The Muffins - Live at Orion (2003)
Canterbury/Avant-Prog | DVD-5 | ~3.34 Gb | Scans(300dpi)
NTSC 4:3 (720x480) VBR | MPEG1, 2 ch , 224Kbps
After being away from the public's eye for nearly 20 years, The Muffins released the fine comeback CD Bandwidth in 2002, and as they finish work on their next album, to be titled Double Negative, the band has released this DVD of a concert at Orion Sound Studios from September of 2002. Playing songs mostly from the Bandwidth and Manna/Mirage albums, plus a few new tunes from the soon to be released CD, the four members all prove to be in top form, showing that the time spent apart has not hindered their musical capabilities together as a band.
Many of the best songs from Bandwidth are covered here, including the symphonic jazz stomp of "Walking the Duck", "People in the Snow", "East of Diamond", and the ominous classic "Out of the Boot." The staple cut from Manna/Mirage, "Hobart Got Burned" , gets royal treatment, as it kicks off with a dissonant jazz sax duet between Tom Scott and Dave Newhouse, before the whole band steps in for a wild avant-jazz romp featuring Billy Swann's sinewy yet muscular bass lines and Paul Sears acrobatic drums. The newer tunes covered, "Angel from Lebanon", "Maya", "The Two Georges", and "The Highlands", are all moody progressive jazz pieces that are an extension of the bands work on Bandwidth, yet I detect a more symphonic tone thanks to the addition of extra keyboards. Newhouse throws in some neat organ sounds on the excellent "Angel from Lebanon", which is bound to be a fan favorite from the upcoming album.
Musically, this is an excellent DVD, as the sound is perfect throughout. However, the video production at times had me scratching my head a bit. The band decided to use a four camera shoot, which was a great idea, but then added tons of 1960's psychedelic styled filter and camera effects that becomes rather annoying at times. The first few songs really tried my patience, as the cameras cut back and forth between each other way too quickly, and the use of fuzzy, multi-colored filters and superimposed shots becomes a major distraction. Thankfully, things settle down half-way through the set, and you get to see more normal camera shots and angles which helps enjoy the music that much more.
In summary, this is a must have for Muffins fans, and a great place for beginners to investigate what the band is all about. Perhaps a companion CD would work well here as well guys!
The MUFFINS are Canterbury influenced quartet formed in Washington D.C. in the year of 1973 by Dave Newhouse (keyboards, reeds), Billy Swan (bass) and Michael Zenterner (guitar, violin). The new group remains nameless until one day, while the trio are discussing upon potential names, a friend of there's enters the house and shouts "The muffins are hear!" and conveying a tray of blueberry muffins, thus the band is born! A number of drummers are recruited off and on during the next few months. In the fall of 1974, reediest, Tom Scot joins The MUFFINS, moves in with band, starts to rehearse and Dave starts to compose new material. In the fall of 1975, drummer Stewart Abramowitz joins and the band starts recording demos in the studio and at home that would end up on the album released under Cuneiform label: "Chronometers". In the summer of 1976 after a few gigs, Michael and Stewart leave the band, leaving the group to become a trio. While they are a trio, they tour as in improvising group. In the fall of 1976, they met drummer Paul Sears at a gig. Paul was satisfied of what he heard and joined immediately, thus the setting of The MUFFINS popular era.
They start touring and eventually record their first LP entitled: "Manna/Mirage". After that release, they tour some more, become quite popular in the college circuit and receive much college radio airplay. Then Fred Frith (former guitarist of HENRY COW) moves to New York, becomes well acquainted with the band and his music is quite the influence on them. Fred also features them as a backup band on Fred's first solo album "Gravity". Therefore leads to their R.I.O. influenced second album "185" which is produced by Fred Frith. Then after the release and a show in Penn State College University, they disband. In 1998, they reform for a little reunion show, resulting in the release of "Bandwidth" in 2002. Their sound is strongly influenced by the Jazz-Rock tendencies of SOFT MACHINE, the improvisational techniques of HENRY COW and the quirky song structures of HATFIELD & THE NORTH and MOTHER'S OF INVENTION.
"Manna/Mirage" is an essential release, recommended to all of those that are fans of Canterbury, or Jazz-Rock Fusion. "185" is more R.I.O. influenced and very inconsistent, since they were on a low budget and Fred Frith's production is very evident. Their latest release "Bandwidth" shows the group expressing their sound from the previous albums. "Open City" is just a good collection of out-takes and a good place to start for a novice interested in the band.
Walking The Duck
Down From The Sun Tower
People In The Snow
Out Of The Boot
East Of Diamond
Angel From Lebanon
The Two Georges
Hobart Got Burned
Billy Swann acoustic guitar, bass guitar
Paul Sears electric guitar, drums
Thomas Frasier Scott flute, clarinet, alto clarinet, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, keyboards, percussion, programming
Dave Newhouse flute, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, keyboards