THE MUFFINS — Chronometers

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THE MUFFINS - Chronometers cover
3.48 | 6 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1993

Filed under Fusion


1. Chronometers (23:02)
2. Come What Molten Cloud (2:53)
3. Apparently (3:32)
4. Courtesy Of Your Focal Interest Span (0:44)
5. Please Do Not Open Dr. Fischer (2:22)
6. The Manilla Robots (2:21)
7. Joe Crop On A Toxic Planet (5:09)
8. The Bush (2:43)
9. Mammoth Hide (1:34)
10. Creature Comforts (1:29)
11. Like A Machine That Only Works When It's Working Right (1:59)
12. Look at the Size of That Sponge (1:45)
13. Early American Ears (1:15)
14. Three Days That Won't Soon Fade (2:56)
15. You Eat Them Pears (5:08)
16. Peacocks, Leopards, and Glass (3:41)
17. Crezner OK (3:40)
18. Blind Cave Tetra (2:46)
19. Evening Hataiya (1:36)
20. Six Thick Thistle Sticks (0:30)
21. l (1:24)

Total Time: 72:29


- Billy Swann /Bass [Electric Zoom], Organ [Backwards], Percussion, Voice
- Tom Scott / Clarinet [B Flat, Alto], Flute, Saxophone [Alto, Soprano], Oboe, Bells [Bell Tree], Xylophone, Melodica, Voice
- Stuart Abramowitz / Drums, Voice
- Dave Newhouse / Electric Piano, Organ, Percussion, Xylophone [Toy], Voice
- Mike Zentner / Guitar, Violin, Harmonica, Voice

About this release

Cuneiform Records ‎– 55007 (US)

Recorded November 1975 at directly to 1/2 track stereo tape at Paragon Studio, Silver Spring.
Track 1 recorded May/June 1976 on a Teac 2340 at the Muffin house, Gaithersburg.
Digital Transfers, Eq. and Mixdown of the 4 track tapes were performed 1991 and 1992 at Linden Studios, Linden

Thanks to snobb for the updates


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Members reviews

Sean Trane
This album is more of a compilation of various recordings that took place before The Muffins released their debut album. So as an album/unit, this one is not really flowing that well together, but named after the lengthy Chronometers, to which the Cuneiform label gave it (in 93) the great artwork, it represents the early "formative" years of the Muffins as a quintet: Newhouse, Swann and Scott were there, but Abramowitz was holding the drum stool (instead of Sears) and there was an extra Zentner (guitar, violin) player.

The overall feeling is still one of Canterbury's spirits meeting with the Cow from Henry and the Mother of Zappa. The title track is of course the single most impressive track, but is hardly without its share of flaws, but certainly for an early summer of 76, this is still quite a feat given that it was not to be released.

Most of the other tracks (all dating from the previous fall) are under the 3'30" length (except for two that are around 5 minutes) and we are struck with the sense that they are not entirely finished, most likely waiting for a future assembling that never came. Molten Clouds and Apparently are both excellent tracks that National Health would not disown, but if the much shorter Interest Span and Dr. Fischer mesh quite well as a unit (so do Blind Cave and Evening later in the album), not the same can be said about the rest of the tracks, even if there is some obvious care at the sequence they are presented in. However disjointed this album maybe, most of the excerpts are quite enjoyable (Toxic Planet, Bush, the spoken lyrics of Three Days and the superb Peacocks), but others are much less interesting and sound completely unrefined or unfinished (Manilla Robots, Size Of That Sponge and Mammoth Hide) or some lack interest (Creature Comfort, Early American Ears and the weak Pears).

After these sessions, Abramowitz and Zentner would leave the group, leaving The Muffins to tour as an improvising trio, before Paul Sears would then join them. While not as exhilarating as their proper debut album Mirage, Chronometers might be the second most essential Muffins icon you should own, even if Open City (yet another pre- debut recording session) and 185 have their own arguments.
Chronometers is a collection of unreleased recordings from the mid 70s by the Muffins. The album has tracks of all sizes, starting with the title track epic at 22 minutes, down to tracks which barely last for half a minute. The album was released by Cuneiform, and gives listeners a good idea of what the Muffins were doing before releasing their excellent debut. The pieces are generally pretty good. Some parts of tracks, throw in some of the band's weird humor more than others. For example, the title track has random bits where they inserted clips from The Wizard of Oz or re-enacted them themselves. It adds a certain dream-like atmosphere to the track, which is fun.

I can't help but compare this album to the group's official debut (Manna/Mirage). The album as a whole is similar in style to that album, but it seems less focused, less well-prepared than their official debut to me. It seems just a tad bit too long as well, as it's almost full to the brim. Some of the tracks feel like they could have been cut, but then again a lot of the tracks after the epic seem to run into each other to make multi-track epics of their own.

Overall, this one doesn't quite live up to the expectations I had after hearing the debut. However, the group still displays excellent musicianship, and their style is starting to come into its own on the recordings here. It's a good album overall, right around the 3.5 star range - not quite excellent, but better than just plain "good."

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