Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Blegvad in a Box

Chris Cutler's ReR Megacorp has just released a snazzy boxed set bringing together the four albums that Peter Blegvad has recorded for the label, packaging them along with a two-CD compilation of live performances, previously unreleased tracks, and "eartoons" entitled It's All 'Experimental,' as well as an attractively designed illustrated 70-page booklet of notes and musings*, and (if you've plumped for the limited edition) an autographed CD of a radio play entitled The Impossible Book.

I came to Blegvad's musical output (he's also a cartoonist and graphic artist) first via Choices Under Pressure, a mostly solo recording from 2001 that I love but that many aficionados are lukewarm about, and then moved on to his fine 1990 Silvertone CD King Strut and Other Stories. The ReR recordings in this Peter Blegvad Bandbox, loosely focused on a core trio of Blegvad, Chris Cutler, and John Greaves, meticulously document one of the most sustained partnerships of his career, and contain much of his best work as well as some material that is perhaps only for the true devotee.

The most recent of the four ReR CDs, Go Figure, was reviewed briefly in this space when it was released last year. Of the other three, Just Woke Up , from 1995, seems the strongest, both musically and lyrically. Hangman's Hill, from 1998, is the weakest (despite the likeable title track), and 1988's Downtime falls somewhere in the middle. (The last features several Blegvad compositions that were originally recorded by Anton Fier's Golden Palominos during Blegvad's association with that shifting ensemble; by and large the Palominos versions are stronger.) The two-disc It's All 'Experimental' is a valuable omnium gatherum featuring, among other things, two versions of "King Strut," two versions of "Shirt and Comb," and a Blegvad-sung rendition of "A Little Something," originally sung by Dagmar Krause when she, Blegvad, and Anthony Moore made up a trio called Slapp Happy.

As for The Impossible Book, it will have to wait until the CD player in my car starts functioning again.

* The designer is Colin Sackett of Uniformbooks, and the booklet includes liner notes and annotations by Blegvad, Chris Cutler, John Greaves, and Karen Mantler, as well as photographs, Blegvad drawings, and whatnot.

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