HENRY COW

Jazz Related Rock • United Kingdom
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Henry Cow were an English avant-rock group, founded at Cambridge University in 1968 by multi-instrumentalists Fred Frith and Tim Hodgkinson. Henry Cow's personnel fluctuated over their decade together, but drummer Chris Cutler and bassoonist/oboist Lindsay Cooper were important long-term members alongside Frith and Hodgkinson. An inherent anti-commercial attitude kept them at arm's length from the mainstream music business, enabling them to experiment at will. Critic Myles Boisen writes, "their sound was so mercurial and daring that they had few imitators, even though they inspired many on both sides of the Atlantic with a blend of spontaneity, intricate structures, philosophy, and humor that has endured and transcended the 'progressive' tag." While it was generally thought that Henry Cow took their name from 20th-century American composer Henry Cowell, this has been repeatedly denied by band members. According to Hodgkinson, the name "Henry Cow" was "in the air" in 1968, and it seemed like read more...
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Henry Cow Box Redux: The Complete Henry CowHenry Cow Box Redux: The Complete Henry Cow
Rer Megacorp 2019
$91.59
Leg EndLeg End
East Side Digital 1999
$64.28 (used)
Western CultureWestern Culture
Rer USA 2005
$12.51
$16.06 (used)
UnrestUnrest
Rer USA 2005
$13.61
$8.99 (used)
10-Road  610-Road 6
Box set
Rer USA 2009
$73.03
$77.46 (used)
Vol. 1-5 Studio (40th Anniversary Box Set)Vol. 1-5 Studio (40th Anniversary Box Set)
Rer Megacorp 2015
$64.56
$85.73 (used)
In Praise of LearningIn Praise of Learning
Rer USA 2008
$12.98
$10.06 (used)
VOL.1: BeginningsVOL.1: Beginnings
Rer Megacorp 2017
$12.94
$18.46 (used)
ConcertsConcerts
Remastered
ReR Megacorp 2008
$19.86
$22.71 (used)
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HENRY COW Discography

HENRY COW albums / top albums

HENRY COW Leg End album cover 4.20 | 10 ratings
Leg End
Jazz Related Rock 1973
HENRY COW Unrest album cover 3.00 | 9 ratings
Unrest
Jazz Related Rock 1974
HENRY COW In Praise of Learning album cover 3.32 | 7 ratings
In Praise of Learning
Jazz Related Rock 1975
HENRY COW Desperate Straights album cover 3.50 | 4 ratings
Desperate Straights
Jazz Related Rock 1975
HENRY COW Western Culture album cover 3.95 | 10 ratings
Western Culture
Jazz Related Rock 1978

HENRY COW EPs & splits

HENRY COW live albums

HENRY COW Concerts album cover 3.04 | 5 ratings
Concerts
Jazz Related Rock 1976
HENRY COW Stockholm & Göteborg album cover 3.50 | 4 ratings
Stockholm & Göteborg
Jazz Related Rock 2008
HENRY COW 40th Anniversary Box - The Road: Volumes 1-5 album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
40th Anniversary Box - The Road: Volumes 1-5
Jazz Related Rock 2008
HENRY COW 40th Anniversary Box - The Road: Volumes 6-10 With DVD album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
40th Anniversary Box - The Road: Volumes 6-10 With DVD
Jazz Related Rock 2008
HENRY COW A Cow Cabinet Of Curiosities album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
A Cow Cabinet Of Curiosities
Jazz Related Rock 2009

HENRY COW demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

HENRY COW re-issues & compilations

HENRY COW The Virgin Years album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
The Virgin Years
Jazz Related Rock 1991
HENRY COW 40th Anniversary Box - The Studio: Volumes 1-5 album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
40th Anniversary Box - The Studio: Volumes 1-5
Jazz Related Rock 2008
HENRY COW The 40th Anniversary Henry Cow Box Set album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
The 40th Anniversary Henry Cow Box Set
Jazz Related Rock 2009
HENRY COW Vol. 2: 1974-5 album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Vol. 2: 1974-5
Jazz Related Rock 2016
HENRY COW Vol. 3: Hamburg album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Vol. 3: Hamburg
Jazz Related Rock 2016
HENRY COW Vol. 1: Beginnings album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Vol. 1: Beginnings
Jazz Related Rock 2017
HENRY COW The Henry Cow Box Redux : The Complete Henry Cow album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Henry Cow Box Redux : The Complete Henry Cow
Jazz Related Rock 2019

HENRY COW singles (0)

HENRY COW movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

HENRY COW Reviews

HENRY COW Western Culture

Album · 1978 · Jazz Related Rock
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Warthur
Henry Cow transmogrified into Art Bears during 1978 - producing the first Art Bears album, predominantly containing Fred Frith and Chris Cutler songs, and this final Henry Cow piece, dedicated to instrumental pieces by Lindsay Cooper and Tim Hodgkinson. These represent, in my view, the absolute best instrumental material the band produced in their post-Canterbury avant-garde period.

