The Muffins — Open City
(Cuneiform 55010, 1985/1994, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1994-08-01
For the uninitiated, The Muffins were a Washington DC based band who existed from about 1973 to '81. Despite that many years, they only released three regular albums during their career (although more material has been released posthumously on CD and tape, including the subject of this review). Their style is firmly rooted in the Canterbury styles of Soft Machine, Henry Cow, Elton Dean, and others — a jazz oriented rock style complete with two reedsmen on board, yet these comparisons really only tell part of the story. Their highly energized and experimental sound went far to define the new American progressive sound that emerged in the late 70s. This material on this collection has several origins, yet it all flows together seamlessly. The first seven tracks are from the band's last demo tape in 1980, consisting mostly of alternate versions of material from the <185> and Manna/Mirage albums, recorded "live" in the studio: the complexity of "Queenside,” the schizophrenic and moody "Antidote to Drydock,” the humorous adventure "Zoom Resume" and the out-and-out smoker "Hobart Got Burned" all offer evidence of The Muffins amazing level of musical sophistication. Most of the tracks are purely instrumental, but on the odd occasion when vocals are employed, they never take center stage or detract from their musical muscle. Two tracks "Vanity" and "Dancing in Sunrise" are out-takes from Fred Frith's Gravity album, a project which The Muffins participated in. "Blind Arch" is taken from a live concert in 1977, and "Expected Freedom" is a short outtake from the Manna/Mirage sessions. The remaining tracks were from Take One — a radio show on WGTB, Georgetown University; here they demonstrate their improvisational prowess on "In the Red" and offer a superb fourteen-minute composition in "Not Alone.” In all, this could be considered a good introduction to The Muffins' music, or an essential supplement to round out their regular albums.
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more