Archive for the The World As it is Today Category


Posted in Albert Marcoeur, Art Bears, Chris Cutler, Eskaton, Henry Cow, L. Voag, Ray Gun Commemorative, Recommended Records, Red Balune, ReR Megacorp, Rock in Opposition, The Work, The World As it is Today with tags , , , , , on January 5, 2011 by candymachine

In my previous post, I wrote about the Rock in Opposition collective as it emerged in the late 1970s.  I wished to emphasize that it was rather short-lived and by the end of 1979 the R.I.O collective had already dissolved as a formal body. Perhaps some members of the original Rock in Opposition circle would say that it never actually reached a formalized form. The term, however, has lived on and is liberally used in various circles as a descriptive for bands working in the more avant or radical ends of the progressive rock music spectrum.

 If the spirit and raison d’etre of the Rock in Opposition movement was properly bequeathed anywhere, though, it was to Recommended Records (UK). This was an ‘unbusiness’ founded by Chris Cutler (Henry Cow & Art Bears drummer, and participant in Rock in Opposition), dedicated to working outside the established parameters of the corporate music business, making independent releases available, and to cultivating a catalog of excellence selected on the basis of musical merit alone.

 I became aware of Recommended Records (ReR) in the last months of the 70s, probably at the same time I had become aware of Rock in Opposition. The first ReR catalog I received was the March 1981 Ray Gun Commemorative catalog.  (That’s the cover printed above). It was a goldmine of superb recordings, some by artists I had already come across and many others by bands I had never heard of. I started with a small order, followed by another, then another, then another. Each successive order was riding the wave of enthusiasm which rolled in with the previous order.  Soon, I had picked up every title in the catalog and kept up with most new releases in successive catalogs. Some of the releases from that particular catalog which became early instant favorites for me were the eps by The Work and Red Balune, Albert Marcoeur’s first two albums, L. Voag’s The Way Out, Eskaton’s Ardeur, and the subscription item for that issue, The Art Bears’ The World as it is Today.

 If it’s not clear from the catalog title or image above, Ray Gun is a reference to then US president Ronald Reagan. The UK’s Margaret Thatcher appears on the back cover sporting Nazi regalia. A timely political rant in the form of an editorial introduced the catalog and preceded the music selections. As you can see from the catalog excerpt below, the whole thing was done ‘homemade’ style, hand written and accompanied by hand drawn illustrations. I read the small catalog cover-to-cover a zillion times. At 30 years old this year, the Ray Gun Commemorative has also become one of my longest held possessions. I still keep all of the pre-internet catalogs as cherished keepsakes.

 Recommended Records, now known as ReR Megacorp,  is alive and well today, continuing along its own unique path, still offering a treasure trove of music that is cutting, innovative and independent.  Do yourself a favor and check them out.


Posted in Art Bears, Carla Kihlstedt, Chris Cutler, Dagmar Krauss, Henry Cow, Hopes and Fears, Jewlia Eisenberg, Kristin Slipp, Marc Hollander, Peter Blegvad, the Norman Conquest, The World As it is Today, Zeena Parkins with tags , , , , , , , on November 8, 2010 by candymachine

Part Two of Three: From the Art Bears to the Art Bears Songbook

Once upon a time, in the 1970s, there was a seminal and superb band called Henry Cow. Fred Frith and Chris Cutler were members of that illustrious band.  In early 1978, they set upon the task of writing some new material for the next Henry Cow album. What they wrote were songs, which were recorded by Henry Cow, but subsequently considered to be unsuitable for the band.  So, Frith and Cutler  – and Henry Cow’s inimitable vocalist, Dagmar Krauss – took the songs and worked the material into an album that would be released under the banner of the Art Bears.

 So, in a sense the Art Bears came into existence as an organic outgrowth of Henry Cow. In fact, the other members of Henry Cow, Lindsay Cooper, Tim Hodgkinson and Georgie Born, can all be heard on the first Art Bears album, titled Hopes and Fears (1978). Two more albums followed before the Art Bears called it a day: Winter Songs (1979) and The World As it is Today (1981). There was a short tour of Europe in the spring of 1979, with Marc Hollander (Aksak Maboul) and Peter Blegvad (Slapp Happy/Henry Cow) along as guests.

 Their three albums still stand as high water marks of so-named avant rock / RIO / progressive music. Let’s put aside these labels and just call these albums three of the most compelling, unflinching and breathtaking recordings yet to be released by homo sapiens sapiens! Make An effort to seek out these recordings if you are not familiar with them!  Then, almost as fast as they had come, they were gone. They called it a day in 1981, but in short order, the Art Bears acquired legendary status in their field.

 Fast forward more than two decades and a young and frighteningly formidable violinist by the name of Carla Kihlstedt and vocalist extraordinaire Jewlia Eisenberg were playing in a band that included Art Bears songs in their repertoire. They asked Fred Frith to join them, which he did, once. The results prompted Eisenberg to invite both Frith and Chris Cutler to participate at a later gig. The intent was there, but the gig never happened. Still, the seeds for the Art Bears Songbook were sown here. A few years later, the idea re-emerged and then the 25th edition of the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville provided an opportunity.

 But the FIMAV performance was not intended to be Rock in Opposition’s version of an Eagles Reunion. This was to be a contemporary revisiting of the Art Bears’ work, an approach to the material that would move forward as it looked back. To this end, an enhanced and expanded line-up would take to the stage in Victoriaville. Nobody likes the phrase ‘supergroup ,‘ but let’s face it – Zeena Parkins (keyboards, accordion), Carla Kihlstedt (violin, vocals), Jewlia Eisenberg (vocals), Kristin Slipp (vocals) and the Norman Conquest (sound manipulation), in addition to originals Fred Frith (guitar, bass, piano) and Chris Cutler (drums). The Art Bears’ original siren / singer, Dagmar Krauss, did not participate at FIMAV.





Art Bears audio samples can be heard at

Next time: The Art Bears Songbook in Victoriaville, May 2008 and in Carmaux, Sept. 2010.