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CUTTING BOTH WAYS

Phil Miller

Canterbury Scene


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Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'Cutting Both Ways' is one of those amazing collaborations that appeared long after the 'glory days', when the wonderful 'Canterbury Scene' had made its mark - perhaps it just continued to make its mark... This sub-genre of Prog is the one I find closest to my heart. The musicians involved always seem to deliver, album after album, therefore, I am probably not the right person to comment, but, I can only speak in utmost respect about the musicians performing here. Keyboardist Pete Lemer is a long- lost player of the genre. Canterbury afficianados are well familiar with bassist Hugh Hopper, sax player Elton Dean (bless him), drummer Pip Pyle (bless him, too - I'm shedding a tear by now..) and Phil Miller on guitars. This recording basically show-cases a 'who's who' of Canterbury-Prog, a 'Supergroup' of sorts, and is composed and played with that magical Canterbury touch.

Opening with a lengthy suite, 'Green and Purple Extract/Hic Haec Hoc/A Simple Man' wastes no time in grabbing our attention - fantastic production, epic sounding progression as an intro, and great main riff. This riff features a fantastic, extended Synth solo (possibly mini-moog, Lemer's main soloing instrument) followed by Elton's sax solo. This section is played in a kind of 'laid-back' fusion mode, followed by a very reflective section where E.D. gets in some expressive Saxello playing, and Miller's guitar solo is spot-on. This then merges into some more manic soloing from Elton on sax. To read my rambling may sound tedious, but the music on this album is an amazing and breath-taking journey for sure. Difficult to discern the composed parts from improvisation, indeed if there is any - the compositions are quite rigid, however, the first 2 pieces and the last suite on the album are, according to the sleeve notes, recorded as a result of the 'live-in-the-studio' approach. When speaking of Canterbury, 'mellow, wistful, gentle, complex, quirky...' are some of the adjectives used to describe this genre, and that is what's applicable here. 'Eastern Region' is quite nice, with more synth soloing from Lemer and some lightly flanged Bass from Hopper. 'Second Sight' is a track not featured on the vinyl edition of the album, therefore I can't speak of it.

'Hard Shoulder' and 'Figures of Speech' feature Miller and the wonderful Dave Stewart on synths and programming, with some backing vocals from the lovely Barbara Gaskin on the former. These display a different approach to recording, with focus on multi- tracking and utilising the (then) latest developments in music technology, thus confirming the album's title of 'cutting both ways'. These sound a little more synthetic, but still maintain a degree of complexity, and, particularly with the lengthy 'Figures of Speech', faithful to the genre. In some ways, 'Figures of Speech' is the highlight, granted Stewart's somewhat dubious direction he decided to take with partner Gaskin (some decent material on offer there, but far from prog) it actually shows that he has not lost any of the skill and tastefulness that made him such a renowned keyboardist during the 70's. Final suite, 'Green and Purple' features more jamming, with show-offy chops from Lemer and Miller again. Being a release from such a 'sterile' year (musically speaking), 1987, it would hurt for me to award it any less than 5. Fantastic album !!!

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Send comments to Tom Ozric (BETA) | Report this review (#153119)
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars With a lineup of Phil Miller, Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, Pete Lemer, Pip Pyle, Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskins you know you can count on something very special, and they deliver big time. Phil Miller and his band IN CAHOOTS perform 4 of the tracks which were done live in studio, while Phil hooked up with the husband and wife duo of Stewart and Gaskins to record two tracks which were given the full studio treatment. So yes this is where the title of the album comes from "Cutting Both Ways". A big nod to my friend Tom Ozric who has already reviewed this record and has helped me a lot in my understanding and enjoyment of the Canterbury scene.

"Green & Purple Extract" sounds almost orchestral in the beginning with the sax standing out the most. We get a pleasant melody 2 1/2 minutes in. Excellent sound 4 minutes in that is very jazzy. It settles right down before 7 minutes as a smooth sax melody arrives. Miller is great on guitar after 9 minutes as Hopper does his thing. Nice. The guitar stops 11 minutes in as Dean takes over with his sax. "Eastern Religion" is such a beautiful song. Pyle's playing is so delicate 2 minutes in. The keyboard work really shines as well. "Second Sight" features some throbbing bass as the sax plays over top. Light drums and keys fill out the sound. The sax really leads the way but Hopper is also quite prominant.

"Hard Shoulder" features the lovely Barbara Gaskins doing some vocal melodies as this one has more of a "rock" feel to it when the heavier drum sounds arrive after a minute. Some good guitar as well from miller. "Figures Of Speech" features light drums and some synth-guitar from Miller. A very heavenly sounding song. Tasteful guitar before a minute. Love the sound before 6 minutes. Spacey sounds 8 minutes in to end it. "Green & Purple" has a dramatic intro as heavy drums and sax follow. It settles down as light drums, bass and sax lead the way. Some great sax work from Dean here. The guitar leads the way after 3 minutes. Lots of sax and synths late.

