The downtown New York avant-garde scene of the late 1970s was both incredibly fertile and startlingly expansive; there was groundbreaking music being made in virtually every subgenre of classical, pop, and jazz music, and in retrospect, an unusually high percentage of that music was both conceptually fascinating and aesthetically rewarding. Composer Peter Gordon was responsible for more than his share of it, both as leader of the Love of Life Orchestra and as sideman to such illustrious artists as Laurie Anderson, the Flying Lizards, and David Van Tieghem (who also served as a member of LOLO). This collection brings together eight of Gordon's more popular and influential recordings from that era, including "Beginning of the Heartbreak/Don't Don't" (immortalized for contemporary hipsters by LCD Soundsystem on their Fabriclive.36 compilation) and Gordon's take on the Stephen Foster song "Beautiful Dreamer," a deconstructive collaboration with Justine & the Victorian Punks. Gordon approached pop music conventions as a composer: he took disco beats and punchy horn parts and funk bass figures and notated them, creating music that tried to wed the structure and discipline of classical music with the excitement and accessibility of pop music. Inevitably, the results were mixed: at times (notably the rather saccharine "Roses on the Disco Floor" and the ultimately silly mangling of "Beautiful Dreamer") the music feels slightly strangled by its structural rigor, but at other times (like the rhythmically wacky "Iago's Escape" and the Material-flavored "That Hat") Gordon shows how much depth and musicality can be brought to pop music by someone with serious compositional chops. Appearances by Arto Lindsay and David Byrne add more period interest to the program, and anyone with fond memories of downtown music from this period will find plenty to enjoy here.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson