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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Beyond The Land Of Grey And Pink
    Posted: December 10 2007 at 22:34

Beyond The Land Of Grey And Pink

A musical analysis intended to spread awareness and appreciation of the Canterbury Scene
 
OR
 
Your New Christmas List
 
 
Let's take a walk, shall we?
 
The Canterbury Scene here on our lovely Prog Archives is, in my opinion, often neglected by the average progster. Sure, you've listened to a Caravan sample on the site and it sounds pretty good. Sure, you could probably find Kent on a map if given a reasonable amount of time. Of course, there are many of us here who disagree with what I am saying right now. "I'm quite the expert on the subject!", you're probably thinking. High praise from few will not make up for the lack of discerning listeners to the subgenre, in my humble opinion.
 
Thus, I am writing this now to help some lost and clueless progholes discover this fantastic movement. Heck, I'll even show you where to start. (Keep in mind that I'm assuming you know at least a little about the Canterbury Scene's history, as I really don't feel like explaining to you how all this happened. If you have no idea what I'm rambling on about, cleanse thyself here: http://www.progarchives.com/subgenre.asp?style=12)
 
Let's start simple.
 
CARAVAN
 
Oh, those Sinclair boys!
 
Known by many to be the tried and true intro to Canterburian music, the band successfully blended elements of psychedelia, jazz and pop into their music, creating an original sound that sounds original even amongst their peers. Occasionally called 'pop-prog', Caravan crafted sounds that were catchy and easy accessible, but still contained amazing musicianship. A trademark of the Canterbury Scene is odd, humorous lyrics, and while this band doesn't overblow this in the way, say, Hatfield and the North did (we'll get to them shortly), there is a subtle wit to their lyrics that isn't overpowering. Caravan is all about melodies, and keyboardist David Sinclair displays his chops without giving in to virtuosic abandon. Because of their accessibility, Caravan should be your first choice for entering this marvelous world (hyperbole).
 
Recommended Album: In The Land Of Grey And Pink
 
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH
 
You may be a bit overwhelmed by these boys if you don't know what you're in for. The Hatties (as nobody calls them) took Caravan's jazzy pschedelia and upped the jazz ante, making Hatfield's music less composition oriented than some of their buddy bands. The band contained bassist/vocalist Richard Sinclair (also of Caravan), as well as former Uriel and Egg keyboardist Dave Stewart, who took the term 'keyboard solo' to stratospheric proportions. Listening to the interplay of the instruments is jolly good fun, as is almost everything about this unique band. Most of their lyrics were enjoyable nonsense, and these guys are so happy-go-lucky that you can even smile during their ballads (case in point, 'Didn't Matter Anyway'). If you're looking for something a tad weirder, here's your boys.
 
Recommended Album: The Rotter's Club
 
SOFT MACHINE
 
I'm not going to lie, the Softs were a bit of an acquired taste for me. Sounding like neither of the previous groups mentioned, Soft Machine is very overtly jazzy and psychedelic, and mixes in avant-garde meanderings into their early albums, most notably 'Third'. Many pioneers would come and go from this line-up, including Daevid Allen of Gong fame (that's called a teaser, folks), Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt. The nonsensical humour of the other bands is nowhere to be found, while improvisation and experimental compositions run amok. For anyone looking for the more serious and somber (well, not really) side to the Canterbury Scene, Soft Machine is a good choice.
 
Recommended Album: Third
 
National Health
 
It saddens me that even a number of die-hard progheads aren't aware of this amazing band. Hatfield and the North is as good a comparison as any (NH contained 3/4 members of that band), although there are a number of stylistic differences that one must be aware of. That sense of humour is still here, though it is toned down a touch. National Health was the baby of Dave Stewart, and he uses the band's albums as a vehicle for his volcanic solos (they reach no greater height than the intro to 'Dreams Wide Awake' off the album 'Of Queues And Cures'). These guys take themselves seriously enough to have plenty of lengthy instrumentals, mostly working off of Stewart and guitarist Phil Miller's interplay, while mixing in (slightly) more exotic instruments such as flute or saxophone. If you're looking for a more complex and bombastic Hatfield and the North, well... you know the drill.
 
Recommended Album: Of Queues And Cures
 
Matching Mole
 
The obvious next step for Soft Machine fans, Matching Mole contained former Softs drummer/vocalist Robert Wyatt. Very jazzy in structure, the band sounds like Soft Machine if they had decided to play more energetic, livelier music, with long jams prevalent across their short-lived career. By their second album, not a single song was a Wyatt composition, so they were not simply a cash-in on his part. The music is driving but loose, lending their albums a good-time jam atmosphere. The random dialogues during the songs are present, so the wit is still there. Recommended, but delve a little bit into other bands first.
 
