Michael Mantler


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From a concert at The First International Art Rock Festival in Frankfurt, Germany, this Mantler ensemble certainly lives up to the art rock portion of the billing and trundles out a quasi-greatest-hits performance. With ex-members of bands like Cream, 10cc, the Mothers of Invention, Henry Cow, and Pink Floyd there are chops and pretensions aplenty, but Mantler's dour approach reigns in most extravagances and provides a largely compelling show. They begin with an odd interpolation of his ecstatic "Preview" (which originally featured explosive work by Pharoah Sanders) and "No Answer" from his album of the same name based on Samuel Beckett texts. Much of the rest of the disc seesaws between versions of his Edward Gorey songs from The Hapless Child and several dark instrumental passages featuring his own clear, bleak trumpet work. Jack Bruce's vocals on the former don't have quite the wit or passion of Robert Wyatt's in the original, however, and these pieces come off as somewhat flaccid interpretations. His insistent trilling of his rs grows tiresome after a while and makes it sound a little as if he considers the whole thing a bit of a joke. Nonetheless, the purely musical content of the pieces is solid and substantial, making Live a reasonable entryway to Mantler's world, especially for listeners coming in from a rock or prog rock point of view.

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