Peter Blegvad

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Slapp Happy: Sort Of (1972), 6/10
Slapp Happy: Acnalbasac Noom (1973), 6.5/10
Slapp Happy: Ca Va (1998), 5/10
Peter Blegvad: Kew Rone (1976), 7/10
Peter Blegvad: The Naked Shakespeare (1983), 6.5/10
Peter Blegvad: Knights Like This (1985), 6/10
Peter Blegvad: Downtime (1988), 6/10
Peter Blegvad: King Strut (1990), 7/10
Peter Blegvad: Unearthed (1995), 5/10
Peter Blegvad: Just Woke Up (1995), 6.5/10
Peter Blegvad: Hangman's Hill (1998), 6/10
Peter Blegvad: Orpheus The Lowdown (2004), 5/10

One of Britain's most original ensembles of progressive-rock in the 1970s was Slapp Happy. Founded by keyboardist Anthony Moore to accompany his German wife Dagmar Krause's soulful melodies, Slapp Happy debuted with Sort Of (Polydor, 1972). Notable in the original line-up was American guitarist Peter Blegvad, who was in Britain to complete his studies. The rhythm section was borrowed from German friends Faust. They reached their zenith with the superb Acnalbasac Noom (Polydor, 1973), a collection of surreal and Kurt Weill-inspired expressionist cabaret ditties: Casablanca Moon (vaguely reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin's music), Me And Paravati (a singalong that evoked both girl-groups and Aretha Franklin, and Kate Bush ante-litteram), Michelangelo (a catchy, heavily cadenced refrain a` la Petula Clark that extends into a blues-rock jam), Half Way There (a swinging nostalgic Broadway-style number). Krause sounds like the typical ye-ye girl of the Sixties, and the rhythm section sounds like the average kids of the "piper".

Then the band merged with Henry Cow. The combined line-up came up with two summaries of the vocabulary of progressive-rock: Desperate Straights (Virgin, 1975) and In Praise Of Learning (Virgin, 1975). At the end of that experience, and after re-arranging some of their songs on Slapp Happy (Virgin, 1974), the members of Slapp Happy started their solo careers.

Peter Blegvad was the one who fully betrayed the original spirit of Slapp Happy. First, he collaborated with John Greaves on Kew Rone (Europa, 1976 - Virgin, 1977), a collection of linguistic nonsenses (sung by Lisa Herman) enhanced with an impressive ensemble of rock and jazz musicians (Andrew Cyrille, Michael Mantler, Carla Bley, etc). The music is as witty as the "lyrics". With The Naked Shakespeare (Virgin, 1983) Blegvad endorsed XTC's neo-pop programme (The Naked Shakespeare, You Can't Miss It, Powers In The Air, Lonely Too, How Beautiful You Are). After a second endeavour in that style, Knights Like This (Virgin, 1985), that contains Meet The Rain and Special Delivery but is marred by overproduction, Blegvad moved to New York and enrolled in the Golden Palominos.

He proved his gift as a pensive and tender songwriter on two humbler and more tuneful collections: Downtime (Recommended, 1988), crafted by Chris Cutler and containing Not Weak Enough, and King Strut (Silvertone, 1990), that exploited his favorite line-up of John Greaves and Chris Cutler and mitigated the pop vision of his first album with quick references to Bob Dylan (Meantime, Shift And The Comb, King Strut). Blegvad's tunes rely quite a bit on the lyrics (influenced by the poetry of Surrealism), and this has its pros and its cons.

Blegvad also collaborated with John Greaves, who had released Accident (Europa, 1982), probably his masterpiece and not all too different from Blegvad's own collections, Parrot Fashions (Europa, 1984) and Longhouse (Warner, 1988), and the two eventually formed Lodge, that released Smell Of A Friend (Antilles, 1988). Greves will later record La Petite Bouteille De Linge (La Lichere, 1991), Greaves Cunningham (Eva, 1991), a collaboration with David Cunningham, Songs (Resurgence, 1995), that collects new and old compositions, The Caretaker (Resurgence, 2001).

Blegvad and Greaves released another collaboration, Unearthed (Sub Rosa, 1995), where Greaves sets to music a collection of Blegvad fiction.

Blegvad's next solo albums, Just Woke Up (ReR, 1995), with Bee Dream and another parade of surrealistic/Dylan-esque dreams, and Hangman's Hill (ReR, 1998), were both created with help from John Greaves and Chris Cutler (The Marvellous In The Everyday, Man Overboard), and still display Blegvad's characteristic charm, originality and vagueness.

