CRASS WAS THEN – THIS IS NOW. WAKE UP TO IT
CRASS’ album, ‘Yes, Sir, I Will’, was possibly the most angry and hard hitting attack on the political/military/industrial complex ever consigned to vinyl. Written by Penny Rimbaud in 1982 at the height of the Falklands conflict, it seethes with righteous indignation over what he saw as a pointless but vicious exercise in vote catching by a government whose popularity was severely on the wane. So powerful was this critique that it led to threats of prosecution by that very same government, threats which were typically used by CRASS to further their attacks on it and its tyrannical leader, Margaret Thatcher.
Over thirty years later, in 2014, Rimbaud was asked to participate in the Rebellion Festival, a yearly punk gathering held in Blackpool, UK. Realising that the opening date of the festival closely coincided with that of the euphemistically named ‘Great War’, Rimbaud and the festival organisers agreed that as an appropriate response they should open the event with a performance of ‘Yes, Sir, I Will’.
In preparing for this performance, Rimbaud began to question the relevance of some of the content of ‘Yes, Sir’. It seemed to him that much of it was pertinent only to the time in which it was written, a time when a genuine social uprising had appeared to be a very real possibility (one that was violently and conclusively squashed during the miners’ strike of 1984). But times change and there was, he now felt, an element of aggression within the work which veiled its essential message of love and peace; it was a passion that could all too easily be mistaken for blind anger. With this in mind, and inspired by John Lennon’s ‘All You Need is Love’, he set about rewriting ‘Yes, Sir’ from what he describes as a more Taoist viewpoint. Through replacing screams of anguish with laments of love, he was largely able to satisfy his wish to change ‘Yes, Sir’ into an expression of compassion, that being the hugely demanding realm of love in its unconditional form.
For the Rebellion performance of the now retitled ‘Yes, Sir, the Truth of ᴙevolution’, Rimbaud was joined by CRASS’ lead vocalist Eve Libertine plus a group of leading musicians from the London jazz scene with whom they’d worked extensively in the past. Named ‘L’Académie des Vanités’, the band consisted of Eve Libertine/vocals, Penny Rimbaud/vocals, Louise Elliott/sax, Kate Shortt/cello, Jennifer Maidman/guitar, Phil Robson/guitar, Thad Kelly/bass and Gene Calderazzo/drums. The live recording of that show, presented here, captures all the tense excitement created by presenting a primarily punk audience with complex poetics of love, accompanied by equally demanding freeform, improvised jazz. However, as had generally been the case with CRASS’ output, wild, willing and worrisome, it would be wise to expect the unexpected. Equally, through its progressive and colourful imagery, the vibrant packaging designed by Gee Vaucher shows a refusal to harp back to the illusory golden past of punk dreams and conceits.
‘We are poets, armed with the cobblestones of love, unconditional, uncompromising, beyond need of proof.’ However, if proof is needed, it will most surely be found in the content of this radical, imaginative release.
released June 27, 2016
Vocals, Producer, Painting – Penny Rimbaud
Vocals – Eve Libertine
Bass – Thad Kelly
Cello – Kate Shortt
Design – Gee Vaucher
Drums – Gene Calderazzo
Guitar – Jennifer Maidman, Phil Robson
Saxophone – Louise Elliott
Recorded By, Mastered By – Harvey Birrell
Mastered By [Final CD preparation by] – Martin Bowes
Photography By [Stills from filmed performance] – Mick Duffield
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