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Lindsay Cooper - Rags CD (album) cover

RAGS

Lindsay Cooper

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.07 | 11 ratings

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HolyMoly
Special Collaborator
Retired Admin
4 stars After Henry Cow dissolved, reed player Lindsay Cooper stayed busy with such projects as the Art Bears, but released her first album under her own name in 1980, and it's a delight. She had already proven herself a composer of very high stature on Henry Cow's swan song "Western Culture" album, composing the music for the entire second side of that record. Here, she applies that skill to a series of miniatures, composed as the soundtrack to "Rags", a documentary about women textile workers at the turn of the century.

Former Henry Cow-mates Chris Cutler (drums) and Fred Frith (guitar) provide low-key musical support, letting Cooper's overdubbed reeds (bassoon, sax, oboe), as well as her piano, provide the foundation for the songs. Sally Potter and Phil Minton provide the vocals for the songs with lyrics (about one third of the songs), and their voices are dramatic and distinctive. Minton in particular (who also plays trumpet here) sings in a deep voice with the authority of a cranky schoolmaster.

Of the instrumentals, the multi-part "Women's Wrongs" is especially fine, with a sad piano line lifted up by Frith's gentle but firm guitar sustain. "Film Music" likewise reflects the grim but determined resolve of the film's subject. The vocal pieces are generally more animated, often borrowing old folk melodies that one imagines could have been sung by labor strikers in the picket line -- "General Strike", in fact, takes it's lyric from such a song ("Hurrah my boys, and make no noise / Stand firm in all disaster / United be, and you will see / We'll conquer all the masters"). On the opening "The Exhibition of Fashions", Sally Potter performs a woozily seductive vocal that builds rather impressively during its short length (1:29), becoming a frenzied shriek by the end!

This may be "just a soundtrack", but I've found it one of the most enjoyable and re-playable ones I've heard. Great balance of vocal and instrumental pieces, and a well-sustained melancholy mood that still manages to be uplifting. With Frith and Cutler on board, it certainly bears more than a passing resemblance to Henry Cow's later material, but Cooper puts her own unique stamp on it. Excellent.

HolyMoly | 4/5 |

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