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Pip Pyle - Seven Year Itch CD (album) cover


Pip Pyle


Canterbury Scene

3.51 | 13 ratings

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Prog Reviewer

Contrary to what you might expect, this isn't jazz-rock but a collection of (mostly) wonderful songs in very different styles, similar in concept to Kevin Ayers's WHATEVERSHEBRINGSWESING and Robert Wyatt's COMICOPERA. Pip Pyle has drawn from an astonishing pool of musicians and united a number of highly disparate elements, and the result will be a very pleasant surprise to all 'Canterbury' fans.

It took Pyle about seven years to record this album and get it released (hence the title!) but 'its conception goes even further back' (he says in the liner notes) 'maybe twenty years', which means it must have been on his mind ever since the break-up of the extraordinary National Health.

A large number of 'Canterbury' stalwarts appear on the album. Apart from Pyle himself (who never once pushes his drumming to the foreground), there are significant contributions from Dave Stewart, Barbara Gaskin, Phil Miller, Richard Sinclair, John Greaves, Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean, Didier Malherbe and others. The (almost) nine-minute opening track, 'Seven Sisters', provides us with a de facto reunion of the Hatfields, even though apparently they never got together in the studio. 'Seven Sisters' must be the most beautiful track on ITCH, and it alone warrants purchase of the album. Starting off majestically, like something out of ROCK BOTTOM, it turns into a typically Hatfieldesque melody (sung by Richard Sinclair, of course!) and features a delicate piano solo by Dave Stewart, as well as a highly exciting one on guitar by Phil Miller.

Another highlight is 'I'm Really Okay', a floating pop song, sung with great finesse by Barbara Gaskin and featuring a classic Canterbury-style fuzz-organ solo by her life partner, Dave Stewart.

Like two other tracks on the album, 'Shipwrecked (with idle hands)' has lead vocals by Jakko M Jakszyk: he sings in the civilised South-English manner so typical of the Canterbury Scene but there's an edge to his voice which makes me uncomfortable since it reminds me of Andy Tillison, whose band Jakszyk has now joined - is that a coincidence? Anyway: all praise to Phil Miller for bringing 'Shipwreck' to a grand climax with yet another superb solo.

I have merely concentrated on the album's highlights, but at some stage I hope to provide detailed reviews of every single track. Oh, it's been so good to have you all back one more time, guys - nearly an hour of your incomparable music was something I hadn't hoped for! I only wish there were more Pip Pyle albums to look forward to... Judging from this one, it sounds as if Pip might have kept surprising us with delightful new products every four years or so (every SEVEN, perhaps?) just like Robert Wyatt tends to do, but unfortunately Pip's untimely death (in 2006) has put an end to such hopes.

By the way, it came as a surprise to me that this album (released in 1998!) had never been reviewed here. In fact, I only found out about ITCH because it was called one of the best 'Canterbury' albums by Jonathan Coe, author of that highly readable novel, THE ROTTERS CLUB.

Soft Machine, Health & Hatfield freaks, you need not hesitate: SEVEN YEAR ITCH will brighten up your day.

fuxi | 4/5 |


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