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Canterbury Scene definition

With many other types of English progressive music developing mostly in London, it may at first seem strange that the old pilgrimage centre and relatively quiet cathedral city of Canterbury, became the centre of this very English form of progressive music and jazz fusion. Originally the Wilde Flowers, a teenage band of members living in and around Canterbury, playing a mix of pop, R'n'B and band members with a developing love of jazz, was formed in the 60's and became the seedling from which the Canterbury Scene grew. Australian beatnik Daevid Allen during a long stop-over at Robert Wyatt's parent's home, a refuge for many left field artists, was to catalyse the evolution of the Wilde Flowers into the fledging Soft Machine and the development of some avant music during the English psychedelic and underground period. From 1963 to 1969, the Wilde Flowers included most of the figures who later formed Canterbury's two best known bands, (The) Soft Machine (Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Hugh Hopper) and Caravan (Pye Hastings, David Sinclair, Richard Sinclair, Richard Coughlan).

Canterbury was then to be the cradle for several of the more freewheeling British bands of the post-psychedelic era. While fans would suggest this is the home of an English musical quirkiness tempered with quite a bit of whimsy, within the Canterbury Scene's musical spectrum any similarities between Canterbury's major bands, (e.g. Soft Machine, Caravan, Gong, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Hatfield & the North, Egg, National Health), are not immediately obvious*. Most bands will be found employing a clever fusion of rock rhythms and jazz improvisation with intellectual song-writing and varying strengths of psychedelia - some would too include folk elements (e.g. Spirogyra), others blues (e.g. Carol Grimes and Delivery). In addition, a number of bands employed various elements from classical music, for instance those bands with Dave Stewart playing keyboards. Whilst there have been a handful of excellent and distinctly different guitarists to play with Canterbury bands (e.g. Andy Summers, Allan Holdsworth, John Etheridge, Steve Hillage, Phil Miller), the lead instrument of choice has been keyboards. One English peculiarity of Canterbury is what the late John Peel called the 'School of Anti-song' because of particular Wyatt, Ayers and Richard Sinclair's approaches to vocals and perhaps the whimsy. More recently Richard Sinclair's vocal style has perhaps accurately been labelled as 'English jazz singing' by Jazzwise (i.e. singing jazz with an English rather than the usual American accent). In addition Canterbury musicians have experimented as avant garde, free jazz players, e.g. instance Elton Dean, Lol Coxhill, Steve Miller.

(*However, once you've heard some Canterbury bands the commonality becomes more obvious - chord sequencing e.g. Caveman Hughscore's electric piano opening on the tune 'More Than Nothing', the vocals, the lyrics etc.)

Both the Soft Machine and Caravan were popular in England's psychedelic/ underground scene before releasing their first albums in 1968, with Machine completing on level footing with Pink Floyd. However, by the early 70's a series of fragmenting changes of bands' line-ups, (Soft Machine went through about 30) and the subsequent formation of new bands, rapidly broadened Canterbury's range, with many newer musicians with only loose and in fact, no previous Canterbury connections. Early Soft Machine member Daevid Allen formed Gong in Paris. Both Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt left the Softs because of musical developments they did not like, to begin their own solo careers. By the mid-70's, most the old and new Canterbury bands had progressed away from psychedelia, developing their distinct forms of progressive rock some embracing jazz fusion, many playing extended jams with now limited lyrical input (e.g. Hatfield and The Norths, National Health, Gilgamesh). Caravan became more folky. However, as the 70's progressed several Canterbury bands would lose most of the rock element from their music. Gong retained their psychedelic side longest, but with the departure of Daevid Allen and Steve Hillage in the mid 70's, the band evolved into the percussion-oriented, jazz rock group Gong, which eventually became the modern day Gongzilla. Daevid Allen regained Gong's name in the 90's and through his solo work and with his University of Errors, is still evidently producing psychedelia. Steve Hillage's form of psychedelia evolved into the glissando rock of his own band and then into electronica, by the end of the 70's. In particular, Hillage through his work as a successful record producer of new bands from the 80's, develop his form of electronica through other bands. This music lost much of its complexity e.g. few riffs played over and over, rather than dozens per tune that previously had often typified prog, into a very popular form that is the antithesis of prog, i.e. the various forms of house music, with associated remixing/turntablism. For instance, Gong's "You" got the remix treatment in the 90's - but then to reflect his range of activities, Hillage has also produced and played guitar for Algerian Rai singer, Rachid Taha for over 20 years.