Just an enjoyable listen from start to finish. A good place to escape from the world for a while.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#173086)
Posted Thursday, June 05, 2008 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars Man, these guys sure can fuse!

Phil Miller, on his first solo album (Why did he wait so long?), along with Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean, Pip Pyle and Pete Lemer (with Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin in a side role), created an album of first rate jazz rock fusion. The album stands up with many of the best fusion albums out there.

The songs are all instrumentals (aside from Gaskin's voice used as an instrument), and all are very enjoyable. Part of the opening track Green & Purple Extract and the final song Green & Purple remind me of some of Zappa's work on The Grand Wazoo, but with a smaller ensemble (high praise indeed). And Hard Shoulder brings to mind some of Mike Keneally's better works.

All in all, this is a fine album for the fusion, Canterbury, or prog fan in general.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#293303)
Posted Tuesday, August 03, 2010 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars 'Cutting both Ways' is Phil Miller's project better known later as 'In Cahoots', an adventurous amalgamation of some damn fine musicians within the British jazz-rock scene and its Canterbury off shoots. This was a legendary union of seasoned pros, three of whom have elevated themselves into prog heaven. The magnificent Hugh Hopper mans the mighty bass and is paired with Pip Pyle, both needing little introduction, as well as fabled sax man Elton Dean (and all sadly RIP) and the unforgivably unloved keyboardist Peter Lemer who simply dazzles here.

4 tracks comprise the quintet's work and then you have 2 featuring guitarist Miller with former Hatfield and National Health stalwart Dave Stewart, accompanied on the microphone by Dave's wife Barbara Gaskin. (Tracks 4 and 5). The production and overall sound quality is phenomenal and ultra 'crisp. Opener is a rambling jazz-rock extravaganza, a 16 minute blow out with all the lads exploring their inner muse to audio perfection, the hallucigenically titled 'Green & Puple Extract', a thrilling, vivid and punchy example of classic British jazz-rock in the later period Soft Machine vein. Dean and Miller in particular both shine in their respective solo spotlights but the rhythmic bed is just so impressive, it constantly shoves you in the gut. Yet again, Lemer provides some exotic keyboard reinforcements, especially on the synthesizer. The next 2 tracks are perhaps more jazz than rock and you can really sense the variance. 'Eastern Region' is quieter, more fluttering and laid-back but really just another platform for the soloists to express themselves (Lemer again on what sounds like a Mini-Moog). I personally prefer the rockier side as expressed by the opener and 'Second Sight' where Hopper's grooving upfront bass rolls along like a boulder avalanche, while Dean scours the skies with horned exhortations.

The two Dave Stewart tracks are completely different in tone, Stewart using an array of electronics including drum programming that has a more modern artificial sound, using the Yamaha DX7 digital synthesizer (the very first one made) loaded up with a Roland MSQ unit as well as Emu SP12 sampling percussion and Prophet Emulator. The atmosphere is highly ingenious, a mutant form of synthetic electronica with a jazzy sauce on the side, Miller fooling around on his guitar-synth and the boxed drums being quite exemplary! Gaskin's vocal is actually hidden underneath the sizzle, contributing choir work but no discernable voice. 'Figures of Speech' is the longer of the two and as such really stretches the limits of experimentation but does offer up a few seductive guitar solos that search for new horizons. There is an Oriental feel to Stewart's noodling but the synthesized percussion work is stunning, never sounding boring or pre-packaged.

The final track is the celestial 'Green and Purple' and as such is a reprise of the thrilling opener to the disc and just keeps the ball rolling with assertive gusto and flair. As such, the 2 bookend pieces consist of some of the finest Jazz-rock music recorded. Lemer's bubbly synth solo half way through is a thing of total beauty, as he gives a musical tongue to the notes he dazzlingly scatters over the ivories, the Hopper bass pulsating wildly in the forecourt. Damn nice stuff!

These were awfully lean prog years, even some question of imminent extinction predicted by many, so the context here is very important.

4 bisaxual slicers

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#990872)
Posted Tuesday, July 02, 2013 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars An oasis for Canterbury fans in the midst of the otherwise barren 1980s, Phil Miller's Cutting Both Ways features a veritable who's who of Canterbury. Balancing the album between modern-sounding releases with up-to-date synthesisers in the company of Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin and more traditional jazzy Canterbury fare with the help of Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, Pip Pyle and Peter Lerner, the real trick here is how Miller manages to make these differing approaches sound so natural next to each other. Phil might be "cutting both ways" here, but each way sounds like a natural outgrowth of the other, yielding one of the most original and interesting Canterbury releases since the 1970s.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#1003784)
Posted Tuesday, July 23, 2013 | Review Permalink

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