Cruel But Fair
02. Jannakota 4:36
03. Echoes 8:43
04. Square Enough Fire 9:23
05. Rocky Recluse 2:24
06. Bjorn Free 2:18
07. Soul Fate 5:38
Recorded at The Basement, Oslo, October 1976
- Keith Tippett / piano
- Elton Dean / alto sax, saxello
- Hugh Hopper / bass guitar
- Joe Gallivan / drums, percussion, Moog synthesizer
Of all the players that surrounded the Canterbury crowd, Hopper had yet to play with Keith tippet and by summer 75, this was done. Indeed if Elton had played with gallivant and Tippett and Hopper before, Hugh hadn't crossed Keith or Joe's path yet. So this first collaboration could be seen as an early attempt to form a Soft Heap, especially given that the quartet remains mainly accessible, not seeking dissonance unless necessary, the album came with an interesting artwork cover, illustrating rather well the music inside. .
So if Dean is his usual self, Hugh is definitely in an excellent shape, Gallivan is remarkable on drums, but toys with some synthesizers, it is mostly Tippett's playing that surpirise us, especially knowing that his other works of that era were Ovary Lodge and that was more in the free-jazz realm. Here Tippet plays a lot of electric piano (which is rather rare occurrence, AFAIK) and gives the album a bit of a Mwandishi-sound at times. At best, you'd swear that Tippett has gone back to his Dedicated To album and at worst,
The opening Hopper-penned Seven Drones is starting out with a semi-free jazz with dissonant sax and piano, but madness doesn'tr break loose, even if your sanity is being toyed with. But if you thought that was bad, wait until Jannakota and Dean's squeaky sax imitating birdsongs. The Tippett-penned Echoes is a slow-developing affair that drags on endlessly and is way too predictable. If the first side is made of three tracks more or less written apart and adapting their piece to the foursome, the flipside is definitely the four musicians working together as the credits point out. The album's best track is the superb Square Enough Fire, torrid jazz-rock that would easily finds its place on an early Nuclaus album. While Rocky Reclusive is borderline sane, Bjorn Free is a superb intro to the closing Soul Fate is starting out a bit dissonant, then veering Coltrane before going in an African ethnic beat drawing Elton slowly to meddle in.
While I wouldn't put this first album in everyone's hands, let alone reach everyone's ears, Cruel But Fair is a very worthy album that hovers between Canterbury-type jazz-rock and the wild works of Keith Tippett