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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 9/12/2022:
Scott (Evolver)
Drew (BrufordFreak)
Mike (siLLy puPPy)
Mira (Mirakaze)

Canterbury Scene Top Albums

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

4.31 | 2026 ratings
4.28 | 1012 ratings
Wyatt, Robert
4.29 | 837 ratings
4.26 | 1154 ratings
4.25 | 1190 ratings
4.27 | 897 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.28 | 530 ratings
National Health
4.20 | 1167 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.18 | 887 ratings
4.21 | 668 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.26 | 327 ratings
4.14 | 781 ratings
4.31 | 198 ratings
Moving Gelatine Plates
4.12 | 492 ratings
4.13 | 465 ratings
National Health
4.11 | 512 ratings
Hillage, Steve
4.12 | 485 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.12 | 372 ratings
Quiet Sun
4.11 | 321 ratings
Picchio Dal Pozzo
4.15 | 245 ratings

Canterbury Scene overlooked and obscure gems albums new

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

Moving Gelatine Plates
Greaves, John
Muffins, The

Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews

 Dominion by ZOPP album cover Studio Album, 2023
4.17 | 175 ratings

Zopp Canterbury Scene

Review by Linguini V

2 stars My expectations for this album were not high. Sadly, it did not manage to meet even those.

This is album suffers from the same shortcomings that plague much of modern prog.

One thing is the production. The cleanliness of the whole things makes this sound like Coldplay with odd meters (though Coldplay can occasionally write more evocative songs). The composer seems to get lost in his own work. Leaning too heavily into the "prog" elements to remember that the songs also have to be good if you want to justify those kinds of excursions. Ryan Stevenson manages to drag us through these fortytwo minutes without offering a single memorable melody. The drummer just seems clueless, but this might be due to poor direction from Stevenson.

I do not understand the people who claim there is anything jazzy about this.

 Present from Nancy / To the the Highest Bidder by SUPERSISTER album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1990
3.97 | 11 ratings

Present from Nancy / To the the Highest Bidder
Supersister Canterbury Scene

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nº 791

Sweet OK Sister was a progressive rock band founded in 1967 in The Hague, Netherlands. They changed their name to Supersister later, but they're the same band. They became known as one of the best Canterbury bands, which is ironic because they weren't from Canterbury or even British. Though, they were considered part of the Canterbury Scene. They had a sound similar to The Soft Machine and Caravan. Supersister melted strongly influences of the Canterbury style with jazz and some typical Dutch progressive rock trademarks. Supersister originally released five full length studio albums between 1970 and 1974 with "Present From Nancy" and "To The Highest Bidder" being the first two.

"Present From Nancy/To The Highest Bidder" is a special compilation album of Supersister. This is an economic package including their debut studio album "Present From Nancy", released in 1970 and their second studio album "To The Highest Bidder", released in 1971, on a double disc. It includes two indispensable works from the band that would be a worth purchase. These are considered the two best studio works from the band. Both are two great works from Supersister in only one package. But, for those who have already both albums, this compilation album only can be interesting as an addition for those who are collectors and fans. Anyway, this is a cheaper way to can get both albums.

The line up on both albums is the same. So, we have here Robert Jan Stips (lead vocals, keyboards and vibes), Sacha Van Geest (vocals and flutes), Ron Van Eck (bass guitar and fuzz bass guitar) and Marco Vrolijk (vocals, drums and percussion). "Present From Nancy" has also the participation of Gehard Smid (vocals and guitars).

As I've already reviewed these two albums previously on Progarchives, in a more extensive way, I'm not going to do it again. So, if you are interested to know, in more detail, what I wrote about them before, I invite you to read those my both reviews. However, in here I'm going to write something about them in a more short way. So, of course, I'm not going to analyze them track by track, as I made before, but I'm only going to make a global appreciation of both albums.

"Present From Nancy": "Present From Nancy" is an amazingly accomplished album for such a young new band. There are few bands who have managed to record such a strong, fully developed first album after only two years of existence. Supersister's debut effort remains one of Holland's best progressive rock albums and a classic of the genre worldwide, even though the group garnered only fringe interest outside of Europe. All elements of the band's sound are there. The excellent debut album of these young lads brings to us partly a very energetic and frenetic Canterbury sound but also with touches from the classical music. The closest connection to my mind would be The Soft Machine around 1969 but Supersister had a slightly less jazzy feeling being more accessible, less academic and had classical elements. But, unfortunately, "Present From Nancy" was a successful debut album by a band that has rightly been almost forgotten today, despite the high quality of their works in the 70's. However, anyone who appreciates Soft Machine and Caravan or the Canterbury sound in general shouldn't have any problems with it. This is an album that must be recommended.

