Recorded live at the Victoriaville Festival in Canada about six weeks before the cold war ended, bassoonist/alto saxophonist Cooper (formerly of Henry Cow and the Feminist Improvisors Group) joined forces with singer/lyricist Sally Potter to present a defiant musical challenge to Europe, the United States, and other politically charged climes. The music here is very similar to that of Henry Cow, but is even more outspoken. Cooper's reed playing works closely in the interior of the ensemble, which also includes Phil Minton (vocals, trumpet), Alfred "23" Harth (tenor sax and clarinet), Elvira Plenar (piano), ex-Soft Machine member Hugh Hopper (electric bass guitar), and Marilyn Mazur (drums). This one-hour unedited performance has many stark, bitter moments and some truly inventive playing. Starting and ending with a tricky time figure, "England Descending" features Potter's cries of "I thought the war was over" and "Once bigger than our size, now as we really are...small." Minton's amazing vocals and a decidedly anti-American sentiment ("We bought your movies-cars-music, and we lost ours") highlight "The Allies." The scathing "On German Soil" moves from abject anger to circus calliope during one wild, bassoon-led segment. Harth's Albert Ayler-esque tenor rages on "England," screeches ferociously during "Liberty Bonds," and joins Cooper on the lone instrumental "Oh the Passing of Time, Europe." There are some quieter moments: a lilting piano fires the European lament "Lovers"; the waltzing, Weill-like "Curtain Descending" showcases Potter's shadowy vocals; and a Balkan segment introduces the somber "Prayer." The lyrics here are certainly provocative, but what's most challenging is the music itself -- creative composition shaped by Cooper but with just enough improvisation to make it captivating. This is the ultimate in urban landscape sound sculpture, performed by an absolutely extraordinary band. Historically and musically it deserves to be judged with the highest reverence.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos