Artchipel Orchestra / Ferdinando Farao featuring Phil Miller - Never Odd or Even

SKU BA 823
"Although this album contains a varied selection of material, including one original composition and three tracks from a 1998 Mike Westbrook project, I'm just going to write just a few words about what seems, at the moment, to be at the core of this great orchestra's repertoire: namely, some classic British jazz-rock from the 1970s. This music was always on the margins, of course, even at the time. Back when I was a schoolboy, most of my friends were listening to soul, blues, punk, disco, heavy metal every sort of music. There were just two of us (out of more than one hundred boys) who liked something different altogether a shared, guilty passion, and for us the names of certain bands unknown to our classmates were a kind of secret language, producing instant recognition and understanding: National Health, Caravan, Soft Machine, Henry Cow, Hatfield and the North...The most radical and interesting thing about this music, I always thought, was that it observed no boundaries: it was experimental, and yet tuneful; it appealed to your brain, but also to your body; it was complex, but also friendly and accessible; you never knew what it was going to sound like next sometimes it sounded like classical music played by a pop group; sometimes it sounded like jazz played by a chamber ensemble. The musicians who made it (some of whom I've come to know, in later life) were brilliant composers and improvisers, gifted musicians of the highest order, and yet in person completely unpretentious and down-to-earth. Two of these composers, Alan Gowen and Dave Stewart, came together in the mid-1970s to form an ambitious band called National Health. The idea was to create a sort of double quartet, with two guitarists and two keyboard players, in order to play ever more complicated music. Sadly, economic realities and the indifference of the media worked against them, and National Health never quite realised this dream, although they did record some great albums. After their second album,Of Queues and Cures, they seemed to disappear off the radar, their names hardly ever appeared in the music press, and I assumed they had broken up. In fact, by the early 1980s,most of my favourite bands had split, and record companies seemed no longer interested in this sort of experimental rock music. Its brief heyday appeared to be over. And so it was with delight and amazement that I entered the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street one afternoon in 1982 and found something I had never expected to see again, a new National Health album. I flipped it over to read the back cover and my delight turned to sorrow. Phil Miller, the guitarist, had written a short sleeve note, which began, "This record is a dedication to Alan Gowen who died on May 17th 1981. All the music is written by him during the period 1979-81." Yes, Gowen was only 33 years old when he died (of leukaemia), and in this way British music, and the jazz-rock world in general, lost one of its most brilliant talents. In his short lifetime he made just a handful of albums, but they are full of wonderful compositions, harmonically rich, melodically inventive and unexpected, and suffused with a kind of lyrical melancholy which somehow appears (to foreign ears in particular) typically English. Although National Health recorded excellent band versions of Gowen's final tunes, he also left behind the scores of arrangements he had made for larger forces, including a big brass section. And now, more than thirty years after his death, some of these arrangements have been passed on to Ferdinando Fara0˚ who has reworked them for his Artchipel Orchestra, with whom they have already been performed at a number of well-received concerts. It gives me enormous pleasure to hear these Gowen compositions again, in performances filled with life and energy. And how wonderful, too, to hear new interpretations of Dave Stewart's majestic Tenemos Roads and Fred Frith's Moeris Dancing (both tunes which also date from the late 1970s, the final moments of the glory days when this kind of adventurous music still received some small commercial support). Not to mention Mike Westbrook's catchy Original Peter, which it is hard to believe was actually released as a single back in 1970. And, to crown it all, a great original by Farao, Big Orange, a moving tribute to Pip Pyle, who died in 2006 and was a key presence and inspiration for so many of these bands....Praise be to the Artchipel Orchestra, for helping the music of Mike Westbrook, Dave Stewart, Fred Frith and (especially) Alan Gowen attain this blissful state."-Jonathan Coe
  • LabelMusic Center
  • UPC8025965004810
Your Price $16.00

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