Moore, Blegvad and Krause reformed Slapp Happy to record Ca Va (V2, 1998).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Paolo Latini)

Uno dei più originali ensemble del rock progressivo degli anni '70 sono stati gli Slapp Happy. Fondati dal chitarrista Anthony Moore per accompagnare i lieder Brecht-iani della sua moglie tedesca, Dagmar Krause, gli Slapp Happy debuttano con Sort Of (Polydor, 1972). Notevole, nella line-up originale, il chitarrista americano Peter Blegvad, che si trovava in Inghilterra per completare i suoi studi. La sezione ritmica era presa in prestito dagli amici tedeschi Faust. Dopo il superbo Acnalbasac Noom (Polydor, 1973), una raccolta di cabaret surreali ed espressionistici (Casablanca Moon, A Little Something, Slow Moon's Rose), la band si unisce agli Henry Cow. Le due line-up fuse assieme realizzaono due antologie del vocabolario del progressive-rock: Desperate Straights (Virgin, 1975) e In Praise Of Learning (Virgin, 1975). Alla fine dell'esperienza, e dopo aver ri-arrangiato alcune delle loro canzoni su Slapp Happy (Virgin, 1974), gli elementi del gruppo si separano e cominciano le loro carriere soliste.

Peter Blegvad fu l'unico a continuare pienamente lo spirito degli Slapp Happy. Prima, collabora con John Greaves su Kew Rone (Europa, 1976 - Virgin, 1977), una raccolta di nonsense linguistici (cantati da Lisa Herman) suonato da un impressionate ensemble di musicisti jazz e rock (Andrew Cyrille, Michael Mantler, Carla Bley, etc). La musica è ingegnosa quanto lo sono i "testi". Con The Naked Shakespeare (Virgin, 1983) Blegvad abbraccia il neo-pop programmatico degli XTC (The Naked Shakespeare, You Can't Miss It, Powers In The Air, Lonely Too, How Beautiful You Are). Dopo una seconda prova in quel genere, Knights Like This (Virgin, 1985), che contiene Meet The Rain and Special Delivery ma impoverito dauna sovrapruduzione ingombrante, Blegvad si trasferisce New York ed entra nei Golden Palominos.

Blegvad dimostra di essere un cantautore tenere e profondo con due umili e più orecchiabili dischi: Downtime (Recommended, 1988), con l'aiuto di Chris Cutler e contenente Not Weak Enough, e King Strut (Silvertone, 1990), che sfrutta la line-up da lui preferita, con John Greaves e Chris Cutler e attenua il sostrato pop del suo primo albu, con veloci riferimenti a Bob Dylan (Meantime, Shift And The Comb, King Strut). I motivi di Blegvad danno poca importanza ai testi (influenzati dalla poesia surrealista), e in questo ha i suoi pro e contro.

Blegvad continua a collaborare con John Greaves, col quale realizza Accident (Europa, 1982), probabilmente il suo capolavoro e non troppo distante dallo stile dello stesso Blegvad, Parrot Fashions (Europa, 1984) e Longhouse (Warner, 1988), quindi i due formano i Lodge, che realizzano Smell Of A Friend (Antilles, 1988). Greves poi registrerà La Petite Bouteille De Linge (La Lichere, 1991), Greaves Cunningham (Eva, 1991), una collaborazione con David Cunningham, Songs (Resurgence, 1995), che raccoglie composizioni vecchie e nuove, The Caretaker (Resurgence, 2001).

Blegvad e Greaves collaborano ancora su Unearthed (Sub Rosa, 1995), in cui Greaves mette in musica una raccolta di racconti di Blegvad.

Il seguente album solista di Blegvad, Just Woke Up (ReR, 1995), con Bee Dream e un'altra parata di sogni surrealistico/Dylaniani, e Hangman's Hill (ReR, 1998), furono entrambi realizzati con l'aiuto di John Greaves e Chris Cutler (The Marvellous In The Everyday, Man Overboard), e mostrano ancora lo charme caratteristico di Blegvad, fatto di vaghezza ed originalità.

Moore, Blegvad e Krause riformano gli per registrare Ca Va (V2, 1998).

Orpheus The Lowdown (Ape House, 2004), recorded between 1990 and 2003, was a highly intellectual collaboration between Peter Blegvad and Andy Partridge of XTC. However, the music sounded mostly sketchy and incomplete. The same pair followed it up with Gonwards (2012).

The 17-song Go Figure (ReR, 2017), the first solo album after a long hiatus, featured John Greaves (bass and piano), Chris Cutler (drums), Bob Drake (guitar and vocals), Karen Mantler (organ, vocals, glockenspiel and harmonica) and Mark Lockett (tambuta and cymbal).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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