Live, Love, Larf and Loaf
Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, John French & Richard Thompson
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When these four characters came together for a collaborative 1987 album, they were hefting some heavy baggage. After all, besides their solo careers, their collective résumés included Fairport Convention (Thompson), Captain Beefheart's Magic Band (French), and Henry Cow (Frith). And as guitarists, Frith, Kaiser, and Thompson all sported some serious firepower. But this was no supergroup egofest; it was a true collective effort. Even as Thompson's folk-rock background and the other members' avant-garde tendencies complement each other, the members seem to egg one another on—Thompson's "Killerman Gold Posse," for instance, is among the more angular and intense compositions in his formidable catalog, and for all its post-punk-informed frenzy, Frith's "Where's the Money?" is about as close as the British art-rock vet comes to "catchy." But when the quartet truly blends its disparate powers into a seamless whole on the supple, spiritual "A Bird in God's Garden," that's when this supergroup achieves true transcendence.
Almost as good as the second disc. Almost.
I prefer their second album ("Invisible Means", which iTunes doesn't have) to this one, frankly. There are some standout songs - I suggest the beautiful and moody slow-burners "A Blind Step Away" and "Tir-Nan-Darag" if you're an RT fan, the quirky and manic "Where's the Money?" if you liked Frith's work in Skeleton Crew, and you know what? "The Second Time" is one of the few French-lead pop tunes that really works and is very memorable. There are some bad choices, though: "Surfin' USA" is a lame sub-Zappa attempt at being funny that misses the mark entirely; Hai Sai Oji-San is pure Okinawan pop in the vein of Rinken Band, and it is done fairly well (Richard's voice always sounds great even when he's singing in an unfamiliar language), but ultimately it feels pointless and insincere; "Killerman Gold Posse" gets off to a decent start with Richard's vocals trying their best to breathe life into the tune, but it all suffers from an egregiously awkward chorus. There are some instrumentals sounded like they were lifted straight from Beefheart sessions, which can be explained by French (Drumbo, ex-Magic Band)'s presence in the quartet, and they sound just fine - Disposable Thoughts may be less intuitive-sounding than Vliet's compositions, but it has the same angularity and tight interplay. So, check out the aforementioned tunes and see what you think at least. I would download the tracks I said were good for sure if you don't have the CD.
An obscure GEM!!! Pure fun!!!
From Okinawan folk to the Beach Boys, this album has it all. Great musicianship, great sense of fun and play. ALSO seek out their other albums, you won't be sorry!!
Born: February 17, 1949 in Heathfield, England
Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s
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