"To The Highest Bidder": "To The Highest Bidder" is a great work that can be recommended to any Canterbury lover. Supersister's unique sound truly flourished on their second work. Keyboardist Stips had taken control of all the song writing and managed to work out the obvious influences of the band. At this point, Supersister isn't borrowing ideas from others. It's developing their own ideas alongside the biggest progressive rock acts at the time. Overall, this is an album with great complexity. It's very unique and great what Supersister has developed here. This is an album that just oozes the joy of playing and delivers a work that is fun from the beginning to the end. It's an album with many fine moments that are fun and clever too. But what it mostly accomplishes is to exorcise the band's interest in the studio experimentation, paving the way for more focused song writing on their next third work. If you're looking for an album that delivers a beautiful melodic and instrumental sound without being kitschy, you shouldn't go wrong with this album. So, this is a great album, an excellent starting point to further discover the music catalog of the group from The Hague.

Conclusion: "Present From Nancy" and "To The Highest Bidder" are two excellent progressive rock albums nothing inferior to many of the albums released by their contemporary progressive acts at the time. Both albums make part of some of the best works released in The Netherlands by their compatriots Focus, Finch, Kayak, Trace, Earth And Fire and Golden Earring. However, if you have already the two studio albums of the two individual works, you don't need to buy this compilation album because it has nothing new to offer, like bonus tracks, unless, you have a collector's spirit. In this case, it will be a nice addition to your collection. But, if you don't have these two albums and you own this compilation, it substitutes perfectly well those original albums. If this is the case you had save in money and space.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.20 | 1167 ratings

The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by YPR73

5 stars As the name implies, Third was the the third and arguably best album by Canterbury Scene band Soft Machine. Third came out in 1970, and was later reissued in 2007. It was influenced a lot more by jazz and arguably experimental music than its other albums, while still retaining the influence from Canterbury Scene in small sections. This album was the first to feature Elton Dean on Alto Saxophone, and the lineup of Volume Two (Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, and Robert Wyatt) appears on this album.

Now for the track listing, it is composed of four side long suites. The album opens with Facelift, which is probably the most experimental song on the album with Mike Ratledge doing a weird yet interesting solo in the opening, it then moves into a more jazzy melody. The next song on the album, Slightly All the Time, takes the whole jazz concept to a whole new level. Most of the song is pure jazz, with a much more laid back sound than Facelift. The next song, and the only song with vocals, is Moon In June. This song brings back more influences from Canterbury Scene while still retaining the jazz sound of the previous songs. It's my personal favorite song on the album, but all the songs on this are great. The final song on the album is Out-Bloody Rageous. It has a soft quiet opening in the beginning before going into another jazz section and ending with a reprise of the beginning at the end. For me it's the weakest song on the album, but like I said before every song on Third is great.

All in all it's a 5/5. I know the audio quality isn't great, but the songs themselves make up for it. It's my personal favorite album in the Canterbury Scene genre and is must listen for all prog and enjoyers. From its unique laid back jazz sound to its more electronic and loud experimentation, Third has always been a pleasure from the many times I've listened to it. I would definitely recommend!

 Before A Word Is Said by GOWEN - MILLER - SINCLAIR - TOMKINS album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.76 | 65 ratings

Before A Word Is Said
Gowen - Miller - Sinclair - Tomkins Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic

4 stars In many ways England's Canterbury Scene was a membership club that included a small but dedicated group of musicians who primarily engaged in the unique psychedelically tinged progressive jazz-rock sounds that made this particular strain of fusion so utterly unique. All throughout the 70s the main players that included Soft Machine, Caravan, National Health, Hatfield & The North and Gilgamesh had seen members come and go with every Canterbury musician seemingly joining every other band at one time and rarely saw two albums in a row with the same lineup. It was like a rotating exhibit of Canterbury splendor during the golden era so a wellspring of new collaborative efforts was continuously spawning new sparks of creativity with the regenerative efforts of simply working with new musicians.

While the majority of newbie collaborative efforts adopted proper band monikers, every so often a group of similarly minded musician maestros released an album or two with each member receiving equal billing with no need for pesky band names to cloud the musical vision. Such is the case of ALAN GOWEN, PHIL MILLER, RICHARD SINCLAIR & TREVOR TOMKINS who for a brief moment in time had pooled their talents into a gathering of kindred spirits and relived some of the past glories that they had each contributed to in the previous decade. The quartet convened in the spring of 1981 and set forth to close some loose ends that weren't quite resolved in the members' past endeavors. The results were this album BEFORE A WORD IS SAID which was released in 1982.

