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


Hatfield And The North


Canterbury Scene

4.20 | 506 ratings

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Special Collaborator
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
5 stars Together with Caravan's "In the Land of Grey and Pink", this is possibly the masterpiece of the so-called Canterbury sound. More accomplished than the band's self- titled debut album, it shares most of its basic features, but the level of musicianship is even higher, with Dave Stewart's stunning keyboards more in evidence at the expense of The Northettes' vocalising (which is, in my opinion, less brilliant here than on its predecessor). The four musicians form an extremely tight unit, their instruments blending seamlessly in a harmonious whole, further enhanced by the (unfortunately few) vocal interludes, courtesy of Richard Sinclair's golden voice. The presence of horns and other wind instruments is strong, though less improvisational-sounding than on the debut, adding to the more sophisticated feel of this album.

"The Rotters' Club" opens with one of the most infectious, hummable songs ever, the delightful "Share It" - living proof of how you can have a song which is at the same time accessible and intelligent. The lyrics by drummer extraordinaire Pip Pyle may not be deeply meaningful (although I have read somewhere that they are about sex), nevertheless they are very entertaining and superbly interpreted by Richard Sinclair - which is no mean feat, as all the songs on this album require quite a bit of technical skill. Pure instrumental bliss follows, with the interplay between the four musicians quite stunning in its smoothness and ease. The rythm section of Pyle and Sinclair is among the tightest, more inventive I've ever heard, giving such luminaries as Squire and Bruford a run for their money. "The Yes-No Interlude" flows into the quirky "Fitter Stoke Has a Bath", complete with funny underwater effects and Sinclair's deadpan delivery, which in turn fades into the wistful, melancholy "Didn't Matter Anyway", accompanied by Jimmy Hasting's sweetly mournful flute.

The album's pièce de resistance is, however, the 20-minutes-plus Dave Stewart epic "Mumps", a complex, meandering composition which features wordless vocal harmonies from The Northettes, monumental keyboard work from Stewart and a shorter vocal section with whimsical, nonsense lyrics, known as "The Alphabet Song". The five bonus tracks (which first appeared on the band's posthumous album "Afters") include the energetic instrumentals "Oh, Len's Nature" and "Lying and Gracing" and Sinclair's beautiful "Halfway Between Heaven and Earth", another vocal tour de force for prog's great unsung hero. Why he is always forgotten in "best vocalist" polls is really beyond me.

Some people have berated the album's sleeve, though I must admit to liking it - and it also goes very well with the music. I don't think a Roger Dean cover would have suited the musical content at all.... As to the lyrics, they're funny and uplifting, squarely in the tradition of English nonsense verse. Like its predecessor, "The Rotters' Club" is not the kind of album that everybody will like immediately, but there's no doubt that it's one of the best examples of what prog is all about. Get hold of it and enjoy - you won't regret it.

Raff | 5/5 |


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