It's possible to properly call this material RIO - the RIO festivals having kicked off by this point - but whatever tag you put on it, this is startling industrial chamber rock combining occasional moments of tranquility with clattering, noisy rockouts that sound like rusting factory machinery coming to life for a jam session. And yet, unlike much of the instrumental material on In Praise of Learning, there's an immediateness and openness to these instrumentals which had eluded Henry Cow since their debut album. Cooper and Hodgkinson find a space here where they can indulge their every experimental whim without feeling the need to drive the listener away, making this album just plain more listenable than the two previous albums. A fine ending for a truly innovative band.

HENRY COW Concerts

Live album · 1976 · Jazz Related Rock
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Warthur
A neat cross-section of Henry Cow live performances, featuring a mix of improvisational and composed tracks. Some of the material from the likes of Unrest and In Praise of Learning is somewhat more approachable in the live context than in the cold, stark presentation they received on the studio albums, so those beginning to explore Henry Cow's RIO output might want to start here. Unfortunately, I can't give this one a glowing report because the recording quality is so variable - the first side or so of the album (Beautiful as the Moon; Terrible as an Army With Banners / Nirvana For Mice / Ottawa Song / Gloria Gloom / Moon Reprise) has great sound quality because it was recorded for a Peel session, but the rest is much more variable, with Ruins and Groningen suffering particularly badly to my ears. Had this not been the case, this might have been a four-star piece, but as it is I can only go to three.

HENRY COW In Praise of Learning

Album · 1975 · Jazz Related Rock
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Warthur
The ghosts of Henry Cow's old Canterbury influenced are well and truly exorcised with this album, which is the second part of their collaboration with Slapp Happy (the other half being the Happy-helmed Desperate Straights). After the opening War, which features Dagmar Krause's vocals over an unusually accessible and catchy instrumental performance, the album goes full steam ahead into avant-garde free jazz-influenced territories.

The frightening sonic soundscapes evoked are designed with an avowedly political intent - to shake people up and challenge conventional ideas of what rock music is, and to express a Marxist message. Like all true revolutionaries, of course, Henry Cow are more radical than Communist regimes of the era would have been comfortable with, but then again the point isn't so much to defend Soviet bloc implementations of Marxism - most Western Marxists would argue that the Soviet system corrupted the idea of Communism anyway - so much as it is to act as a critique of the very foundations of the capitalist system.

The consequence of this is that the album places a heavy emphasis on avant-garde noise, free jazz, tape experiments and other bizarre sounds, the point being to challenge the very idea of what makes music "music". All quite valid, all quite important to expanding our musical pallettes, but personally I just don't find the album particularly interesting to listen to. I certainly don't demand that my music be accessible, or soothing, or make me feel happy about the way the world is going, but aesthetically speaking I don't get on with the album. It is doubtless a major achievement, and anyone chasing up the Rock In Opposition scene will doubtless want to listen to it sooner or later, so I'll extend the rating to three stars, but buyer beware: this isn't easy going, it will require several listens to digest, and by the end of that process you may find - like me - that you feel that it just wasn't worth the effort.

Still, I really dig War, and it's convinced me that I need to look into Slapp Happy's work in the future (apparently it's an outtake from the Desperate Straights sessions, which is why it sounds so different from the rest of the album), so there's that.

HENRY COW Unrest

Album · 1974 · Jazz Related Rock
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Warthur
This rather transitional album captures Henry Cow in the process of absorbing Lindsay Cooper - formerly of avant-folk band Comus - into the lineup, as well as transforming their sound from the Canterbury-influenced approach displayed on LegEnd to the more avant-garde style they would follow for the rest of their career. Due to a shortage of material going into the studio, much of the album was cobbled together from tape-manipulated improvisations, and as such it doesn't feel quite as polished as earlier or subsequent releases by the group, but there's the undeniable feeling that the group have latched onto something potent and powerful. Some of the darker and more brooding tracks are reminiscent of work which would be undertaken by their future Rock In Opposition allies in Univers Zero. On the whole, though, this is one for the committed Henry Cow fan.

HENRY COW Leg End

Album · 1973 · Jazz Related Rock
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Warthur
Whether LegEnd by Henry Cow is an "RIO" album or not seems to be a matter of debate. For my part, I would say that the term "RIO" is meaningless when applied to anything released before the actual RIO festivals were set up, because the participants in them had very little in common musically beyond being shunned by the record companies and having an avant- garde approach to progressive music. It makes somewhat more sense to apply the label to works by the original bands after the festivals kicked off, since it would only be natural for them to draw more on each others' ideas after working so closely together, and it makes perfect sense to apply it.

So, if LegEnd isn't RIO, what is it? For my part, I think it has an undeniably Canterbury-influenced sound, making it no surprise that Henry Cow members would crop up on undeniably Canterbury albums from time to time. It sounds, in fact, like the group taking the Soft Machine's work on Third in a different direction from the free jazz that legendary group would drift into on its fourth and fifth studio albums, opting instead to add a few elements of chamber music, draining out the spaciness and adding some wild Gentle Giant instrumentation and complexity (and some vocal harmonies when it comes to the matter of the Citizen King). It's certainly an interesting mixture and a good start for the group, though their most original work was yet to come.

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