|This is the second in our series of definitive reissues of the original Virgin Albums, dating from 1974. By the time Unrest was made, Geoff Leigh had left the group and Lindsay Cooper joined on bassoon, oboe, flute, and soprano sax. The mix is more 'live' than Legend, with the drums much more to the fore.
The first half of the album is fully composed material, with some of the Cow's best loved tunes, 'Canterbury' anthems like 'Half Asleep Half Awake' and 'Bittern Storm Over Ulm'. For the second half the material was written in the studio, using loops, varispeed tapes and electronics, and superimposing live improvisation and composed passages.
The compositions are poised half way between classical and rock, with Bartok and Duke Ellington re-figured for rock instruments, and there is still a residual Soft Machine influence, echoed by the gorgeous sound of Fred Frith's fuzz guitar and Tim Hodgkinson's fuzz organ. The abstract grooves laid down by Chris Cutler's drumming, and John Greaves' sprung bass, are the stuff of legend, and Lindsay Cooper adds a unique voice, with her funky bassoon and pungent oboe playing. First heard live on the John Peel show in 1974, this music is classic, historic and still relevant.
Henry Cow's second album is the best place to launch into the career of this ambitious band. Where their debut (LEGEND) contained the essential characteristics of the band, it was without UNREST's unified flow. Henry Cow's third album, IN PRAISE OF LEARNING, found the band expanded to an eight-piece ensemble with additional writers--no less worthy an enterprise, just a different direction than they'd previously taken. By the time of UNREST, reed player Geoff Leigh had departed and was replaced by Lindsay Cooper on bassoon and oboe. The woodwind resonance adds warmth to the proceedings. UNREST was also influenced by the band's decision to approach the studio as a compositional tool, improvising about half of the album, and by their tour with the German group Faust.
Henry Cow: Lindsay Cooper (vocals, recorder, oboe, bassoon); John Greaves (vocals, piano, bass instrument); Fred Frith (guitar, violin, piano, xylophone); Tim Hodgkinson (clarinet, alto saxophone, piano, organ); Chris Cutler (drums)