One of the late Thomas Chapin's finest all-round recordings, this set starts out in somewhat startling fashion with screaming by Chapin and John Zorn on altos before settling down into a relatively straight-ahead jam. Zorn is on two selections (including one that includes poetry from Vernon Frazer) but otherwise this is a trio outing, showcasing Chapin on flute, baritone, soprano, and particularly alto while joined by bassist Mario Pavone and drummer Michael Sarin. While there are adventurous and free sections, Chapin also has the opportunity to play the blues (on Thelonious Monk's "Raise Four"), completely rework Duke Ellington's "Daydream" (which is given a Western motif by bassist Pavone), show off the influence of Eric Dolphy, and introduce such intriguing originals as "A Drunken Monkey" and "The Night Hog."
Indulging for the first time in Cockney Rebel's debut album – and one uses the word "indulging" deliberately, for like so much else that's this delicious, you cannot help but feel faintly sinful when it's over – is like waking up from a really weird dream, and discovering that reality is weirder still. A handful of Human Menagerie's songs are slight, even forced, and certainly indicative of the group's inexperience. But others – the labyrinthine "Sebastian," the loquacious "Death Trip" in particular – possess confidence, arrogance, and a doomed, decadent madness which astounds. Subject to ruthless dissection, Steve Harley's lyrics were essentially nonsense, a stream of disconnected images whose most gallant achievement is that they usually rhyme. But what could have been perceived as a weakness – or, more generously, an emotionally overwrought attempt to blend Byron with Burroughs – is actually their strength.