A Progressive Rock Sub-genre

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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: http://www.allmusic.com
(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

4.27 | 1249 ratings
4.30 | 610 ratings
Wyatt, Robert
4.25 | 728 ratings
4.27 | 546 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.27 | 478 ratings
4.23 | 712 ratings
4.21 | 729 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.18 | 408 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.15 | 536 ratings
4.23 | 276 ratings
National Health
4.27 | 202 ratings
Quiet Sun
4.11 | 498 ratings
4.14 | 309 ratings
Hillage, Steve
4.23 | 156 ratings
4.12 | 259 ratings
National Health
4.06 | 392 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.22 | 146 ratings
4.08 | 282 ratings
4.01 | 345 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.05 | 211 ratings
Picchio Dal Pozzo

Canterbury Scene overlooked and obscure gems albums new

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Greaves, John
National Health
Hopper, Hugh

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Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews

 I See You by GONG album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 82 ratings

I See You
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by DrömmarenAdrian

3 stars Gong is a very different band. Their music is surely unique and something unlike other formations of musicians you can think about. Earlier this year one of the brightest brains in the band and the band's leader Daevid Allen died 77 years old and "I see you" from 2014 became his last Gong record. Gong has had a big influence in prog music and therefore it's interesting to listen and see what I think about their music. The band has made twenty- three studio albums since 1969 and earlier I have heard their perhaps most famous one "Radio Gnome Invisible Vol. 3 ? You" which I partially liked and now I tried "I see you" a record from last year!

The album is a bit more than an hour in length and it features some talanted musicians: Daevid Allen (guitar, vocals), Orlando Allen(drums, vocals), Dave Stuart(bass), Kavus Torabi(guitar), Fabio Golfetti(guitars), Ian East(sax, flute), Gilli Smyth(voice) and Mark Robson(keyboards). It's strange because me last reviewed record was Torabi's Knifeworld! The cover picture is quite fine and interesting but the music intrigues me more.

I find Gong's music very uneven if I relate it to my taste and preferencies. Something they really amaze me and I could state that they are so good! But then it comes a weird and psychedelic passage I just can't stand. I have hard to understand this music as a whole but I really enjoy pieces of it. My favourites here could be found in the beginning: "Occupy"(8/10) with a lovely sax that leads a strong melody and "The Eternal Wheel Spins"(8/10) which is so well played! Some other pieces are interesting as well: "When god shakes hands with the devil"(7/10), a heavy track, "Syllabub"(7/10) where I especially like the instrumental parts, "You see me"(7/10) and "Pixielation"(7/10) which i found so different but a bit prilliant too. One thing you really should avoid though is the last track of noises, I would do so I I'd listen again.

So we conclude that Gong's latest album supports us with a lot of interesting and good music. Especially when they use as much instruments as possible the result is mighty. I have enjoyed what I have heard and I got some special songs I really liked. My song to song rating ends at 3.17 which means three stars for "I see you".

 Camembert Electrique by GONG album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.76 | 277 ratings

Camembert Electrique
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by Tom Ozric
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Friday 13th March, 2015. Listening to this mind-blowing Space-Prog offering from Canterbury eccentric Daevid Allen, who has sadly passed away this day, I dedicate my rather simplistic review of this wonderfully joyous album in memory of him. In those heady, early-60's days of self-consciousness and discovery, guitarist Daevid Allen graced some of those Wilde Flowers/Soft Machine/Caravan members with his prescence and incredible knowledge of obscure music/artists of the past, and pointed out their revolutionary ideas, which wormed their way into the conciousness of all folks within miles of him. Soft Machine with Daevid were right up there with Syd Barrett Floyd and even further stretching than the revolutionary Beatles offerings. The first, entirely band oriented album, Camembert Electrique, sees Allen joined with his partner Gilli Smyth (under many 'Yoni' variations, on her psychedelic ooh's and aaah's, referred to as 'space-whisper'), Drummer Pip Pyle (from Carol Grimes' Delivery, at this time), bassist Christian Tristch, Sax-Jazzer Didier Malherbe, and various other communal, tech space-heads who helped shaped this final slab of futuristic, sonic art. Each musician is adventurous on their respective instruments, and display a solid understanding of more complex musical forms and scales etc. Allen even forming his unique, Glissando-guitar technique, adding amazingly spacious textures when applied to any given piece of music. This, at least to my ears, is a truly eccentric album fusing much humour, Psychedelia, hard-rock, and complexity, as well as vividly colourful sonic experimentation and Jazzy inclinations, making for something really special. Peppered throughout the album are such amusing, Zappa-esque 'doodles' as Radio Gnome Prediction, Wet Cheese Delerium, Squeezing Sponges Over Policemen's Heads and Gnome The Second, all displaying a background of zany sounds which have been sped-up and looped, with child-like rants from Allen. Let me say this ; if you don't have a sense of humour, then skip this album, skip Gong altogether, in fact. Without getting too immersed in this rather unknown album, there are some long-ish cuts, of which the classic, heavy riff-laden You Can't Kill Me (obviously penned without cancer in mind.....), is rather well known, and the total spacey, bliss fest known as Fohat Digs Holes In Space, should be enough for the listener to be transported from their everyday drudgery. I find this a totally flawless, varied, and exciting album from late-1971, with a very 'new' sound, and has always been with me since years. No doubt an excellent album, but I grant this piece of historic Prog a glowing 5 stars, with respect to Daevid. Bless your soul, musical friend.
 I See You by GONG album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 82 ratings

