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Hatfield And The North - The Rotters' Club CD (album) cover

THE ROTTERS' CLUB

Hatfield And The North

 

Canterbury Scene

4.20 | 519 ratings

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Peter
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Hatfield and the North's THE ROTTER'S CLUB is a prime example of early English jazz fusion in the Canterbury vein. Dating from 1975, this fine album predates the advent of National Health (Hatfield's Phil Miller, Pip Pyle, and Dave Stewart would go on to found that outfit), and other somewhat similar British fusion acts like Bill Bruford (his early solo material) and Brand X. Thus, though Hatfield and the North certainly did not invent jazz fusion, they were early arrivals to the scene, and deserve some extra credit for that.

As with Canterbury in general, THE ROTTER'S CLUB is earmarked by electric and eclectic jazzy experimentation, and frequently humourous, slightly off-kilter lyrics delivered in a dry, tongue-in-cheek manner. Diverse instrumentation like vibes, brass and flute (plus female backing vocals) often accompany the core of guitar, bass, drums, synths and electric piano to further enrich the sound. Others have drawn parallels between this album and Caravan's IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK, and I would agree that the similarities, especially in the vocals of bassist Richard Sinclair, are there -- we even get some Caravan type "underwater" vocal effects on the wonderful "Fitter Stoke Has a Bath " and "Halfway Between Heaven and Earth." (In passing, I'd like to note, for all those familiar with English folk, that Sinclair sounds uncannily like onetime Steeleye Span member Martin Carthy -- perhaps they are from the same region of England.)

Overall then, I find this disc to be a pleasant and ever-engaging listen -- a very nice way to while away fifty minutes. It is well suited to mature, and/or open-minded listeners who don't shy away from jazz, delicacy, and whimsy in their progressive music. Don't expect to find overmuch of the more grandstanding, high-speed type of fusion typified by genre pioneers like Mahavishnu, Return to Forever, Al DiMeola and Jeff Beck here; this stuff will not likely blow you away, or prompt you to reach for the old "air" guitar -- though there are a few sections of "rocking" power. Instead, try this on a mellow Sunday morning (as your reviewer is currently doing), or with a cocktail or two on a laid-back evening. THE ROTTER'S CLUB is unobtrusive enough to provide grown-up (but interesting) atmosphere for a dinner party, but will easily withstand being turned up for closer listening when alone.

I heartily recommend this little mid-Seventies treasure to all Canterbury fans. Come down to THE ROTTER'S CLUB for some classy, quirky, and imaginative fusion! Pip pip -- cheerio!

Peter | 4/5 |

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