These sessions would prove to be the very last for keyboardist ALAN GOWEN, the mastermind behind Gilgamesh as well as a key member of National Health, Soft Head and Soft Heap, who had succumbed to leukemia shortly after these recordings at the age of 33. Guitarist PHIL MILLER who reunited with bassist RICHARD SINCLAIR after the legendary Hatfield & The North project also had his share of expertise in Matching Mole, his own In Cahoots as well as a major player in the Canterbury pinnacle of National Health. Drummer TREVOR TOMKINS was somewhat of the odd man out having primary carved out a career in Ian Carr's Nucleus but honed his Canterbury creds along with GOWEN in Gilgamesh.

A decidedly jazzy affair, this quartet of seasoned veterans crafted eight tracks that captured the spirit of the multitude of Canterbury projects they had all contributed to throughout the 1970s. An overall relaxed dreamy mode of operandi with each member adding the proper Canterbury ingredients for the ultimate celebration of the unique style they had collectively forged the decade prior. Much of the material had been written by various members in the past and simply brought back to life in these sessions. While the tracks do showcase an adequate display of variety throughout with strange darkened processions like the rather gloomy title track, the majority of the material is more out of the Hatfield & The North playbook with GOWEN paying respect to the keyboard style of Dave Stewart's classic playing techniques while the closing "A Fleeting Glace" displays all the classic Hatfield traits only set to a more robust rock format with TOMKINS delivering one of the more energetic percussive moments.

While primarily an all-instrumental affair, "Umbrellas' also harkens back to the Hatfield & The North glory days with Sinclair contributing those classic wordless vocalizations that punctuated that band's two albums throughout. The album is almost like a greatest hits of the Canterbury 70s starting with the unique keyboard runs and time signature familiarities as delivered on the opening "Above And Below" and then followed by the more jazzy upbeat swing of "Reflexes In The Margin." The GOWAN contributions such as "Silver Star" and the title track exhibit a sense of melancholy which in retrospect reflected his worsening health issues. The MILLER contributions such as "Above And Below," "Fourfold" and "A Fleeting Glance" on the other hand deliver some of the most upbeat energetically delivered moments with a stronger emphasis on the guitar and groovy pulsating tempos.

When all is said and done the overall impression of BEFORE A WORD IS SAID is that of resolution as if the team was in collaborative observance of their past accomplishments and gathered lost moments and wayward concepts that hadn't successfully been incorporated into the Canterbury glory days. It's a beautifully competent album but rather than feeling like an innovative evolutionary leap that would bring the Canterbury Scene into the 1980s, rather feels more like a band reliving past glories with a sad reverence of a passing era and the melancholy of entering a new musical landscape of which the members felt like fish out of water. However despite not redesigning the Canterbury classics in 80s regalia, BEFORE A WORD SAID is still a compelling tribute to all those idiosyncrasies that created an entirely new genre of progressive rock. The album offers moments of comfort that reflect the past as well as offering a few twists and turns that aren't expected. An enjoyable album from beginning to end even if not one of the top specimens of the Canterbury sound. Personally i love this one.

 Tom Penaguin by PENAGUIN, TOM album cover Studio Album, 2024
4.35 | 21 ratings

Tom Penaguin
Tom Penaguin Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars A young French DIY guy releases his third album of songs emulating/imitating progressive rock styles and artists from the early days.

1. "The Stove Viewpoint Introduction" (2:44) layers of synthesizer-generated sounds creating a bit of a Patrick Moraz/Mike Oldfield soundscape that moves, in the third minute, into more Dave Stewart territory before bleeding into ? (the next song) (4.375/5)

