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Casablanca Moon/ Desperate Straights Import

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, October 4, 1993
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Editorial Reviews

Recorded in Faust's studio in Hamburg, Germany, Casablanca Moon is the 2nd Slapp Happy record. It's an eccentric yet melodic record with addictive songs... Blegvad, Dagmar Krause and Anthony Moore work in a short song format, and understandably quirky and great things happen. Desperate Straights is something else, the first fusing of Henry Cow and Slapp Happy (who went on to make in Praise of Learning as well. This is a powerful album, musically sophisticated and quirky as all get-out. Songs like "A Worm Is at Work" or "Some Questions about Hats" have to be heard to be believed. EMI. 1996.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 4, 1993)
  • Imported ed. edition
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: EMI Import
  • ASIN: B0000073VG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,244 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Finding these two albums together on a single cd was a long-held dream of mine. These are the two albums this quirky and intelligent group recorded for Virgin Records in the early 70s -- one of them after they joined forced with the leg endary progressive band Henry Cow.
Slapp Happy were like no other band of their time -- or since, for that matter, now that they've (Sort of) reformed. The melodies are jagged but hummable -- a disconcerting type of pop music. The lyrics, always intelligent and challenging, are filled with incredible wordplay, humor and obscure philosophical references. This music will make you tap your foot, but it will also definitely make you think -- and we all know exercise is good for us, right?
I can't think of another songwriter to whom I can properly compare Peter Blegvad -- a look at the constantly-endangered life of a spy, always living on the edge; a song about reincarnation; a look at Michaelangelo through the suspicious eyes of a contemporary; a paean to French poet and enfant-terrible Arthur Rimbaud; a re-working of a section from Handel's 'Messiah'. Beginning to get the picture? There was no subject off-limits to Blegvad on these albums -- and his career has shown that this is an integral part of his songwriting ethos to this day. He has continued to amaze his listeners in the years since these albums were released.
Dagmar Krause's voice MUST be heard to be appreciated. German-born, she sounds as if she were raised on a mixed diet of Brecht-Weill-Eisler political ballads, opera, and pop music. She can coo, she can warble, she can shriek, covering all bases in between as well. Admittedly an aquired taste, her voice is one of the imminently recognizable, integral parts of Slapp Happy's 'sound'.
And then there's Anthony Moore.
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Format: Audio CD
...And thus Desperate Straights' opener, "Some Questions About Hats," set the tone, and a marvellous tone it was. Slapp Happy's last proper album, ably backed by the Cow and various members of the Faust enclave, reminds me more than anything else of those dada-caberet-ditties apparently sung but never recorded at the Caberet Voltaire (the club in Zurich, not the band) by Hugo Ball and his band of Merry Men (and Ladies) -- naive yet erudite ("Europa" and "In the Sickbay" especially), infinitely playful ("Giants") while appallingly sentimental ("Riding Tigers"), and unlike anything else anyone has pulled off since. The arrangements fit Dagmar's voice like a pair of torn garters.
I was used to RecRec's far-less-practiced-or-produced "Acnalbasac Noom" album of Wümme/Nettleback/Faust-era demos before I heard "Casablanca Moon," the other album on this CD. I recommend the former, though CM does have its charms, especially "The Drum" and then "Haiku" -- it's just that the arrangements go a bit overboard at times, to my taste. But the songs are equally wonderful.
I've had these albums for 15 years and never tired of them. Thank [insert deity of preference here] that Polygram finally released its bizarre strangehold on "Sort Of," the first Slapp Happy album, and it's finally coming out on CD this Spring!
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By A Customer on May 12, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Slapp Happy were two very arch gentlemen, Peter Blegvad and Anthony Moore, and German female vocalist Dagmar. Blegvad announced SH as 'Naive Rock; the Douanier Rousseau Sound'. While that is certainly a fine description of 'Sort Of' and 'Acnalbasac Noom', it is not so true of the two records presented here: 'Casablanca Moon' (a session-rendered reworking of 'Acnalbasac Noom', which was made, like 'Sort of', with members of Faust); and 'Desperate Straights', made with Henry Cow. Casablanca Moon features, like all SH's work, highly worked, miniature songs with dense, literate, wordplaying lyrics. It relocates the fascinatingly clunky, oompah sound of 'Acnalbasac' to a silken, string-driven Euro environment which brings to mind work like Serge Gainsbourg to produce a surreal record of psychological lounge pieces.
Did I say 'surreal'? 'Desperate Straights' goes further, toward downright WEIRD. Here, the music slides across the Art Brut continuum leftwards of Rousseau to the area inhabited by darker, weirder people like Lear and Dadd. The tracks are small chamber rock hallucinations which are deeply strange, but compulsive. Alongside pieces like 'Some Questions about Hats' - curious, even disturbing - are beautiful songs like 'In the Sickbay', a dream of convalescence on a listing sunlit ship; and 'Europa', a lost child's paean to a warstruck continent. Blegvad and Moore pull the latent umbra out of Henry Cow and also boost that group's low-level intricacy. And Dagmar finds a new way with her unique voice: witchy, but cute. Despite the untypical and lugubrious Cutler/Moore improvisation 'Caucasian Lullaby', 'Desperate Straights' is High Art, one of a handful of essential progressive rock artefacts.
This CD compilation is a fine place to start with this group.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This certainly is an odd pairing. This cd places the quirky band's 2nd and 3rd lps on one cd. The first half of the cd features Anthony Moore, Peter Blegvad and German chanteuse Dagmar Krause in "pop" mode. It's a very strange strain of pop with intricate arrangements, clever lyrics and plenty of music twists and turns. But it is pop nonetheless.

The second half of the cd sees the band teaming up with Henry Cow and taking a much more angular, almost Weil/Brecht-ian approach. And yet the melodies, arrangements and aforementioned twists and turns are still in evidence. The common denominator is Dagmar's voice which while less sweet on the second half is still recognizable.

Overall I prefer the later records. Honestly, I think the first and second lps by this band would have been more musically compatible. I highly recommend this but almost think of it as two separate bands.

A separate cd of demos for Casablanca Moon (Acnalbasac Noom) is also highly recommended and presents tracks from the first half of this cd in sparer form with a few major surprises.
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