1/ Panther Burn (Cartwright) 6.30 2/ The Bear (Curlew) 1.45 3/ Bitter Thumbs (Cartwright) 6.00 4/ The Victim (Cartwright) 2.33 5/ The Hardwood (Cartwright) 5.13 6/ Sports (Laswell,Cora) 1.30 7/ Bruno (Curlew) 1.00 8/ But Get It (Curlew) 2.33 9/ Rudders (Cora) 3.11 10/ Binoculars (Curlew) 1.00 11/ The Ole Miss Exercise Song (Cartwright) 8.00 Recorded at The Creative Music Studio, Woodstock, New York, February 29 - March 2, 1980 Tracks 5 and 9 recorded live at CBGB, New York, February 6, 1980Bill Laswell: bass; Nicky Skopelitis: guitar; George Cartwright: reeds; Bill Bacon: drums; Tom Cora: cello.
1984 - Landslide Records (USA), LD 1004 (Vinyl)
Bill Laswell is probably the most "famous" musician on Curlew's eponymous debut LP, and it's interesting to note that not only had he not fallen into his more well-known ambient dub persona at the time of this 1980 recording — but the first Material album had not even been released, nor his first solo effort, Baselines. On tracks like the opening "Panther Burn" his slippery, rubbery bass is all over the place and far from deep and dubby. Laswell is more interested in playing in-your-face funk-jazz than in building up layers of "atmosphere" (although there is atmosphere of a different sort on the collective improv "But Get It," spacious but disturbed more than calming), and the same goes for guitarist Nicky Skopelitis, a future ongoing partner in Laswell's sonic universe who emerges as a fleet-fingered fusoid six-stringer here (check out "Bitter Thumbs"). Drummer Bill Bacon from Material alternately nails the groove and rolls and tumbles along, and cellist Tom Cora makes every effort to transport his instrument as far as possible from the world of "chamber music" — his earthy and abrasive tone and jagged interjections are as wonderful on this disc as they ever would be (and his "Rudders" is a great Curlew tune). Then of course there is the leader, and while Cartwright can wail with the best of them, he is more interested in a group sound than in hogging the solo spotlight, as he would continue to prove through numerous Curlew incarnations (later featuring Pippin Barnett on drums and Davey Williams on guitar and a shifting cast of avant luminaries such as Fred Frith, Anton Fier, Wayne Horvitz, Ann Rupel, Samm Bennett, Kenny Wollesen, and Fred Chalenor) on Cuneiform albums up to and including 2003's Mercury. With his sax staking out territory somewhere between R&B, funk, harmolodics, and free jazz/improv, screaming with passion one moment and rolling out an insistently catchy and good-natured melody the next, you might wonder if downtown avant types were thrown into a conundrum at Curlew gigs: "Will we still be hip if somebody catches us dancing the Funky Chicken to this stuff?"
Dave Lynch (courtesy of the All Music Guide website)