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View Poll Results: How would you rate Henry Cow's Legend?
Crap! 0 0%
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Good 1 20.00%
Very Good 3 60.00%
Brilliant! 1 20.00%
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Old 07-19-2010, 08:16 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Henry Cow - Legend (1973)

This is the discussion thread for Canterbury art rock band Henry Cow's 1973 debut "Legend", also known as "Leg End". It was the PFAC homework assignment for weeks 28 and 29, but anyone can join in the discussion!

Originally Posted by tore
Henry Cow - Legend (1973)

I don't know this album so well, but I'd like to and that's basically why I suggested it. What I know so far is that it's the debut album of Canterbury/Avantgarde band Henry Cow. Supposedly, the Canterbury sound is more prominent on this one than it is on their later albums. Like many other Canterbury acts like Gilgamesh, Isotope or In Cahoots, this is supposed to be a somewhat jazzy and largely instrumental affair. It's also supposed to be quite good!
So .. What do you guys think?
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Old 07-19-2010, 08:48 PM   #2 (permalink)
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It's the only album I have by Henry Cow thusfar, and I only listened to it once, about a year ago. I didn't like it very much at all. As you can tell, I really don't know much about it, but I remember not caring for all the overtly jazzy qualities of the album. However, I've come a long way musically within this past year, so I am pretty sure that if I pop this one in again, I'll be more open to it... It's funny, because I love avant-garde and progressive rock, so Henry Cow SEEMS like a band I should adore... I shall see....
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Old 07-22-2010, 09:01 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I've never expected to like this album as much as I did. I've heard it maybe once or twice before, but never gave it a closer listen. This album club was a good opportunity for it. The more I listened, the deeper it sunk. It is a grower. I've learned that album's name has two versions Leg End and Legend, like a kind of wordplay, but that Leg End is probably the original title, and it fits with the cover art. This first album is supposed to be their most accessible, and since it's the only one I listened, it makes me wanna hear more.

What especially caught my attention are the masterful off-kilter compositions, always unpredictable even when they are seemingly straightforward. What lies beneath are rich and dense textures of different sounds interplay. Great example for this is the opening track, perhaps the jazziest song on the album, Nirvana for Mice. A solemn and grandiose opening turns into the two saxophones improvisational duel accompanied by bass and drums interplay that gives it background texture. The sounds are bouncing off each other or uniting, sometimes joyfully, but often with underlying tension towards collapsing. This builds to an incredibly energetic climax. This is a great piece of music. And then it teases with an intriguing shift only to not go there, but instead lead into the second song. It seems like Nirvana for Mice is still going on somewhere else.

The second song Amygdala is a change of pace. It's a calm, pastoral, classically beautiful music with a guitar, flute and organ interplay. I must admit that after the splendid first track and my wondering of where did it go, I lose my interest and attention till the end of this track. And it's a shame because it promises a beauty that I cannot fully appreciate until I hear it alone, outside of the album. Maybe that will do the trick.

Teenbeat (Introduction)/Teenbeat is when we hear Henry Cow's full on avant-garde/free jazz approach. The two tracks are joint in a way that the natural ending of the first became the atypical beginning of the second, tying them as one piece of music. The first part (introduction) is abstract, atonal, free composition with menacing undertones leading the way to some pretty wild free saxophone and drum playing. After all this tension we enter a release in the form of false ending which is in fact, as I said, the beginning of Teenbeat. This part is the perfect example of those unpredictable compositions I mentioned above. There's a lot of shifts, turns, changes formally and in mood that is simply fascinating. I don't have the words to describe it. I am amazed that these changes never feel arbitrary and random, but follow some inner twisted logic and the need for an expression and not just musicianship. There's drama here and an almost cinematic feel especially when, in the middle of the track, we unnoticingly, find ourselves in another scene of the 'film'. This part is my favorite - there's some complex interplay here, but with some off beat, hypnotic, repetitive chords tying everything together and leading the way. Beautiful.

After such powerful music I almost struggle to give my attention to Nirvana (Reprise) and Extract From "With the Yellow Half-Moon and Blue Star", and they are rather short compared to what went before. Although the latter fares better, and since the title says Extract, I wonder if there is a longer composition.

Teenbeat (Reprise) is the rockiest and most energetic track on the album with Frith's guitar as the lead. I already wrote that I haven't heard that much of jazz-rock genre, but if this song is representational in any way, I might explore it.

The Tenth Chaffinch - Well, since I'm a sucker for experimental, abstract, atonal compositions rich with atmosphere, this was one of the first tracks to catch my attention. This is where, I think, we hear the vocals for the first time in the album. The vocals are dissonant and hypnotic, and play a part of the instruments. They add a creepy quality to an already nightmarish atmosphere. This track also have a cinematic feel for me, this time rather surreal.

Nine Funerals of the Citizen King is the only track with singing. It's the most accessible and one of the best tracks on the album. The lyrics are rather cryptic, so I did a little research and learned that they speak apparently of French Revolution. I don't know if that's true and it doesn't really matter to me, because the melodies are beautiful and there's a certain sadness that violin carries all the way and which is so strongly evoked by the saxophone that bursts somewhere in the middle of the song.

The album ends with Bellycan, a proper chaotic, free jazz freak-out.

Besides making me want to hear more of Henry Cow, Leg End also makes me want to explore more of the so called Avant-Prog, RIO bands and it could get me into jazz, at least some of it. We'll see.

I'm on the fence how to rate this album as the poll demands. It's between very good and brilliant. My favorites are Nirvana for Mice, Teenbeat (Introduction), Teenbeat, The Tenth Chaffinch and Nine Funerals of the Citizen King. I'm expecting Amygdala and Teenbeat (Reprise) to further sink in. The other three feel like extracts from some more elaborate compositions. Anyway, the rating for this album can only go up.
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Old 07-22-2010, 09:53 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I downloaded this album and also Unrest a few days ago.

I've listened to Legend once and it's certainly an intriguing listen. It's very hard to rate though on one listen, and at the moment I still have almost no idea what I think of it. I'm definitely going to be listening to it more over the coming days, because I think an album such as this will take a lot of time to truly sink in. Dankstra, you seem to like it a lot, so I'm sure I will too in the end!
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Old 07-22-2010, 02:34 PM   #5 (permalink)
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^^I haven't heard Unrest yet, but Leg End certainly demands many listens. I've listened to it extensively through the whole last week and that's when it hit me. It's not what I usually listen to and is certainly the jazziest stuff I spent the significant time with. I've listened to The Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart and Soft Machine's first album before and liked them all, but never something quite like this. As I said, I could see this bring me closer to jazz, finally.
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Old 07-29-2010, 01:34 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Didn't get into it as much as I thought I would on first listen or repeated. No idea why. I really like Unrest though.
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