Many of Britain's better known avant-garde and fusion musicians of the 70's and 80's - including Fred Frith (Henry Cow), Allan Holdsworth (Gong, Soft Machine, UK, Bruford) and Peter Blegvad - were involved during their early careers playing in Canterbury bands. And still new musicians join the Canterbury Scene's ranks, Theo Travis being perhaps the most notable recently (Gong, The Soft Machine Legacy). The Canterbury scene was to have a major influence on musicians in Europe, especially France (e.g. Gong, Moving Gelatine Plates), the Netherlands (Super Sister)and Italy (Daedalus), and more belatedly in the USA (Hughscore). Caravan reformed in the mid 90's, while ex-members of Soft Machine could be found in various avant jazz and straight jazz fusion groups, e.g. Just Us, Soft Heap, Soft Works and most recently The Soft Machine Legacy. From the Canterbury Scene, RIO it its various forms has developed.

FOOTNOTE: As indicated above, many Canterbury Scene bands are acknowledged as having played/are playing jazz rock fusion. However, because of their strong Canterbury affliations are listed under "Canterbury Scene" in Prog Archives.

Dick Heath
Based loosely in part on the source:
(Edition 3, Aug 2009)

Current team members as at 14/02/2014:
Steve (HolyMoly)

Canterbury Scene Top Albums

Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Canterbury Scene | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.28 | 1586 ratings
4.30 | 785 ratings
Wyatt, Robert
4.24 | 936 ratings
4.24 | 920 ratings
4.26 | 716 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.27 | 642 ratings
4.23 | 901 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.26 | 382 ratings
National Health
4.20 | 510 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.16 | 669 ratings
4.24 | 286 ratings
Quiet Sun
4.27 | 233 ratings
4.12 | 611 ratings
4.15 | 379 ratings
4.13 | 390 ratings
Hillage, Steve
4.13 | 349 ratings
National Health
4.23 | 196 ratings
4.35 | 127 ratings
Moving Gelatine Plates
4.07 | 445 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.03 | 504 ratings
Soft Machine, The

Canterbury Scene overlooked and obscure gems albums new

Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Canterbury Scene experts team

National Health
Picchio Dal Pozzo
Muffins, The
Miller, Phil

Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews

 In The Land Of Grey And Pink by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.28 | 1586 ratings

In The Land Of Grey And Pink
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by TiddK

5 stars I do award 5-stars sparingly, but this is one album that I believe deserves it.

The Canterbury Scene is / was the most quirkily English of all "prog's" sub-genres and seems - at least in my experience - to be the one least offensive to those rock writers who don't particularly like this genre. Caravan went through several line-up changes and barely survived the vicissitudes of punk, though they are now quite fondly regarded 'survivors'.

Out of the half dozen or so major studio releases they had in the 70s, I am not alone in rating "In The Land Of Grey & Pink" (a rather rude reference, as nearly all their album titles were) as their finest output. It's essentially an album of two distinct halves, much like Pink Floyd's "Meddle" only perhaps even more so. Side One (the first 4 songs on the CD) contains a mix of eccentric and very English songs, such as the title track ("In the land of grey and pink where only Boy Scouts stop to think" ... it's probably best I don't go into the salacious meaning of this!), all of which have a relatively light blend of folky/jazzy/rock, and lyrics the equal to Syd Barrett's on "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn". Take this from Golf Girl: -Standing on a golf course -Dressed in P.V.C. -I chanced upon a golf girl -Selling cups of tea -She asked me did I want one -Asked me with a grin -For three pence you can buy one -Full right to the brim. The melodies are bright and airy, and the instrumentation is reserved, with vocals and Hammond organ well to the fore.

Side Two however ('Nine Feet Underground'), is a different beast. Mostly instrumental, it's a single long piece of jazz/rock, in general much funkier than the songs on Side One. Like The Floyd's 'Atom Heart Mother' suite, it's a collection of (randomly named) sections that are linked together by a recurring theme.