2. "Housefly Leg" (14:25) though I love all of the instrumental recreations of old, familiar Canterbury sounds, it is the crisp drumming that I find most impressive (and original). The second motif that occupies the third minute sounds more GENESIS-like before shifting into NEKTAR territory for the third motif. Then we're back to the original KHAN/HATFIELD/ANTIQUE SEEKING NUNS sound palette for some beautiful and gentle melody making in the fifth minute. An electric guitar moves to the fore for the sixth minute to solo in a style that sounds and feels more like something from American Jazz-Rock Fusion (one of Steely Dan's virtuosi: Larry Carlton, Jay Graydon, Denny Dias, Dean Parks, or Walter Becker). This solo dominates well into the ninth minute with plenty of keyboard support and complementation until the nine-minute mark when Fender Rhodes and electric bass play along side some impressive drumming for a little over a minute. Then "everybody" clears out so the Fender Rhodes can support an extended bass solo--one that becomes more and more impressive (almost MAGMA-esque) as it moves into the 12th and 13th minutes. Tom has certainly become a great drummer! From 12:35 on the instruments are all weaving in and around each other in a very HATFIELD AND THE NORTH fashion, each virtually soloing though still maintaining some modicum of cohesion ? until it stops! Pretty impressive song! Especially the layering of support for the soloists but really the drums the most. Unfortunately, I come away feeling no particular connection to any of the melodies or themes lingering in my brain; more impressed with the highly skilled imitative quality of the music. (27/30) 3. "Aborted Long Piece No. 2" (3:35) though the thick, heavy bass and drum play in this doesn't quite feel accurate, I do feel immediate familiarity with the Dave Stewart-like organ and Fender Rhodes play on this. It could almost fit perfectly among Egg's classic suite on their sophomore album from 1971, The Polite Force. (8.875/10)

4. "Arrival of the Great Hedgehog" (9:16) basically it's gentle Fender Rhodes and organ arpeggiations and gradual bass augmentation and expansion with eventual Moog "flute" (or Casiotone "fantasy") play over the top until the electric fuzz guitars and drums join in during the third and fourth minutes, respectively. The fifth minute is slowed down for a more Andy Latimer/Eef Albers(FOCUS)-like guitar sound to enter and slowly build into an impressive (Allan Holdsworth-like) solo (with those very impressive drums accompanying, accenting, and egging him on). All of the above guitarists would have been proud of this solo--as drummers Billy Cobham and Bill Bruford would be smiling. Great production and performance. I wish the song could have had a little more development and nuance, not just exist as a skills display piece. (17.75/20)

5. "The Stove Packed Up and Left" (7:29) definitely a Dave Stewart composition. (J/k) To my ears, this song feels like the most mature, most developed and refined. (13.75/15)

Total Time 37:29

This young man has the chops, has all the appropriate instruments to create the appropriate sound palettes, and definitely has the ear to help him recreate old style musics (EGG, KHAN, HATFIELD AND THE NORTH, CAMEL, MIKE OLDFIELD), but I believe that he still has some learning to do with regards to fine-tuning his music so that they sound less like imitations and more like originals. After three published albums, I think he is well on his way.

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of adroitly Canterbury-styled instrumental music. I would think that every prog lover would find something interesting and enjoyable on this album

 Soundtrack for Places I've Never Been, Vol. 1 by PENAGUIN, TOM album cover Studio Album, 2022
3.96 | 6 ratings

Soundtrack for Places I've Never Been, Vol. 1
Tom Penaguin Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars One person production with but two instruments! That just doesn't happen anymore, does it?

1. "Trampoline Overdrive" (5:03) great melodies and sounds--as if early TONY BANKS and modern day (2000s) ANDREW MARSHALL collaborated on another WILLOWGLASS piece--only with a more demonstrative (and modern) drummer. (9/10)

2. "Antigravity Lagoon" (12:53) starts out as a Terry Riley-like multi-track conversation between several programs of Tom's Moog Matriarch. At the two-minute mark drums and "bass" and a few other sequenced lines join in giving this a more ANTHONY PHILLIPS or perhaps Mike Oldfield feel (though, to my ears, more ARNAUD BUKWALDian). Nice melodies coming out of several instruments, including the "bass" and "fairy synths," not just the lead "Stagnation" sound. It starts to drag a little as it auto-descends (and, perhaps, unravels and dampens) in the tenth minute and beyond. (22.25/25)

3. "Diving Bell" (2:27) an étude for an artist experimenting/getting to know a single instrument or sound. (4/5)

4. "Stamping Factory" (5:31) A little more funky like some late 70s or early 80s prog keyboardist's experimentation (very much like Ant Phillips' solo work in those years). Tom is really developing as a musician and composer! (8.75/10)

5. "Flight of an Amphibious Airship" (12:11) Another lovely piece of multi-layered synthesizer experimentation (some of it quite mathematical) has Tom weaving together no less than six tracks from his Moog, each with its own separate melodic journey, and yet they all work magically well together--almost in a dreamy, New Age kind of way (though for much of the song I find myself luxuriating in the beauty of the opening of GLASS HAMMER's contribution to Colossus Magazine/Musea Records' 2005 masterpiece, Odyssey: The Greatest Tale, called "At the Court of Akinoos"). A wonderful piece if obviously an étude toward greater knowledge and proficiency. Tom sure gets the full use out of his 88 keys! (22.5/25)

Total time: 38:05

Tom's drumming (and sound reproduction of such) has a little way to go to reach the impressive levels of his 2024 release, but the rest of the music is very engaging and enjoyable--in very much the same way that Ant Phillips' 1984 has been for me for the past 43 years.