Recommended Album: Little Red Record
 
Gong
 
Ok, here's where things start to get a bit weird. Picture this: Zero the Hero is minding his own business, when he gets the sudden desire to worship the Pot Head Pixies. He then feeds a cat (who turns out to be a witch), who gives him a magic potion that has him waking up in space. He floats over to the Planet Gong, where he is instructed on how to revolutionize the world. Sound weird? I should certainly hope so. Combining the best of Canterbury and space rock, Gong's mythology would suggest a lyrically oriented band, but it is not so. Many virtuosic players would become a part of this band, including guitarist extraordinare Steve Hillage and the late, great Pierre Moerlen. The music ranges from bouts of silliness ('Pothead Pixies') to space rock mayhem ('A Sprinkling Of Clouds') and later in their career they would take a jazzy direction. With a gigantic discography and multi-album concepts, Gong is sure to keep you busy for a long time.
 
Recommended Album: You (Radio Gnome Invisible Part 3)
 
Egg
 
Another band featuring keyboard maestro Dave Stewart, this early project had tinges of jazz, but was mostly classically influenced, and the band had a few Bach covers in their three-or-so album discography. Driven heavily by Dave Stewart's organ, the band explored different ideas and techniques throughout their career. Not much humour here. Going from style to style even within the span of a single song, Egg was a constanly evolving project, and isn't that what progressive rock is all about?
 
Recommended Album: The Polite Force
 
Supersister
 
One of the most stylistically varied of these groups, Supersister aren't even from the Kentish countryside. In fact, they come from across the water from the Netherlands, and played music ranging from jazz to fusion to pop. The Canterbury sensibility was there, with lots of humourous overtones and organ/piano interplay. Their sound has been compared to Caravan and occasionally even Frank Zappa. On their debut album 'Present From Nancy', flute is a dominant presense, adding to the jazzy atmosphere. These guys weren't copying their English counterparts; they took the basic style and turned it into their own. Guitar is almost non-existant on earlier albums, though the bass and organ is very reminiscent of Soft Machine, from whom Supersister took obvious influence. If you'd like to look at Canterbury from a different angle, I definitely recommend checking out Supersister.
 
Recommended Album: Present From Nancy
 
Picchio Dal Pozzo
 
Another foreign ambassador of the Canterbury Scene, this time hailing from Italy. Sounding more like Gong or Henry Cow than the likes of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso or Le Orme, PdP introduced a R.I.O. sensibility to their music, which is most evident on their second album, 'Abbiamo Tutti I Suoi Problemi'. While the Canterbury influence is there, they also sound unmistakably Italian, while putting a variety of other styles and influences into the pot, such as fusion and the like. The music, especially on their self-titled first album, is full of soaring wind instruments that float about like seagulls in the breeze. Wind instruments aren't the only things that get the limelight, as organs, horns, guitar and Italian-sung vocals often steal the show. (Trivia - Keyboardist/percussionist/vocalist Aldo De Scalzi's brother Vittorio played with The New Trolls.)
 
Recommended Album: Picchio dal Pozzo
 
The Muffins
 
This criminally underrated American group drew influence from bands such as Soft Machine, Henry Cow and Frank Zappa. Improvisation is a big part of the Muffins sound, which followed in Picchio dal Pozzo's footsteps and added a R.I.O. aesthetic to traditional Canterbury song structures. Jazz rock is also a biggie here. They were only together a few years and released only a small number of albums. They reunited in around 1998, but their strongest effort remains their 1978 debut, 'Manna/Mirage'. This is a charming little band that should not go ignored.
 
Recommended Album: Manna/Mirage
 
Cos
 
Hailing from Belgium, this one of a kind group managed to combine traditional rock and jazz, as well as adding elements of Zeuhl (!) to their playing style. Picture Magma or Zao, but sillier. Shake off any predetermined expectations of the Canterbury sound before listening to this, or you might just have your mind blown. Later in their career, they touched on other musical ideas such as Latin sounds. Mostly unknown, but definitely recommended to Canterbury explorers.
 
