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The Kentish Spires

Canterbury Scene

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars UK band KENTISH SPIRES appears to be a fairly recent formation, at least as far as being visible as an entity to outsiders is concerned, as their internet presence wasn't a fact until the spring of 2018. I do suspect this venture has been developed a bit longer than that, however, but remained more or less undercover until they had their debut album ready. That album is called "The Last Harvest", and was self-released in the summer of 2018.

Kentish Spires is one of those bands that come out of nowhere and makes a strong and favorable impression among just about everyone with a fascination for the type of music they explore. Progressive rock with concise nods towards and inclusion of folk music details and jazz is the name of the game here, a type of music otherwise referred to as Canterbury. If you tend to enjoy such productions, this is a CD you do need to check out at some point, and then sooner rather than later.

Report this review (#2052490)
Posted Sunday, November 4, 2018 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars An interesting intersection of sounds and styles as bluesy rock, pastoral folk, quirky jazz, goth female vocals, and retro sound engineering all are brought together.

1. "Kingdom of Kent" (11:10) the stew here almost works but, unfortunately, it all ends up still tasting like its component parts. The section surrounding the electric guitar solo in the fourth minute is the best--and where Lucie's voice is most integral--as a Clare Torrey background instrument. (8.5/10)

2. "Clarity" (Bonus Track Mixed By Rob Reed) (3:58) campy medieval jazz-folk? It's no Monty Python or Gryphon. (7.5/10)

3. "Sprit Of The Skies" (sic) (4:22) a great Sixties flower power sound and style is spoiled by a weak chorus. (9/10)

4. "TTWIG" (3:48) too weird to be taken seriously; maybe in the 1960s this would have worked. (7/10)

5. "Introception" (7:17) sounds like something from The Bay Area 1960s psychedelic movement--but from a band that we never heard of cuz they just weren't good enough to make it to Monterey or a record label. (7/10)

6. "Clarity" (3:58) the band's own more mediŠval version of this bluesy song is in my opinion much better than the one above. (8/10)

7. "The Last Harvest" (13:09) opens as a quite ordinary plodding rock standard before exploding into an interesting jazz fusion extravaganza at the 3:58 mark. Unfortunately, this too becomes tedious in its foundational singularity despite an stop-and-start pseudo-bridge in the seventh minute. Just before the seven minute mark we regress into the Procul Harum-like plod of the opening section over which Lucie tries to scream us out of our malaise and boredom. Guitar solo is too familiar--technically competent but we've heard it before. Sax and background chorus of "ohh/ahh's" as well. (7.5/10)

8. "Hengist Ridge" (4:30) a smooth jazz start to this one is at least engaging, sax and pretty rhythm support (especially the jazzy guitar). It even seems to give Lucie a little more reason to sound and feel genuine in her performance. heck! She's packing the power of a soul/R&B diva on this one! Easily the best song on the album. (9/10)

The final song seems the direction I would strongly urge this band to explore more of: we need to fill the void left by the absence of EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL, SADE, and SWING OUT SISTER. But Canterbury sound? I don't hear it.

3.5 stars; a good, competent though rather inconsistent and scattered effort.

Report this review (#2083677)
Posted Thursday, December 6, 2018 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Back in the late Seventies, a musical phenomenon swept called the UK, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Def Leppard, Saxon and Iron Maiden were the front runners, but snapping at their heels were bands like Tygers of Pan Tang, Venom, Raven and Samson. The last of these may not have produced the strongest debut album, but by the time of the second they were firmly in their prime, and while a young Mr. Bruce gained all the acclaim for his screams, I was always impressed by the man at the back, Thunderstick, who graced the cover of 'Head On'. Why am I mentioning a NWOBHM band in a prog review? Well, although Paul Samson is sadly no longer with us, and Mr. Bruce has regained his proper surname and is touring the world with Maiden, Thunderstick is still Thunderstick, and his most recent album featured none other than Lucie V on vocals, now singer with The Kentish Spires. Bassist Paul Warren also played in a band with the mad drummer at one point, as well as with multi-instrumentalist Danny Chang, who I will always think of as being with The Fyreworks (along with drummer Tim Robinson) even though he is probably best known for his film and TV work. Joining these four are Paul Hornsby (reeds, keyboards) and Rik Loveridge (keyboards, guitar). A third member of The Fyreworks, Rob Reed (Cyan, Magenta and solo), has also assisted with production.

Lucie has a very English voice, and at times I find myself being reminded of Maggie Bell or Chrissie Hammond. Musically the band have obviously been heavily influenced by the Canterbury scene, and there is just no way that this sounds as if it has been released in 2018. The use of a real sax makes a huge difference in the sound, while the Hammond organ is used to provide wonderful footnotes and trills, and Lucie either sings in a distinctively English accent or can provide 'Great Gig In The Sky" style vocals in the background while the instruments take the lead.

Perhaps it isn't surprising, given the pedigree of those involved, that this never comes across as a debut album from a virtually unknown band, as it is incredibly polished yet still contains the exuberance and stylings of bands such as Procol Harum, and it certainly feels as if it was recorded fifty years ago as opposed to now. There is a sense of fun and enjoyment in the album, one can almost feel everyone looking at each other and smiling as the songs are recorded. Numbers such as "Spirit Of The Skies" are bright and full of light, even if again it all sounds very dated indeed. It doesn't take long for the listener to feel that this sense of authenticity and return to the early days of the progressive rock movement is very much part of the overall sound and it is to be welcome and enjoyed for what it is.

When the flute and piano are bouncing off each other all the listener can do is close their eyes and just go with the flow, become one with it all. Traditional progressive music, if there is such a thing, is rarely better than this, and it is incredible to realise that this is just the debut. What is going to happen when they have been together for much longer? If you are a proghead then this is essential.

Report this review (#2340664)
Posted Saturday, March 7, 2020 | Review Permalink
2 stars With a muddled track listing (who puts a bonus track remix in the middle of their album's running order?), The Kentish Spires' debut album finds them occupying a hinterland between fusion and Canterbury and folk with mild elements of each, but the ingredients don't quite come together in a pleasing fashion for me. Tossing out lyrics about incursions of foreigners polluting Kentish bloodlines is a bit of a dogwhistle, at that, and in general the band seem to be throwing a lot of ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks here. It's got promising aspects, but they need to decide what flavour of Canterbury they actually want to gun for, because trying to cram in everything from 1960s pop a la early Caravan to long fusion-tinted epics into a single album is just coming across as messy here.
Report this review (#2341365)
Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2020 | Review Permalink

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