If getting to know the album, then by all means listen to the whole thing in one go, but after a while you might find that listening to the first 4 songs requires a different mood to 'Nine Feet Underground', which tended to be the track I'd listen to after coming in from a night out.

To get to know the Canterbury Scene, you'd need to listen to at least 4 artists: Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, and Caravan. This album is not enough on its own for that purpose, but if you simply want one single album of melodic English quirkiness to accompany (for example) "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn", then this is it.

 To The Highest Bidder by SUPERSISTER album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 233 ratings

To The Highest Bidder
Supersister Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars SUPERSISTER was the band that put the Netherlands on the world map. True the Shocking Blue had taken the world by storm with their #1 pop hit "Venus" and had several more hits in Europe, but they mostly were ignored by the English speaking countries. SUPERSISTER made a huge splash with their debut "Present From Nancy" which caught the attention of none other than DJ John Peel who championed their record on BBC Radio which percolated into the greater British prog scene.

The fact that their Canterbury sound connected them to such greats as Soft Machine didn't hurt one little bit, however SUPERSISTER was a force to reckon with on their own terms. By cleverly juxtaposing the best aspects of the Canterbury sound of Soft Machine such as the instrumental playfulness and lyrical whimsy and marrying them with the jazz-rock of Frank Zappa and the Mothers invention with a little classical chops including that of Erik Satie, this band from The Hague quickly became one of the most inventive and unpredictable acts of the early 70s.

Having proven themselves as the Dutch world's most intelligent band, SUPERSISTER had captivated audiences in their live settings with their stunning and cleverly laid out compositions that took the jittery caffeinated aspects of Zappa and placed them into the context of Soft Machines jazz-rock laced with psychedelic and classical. One particularly important appearance was a concert at Groeneveld Castle in Baarn, Netherlands which was televised on Dutch TV. And while a few guitar parts were included on the debut, SUPERSISTER totally eschews any guitar on this one, making it one of the few guitar free prog acts of the day (Van Der Graaf Generator being another example.) Ron van Eck would pick up the slack with fuzz bass licks and solos.

While working on their second album TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER which emerged the year after the debut, SUPERSISTER's record label Polydor demanded that the band focus on releasing singles despite the band staunchly desiring to remain an album only act. The pressure was too great and the band caved, or compromised rather and took the spectacular lead track "A Girl Named You" and truncated it to a single's length however they would have none of the musical watering down business and created one of the most bizarre singles probably to have ever hit the Dutch marketplace. The B-side "Missing Link" which is tacked on to remastered versions is no less bizarre and utterly brilliant.

While "Present From Nancy" was sort of a climax to the material SUPERSISTER were cranking out before their debut which found them mixing and melding their influences together into highly energetic and chaotic progressive pieces of labyrinthine detours, TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER found the band with a more focused and even keel method to their madness. Keyboardist Robert Jan Stips had taken the helm as songwriter-in-chief and teasing the band's already established sound into a woven tapestry of Canterbury and jazz-rock bliss which found SUPERSISTER dishing out one of the most stylistic originalities of the year 1971 that only hosted a mere four tracks.

Starting the album out with aggressive piano stabs and an instantly recognizable Canterbury jazz groove, "A Girl Like You" was the antithesis of a single or love song as the title suggests. Instead it evolves into several passages that escape the Canterbury clutches and verge into Zappa-esque xylophone runs obviously influenced the the "Uncle Meat" album. Finally well over the four minute mark, Robert Jan Stips blurts out the first vocals on the album which show a darker side of the band which belie the soothing flute solos, upbeat rhythmic dexterity and overall Canterbury groovilisciousness. The piece not only brilliantly melds jazz and rock together seamlessly but contains an ambient psychedelic mellotron backdrop that adds a whole other layer of trippiness.

"No Tree Will Grow (On Too High A Mountain)" begins and ends with a steady gait of electronic sounds that would sound more at home on a Tangerine Dream album but sets the tone for the track as it drones behind a slowly creeping keyboard run that eventually unleashes an uncanny lyrical lugubriousness lightyears away from the carefree frenzy of the debut. The piano melody is utterly addictive while Stips simultaneously does his best Robert Wyatt vocal impression. The track slowly picks up steam as the mellotron becomes an angelic choral in concert with some sort of dolphin sounds. The track ends with a transcendental meditative universal OM before laughter breaks out reminding that this is still Canterbury infused prog rock after all.

