beginning of the previous paragraph, you might notice that I mentioned a few things this resembled, but in no case did I mention "Rock" - It's certainly no stretch to classify it as that, especially given that the band is the de facto leader of the aformentioned "Rock In Oposition" movement, but I feel describing them as that implies the wrong things as much of this could've easily been played with other non-rock instruments. No matter what you think of rock, it's in many ways a limiting label (Or rather, more limiting than most others, as every label has its own set of unwritten rules). But then you have moments like the first 3 minutes or so of "Teenbeat (Reprise)", where we are immediately greeted by a fuzzy, soaring guitar solo that is difficult to think where could've it sounded better if not in the trusty electric guitar. And the refusal to being pigeon holed in any overly specific way doesn't end there; Though not quite as much as the work found later, the band nontheless applies as substancial dose of improvisation their way. Take for example, the introduction to "Teenbeat" - Slow, meandearing in its somewhat dark, but weirdly charming atmosphere (I say weirdly charming, because as dark as they may get here, the sense of humor and light-heartedness that permeates the other tracks continues to shine through in much of their playing and prevents the album from ever falling into the abyss), with the band members only contributing if they see fit, only coming close to the kind of jams we were being fed with for about 1 minute. Though it can be hard to notice because all of the band members are so in-tune together, improvisation can be found all over the record and it's a testament to the band's flawless chemistry and individual skill that, even at its most messy it still feels painstakingly constructed. And then why not mention the choir line that dominates the album's closer, "Nine Funerals Of The Citizen King", for good measure"

So once we take all of this into account, what exactly could we define Henry Cow as" Rock" Jazz" Free improvisation" Ambient" Choral" The truth is most likely somewhere in the middle as it quite often is, but whatever the answer is is irrelevant, because this only accentuates why to me (And if you let me reiterate my previous statement on the first paragraph), this band gets what "Progressive", especially rock kind, is really about - Genres don't matter. No matter how insane or bizarre your idea may be, if you have enough conviction and a fair amount of ability, you can make it work. Henry Cow fearlessly drifts in and around modern musical concepts with ease and constantly assaults the ear in a way that's always challenging but rarely unlistenable, with plenty of beauty to behold and plenty of bits to nod along and hum to.

As a jam and an intellectual experience (no matter how pretentious the very idea may be), very few albums can reach the balance Legend could. A beacon of creativity, packed with energy nearly unmatched by any of their progressive adversaries, Henry Cow's Legend is a worthy addition to any prog enthusiast's collection. Do not pass up on it, no matter what your take on any of the styles that gave it birth is; You might find yourself just as surprised as I was at how much you enjoy it.



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user ratings (35)
Chart.
3.9
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Gwyn.
May 4th 2016


17163 Comments


It turns out writing soundoffs a lot helps in writing reviews a fair bit, and listening to a lot of things without reviews helps in motivation

As always, feedback is more than welcome. I'm going to sleep very soon, so any mistakes you can find, I will fix later, tomorrow morning or afternoon.

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
May 4th 2016


18319 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES



dibs on In Praise of Learning, I adore that one



"one of the styles" - "one of the scene's"

" which trived through out the 70s" - "which thrived throughout the 1970s"

" (Essentially Progressive rock but with Avant-Garde/Free Jazz and modern classical as influences as opposed to the older, more standard [For lack of a better word] versions of those genres)" - "(essentially, it's progressive rock with an avant-garde/jazz or modern classical music as its influence as opposed to the very European influence of their rather standard contemporaries)" (do what you wish with that one)

"Henry Cow's sound here is perhaps the easiest to describe in their discography - " put the period there instead of the dash.

" Take for example, the introduction to "Teenbeat"; Slow, meandearing in its somewhat dark, but weirdly charming atmosphere (For as dark as they may get here, the sense of humor and light-heartedness that permiates the other tracks continues to shine through in much of their playing and prevents the album from ever falling into an abyss)," - Cut the semicolon after Teenbeat, add the dash ; move the segment in parenthesis to after the initial sentence. Also, that segment, change "permiate" to "permeate".