B/four stars; an excellent collection of Moog experiments from an up-and-coming prog talent. An album that I think every self-professed prog lover would absolutely love--especially if you love the work of Andrew Marshall's WILLOWGLASS and ANTHONY PHILLIPS keyboard work in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

 SWF Session 1973 by TORTILLA FLAT album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.03 | 10 ratings

SWF Session 1973
Tortilla Flat Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic

4 stars Of all the top tier Kraut-fusion bands that emerged on the German scene in the early 1970s, TORTILLA FLAT was undoubtedly one of the most accomplished and talented bands to enter the scene in the same league as class acts such as Embryo, the Ginga Rale Band, Eiliff, Brainstorm and Sunbirds although never gaining the recognition it deserved for its accomplishments. The band existed for a relatively short time from around 1972 to 1974 and managed to release a sole studio album in the form of the 1974 classic "Für ein ¾ Stündchen" which showcased the band's outstanding compositional fortitude of seamlessly blending the world of progressive rock, Canterbury jazz, classical influences and Krautrock into a delectable slice of musical ecstasy.

Emerging from the Aachen region near the Dutch border TORTILLA FLAT was one of the tightest fusion acts on the scene with memorable crafty tunes that were backed up some of the most impressive instrumental interplay of the era. During the band's short run it experienced two distinct lineups each with a different emphasis of style and musicality. The band started out as the sextet of Hans Friedrich Basten (drums, glockenspiel), Heribert Schippers (bass), Manfred Herten [Manni Hollaender] (guitar, vocals), Werner Knauber (violin), Hermann Josef Basten (flute, guitar) and Albert Schippers (congas, drums) and the first rendition of TORTILLA FLAT showcased a rare blend of flute dominated prog in the vein of Jethro Tull mixed with the unusual instrumental accompaniment of the violin which due to the departure of Werner Knauber wouldn't find a place in the second coming of the band which switched the violin for the more keyboard oriented sounds of Franz Brondt.

While the band only released one studio album, on December 20, 1973 TORTRILLA FLAT was invited to a studio in Baden-Baden to record a number of tracks for the underground broadcast stations that specialized in experimental music including a program specifically dedicated to the world of Krautrock and all its offshoots. Destined as a bonafide release the recordings that documented the band's original lineup remained in the vaults for almost a half of a century until they finally emerged in 2019 as this archival release SWF SESSION 1973 on the French label Long Hair Music. While the first rendition of the band had remained a mystery for all that time, these recordings revealed a completely different approach which featured a crystal clear production and a set of eight tracks that would appear on the vinyl addition as well as a CD release that featured an additional three bonus tracks.

Most notably different is the dominant presence of the phenomenal violin playing of Werner Knauber whose virtuosic skills spent a great deal of time trading off with Hermann Basten's flute playing prowess. The mostly instrumental album also featured a distinct difference from the band's studio album in that it featured several vocal tracks that allowed Manfred Herten's whimsical musings in the German language to take the forefront. These humorous absurdities coupled with the jazzier touches that would become more prominent on the band's studio album showcased its connection to the greater world of England's Canterbury Scene only much closer to their neighboring Dutch counterparts Supersister in terms of musical virtuosity and moments of silliness than the world of Soft Machine or Carvan. This album is a testament to the brilliance of TORTILLA FLAT in this lineup and how these brilliant musicians could convey the most complex jazzy prog composiitons with a relative ease and virtuosity on a whole other level from the majority of their German contemporaries.

These recordings while still in the same vein as the studio album "Für ein ¾ Stündchen" exhibited a very different overall sound that displayed an almost unheard of pairing of the violin and flute as the dominant forces making this one sound even more unique than the more streamlined Kraut-jazz musical mojo of the studio album. The violin and flute in tandem added a touch of folk infused flavors to the mix however the band excelled as a cohesive unit with an equal brilliance displayed from Manfred Herten's guitar skills, Heribert Schippers snappy bass grooves and Albert Schippers phenomenal drumming prowess.

