Having played with British bands Comus and Henry Cow during the 1970s, bassoonist, composer and songwriter Lindsay Cooper, born 1951 (more info here), was used to communal music activities and LP-cum-political-tract releases when she co-founded the Feminist Improvising Group (FIG) in 1977 with Maggie Nicols (of Centipede fame). Her first solo LP, Rags, published 1980, was the soundtrack to The Song of the Shirt, a 1979 Feminist/Marxist film by Sue Clayton and Jonathan Curling. The musicians are members of FIG (Lindsay Cooper, Sally Potter, Georgie Born) plus Frith and Cutler from Henry Cow and Phil Minton from the Mike Westbrook Band. Self-published in 1980 in the UK through small label Arcades, Rags was recorded and engineered by Dave Vorhaus at his own Kaleidophon studio, the usual White Noise recording facility.
♫ As expected by anyone familiar with other Rock In Opposition discs, Rags is a mix of progressive-folk, workers’ songs and 20th century chamber music. What it lacks in communal chutzpah compared to the above-mentioned big bands is more than compensated by a more personal, delicate and chamber-like music idiom. The music is entirely written for small ensembles in which piano, bassoon or guitar lead the melody, while Sally Potter and Phil Minton alternate on vocals. A few tracks are entirely played on wind instruments by Cooper in re-recording. The beautiful last track, The Song of the Shirt, reminds both Hanns Eisler’s Die Mutter and French chanson réaliste.
The 20pp booklet includes many b&w collages by Linn MacRitchie as well as historical research on 19th century’s working classes by Sue Clayton and Jonathan Curling. As a whole, Rags is a wonderful concept album, politically comparable to the Red Krayola and Art & Language collaborations (ever wondered what Red stands for in Red Krayola?).
01 The Exhibition Of Fashions (1:30)
02 Lots Of Larks + General Strike (2:59)
03 Woman’s Wrongs I (3:35)
04 Woman’s Wrongs II (3:06)
05 The Charter (1:41)
06 Parliament Catch (1:28)
07 Woman’s Wrongs III (2:31)
08 Film Music (4:21)
09 Prostitution Song (2:22)
10 1848 + The Chartist Anthem (3:13)
11 Cholera (2:48)
12 Stitch Goes The Needle (2:34)
13 A Young Lady’s Vision (1:24)
14 Pin Money (:54)
15 Woman’s Wrong IV (3:49)
16 The Song Of The Shirt (5:01)
Total time 43:10
LP released by Arcades, UK, 1980