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The Hapless Child by Michael Mantler / Edward Gorey

In 1976, trumpeter/composer Michael Mantler’s WATT label issued The Hapless Child, where the he set the grim poetry of Edward Gorey set to some appropriately sinister music. Mantler assembled a crack unit of unusually well-matched players from the ranks of jazz and rock to play some dissonant, all-tension, no-release soundscapes behind the elf-like vocals of Robert Wyatt (before embarking on his solo career, he sang w/ Soft Machine and Matching Mole). The settings here are more art-song than pop-song, more akin to Arnold Schoenberg than Lennon/McCartney, with Terje Rypdal laying down terse, sighing, bluesy guitar lines over dense, oft-kilter rhythms and eerie, atmospheric keyboards. You’d have to be a devoted fan of Gorey stories and similarly stark, foreboding music to appreciate this set, which by comparison makes Henry Threadgill sound as carefree swingin' as Eddie Condon and Joy Division as cheery as The Mamas & The Papas. In many ways, The Hapless Child presaged the very European art/jazz/classical/rock bands Art Zoyd and Univers Zero - fans of that style of Euro-fusion take note.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Michael Mantler / Edward Gorey
  • CD Title: The Hapless Child
  • Genre: Fusion
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Reissue Original Release: 1976
  • Record Label: ECM
  • Musicians: M. Mantler: composer; E. Gorey: words; Robert Wyatt: vocals; Carla Bley: keyboards; Terje Rypdal: guitar; Steve Swallow: elec. bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums; Alfreda Benge, Nick Mason, Albert Caulder: voices.
  • Rating: Two Stars
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