Even though the band is considered Teutonic in its stylistic approach, TORTILLA FLAT delivered all of this flawless virtuosity with an airy nonchalant way that really did take them to an entirely new level of competency. One of my favorite bands of all time and these long lost recordings are a welcome addition to the band's all too short career. Although brilliant music is presented here, the vocal tracks drag down the quality and flow overall. Not the masterpiece that the studio album would become but an excellent addition to those who can't get enough of this top tier band.

 Psychillis of a Lunatic Genius by PAZOP album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1996
4.02 | 66 ratings

Psychillis of a Lunatic Genius
Pazop Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic

4 stars One of the greatest missed opportunities of the early 1970s surely belongs to the Belgian collective of talent known as PAZOP. Too eclectic, too cleverly creative and too removed from the major progressive rock regions of the world during the early era of prog, PAZOP was teased with all the promise of carving out a career in the blossoming world of the 70s prog scene but thwarted at the last minute at every move. Despite giving it all a veritable effort from every possible angle, PAZOP had disbanded a mere two years after forming in 1972 despite having recorded two complete albums worth of material. Sadly these classic recordings would sit quietly on some undisclosed dusty shelf awaiting a reawakening some two decades later.

The band formed in Brussels in 1972 and was forged out of a group of talented musicians who had ties to various previous musical acts. Flautist and vocalist Dirk Bogaert, drummer Jacky Mauer and keyboardist Frank Wuyts all emerged from the Brussels based Waterloo, an early Belgian band making a transition from the world of 60s blues based psychedelic rock into the more progressive styles that were blossoming all across Europe. Bassist Patrick Cogneaux on the other hand emerged from the short-lived Arkham which was one of the first bands to emerge out of England that was dabbling in the world of Canterbury jazz that had practically just begun with bands like Caravan and Soft Machine a few years prior. The fourth member, the Polish born classically trained violinist Kuba Szczepanski had his connections with the Brussels Opera Philaharmonic Orchestra before joining the Baroque psychedelic pop band the Wallace Collection in 1968.

Starting out without a name and eventually settling on Pas Op, the Flemish word for "Warning," the quartet stylized the name to PAZOP which gave it a rather unique moniker which also added an air of mystery. The name actually perfectly matched their idiosyncratic blend of progressive rock that was as inspired by King Crimson and the zany avant-prog whimsical antics of Frank Zappa as it was with the jazz-fusion sounds of England's Canterbury Scene. Having proven themselves as a popular local live band in the local Belgian scene, the band was wooed into a contractual agreement with the Barclay label and allowed to begin recording sessions on their debut album titled PSYCHILLIS OF A LUNATIC GENIUS, the PSYCHILLIS part referring to a species of peacock orchid native to the West Indies. After recording a total of eight tracks that were to be the debut album, the label rejected them based on the fact that weren't commercial enough for the market they were aiming for.

Completely dismayed but not totally demoralized, PAZOP continued on by delivering well received live performances that showcased the band's exquisite compositional flair of writing clever musical scores, some vocal based and others completely instrumental but each with a unique spin on the world of progressive rock which gave the band its own distinct unique style from the very beginning. Adding insult to injury the band was approached once again by the musician Sylvan Van Holme who wanted them to adapt musical scores from classical artists such as Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Mozart and Verdi to the world of modern progressive rock so once again the band was off to the recording studio and recorded a "second" album of innovative arrangements that offered an even more demanding spin on the band's already quirky stylistic approach that it had developed on the unreleased debut. Once again the band's efforts were completely rejected due to the fact Van Holme as aiming for a more pop-oriented watered down approach to such musical hybridization.

That was the final straw for a completely deflated PAZOP. Financially and emotionally bankrupt, the band called it quits in 1974 leaving two phenomenally brilliant albums to collect dust for more than two decades until the prog revival of the 1990s found labels like Musea scouring the rubble of the past in order to salvage the lost treasures that should've materialized during their day. The two albums emerged together in 1996 as the compilation PSYCHILLIS OF A LUNATIC GENIUS which featured eight tracks that were intended to be the first album and an additional eight tracks that were created to be the second.