The longest and most ambitious track of the album and perhaps the entire SUPERSISTER canon is the outrageous and outstanding "Energy (Out Of Future)" which somehow takes a few simple and addictive melodic earworms and finds more variations on how to alternate the timbres, dynamics, tempos and stylistic shifts than Mozart's entire symphonic career! This track banters the senses as it pummels with heavy percussion, soothes with pacifying flute, bedazzles with Keith Emerson inspired keyboard virtuosity and stuns in its sheer audacity to adopt complicated time signatures run amok but finding balance with the recurring melodic stabilizing effects. The track not only features some of the band's best instrumental workouts but adopts healthy doses of electronic sounds and experimental touches. While mostly instrumental, the track does exhibit unexpected periods of vocal driven Canterbury jazz rock but more often than not zigzags all around like a headless chicken.

The short closer "Higher" really should have been the single. It is the right length and is the only "normal" song on the album. Whereas "Energy" was a bantering assault on the senses, "Higher" is a beautiful keyboard driven ballad in standard psychedelic pop rock fashion and provides the perfect come down from an overtly intense ride into the twisted world of this Dutch group's idiosyncrasies.

While SUPERSISTER bedazzled an unsuspecting prog world with their debut, they went for the jugular with TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER which found all the band's strengths reaching compositional maturity and finding them poised as Holland's greatest musical export during the era and was made even more dramatic by the stunning bright yellow gatefold album cover that donned two large eyes on each panel with coins as the irises and a naked girl added in the upper left corner for good measure. The formula of Stips taking the helm as songwriter and letting the rest of the band add their own touches after the fact turned out to be the perfect chemistry for SUPERSISTER 2.0 and despite tamping down the humor and focusing on more serious and dark subject matter, the music still retained that indefinable but instantly recognizable Canterbury jazz-rock warmth. This was the album that got SUPERSISTER noticed beyond the Netherlands and in terms of popularity their absolute peak.

 Manna/Mirage by MUFFINS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.13 | 87 ratings

The Muffins Canterbury Scene

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Why did it take my until now to buy anything from the Muffins? It's a huge regret as I've been aware of these guys since 1996. I now have a copy of their debut LP Manna/Mirage and what an album it is! The groups consisted of Dave Newhouse, Paul Sears, Billy Swann, and Tom Scott, and they hailed from Silver Spring, Maryland, outside of Washington, DC. Comedian Lewis Black also hailed from Silver Spring, but of course he has nothing to do with prog rock (I don't know what kind of music he's into), he's a comedian who prefers the environs of New York City. Most importantly, Steve Feigenbaum hails from there, as he founded Random Radar Records, later on Wayside Music, and Random Radar's successor Cuneiform Records. Unsurprisingly The Muffins recorded for Random Radar, and that label pretty much served the same purpose as Cuneiform. So little surprise that Cuneiform would reissues their back catalog and previously unreleased archival material in the 1990s, as well as new reunion releases.

I have most of the major UK Canterbury releases, but I am totally blown away one of the best examples of the Canterbury style should be the Muffins given their non-UK origins, and the fact American bands playing prog rock of any style are frequently accused of being nothing more than pale copycats. Dave Newhouse and the boys certainly did their homework and actually created a masterpiece sure the rival even the UK classics. Since they knew they would only by fooling themselves by imitating British accents (Robert Wyatt and Richard Sinclair never hid their British accent while singing), they stuck to being an all-instrumental band, with the exception of one squeely vocal part that goes "Captain Boomerang" (a DC Comics villain) on "The Adventures of Captain Boomerang (for Mike Forrester)" (who's this Mike Forrester? Michael Forrester the British WWII- era Naval officer? Not sure). "Monkey With the Golden Eyes" has a bit of that laid-back Hatfield & the North feel to it, and then "Hobart Got Burned" is the next piece. Here you get treated with lots of squeaky saxes, sounding like the band gone totally RIO on us, reminding me of the more "out there" sections of Henry Cow's Leg-End. Then out of nowhere comes this wonderful electric piano riff with some great spacy sax solos over it. "Amelia Eahart" continues in that Hatfield & the North and Soft Machine vein, but out of nowhere the band suddenly goes into Gong territory complete with glissando guitar, after a bit then this really eerie, droning organ goes on for the next couple of minutes before it fades out. Finally you get the side- length "The Adventures of Captain Boomerang (for Mike Forrester). They really go to town on this piece, going through many different changes and moods, but towards the end they slow down, like they finally ran out of energy, but suddenly it ends with a bang with some great Canterbury-type organ soloing.

