Just before the turn of the century, the two British musicians Tim Bowness (vocals, guitars) and Stephen Bennett (keyboards, guitars) became again fascinated by the albums they had played in their youth. Therefore they both had a desire to return to the way of making music in the seventies. They could only do so by founding a new band, which became Henry Fool, named after the American Faustian black comedy written, produced and directed by Hal Hartley in 1997. In 2001 the first Henry Fool album saw the light of day, which has been recently remastered by Andy Jackson. This reissue has now appeared on the Kscope label, twelve years after its official release and in the same year Henry Fool's second album Men Singing came out.
Their eponymous album was recorded between April and September 2000, and came about after the completion of Henry Fool's line-up. At the time this line-up consisted of Tim Bowness, known from the No-Man project with Steven Wilson, Stephen Bennett, drummer Fudge Smith (ex-Pendragon), bassist Peter Chilvers (Brian Eno), guitarist Michael Bearpark and Myke Clifford on saxophone and flute. The desire to record a progressive rock album strongly influenced by bands from the past, resulted in a fine, largely instrumental album. Occasionally it featured the laid-back vocals of Tim Bowness, which worked out perfectly with the sometimes very mellow compositions. Those pieces were well-produced and mixed by Bowness and Bennett, although two tracks were mixed by Steven Wilson.
Musically Henry Fool's first album is an eclectic mix of influences from the late sixties and the seventies. The progressive influences from bands like the Peter Gabriel era of Genesis , the psychedelic period of Pink Floyd and Soft Machine are clearly audible. However, also influences from No-Man might be heard by the commonly used distortion, dreamy flute parts, ambient samples and the calm, delicate vocals of Bowness. The frequently used Mellotron and the occasional surprising improvisations are again reminiscent of King Crimson, while the saxophone is a tribute to Miles Davis from his Bitches Brew (1970) period and later.
All these influences culminate in an album that contains music somewhere between psychedelic progressive, kraut-and jazz-rock. The sixteen tracks have been perfectly mixed providing a continuous experience with a mini-suite incorporated in the form of Late Show, a long track divided into five episodes ending with the beautiful Grounded.
The debut of Henry Fool will be a feast of recognition to many people when it comes to all the aforementioned influences. Both lovers of the old and rather new progressive rock bands will find a lot of musical enjoyment with this record. Even more if you're a fan of the above-mentioned names complemented with a band like Mogwai. The remastered version also features liner notes of the two founding members and new artwork.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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