Musically speaking, PAZOP were top dogs in the world of prog with an amazing display of compositional fortitude fortified with seasoned instrumental interplay and dazzling virtuosity. The band's eclectic sound is hard to pigeonhole. The potpourri of influences range from the world of classical legends and Canterbury jazz rock to the quirky whimsical brilliance of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. On vocal tracks Dirk Bogaert showcased a wide range of singing styles ranging from an emphatic well pronounced huskiness to utterly off the wall wailing and complete irreverence to established vocal norms. The first album is a bit more conservative with more emphasis on established song structures and singing styles but by the time the band recorded its second album, the members had garnered a true sense of musical freedom and went for the jugular as far as delivering some of the most far out music that existed in the world of whimsical prog. Amazingly enough the band consisted of a vocalist / flautist, keyboardist, violinist, bassist and drummer and yet delivered their whole enchilada without a trace of guitar.

PAZOP was one of the Belgian greats that was obviously too far ahead of their time to be recognized in their region of Europe. The band did everything right. Lyrics were in English. The melodic elements were instantly catchy and the hooks were irresistible. Soloing and progressive elements were cleverly constructed in a logical cohesive manner and the band exuded a charismatic delivery of tracks that all stood out from one another by offering a limitless expansive creative edge over pretty much anything going on in the Belgian scene during the timeline of 1972-1974. A lost gem perhaps but one that finally has gotten the recognition it deserves and if you ask me PAZOP was one of the most creative and talented bands to come out of the entire Belgian prog scene before the darker avant-chamber prog bands like Univers Zero and Present came onto the scene in the latter half of the decade.

To make things even more confusing, the French based Replica Records also decided to release the band's two albums only as separate units. This label would release the archival first album with the same title as this compilation by Musea and then would release the second album as a self-titled release. Both albums are fairly irrelevant considering everything you could possibly want from PAZOP is on this sole Musea compilation. This album really delivers it all! Outstanding tracks that range from a proto-prog stage that features more standard vocal and songwriting techniques to the utterly bonkers tracks such as "In The Army (Devil Likes Smoke)" and "Airport Formalities And Taking Off / Stewardess And Breakfast." PAZOP really delivered the highest caliber of early 70s prog and suffered one of the greatest injustices of the entire era perhaps. This is a must for fans of Canterbury infused progressive rock that indulges in wild excessive creativity, hilarious jocularity as well as top notch instrumental elegance. I wouldn't call it an understatement to claim that the record companies committed one of the greatest prog crimes of the century by ignoring PAZOP.

 Psychillis of a Lunatic Genius by PAZOP album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.91 | 15 ratings

Psychillis of a Lunatic Genius
Pazop Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic

4 stars One of the most creative and ahead of its time Belgian prog bands, the Brussels based PAZOP suffered one of the greatest injustices in all of the classic early 1970s progressive rock years. This band featured five extremely talented musicians that consisted of vocalist / flautist Dirk Bogaert, keyboardist Frank Wuyts, classically trained violinist Kuba Szczepanski, bassist Patrick Cogneaux and drummer Jack Mauer. Wuyts. Together this creative team crafted some of the most interesting and well designed prog of the era however due to forces outside of their control, never was given the privilege of releasing music.

The band was a local sensation on the live scene which got the attention of the Barclay label to sign the band and send them to the recording studio to record their debut album. The band recorded eight cleverly crafted songs but proved too be a bit too crafty, too eccentric and too ahead of their time to be considered viable and therefore after all the recording sessions, was told that their album wouldn't be released. As if that wasn't bad enough, the band deflated but not completely demoralized continued on only to be approached by another interested party who sent them to the recording studio to record an entire second album's worth of material with a different focus. Once again the band's creative efforts were a too outside of the expected parameters and rejected a second time.

PAZOP basically existed from 1972 to 1974 and engaged in two separate recording sessions that resulted in two albums worth of material but neither album was released during its time in existence. The master tapes would have to sit on dusty shelves for over 20 years before the Musea label would scour the artifacts of the past and find the brilliance of PAZOP suitable for a bonafide delayed release in 1996. The compilation PSYCHILLIS OF A LUNATIC GENIUS was released on CD and featured both albums in their entirety spanning the band's earliest proto-prog leanings of the earliest recordings to the oft whimsical and serious adventurousness of the more serious tracks.

The confusing part of the release PSYCHILLIS OF A LUNATIC GENIUS is that under this title, the album was actually released twice. First by Musea as a comprehensive compilation that featured both unreleased albums and then a second time by the French label Replica Records which for some reason though it best to release both albums as separate units in 2016. This label retained the title PSYCHILLIS OF A LUNATIC GENIUS but only released the first eight tracks of the album that were supposed to emerge as the band's debut album back in 1972. The second album was released as a self-titled PAZOP album with the eight tracks that were supposed to emerge as the band's sophomore album.