Also it needs to be pointed out what an amazing drummer Paul Sears is! He certainly is one of the great, unrecognized drummers out there. I am not a musician so I can't always judge the talents of band members (other than that of KISS who stick to cliched rock guitar, drums and lyrics), but Sears really does some amazing and complex drumming and make it seem so effortless! He doesn't get the recognition of say, Bruford, or Pierre Moerlen, or Pip Pyle, but his playing is certainly up there with the best!

Listening to this album, you'd swear that 1978 was the height of progressive rock, when in fact it's been a pretty disappointing year, at least for the major acts (Love Beach being the most obvious example). This was, after all, the US being caught up in disco (Saturday Night Fever helped disco receive even more mainstream acceptance) and the UK caught up in punk (both which would implode by 1980). Clear that Newhouse & the boys were totally oblivious about the less-than-favorable musical landscape of 1978, and stuck to their guns and recorded and released a masterpiece. Helps that they had a local label to release this. Truly an album that is completely essential to your collection. While Prog Archives discourages five star ratings so you can be encouraged to be more objective, this album truly deserves it!

 Present From Nancy by SUPERSISTER album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.04 | 198 ratings

Present From Nancy
Supersister Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars The origins of SUPERSISTER go all the way back to The Hague, Netherlands in 1967 when Robert-Jan Stips (vocals and keyboard), Sacha van Geest (flute), Marco Vrolijk (drums) and Ron van Eck (bass) started the band under the moniker Sweet O.K. Supersister (the name they would release their final album "Spiral Staircase" under). In the few short years between their formation and the release of their debut release PRESENT FROM NANCY, a collection of absurdist musical tales of a fictitious girl having tea with the giant staircase gnome, the band honed their chops to become one of the biggest surprises of the nascent progressive rock scene in 1970 by taking the Canterbury traits of Soft Machine, Egg and Caravan and marrying them to the whimsy on steroids approach of The Mothers Of Invention all the while throwing in some Miles Davis and John Coltrane jazz effects mangled up in a classically infused compositional approach. All in the spirit of the wild experimental odometer years of the 60s turn 70s era.

While mere teenagers, this quartet dished out some of the most adventurous music of the early prog scene that literally took their influences to the next few levels and unleashed a truly bizarre mishmash of Vrolijk's military styled percussive drive (offering a somewhat cartoonish effect), blitzkrieg keyboard virtuosity delivered by the frenetic fingers of Robert Jan Stips (who simultaneously nailed the Robert Wyatt vocal style), the Caravan inspired fuzz bass of Ron van Eck and Van Geest's sensual flute performances that somehow provide a grounding to the electric performances that make up PRESENT FROM NANCY, one of the ultimate gifts of 1970 indeed and one of the Netherlands' finest hours. In the world of progressive rock PRESENT FROM NANCY simultaneously offers some of the most complex musical deliveries with outlandish humorous touches that even finds the band members cracking up!

The album starts off with a robotic percussive drive with a classic Canterbury jazzed up piano run, a juxtaposition of styles that carries on throughout the album's entire run, never lets up and offers only the unexpected after a sense of comfort dares creep in. The album could be thought of as taking up the continuation of Soft Machine's first two albums. While the Softs were hell bent for leather to jettison their Canterbury pop rock origins in favor of stodgy and whimsy-free jazz fusion, SUPERSISTER gleefully picked up where "Soft Machine II" left off and then found myriad avenues of creative liberties to breath new life into it by taking the most extreme elements of the musical landscape and finding a way to incorporate them into the greater scheme of things.

