The Muffins — <185>
(Cuneiform 55013, 1981/1996, CD)
by Steve Robey, Published 1997-02-01
This newly re-released version of <185> is an excellent document of the final recordings by this talented Washington, DC quartet. First, a little history: Fred Frith produced the album in 1981, culling compositions and improvisations from the Muffins' live repertoire. Electronic effects and overdubs were added, making this a truly unique and intriguing Muffins album. However, over the years (as drummer Paul Sears recounts in his liner notes) they couldn't help feeling that the album "didn't sound like us." And so the idea came for the CD re-release: in addition to the original album, seven of the ten tracks were "remixed" to more closely resemble the original live tapes from which the original album was made. These seven tracks appear on the CD as "bonus tracks," bringing this hearty CD up to a 75-minute length.
While I can't make a definitive decision on which "version" of the album I like better, suffice it to say that regardless of the mix, this is some of the best music the Muffins ever recorded. The compositions are both wilder and more concise than much of their previous output. The squealing woodwind (with the emphasis on wind) sounds on "Horsebones" are astounding, and the manic riffing at the beginning of "Queenside" is as grungy as Canterbury/RIO-styled music is likely to get. Along with Open City (which contains music from the same period but was released posthumously), this release is a fine example of the Muffins' last days.
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more