As far as the music goes PAZOP were masters of their trade. Clever prog compositions that offered diverse creative musical styles that mixed everything from King Crimson influenced prog to Frank Zappa inspired wackiness all fortified with the technicalities and sounds of England's Canterbury Scene. The music on this version of PSYCHILLIS OF A LUNATIC GENIUS is brilliant to say the least however it is rather unnecessary as a release due to the fact that Musea already released both albums together 20 years earlier. I guess the main reason for this release is because Musea only released the compilation on CD and this edition was the first edition on vinyl so for those who only wish to own their music on an LP format then this one is obviously the way to go but for everyone else who is indifferent to such things then this is fairly redundant.

It should have at least carried a slightly different title reworking to distinguish it from the Musea compilation of the same name. This vinyl version also features a completely different album cover that offers more of a psychedelic vision of what the era represented. While i prefer the Musea comp with both albums side by side. This Replica Records vinyl edition does offer what the original debut album was supposed to be. Great music no matter how you find it. PAZOP offered a true sense of originality that set it apart from the very beginning of its existence.

 Pazop by PAZOP album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.55 | 12 ratings

Pazop Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic

4 stars One of the most creative and ahead of its time Belgian prog bands, the Brussels based PAZOP suffered one of the greatest injustices in all of the classic early 1970s progressive rock years. This band featured five extremely talented musicians that consisted of vocalist / flautist Dirk Bogaert, keyboardist Frank Wuyts, classically trained violinist Kuba Szczepanski, bassist Patrick Cogneaux and drummer Jack Mauer. Wuyts. Together this creative team crafted some of the most interesting and well designed prog of the era however due to forces outside of their control, never was given the privilege of releasing music.

The band was a local sensation on the live scene which got the attention of the Barclay label to sign the band and send them to the recording studio to record their debut album. The band recorded eight cleverly crafted songs but proved too be a bit too crafty, too eccentric and too ahead of their time to be considered viable and therefore after all the recording sessions, was told that their album wouldn't be released. As if that wasn't bad enough, the band deflated but not completely demoralized continued on only to be approached by another interested party who sent them to the recording studio to record an entire second album's worth of material with a different focus. Once again the band's creative efforts were a too outside of the expected parameters and rejected a second time.

PAZOP basically existed from 1972 to 1974 and engaged in two separate recording sessions that resulted in two albums worth of material but neither album was released during its time in existence. The master tapes would have to sit on dusty shelves for over 20 years before the Musea label would scour the artifacts of the past and find the brilliance of PAZOP suitable for a bonafide delayed release in 1996. The compilation "Psychillis Of A Lunatic Genius" was released on CD and featured both albums in their entirety spanning the band's earliest proto-prog leanings of the earliest recordings to the oft whimsical and serious adventurousness of the more serious tracks.

Twenty years after the Musea CD release, the French label Replica Records released both albums separately vinyl in 2016. One of the most confusing aspects of this decision was that the label opted to retain the title "Psychillis Of A Lunatic Genius" for its stand alone collection of eight tracks that was intended to be the debut album back in 1972 therefore the title refers to both the double album compilation as well as the vinyl edition that was basically half the music. Also in 2016 Replia released the intended second album as a self-titled release that featured all eight tracks from the later recording session. The music on this second release offered more adventurous excursions into complex prog inspired by King Crimson and England's Canterbury Scene in the form of instrumental workouts as well as featuring a stronger sense of whimsy with hilarious Zappa inspired tracks like "In the Army (Devil Likes Smoke)" and "Airport Formalities and Taking Off / Stewardess and Breakfast."

While it may seem redundant in many ways, for vinyl purists this one is certainly of interest as the music of PAZOP was unique, complex, quirky and utterly accessible simultaneously. While i always prefer more bang for my buck with compact units that offer multiple albums especially of unreleased archival material, this PAZOP album offers some of the greatest musical moments of the entire early Belgian scene therefore musically it's excellent and highly recommended. After all having too many versions of a lost album released is by no means a bad thing at all especially after the indignant disregard of the band's brilliance that was crafted in the classic era of prog. Thankfully rediscovered and payed the proper respect, the world of PAZOP is available on both CD and vinyl thanks to Musea and Replica Records. That is a great thing indeed.

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Canterbury Scene bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
KEVIN AYERS United Kingdom
BIG HOGG United Kingdom
THE BOOT LAGOON United Kingdom
BILLIE BOTTLE 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
ZOPP United Kingdom
ZYMA Germany

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