SUPERSISTER managed to deliver the whole package with pleasant, even addictive melodies teased out into elaborate compositions that simultaneously exhibited a caffeinated youthful energetic drive together with mature and thoughtfully laid out musical motifs that took all the best aspects of the English Canterbury sound along with jazz-rock, classical and even managed to throw in some ridiculously cool psychedelia via electronic freak outs over exquisitely complex time signatures. The sheer audacity on display in "Memories Are New" for example, a construct of three segments that make a greater whole runs the gamut of sweet Canterbury laced jazzy melodies, relentless fuzz bass stabs, electronic feedback run amok and even sizzling guitar leads on par with any heavy rock of the day. The "11/8" part takes the best aspects of Egg and Mike Ratelege only to more extreme levels.

"Corporation Combo Boys," right out of the Frank Zappa playbook finds jazz-rock and tango romping together but only a brief appetite whetter for "Metamorphosis," another three part suite that sounds like a pronto-punk band experimenting with jazzy lounge lizard exotica that slowly ratchets up the intensity until it implodes with the closing segment "Eight Miles High." "Dona Nobis Pacem" goes even further and finds the band displaying some of the most interesting electronic techniques made more famous by Tangerine Dream as ethereal organ runs taking a ride into space in a slow unwinding prancing session between the stars, a track that belies the frenetic and whimsical nature of the album as a whole. Some sort of calming effect perhaps for the unsuspecting audience of the day? Who knows but a perfect way to end the prog expresss that unapologetically wends and winds through both the known and unknown prog universe of the day.

With so many elements freewheeling around the racetrack at a million miles an hour, PRESENT FROM NANCY shows a keen sense of stylistic balance which allows the album to hum along in perfection. The frenetic aspects are tamped down by the sensual moments of introspection. SUPERSISTER became quite the sensation in their native country even spawning hit singles but once English DJ John Peel started promoting them on his BBC Radio One Show, the band found a wider audience following in all of Europe and successfully captured hearts in their live performances. While stylistically straddling the line between Canterbury, jazz, classical and psychedelia, SUPERSISTER's debut delivered one of the most diverse sounding albums of the early progressive rock years in the vein of King Crimson's mighty debut "In The Court" which boldly straddles the musical soundscape into hitherto unvisited nooks and crannies of sound. This was very much a grower for yours truly. What started out as a WTF type of album has slowly sunk in to become an all time favorite. Patience, my friends. All good things come in their due time. A PRESENT FROM NANCY is the gift that keeps on giving.

 Karl Jenkins: Rubber Riff by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.01 | 59 ratings

Karl Jenkins: Rubber Riff
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by WFV

3 stars It's inevitable this album is trashed on a prog site. Progressive rock was never made to be incidental music - the foundation of the earliest progressive rock was making a loud, landscape altering sweeping statement. Therefore, this made for background "library music" doesn't really fit the billing.

If approached with open ears, this can be a worthwhile experience for sure if used for its intended purpose. There's some riffs and some floating, and after I put this on while I'm stretching or making a salad I'm in a good mood.

I don't think the appeal would be as strong for me if this was labeled a Karl Jenkins solo record. He's magnificently talented but always seemed like an interloper and I don't much care for his solo records I've tried.

I really like the tunes "A Little Floating Music" and "Splot". "Melina" is a low point, and "Gentle Turn" isn't far behind - both sound like weak theme songs to a poor 1970's US television sitcom.

Two stars for the prog recommendation, four stars in my catalogue, three it is overall. I feel exactly the same about this album as I do similar albums on here "Codename Wildgeese" by Eloy, "Blitz" by Thirsty Moon and "Visa" by Duncan Mackay good activity music and mild instrumental prog curiosities.