" nevermind the exclusively improvised tracks (The aforementioned "Teenbeat (Introduction)" and "The Tenth Chaffinch")," - cut this

"So once we take all of this, we're left wondering where does that leave the band in?" - "So once we take all of this into account, what exactly could we define Henry Cow as?"

"re-itirate" - "reiterate"



tbc

Digging: Pet Shop Boys - Behaviour

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
May 4th 2016


18319 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

and done



"The truth is most likely somewhere in the middle as it quite often is, but whatever the answer is is irrelevant, because this only accentuates why to me (And if you let me re-itirate my previous statement on the first paragraph), this band gets what "Progressive", especially rock kind, is really about - Genres don't matter." - "The answer is definitely hard to define, yet it's not exactly relevant to Henry Cow and their music. However, their music really proves that know what it means to be progressive and what it's about. Genres and labels be damned."

" However insane your idea is, if you know have enough conviction and a fair amount of ability, you can make it work." - "No matter how insane or bizarre your idea may be, if you have enough conviction and fair amount of ability, you can definitely make it work."

" The band unflinching swirls in and around modern musical concepts non-chalantly and constantly assaults the ear in a way that's always challenging but rarely unlistenable, with plenty of beauty to behold and plenty of bits to nod along and hum to." - "Henry Cow fearlessly drifts in and around modern musical concepts with ease, constantly assaulting the senses in a way that challenges its listener, yet contains its own beauty within the dissonance."

"As a jam and an "intellectual" experience, however horribly pretentious that very idea may be, few albums can reach the balance that this album here can. Legend is a gem, a beacon of creativity and energy reached by few and exceeded by fewer, and a more than worthy addition to the collection of any "Prog" enthusiast. Don't pass it up." - "As a jam and an intellectual experience (no matter how pretentious the very idea may be), very few albums can reach the balance Legend could. A beacon of creativity, packed with energy nearly unmatched by any of their progressive adversaries, Henry Cow's Legend is a worthy addition to any prog enthusiast's collection.

Keyblade
May 4th 2016


26481 Comments


sweet rev gwyn, that conclusion especially is v nice. makes me wanna go check this out

YetAnotherBrick
May 4th 2016


6691 Comments


awesome review. only album i've heard from these guys is Unrest, but it's sweet so i should prolly get back to em.

Gwyn.
May 4th 2016


17163 Comments


Finally here to fix some shit (Thnk u Fripp my man 😚)

Thanks ya'll for the words, and do check this out, if you dig some involving, out there shit that's also damn fun and pretty this should tickle your fancy, and if you dig that and ALSO prog this is unskippable

YetAnotherBrick
May 4th 2016


6691 Comments


sounds pretty damn unskippable

TwigTW
May 5th 2016


3598 Comments


Great review--will check--I've heard of Henry Cow before, but I've never listened to them. Your review makes them sound very interesting.

Digging: The Delines - The Imperial

e210013
May 5th 2016


2129 Comments


Man, I really liked your review. It's very good and detailed about the album and the band.

I know this album since it was released in the 70's. I even have a vinyl copy of it. If it's the most acessible of all Hery Cow albums, I really don't know, because I only know this album from them. I remember that I used the album as background music when I was studying in those times. It brought to me a very peaceful and calm atmosphere, which was very necessary for a student.

So, as you can see, I'm perfectly comfortable to talk about it. Sincerelly I always loved it. This is really a great album of a very interesting and strange band. Herry Cow deserves, for sure, to be a better known band.

Congratulations for the first review of this great album. Pos.


Gwyn.
May 5th 2016


17163 Comments


On the albums that followed, especifically Unrest upped the ante when it came to free improvisation and modern classical quite a lot, much of the rock jamming that was practiced here disappeared although their later albums would eventually return to these roots while still being more experimental

If you dug what's practiced here though, you should dig the rest

Anyways, thanks for the words lads - And yes, a million times, check this out

e210013
May 6th 2016


2129 Comments


Thanks man for your explanations. Surely I intend to do so.

TheIntruder
May 28th 2016


394 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I always loved this album. Excellent review. Have a pos.



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