HUGH HOPPER and MATT HOWARTH - The Stolen Hour (Burning Shed)

'The Stolen Hour' is a collaboration between Soft Machine stalwart Hugh Hopper and comic artist Matt Howarth. Hopper provides the music while Howarth's comicstrip can be viewed from a PDF file on the CD. The strip concerns the Australian government's decision to bring forward their daylight saving time by two months so that the foreign media could better cover the Olympic Games, and people's general horror that big US businesses could influence the government in that way. Hopper's contributions are inspired by Howarth's strip, and are a mixture of straight jazz, jazz fusion, and free jazz. Opener 'Craig's Distended Train Ride' benefits greatly from Robert Wyatt's cornet and Pierre-Olivier Govin's sax, coming across like a late 60's Miles Davis piece, and for me is the highlight of the album. 'An Inescapable Encounter With Mrs. Pry' and 'Yearning For The Stolen Hour' are examples of the free jazz, which for me are less successful, but 'An Unregulated Sunset' has a nice groove to it, and another guest cornet appearance from Wyatt. The treated voice and guitar of 'A Sideways Peek At Dreamtime' make for a welcome change from the other piece's more jazz-orientated feel, while 'Compatibility' stands out for Govin's sax solo. I enjoyed this album more than Hopper's last for Burning Shed, and perhaps this indicates that he needs a focus around which to write to produce his best work.
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