 Elsewhere by MASTER CYLINDER album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.68 | 18 ratings

Master Cylinder Canterbury Scene

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I've been aware of Master Cylinder since 1996. I certainly regretted not trying them earlier because I was truly amazed! Given their sole album Elsewhere came out in 1981 and this band hailed from Texas, I didn't expect them to be remarkable, or the music simply too '80s sounding for my liking. When I think Texas, I think of blues-based rockers like ZZ Top and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Master Cylinder is totally unbelievable: a Fort Worth band playing Canterbury music that's not a million miles from the likes of Hatfield & the North, Soft Machine, Gilgamesh, even the Muffins. Like the Muffins the group is all-instrumental. What blows me aware other than all that, is this group not only managed this in 1981 but can hold its own with the likes of the Muffins as well as the UK bands of the '70s. The tragedy is this was only released on vinyl on the Inner City label and never reissued in any capacity whatsoever (I could see this on Cuneiform Records). This has everything I came to love of this kind of music, very creative jazzy passages, nice use of analog keyboards, all '70s, even the music sounds like it made in the 1970s, not the beginning of the '80s. The music is often complex and challenging. The cover depicting, which I guess to be chaos at a New York City intersection, gives no clues what amazing music you'll be getting within. How did these guys pull this off in Texas? Especially in Fort Worth. Regardless a huge surprise for me, and clearly one of the best albums from the early '80s I've heard.
 ReMoving by MOVING GELATINE PLATES album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.87 | 31 ratings

Moving Gelatine Plates Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars MOVING GELATINE PLATES created two essential albums in the early seventies that every fan of adventerous music should own. Bassist Didier Thibault decided to keep that spirit alive with an album in 1980 called "Moving" along with this particular record called "ReMoving" released in 2006. Thank you Sagi for your review here but also for mentioning this album many times over the years. No this isn't of the caliber of the two originals but like "Moving" it's a great listen and a solid 4 stars in my opinion. Didier is the driving force here of course and the only original member but this is a great sounding 7 piece band with cello, trombone, violin, trumpet, sax, flute and the usual "rock" instruments. Guests add oboe, sax, viola and choirs.

"Removing" is the 2 1/2 minute opener that opens with someone starting a vehicle and taking off in it before fuzzed out bass kicks in then drums. It lightens as horns arrive almost pulsating at times. The guitar then solos over top then more horns. It all stops as we hear birds chirping as the vehicle pulls up and the person gets out. This blends into "Like A Flower" a top three song for me. Oboe and bass take over as reserved vocals join in. I like this. Violin arrives when the vocals stop briefly. Keys join the vocals then horns after 1 1/2 minutes as the vocals stop again. More oboe then the guitar replaces the oboe before 2 1/2 minutes. Great sound and this is such a feel good track until the tempo picks up after 3 minutes. Still good though. Themes are repeated.

"Enigme" opens with the sound of a person walking before keys than a full sound take over with cello, bass, drums and more. Soprano sax after a minute then flute a minute later takes the lead. It calms down as the guitar plays in a relaxed manner over top. Horns around 4 1/2 minutes. "Comme Avant" opens with an old record being played static and all before drums, bass, violin and more takes over. This is a happy sounding tune where horns also help out. Guitar before 2 1/2 minutes until the horns return. Not bad but one of my least favourites.

"Breakdown" is another top three. Piano and violin to start before fuzzed out bass takes over but the piano, horns, drums and more join in as the violin plays over top. Soon the piano leads but the violin is back quickly. Vocals after 1 1/2 minutes then guitar a minute later as the vocals continue to come and go. "Nico" opens with some humour with someone talking on the phone. Soon the violin and piano lead the way as drums and bass join in. It picks up 2 minutes in then tenor sax arrives. Nice sound here. Guitar replaces the sax before 3 1/2 minutes then the horns replace the guitar before 5 minutes.

"Bellidor" is another one that's not bad but one of my least favs. A classical sound to start with horns and strings but soon it kicks in with a full sound as the violin plays over top. It settles back around 2 minutes with piano, drums, bass and horns as the violin comes and goes. "Waiting For The Rain" is my final top three. Love the melancholy and the intro with the sound of rain and thunder. Quite majestic is God. Keys and atmosphere take over before a minute then this guitar melody is repeated s the sax comes in at 1 1/2 minutes. Vocals follow and I like the lyrics and melancholy. It does pick up though around 2 1/2 minutes, violin too.

"Theo" ends it and it is quite interesting the way the live crowd is mixed in with the instrumental work of course all done with samples in studio for that live affect. An excellent closer overall and I like the humour again here as the pretend concert ends with the singer saying "Thank you, thank you all for coming. MOVING GELATINE PLATES! We hope to see you soon. By the way if some of you could help us put the equipment away? Thank you again" Haha.

