This is a live double album by the legendary British prog monsters, recorded at concerts in various European countries between September 1974 and October 1975. The first disc is composed material, and the second gives us a glimpse of the band?s live improv chops, including their last John Peel appearance.
The composed pieces, especially ?Beautiful as the Moon?Terrible as an Army with Banners? and ? Nirvana for Mice? feature the jarring mix of operatic voices and almost programmed minimal guitar, the latter courtesy of Fred Frith. Yet they are gorgeous and serious in intent; ?Ottawa Song? and ?Ruins? are as powerful and beautiful as anything Benjamin Britten ever wrote about war and loss.
The Frith/Tim Hodgkinson collaboration, ?Groningen? has the most bite of the improvs, with the 30 minute ?Oslo? a close second. Frith has never been one to totally cut loose, for my taste. Most of these tracks could use a little bite from the guitar; especially the improvs tend to ponder into themselves a bit too often. We could all use a shock to the system. Still, Henry Cow never failed to walk the tightrope, and when you do that, you are bound to trip on occassion. Better than standing still and looking up. 7/10 -- Mike Wood (18 December, 2006)