Recommended Album: Viva Boma
 
 
 
Keep in mind this list is not based on any concrete starting point. This is entirely from my personal experience, based on the many Canterbury bands I have enjoyed. I hope I've given you stuff to look for! Smile


Edited by Chameleon - January 01 2008 at 13:23
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 10 2007 at 22:46
Very good Dylan, I had no idea that you knew that much.
 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 10 2007 at 22:48
Originally posted by Chameleon Chameleon wrote:

SOFT MACHINE
 
I'm not going to lie, the Softs were a bit of an acquired taste for me. Sounding like neither of the previous groups mentioned, Soft Machine is very overtly jazzy and psychedelic, and mixes in avant-garde meanderings into their early albums, most notably 'Third'. Many pioneers would come and go from this line-up, including Daevid Allen of Gong fame (that's called a teaser, folks), Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt. The nonsensical humour of the other bands is nowhere to be found, while improvisation and experimental compositions run amok. For anyone looking for the more serious and somber (well, not really) side to the Canterbury Scene, Soft Machine is a good choice.


You need to hear Volume One and Volume Two.  I assure you that there is no shortage of nonsense humor. 

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 10 2007 at 22:58
great thread, high time too..

fell in love with Grey and Pink not long ago... National Health's Of Queues and Cures one of the high points of Canterbury, and I'd add Gilgamesh to the list... Egg are superb too, I just picked up the Arzachel album, an LP reissue !






Edited by Atavachron - December 10 2007 at 23:01
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 10 2007 at 23:03
Of Queues And Cures is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated albums on this site. Sad, because it's incredible.

Arzachel was a precursor to Canterbury because of its personnel, but it's pretty much full blown psychedelia. It's still an excellent album, though!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 11 2007 at 01:58
Clap Well done! And thanks for not forgetting Supersister.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 11 2007 at 10:14
Great work, this blog should be really helpful too all the Canterbury newbies out thereClap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 11 2007 at 10:31
Clap Excellent! I need to track down some Muffins and Cos. 
"The disgusting stink of a too-loud electric guitar.... Now, that's my idea of a good time."
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 11 2007 at 16:53
Oh.....so Canterbury is a placeConfused
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 11 2007 at 17:17
Originally posted by Shakespeare Shakespeare wrote:

Oh.....so Canterbury is a placeConfused


LOL Guess they don't teach Chaucer in school anymore....


Edited by Angelo - December 11 2007 at 17:18
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 12 2007 at 07:00
I hadn't even seen this blog before, and I am even part of the Canterbury/JR team!Embarrassed

As much as I love ITLOGAP, my fav Caravan album is probably their second, If I Could Do It All Over Again.... In my opinion, it is even more representative of the band's distinctive sound than its more famous follow-up. It's a pity Richard Sinclair left the band so early in their career - he's easily one of the best singers in rock EVER, and his voice has held up pretty well, especially in comparison with many of his contemporaries.

I'd also like to mention a band that Dylan probably forgot - Khan, featuring Steve Hillage and Dave Stewart. Their only album, Space Shanty, is quite superb (though, unfortunately,  it hasn't yet been re-released in CD format).

Not to toot my own horn, but if you are interested, I have reviewed both Hatfield and the North's and National Health's albums, as well as Soft Machine's Third and Caravan's first four. One of these days I'll do Khan's too, if I get to really concentrate on the music.


Edited by Ghost Rider - December 12 2007 at 07:00
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 12 2007 at 08:24
Considering the diversity of music of the bands I am familiar with, there isn't really a particular Canterbury sound. Big%20smile A scene to be seen for sure.

Edited by Slartibartfast - December 12 2007 at 08:25
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 12 2007 at 08:30
Originally posted by Angelo Angelo wrote:

Originally posted by Shakespeare Shakespeare wrote:

Oh.....so Canterbury is a placeConfused


LOL Guess they don't teach Chaucer in school anymore....


I actually read that book from start to finish. Approve I also read a bit of the original Olde English version. Eugh. That wasn't so easy...
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 12 2007 at 08:46
Originally posted by Shakespeare Shakespeare wrote:

Originally posted by Angelo Angelo wrote:

Originally posted by Shakespeare Shakespeare wrote:

Oh.....so Canterbury is a placeConfused


LOL Guess they don't teach Chaucer in school anymore....


I actually read that book from start to finish. Approve I also read a bit of the original Olde English version. Eugh. That wasn't so easy...
Geek Actually Shakes, Chaucer is Middle English. Though it is hard to read (it gets easier with exposure, of course), M.E. does share many words with modern English. For Old English, you have to go back even further (for example, Beowulf), and that stuff sounds more Germanic, than English.
 
