Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Alternative Rock, Pop, Rock
Listen to Samples
THE ORIGINAL, UNPOLISHED ALBUM
Larry L. Looney | Austin, Texas USA | 06/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Most of what I'll say in this review will be intended for those unfamiliar with Slapp Happy (and the many associated bands) - listeners who are already fans of the wonderful work of these folks (as a group and as individuals) are undoubtedly already aware of much of what I'll recount here.This is the welcome re-issue of the ORIGINAL version of the group's eponymous album which was released on Virgin Records in 1974. The first 11 tracks on this CD were recorded in Wümme (legendary German envelope-stretchers Faust's studio) by Uwe Nettelbeck - Virgin evidently thought the arrangements too rough, and insisted on the songs being re-recorded. While the result of the second session (done with British producer Steve Morse and a group of fine session players) is definitely `tighter' and more commercial, the sessions represented on this CD are the favorite versions of many of the group's fans. The tracklist of the two albums is almost the same (the song `Charlie `n' Charlie' on this version being replaced by `Haiku' on the Virgin release) - this reissue also boasts 4 bonus tracks, `from the private collection of the group', recorded (I believe) in 1982.Slapp Happy's style is hard to describe to the non-initiated. Within their unique `twisted pop' arrangements can be heard elements of the German cabaret songs of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, with lyrical humor and references to artists, philosophers, schools of thought, played out in mysterious, compelling and often charming settings. Often, the listener is given the impression that the band is letting him/her in on something that is secret or privileged, pictures or stories or events that are hidden to the world at large.`Casablanca moon' is a musical version of one of those wonderful old B&W espionage flicks - alternately funny and threatening. `Mr. Rainbow' is Peter Blegvad's homage to French poet Arthur Rimbaud; `Michelangelo' is a bouncy look at the life of the Italian master; `Dawn' and `Half-way there' give glimpses into the (mis-?)adventures of shadowy figures (as in `Casablanca moon'), personae living on the edge of society; `A little something' and `The secret' are simply wonderful, gentle love songs (albeit with SH's characteristic quirks). Every song on the album is memorable, intelligent and entertaining - characteristics that have been present in the work of this band since its inception. The members have pursued (with great success, artistically at least) various solo projects, and have worked with other ensembles. After the Virgin version of this album was released, the group linked up with Henry Cow for the 1975 album DESPERATE STRAIGHTS (credited to Slapp Happy/Henry Cow), followed closely by IN PRAISE OF LEARNING (credited to Henry Cow/Slapp Happy). Dagmar went on to lend her unique vocals to various other ensembles - Art Bears, Commuters, Duck and Cover, News from Babel, and some notable solo work. Anthony Moore and Peter Blegvad continued to be active as well, especially Blegvad, who has released a number of fine albums. Slapp Happy reunited in the late 90s to record ÇA VA, LIVE IN JAPAN and CAMERA (an opera!).Each of the group's albums has its own distinct personality - the complete lack of pretension, the relaxed arrangements and absence of record company pressure make ACNALBASAC NOOM a joy to experience, and an essential element in their development. If you've never heard them, this would be a great place to begin - try to leave all of your expectations at the door."
Curt Sampson | New York, NY United States | 04/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can't imagine how Virgin would be unhappy with this recording. Dagmar Kraus drags a fantastic aura of mystery and cabaret around with her which, one would think, Virgin in its more adventurous days would well appreciate. The initial track is a phantasmagorical Grahame Greene scene of romantic-not-romantic spy story: `He used to wear fedoras / But now he sports a Fez, / There's cabalistic innuendo / In everything he says....' One listen to this song on Brave New Waves made me spend years tracking down the album.Yet the experimental brillance also present in Henry Cow is so carefully and strictly controlled, channeled into something one could call pop, in the way of perhaps T-Rex, but with this eybrows-slightly-raised sideways slant of looking at the world: in `Michelangelo,' for example: `The rumour's out / His hobby is dissection, / But there ain't no doubt / He paints the body to perfection.' And then the album will touch, as with `Everybody's Slimmin',' on those bits of Western life that surely appear as quirky to us, when we actually look at it, as the Japanese. (And perhaps this is a bit of an explanation of their alleged popularity in Japan. Momus is the same way.)I will admit that the recording itself has occasional tonal faults; `Charlie and Charlie,' for example, is a rather thin and bright, with a hint of distortion, but the song still comes through as clear as a bell. The opposite direction is not necessarially any better; the Phil Spector-produced Leonard Cohen album (Death of a Ladies' Man) is far overproduced, yet both that and this share something in common: the music comes straight through, overcoming any sort of production (or lack thereof) applied to it.It wouldn't be hard to dismiss this as just another quirky pop album, and leave it to the Jane Sibbery crowd. And I expect that most will. It's certainly now well lost amongst the experimentalism of the art rock and Brian Eno of the 70s. (Its relative rarity doesn't help matters.) But this album has something to it that one can never quite explain in the way one can the rest, and one comes back to it with surprise and joy every few years. I'm always suspicious of these sorts of statements, but I can sincerely say that this may well be the album it would hurt me most to lose."