It would seem a lot of love and time went into this. I love the samples sprinkled in as well. A really enjoyable listen.

 Pentanine by GONG album cover Studio Album, 2004
2.95 | 53 ratings

Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by WFV

3 stars Definitely underrated and sorely underheard.

Of course the fusiony material of Pierre Moerlen's Gong is compared to the unfusiony space cadet Gong. Often, I find, in the negative.

I love both and wish this ensemble would have put out more contemporary records. I acquired this beauty several years ago and after many listens gave it a high three star. After revisitation a few years later it gained half a star. Third revisit it gets 4.5 in my collection.

Not for the average rock oriented proghead, this fusiony record is mostly melodic with some new age flavoring. Moerlen lines up with unknown Russkies behind him who are obviously fabulous musicians.

One wishes this lineup did three or four outings together. The opener, Lacheur, and Blue Nuit standout for me.

As I said, not for the average proghead, so while I may give it high marks if taking everything into account here this gets three from me.

 To The Highest Bidder by SUPERSISTER album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 233 ratings

To The Highest Bidder
Supersister Canterbury Scene

Review by WFV

5 stars Supersister's sophomore release expands upon the incredible sound of the debut into the realms of the all time classic progressive rock recordings. I love In the Land of Grey and Pink but this album may just inch above it for me. Classic opener, stupendous second song (No Tree Will Grow is one of recorded musics finest 7:40) and the third and fourth tracks only expand upon the awesomeness. An all time progressive rock classic at the top of the Canterbury style. This album belongs in the collection of every prog fan.

The bonus tracks on the CD reissues are interesting novelties, but add nothing to the final result

 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.23 | 901 ratings

The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Eric_T

5 stars This is one of my all-time top five albums and certainly my favourite "Prog" item. It consists of four side-long pieces (on the original vinyl) which are each in a distinctive style but share the basic structural approach of having striking melodic themes linked by passages of improvisation. "Facelift" is brash and powerful, driven along by Hopper's springy bass lines and Wyatt's chopping drums. Mike Ratledge's first solo is his most exciting on the album. "Slightly All The Time" is more contemplative and features Elton Dean at his most lyrical. "Moon In June" is a Wyatt masterpiece which many feel is worth the price of the album on its own. "Out Bloody Rageous" is the most overtly jazz-oriented piece and also (in shortened form) served as my introduction to the Soft Machine when included on a 1970 CBS sampler.

This is an album that simply could not have been made now. It comes from a time when groups were allowed to record adventurous music. I am grateful to have been around to pick up on it. There's not a weak passage on the album - 5 stars for sure.

Data cached

Canterbury Scene bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
KEVIN AYERS United Kingdom
BIG HOGG United Kingdom
THE BOOT LAGOON United Kingdom
BRAINVILLE United Kingdom
CARAVAN United Kingdom
CLEAR FRAME United Kingdom
COS Belgium
DELIVERY United Kingdom
EGG United Kingdom
THE GHOULIES United Kingdom
MICHAEL GILES United Kingdom
GILGAMESH United Kingdom
GONG Multi-National
JOHN GREAVES United Kingdom
GRINGO United Kingdom
STEVE HILLAGE United Kingdom
HUGH HOPPER United Kingdom
JAKKO M. JAKSZYK United Kingdom
KHAN United Kingdom
THE LODGE United States
MAGIC BUS United Kingdom
MANNA / MIRAGE United States
MATCHING MOLE United Kingdom
MILLER & COXHILL United Kingdom
PHIL MILLER United Kingdom
MOOM United Kingdom
THE MUFFINS United States
PANTHEON Netherlands
PAZOP Belgium
JOHN G. PERRY United Kingdom
PIP PYLE United Kingdom
QUANTUM JUMP United Kingdom
QUIET SUN United Kingdom
SHORT WAVE United Kingdom
SOFT HEAP United Kingdom
SOFT MOUNTAIN Multi-National
SOFT WORKS United Kingdom
VOLARÉ United States
ROBERT WYATT United Kingdom
ZYMA Germany

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