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Hatfield And The North - Hatfield And The North CD (album) cover


Hatfield And The North


Canterbury Scene

4.26 | 739 ratings

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Special Collaborator
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Definitely no easy listening album, this one. A grower indeed, something you have to listen to repeatedly and with a good deal of concentration. Four superb musicians (true masters of their craft), jazz-tinged, experimental compositions, angelic female vocals and contributions from such greats as Robert Wyatt of Soft Machine fame... Heaven for some, hell for others. Hatfield and the North are certainly not everyone's cup of tea. For one thing, they don't take themselves seriously enough - just look at titles like "Gigantic Land Crabs in Earth Takeover Bid" and "Lobster in Cleavage Probe". Then, the music has more shifts and time signature changes than most people's attention span can cope with, and most of the tracks are instrumental.

The first Canterbury supergroup didn't last long, which is a misfortune, seen the quality of both this debut album and, especially, its magnificent follow-up, "The Rotters' Club". The good news is that they've very recently reformed with three- quarters of the original lineup (no Dave Stewart, I'm afraid, but the others are all there). However, way back in the early '70s, they would have deserved to be much more successful, even if their complex, intricate brand of jazz-rock blended with uniquely English humour and nonsense is definitely an acquired taste.

There are quite a lot of tracks listed on the record's sleeve, though it is practically impossible to see where one ends and the other begins - they flow seamlessly into each other, forming a continuum which challenges the listener's powers of concentration in a way the traditional song format does not. As such, it is not easy to mention individual tracks, although there are obviously some which stand out, notably the 10-minute-plus "(Son of) There's no Place Like Homerton", where a beautiful vocal interlude courtesy of The Northettes is followed by wildly blaring horns. "Calyx" features delicate vocal harmonies from Robert Wyatt; while "Fol de Rol" starts with Richard Sinclair humming nonsense words and then launching into an incredible bass solo. As a matter of fact, those who think prog bassists begin and end with Chris Squire and John Wetton should take a listen at both Hatfield and the North's albums in order to get an earful of truly spectacular bass playing - a perfect foil to Pip Pyle's intricate drumming patterns. However, it's a pity that Sinclair doesn't get as many opportunities to display his equally stunning vocal talents. Whenever he opens his mouth, I get shivers down my spine, especially when he reaches for the lower tones. Under his deceptively well-mannered, quintessentially English enunciation lies a strain of haunting sensuality which is quite unique in prog.

If you want background music, don't even think about buying this album. If you want to keep both your ears and your mind engaged, don't hesitate. Highly recommended.

Raff | 4/5 |


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