Chaucer is taught at the university level, at least here in Canada. (I took a course.) For anyone's interest, the English town of Canterbury was the site of a popular religious shrine in the Middle Ages. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales dates from the 1300s, and takes the form of a bunch of diverse stories (some ribald, some religious, etc.) told by an imaginary, varied group of pilgrims (a miller, a knight, a prioress, etc) to pass the time as they walk to the site.Smile
 
**********************************************************************************************
 
 
 
On topic, yes, there's some great music in the Canterbury scene. Terrific post! Clap
 
I like Hatfield and the North & National health, and would include those nifty early Bruford and Brand X albums in there, as well.Thumbs%20Up
 
I wish "Grey and Pink" wasn't such an expensive import, for me -- I want it! Ouch


Edited by Peter - December 12 2007 at 08:56
Let the monkey drive.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 12 2007 at 08:56
Originally posted by Peter Peter wrote:

Originally posted by Shakespeare Shakespeare wrote:

Originally posted by Angelo Angelo wrote:

Originally posted by Shakespeare Shakespeare wrote:

Oh.....so Canterbury is a placeConfused


LOL Guess they don't teach Chaucer in school anymore....


I actually read that book from start to finish. Approve I also read a bit of the original Olde English version. Eugh. That wasn't so easy...
Geek Actually Shakes, Chaucer is Middle English. Though it is hard to read (it gets easier with exposure, of course), M.E. does share many words with modern English. For Old English, you have to go back even further (eg, Beowulf), and that stuff sounds more Germanic, than English.
 
Chaucer is taught at the university level, at least here in Canada. (I took a course.) For anyone's interest, the English town of Canterbury was the site of a popular religious shrine in the Middle Ages. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales dates from the 1300s, and takes the form of a bunch of diverse stories (some ribald, some religious, etc.) told by an imaginary, varied group of pilgrims (a miller, a knight, a prioress, etc) to pass the time as they walk to the site.Smile

Yes, I actually knew that it wasn't Olde English, it's the just the first thing I thought to call it.

(In olde English, bridge is spelled brycg I think. Smile)
 
 
Quote
I wish "Grey and Pink" wasn't such an expensive import, for me -- I want it! Ouch

I found it for 20 bucks at a CD store in Toronto. Big%20smile


Edited by Shakespeare - December 12 2007 at 08:56
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 12 2007 at 09:04
Originally posted by Chameleon Chameleon wrote:

 Grey And Pink

There -- that's better! Wink
Let the monkey drive.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 12 2007 at 09:21
Originally posted by Ghost Rider Ghost Rider wrote:

I hadn't even seen this blog before, and I am even part of the Canterbury/JR team!Embarrassed

As much as I love ITLOGAP, my fav Caravan album is probably their second, If I Could Do It All Over Again.... In my opinion, it is even more representative of the band's distinctive sound than its more famous follow-up. It's a pity Richard Sinclair left the band so early in their career - he's easily one of the best singers in rock EVER, and his voice has held up pretty well, especially in comparison with many of his contemporaries.

I'd also like to mention a band that Dylan probably forgot - Khan, featuring Steve Hillage and Dave Stewart. Their only album, Space Shanty, is quite superb (though, unfortunately,  it hasn't yet been re-released in CD format).

Not to toot my own horn, but if you are interested, I have reviewed both Hatfield and the North's and National Health's albums, as well as Soft Machine's Third and Caravan's first four. One of these days I'll do Khan's too, if I get to really concentrate on the music.
 
Well, to be completely honest, I purchased If I could Do It All Over Again... either the day or day before I wrote this blog, and only gave it a serious listen yesterday! Embarrassed It was definitely good though, and I agree, shows a more diverse Caravan sound than ITLOGAP.
 
Also, I definitely didn't forget Khan!
 
I bought Space Shanty the same day I ordered the Caravan album. EmbarrassedLOL
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 13 2007 at 07:30
excellent initiativeClap
 
 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 13 2007 at 07:38
In honour of this wonderful blog, I'm listening to Caravan's superb The Show of Our Lives... Highly recommended to all lovers of Canterbury!Clap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 13 2007 at 17:24
Originally posted by Ghost Rider Ghost Rider wrote:


I'd also like to mention a band that Dylan probably forgot - Khan, featuring Steve Hillage and Dave Stewart. Their only album, Space Shanty, is quite superb (though, unfortunately,  it hasn't yet been re-released in CD format).

If you are interested, it actually has been released by the "Eclectic Discs" label as recently as 2005. I believe the newer copies all include 2 bonus tracks as well! Of course, only a limited number of copies are produced at a given time, and due to the album's obscurity I'm sure most of us won't be finding it in any typical record store any time soon.
Anyways, here's some linkage for people looking to find it:
http://www.amazon.com/Space-Shanty-Khan/dp/B0002O39A2/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1197583999&sr=8-1
http://www.amazon.com/Space-Shanty-Khan/dp/B000BYRA4O/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1197583999&sr=8-2
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000584TJ/sr=8-3/qid=1197583999/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&qid=1197583999&sr=8-3&seller=

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