John Greaves & Peter Blegvad

  • John Greaves & Peter Blegvad
  • Kew. Rhone. (Virgin) 1977 
  • John Greaves
  • Accident (Europa) 1982 
  • Longhouse
  • Longhouse (Warner Bros.) 1988 
  • Lodge
  • Smell of a Friend (Antilles New Directions) 1988 

John Greaves (ex-Henry Cow; music, keyboards) and Peter Blegvad (ex-Slapp Happy; lyrics, guitar) essay a jazzy theatricality on Kew. Rhone., a stunning joint endeavor with vocalist Lisa Herman. Featuring a large cast of new music sidepeople, the album is consistently lyrical and lovely, incredibly precise and enduringly intelligent.

On his first solo venture, Greaves encompasses a wide variety of sounds and moods. Some of the instrumentation on Accident recalls Henry Cow, and Greaves employs the Cow principle: if a particular sound doesn’t pull you in, one on the next cut might, and all the songs are distinct unto themselves, even on first listening. Greaves’ singing, however, is too flat and unemotive to sustain interest.

Released just prior to the Lodge album, Longhouse (produced by Anton Fier) is a showcase for Herman’s original modern-pop stylings. Something of an analogue to Laura Nyro recordings, the LP is finely commercial and supremely tasteful, but not at all adventurous.

Herman guests on Smell of a Friend, the only issue so far from the Lodge, an arty and semi-commercial project formed by Greaves with Fier, guitarist Jakko Jakszyk and two Blegvads: Peter and his singing brother Kristoffer. The album brings intriguing ideas and techniques to bear on what — superficially, at least — are straightforward jazzy pop songs, loading them with delicate content. Like a painting whose fascinating details and subtle plans are revealed only upon close examination, Smell of a Friend rewards careful listening with a dose of the intelligence that went into crafting it.

[Mark Fleischmann / Ira Robbins]

See also: Henry Cow