Cartoon were an American band from the early '80s. They recorded two albums, Cartoon in 1981 and Music from Left Field in 1983. Both, with the exception of one song, are including on Sortie, a CD reissue by Cuneiform. Cartoon's influences range from the European Prog bands (Yes, etc.), 20th century Classical, Free Jazz and the incidental music from Saturday afternoon cartoons. At live festivals, Cartoon was performing the themes from Rocky & Bullwinkle and Sherman & Peabody alongside covers of Stravinsky and Bartok string quartets. That should give you an insight into the band's original music contained on their two LPs. Cartoon was recorded as a trio of classically trained Scott Brazieal (keyboards), Mark Innocenti (guitars) and Gary Parra (percussion). Together, the trio created a music that is dazzling in complexity. (They searched for a long time to find a drummer capable of playing complex, constantly shifting meter.) Two songs, "Ptomaine Poisoning" and "Anemic Bolero," were scored by Brazieal, similar to the way National Health scored their music, then rehearsed it. There is a strong classical presence of grand piano on these and many other works. Other songs, including "Shark" and "Shredded Wheat" were worked out by the band during many long practice sessions. Thus, they have a bit more improvised feel, while still classically structured. Often, the comparison that came to mind was Univers Zero without the classical instruments and with a stronger synth presence.
Soon after Cartoon was recorded, the trio became a quintet, adding Herbert Diamant (woodwinds) and Craig Fry (violin and French horn). At once, the newcomers diversified the sound and solidified the classical touches heard throughout. On this album, only one song, "Light in August," is composed. The other four songs were "improvised to a preconceived form." Before recording, the band worked out the moods, motifs and transistions they desired, then recorded while working out the details in real time. Thus, the music has a definite sense of direction and purpose but captures the dynamic interplay and surprise of an improvising band. "Quotes," weighing in at more than fifteen minutes, carries this idea to an extreme as the ideas and improvisations were worked out over eight months of rehersals. This may seem to dampen the improvisational feel but, to my ears, this is not the case. The music is even more like Univers Zero , partially because of the addition of woodwinds, violin and horns, but also because the angular melodies are based on ostinato rhythms similar to the French RIO band. In all, the two Cartoon albums contained on this single CD demonstrate a mature band with excellent compositional and executional talent. They get away from the traditional Symphonic Progressive mold, choosing instead to expand upon the 20th century Stravinsky/Bartok-influenced Prog developed by Univers Zero and Art Zoyd. It is too bad that Cartoon never got their real chance under the sun through the very unfortunate loss of equipment. Three of the members did continue this style as PFS(look elsewhere in this blog for posts of PFS recordings). To any fan of Univers Zero, etc., Cartoon are highly recommended. -- Mike Taylor
Wonderful late 70's/early 80's band out of Arizona who, along with acts like U.K., sounded the final buzzer for the classic progressive era while providing some of the most sophisticated and intricate rock music heard to this day. Sure, Yes were thrilling stadium crowds and Univers Zero wooed the avant garde with "chamber rock", but for my money, Cartoon (relocated to San Francisco by 1980) were the real thing, moving with ease through tight, orchestral lines one moment and experimental "jazzical" the next. Though not as clean and precise as their British and European peers, Cartoon made up for it with enthusiasm, originality, fun (they liked incidental cartoon music) and musicianship. Luckily, those beautiful people at Cuneiform saved the day again and re-issued Cartoon's first two albums on one CD in 1994. A real gem in the once tiny world of progressive rock. -- David Marshall
from:New Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock
Monday, April 16, 2007
get this gem here