COMPOSERS: Cornelius Cardew
LABELS: Music Now
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: We Only Want the Earth
WORKS: Songs and arrangements
PERFORMER: Cornelius Cardew, Pete Devenport, Vicky Silva, Laurie Baker, Hugh Shrapnel (vocals), etc
CATALOGUE NO: MNCDX 004 (distr. www.musicnow.co.uk)
One needs a heart of stone not to laugh. Earnest voices primly intone Seventies slogans, backed by the
kind of ensemble more often encountered these days as a happy-clappy ‘faith band’. This was no
send-up, however, but the contribution of Cornelius Cardew and the musicians of the Peoples’ Liberation Movement to the spread of world revolution.
Yet there’s also sadness, and not just because if you get the point of ‘Smash the Social Contract’, a protest song of 1977, you’re showing your age. The ideas enshrined within may seem pretty amateur compared with modern-day spinning of words like freedom and democracy, but do we really have better ones, either in our commercially branded ‘music of the people’, or our political aspirations?
In fact, not all of Cardew’s dreams as expressed through these songs have gone unfulfilled; the kind of leftism affirmed in ‘School Days’, for example, seems part of educational dogma now. But perhaps the best way to accept these tracks, which include rare live and studio recordings from the period, is at face value: as traces from a time when music and politics went hand in hand in a way you’re unlikely to encounter again. Nicholas Williams