Monday, November 13, 2017

Robert Fripp & The League Of Gentlemen - 1986 [1996] "Thrang Thrang Gozinbulx"

The League of Gentlemen was a band active during March–December 1980 that featured guitarist Robert Fripp of King Crimson fame. Other members included bass guitarist Sara Lee (who later joined Gang of Four, The B-52's, and Indigo Girls), keyboardist Barry Andrews (formerly of XTC; later of Shriekback) and percussionist Johnny Toobad, replaced late in the band's tenure by Kevin Wilkinson (later of China Crisis and Squeeze).

Fripp referred to the 1980 band as "a second-division touring new wave instrumental dance band".

The Trouser Press Record Guide described the League of Gentlemen's music as typically taking "a simple medium-to-fast backbeat over which Fripp and Andrews locked horns, with melodic development emerging slowly, surely, subtly." Trouser Press also suggests that the League's foray into dance oriented rock was a precursor to Fripp's reformed King Crimson in the early 1980s.

The band toured extensively in Europe and North America throughout 1980.

There are 77 specific tour dates detailed in the sleevenotes on the album The League of Gentlemen. Missing from this list are four (possibly warm-up) gigs at the 14th Century Hunting Lodge (now Lodge Farm House), outside the grounds of Kingston Lacy near Wimborne Minster, Dorset, England. These gigs are dated 24 to 27 February and pre-dated the first 'official' gig on 10 April at Moles, Bath.

The early 80s were a musical dance phenomena as well as a signpost for radical changes in the echelons of music taste and fashion. The times dictated 'in with 4/4 rhythms, out with the extended pieces of music' (based on elaborate time changes and structure). This project was the immediate precursor to the 1981 reformation of the Crimson King, and shows our man Fripp shredding leads left and right across a very disco-ish dance floor. At least a little head bobbing is in order! Throughout the live show, the Englishman is on a solo vengeance tear, going backwards, upwards, sideways, down. The heat of the small clubs can almost be felt by the end of the each song: people were really moving out there! What is also great about this release is that it really is a good sounding bootleg (from five separate shows) with no sound doctoring from remix engineer David Singleton. It's listed in the liner notes: a raw live band recording, warts and all. What you hear is what you got: the band as it really sounded from two mikes at the back of the club going directly into a cassette recorder.

Band personnel included the hot talents of Barry Andrews (XTC's first keyboardist who went on to more successful work with Shriekback) and Sarah Lee (ex of Gang of Four later with the B-52's). The oddest track stylistically speaking is "Farewell Johnny Brill," which uses a familiar R&B groove as a soloing vehicle. Superb liner notes with details about life on the road with complete tour dates, excerpts from the guitar meister's journal (always fun to read). The last fifty seconds summarizes the set perfectly; it's taken from recorded comments by Fripp at these shows: "I have something to say to you from the heart, I... I really want to have a party. And I say this to everyone else in the band as well, team... I really have to party." Thrang Thrang Gozinbulx is a fun disc to annoy your friends, and what more could you ask for really?

"Lovingly and laboriously pieced together by co-producer David Singleton from a number of performances, this is marketed as an "official bootleg". What this term acknowledges is that the recordings were made on rudimentary cassette equipment with plenty of interference from crowd noise and other venue-related gremlins. However, Singleton has assembled, with judicious cutting and pasting, a strong CD which justifies his (and Fripp's) evident belief that this was worth the work spent on it.

"The League of Gentlemen's lone studio album was an awkward affair. Fripp puts this down to Johnny Toobad's departure and the fact that a recently inducted drummer played on most of the tracks. I think the real reason is that when captured clinically and pristinely, the sound of the League of Gentlemen comes across as... well... clinical. An intellectual exercise in setting Frippertronic patterns to a basic dance beat, as if merely to demonstrate the versatility of Fripp's invention. The silly titles -- 'Heptaparaparshinokh', etc -- and the snippets of quirky dialogue added to the impression of this being some sort of arch joke.

"Heard live, in the palpably sweaty confines of this official bootleg's North American venues, the music stands revealed as tight, aggressive dancefloor entertainment that almost sneakily manages to sound like no other dance music ever brought before the public. It does what it does with confidence and flair, and is genuinely groovy.

"It is unfortunate that the full version of the original League of Gentelmen LP is not available. While seeming to be uncertain if they were making an "Exposure" style art piece or a rock album, the band still managed to create an interesting work. But this "official bootleg" of the 1980 tour shows what the Leaugue really were: a new wave instrumental dance band. There are no vocals on this disc (with the exception of the audience), and much of the material was not drawn from the studio album.

"The music is about as far from King Crimson as Mr. Fripp has ever gone: every track has a simple dance beat, and the band members stick very close to the song riffs throughout. The trio of Andrews, Lee, and Toobad provide a strong, solid backing. Like the Crafties, they put down a "song" which Fripp plays over. Fripp's fret work is VERY fast, but not especially complicated: he often plays note patterns that move up and down the neck exploring various keys. Only occasionally does he break into a real "solo".

"We cannot call this music timeless: it is very 1980. (The riff to the title track, of which, by the way, there are three versions, sounds much like PIL's Keith Levine.) But that it captures a certain time and place is, along with some great playing, the recording's strength. It is also a good example of Mr. Fripp's highly respected "rock" playing during this purely non-Crimson period ("Scary Monsters" is another). New wave musicians and fans were very interested in Fripp, despite his connection to what was then thought of as "Dinosaur Rock". This disc shows us why that was so."

Track listing:

Recorded live at El Mocambo, Toronto, 17-18 June 1980, and Harpo's, Detroit, 10 July 1980.

01 Inductive Resonance
02 Thrang Thrang Gozinbulx I
03 Trap
04 Boy At Piano
05 Heptaparaparshinokh
06 Thrang Thrang Gozinbulx II
07 Christian Children Marching, Singing
08 Ooh! Mr. Fripp
09 Dislocated
10 Minor Man
11 Thrang Thrang Gozinbulx III
12 Farewell Johnny Brill
13 Inductive Resonance II


Robert Fripp - (guitar)
Sara Lee - (bass)
Barry Andrews - (organ)
Johnny Toobad - (drums)


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  2. Thank you very much! Best regards.


  4. What a great band. The league of Gentlemen lp spent a great deal of time on my turntable when it was released. I eagerly picked up this live cd when it was released.

  5. Thank so much! A delightful record! Great blog!