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Phil Miller - Cutting Both Ways CD (album) cover


Phil Miller


Canterbury Scene

4.13 | 45 ratings

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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

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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