I See You
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

5 stars There have been rumours that this will be GONG's last album, at least with Daevid Allen involved. If that is so they went out on a high(haha). This might be my favourite release by them, i'm just so blown away by how innovative this is and i'm surprised at the variety as well. I can hear pieces that remind me of their glory years and also things that i've never heard from this band before. It's really cool that Kavus Tobabi(KNIFEWORLD) is part of this band playing guitar. The album cover is very classy as well.

"I See You" opens with spoken words and cymbals as the drums and bass join in then it kicks into a full sound before a minute. This is catchy stuff with a spacey ending. "Occupy" is urgent and uptempo to start as the vocals come and go. It settles back just before a minute with the sax standing out then it kicks back in. I really like the contrasts. "When God Shakes Hands With The Devil" has almost spoken vocals and I love the guitar tone and style. I have to comment on the excellent drum work here and throughout this album. The flute is a nice touch as well. Such a cool track. Strangely i'm reminded of GENESIS during the mellow sections. There's a surreal and hazy mood on those lighter pieces.

"The Eternal Wheel Spins" has the drummer on vocals and I can't help but think of their "Continental Circus" record here with that driving rhythm and spacey atmosphere. Again the guitar sounds great. The sax after 2 minutes plays over top. Check out the Gliss guitar after 4 minutes then the other guitar is back to the fore a minute later. "Syllabub" is another track with some cool contrasts including a section that reminds me of their trilogy. Check out the dreamy psychedelia led by the sax starting 2 1/2 minutes in.

"This Revolution" has this melancholic and spacey atmosphere as Daevid speaks the lyrics even mentioning Gil Scott- Heron's classic "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised". "You See Me" is catchy with sax and some killer drum work. There's almost a VDGG-like feel after a minute. An excellent instrumental. "Zion My T-Shirt" opens with children singing then before a minute they stop as the guitar cries out in a spacey vibe. Reserved vocals join in as well. So freaking good. A change in the mood 2 1/2 minutes in but it's brief as the previous sound returns. It picks up 4 minutes inwith spacey flute and it's very spacey late to end it. "Pixielation" sounds like it could have been off one of the trilogy albums both lyrically and instrumentally. It turns very spacey a minute in but it's brief as themes are repeated.

"A Brew Of Special Tea" is a short piece that is also very spacey with spoken words bringing "Continental Circus" to mind. "Thank You" sure sounds like a farewell song from Daevid. A lazy summertime mood to this one to start then it changes before 4 minutes as the vocals stop and it settles right down. Back to that earlier sound though before 8 minutes with vocals. "Shakti Yoni & Dingo Virgin" sounds like it could have been done by THE INVISIBLE OPERA COMPANY OF TIBET a GONG off-shoot. This is extremely spacey with space whispers from Gilli Smyth. Just a gorgeous piece that is almost 10 minutes long. I will say also that this is Daevid's creative piece on what it will be like passing on to the other side.

I'm very shocked at how amazing this record is, I mean what band who began life in the seventies makes albums this good in 2015? I don't know of any. 5 stars all the way. P.S. Daevid Allen has passed away less than a week after this review, very sad. It's his son Orlando playing the drums on this record and he's amazing plus he's a huge fan of GONG's classic period. Kavus mentioned that Daevid simply asked him to play on this album and when Kavus said "You haven't heard me play?". Daevid said he didn't need to and that he hired Mike Howlett back in the day without hearing him play, he just knew both were right for the band.

 The Polite Force by EGG album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.08 | 282 ratings

The Polite Force
Egg Canterbury Scene

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The Canterbury scene is one of prog's most fascinating sub-genres. It holds within it everything that makes progressive rock so great. The very nature of prog is to experiment, challenge and discover. Sometimes it is even a test of the listener's patience. The heart of Canterbury flows with a quirky seriousness that makes me as a listener to smile. It is a brave and bold take on rock music that simultanously is both endearing and challenging. All in a days work, one might say. As ever, Canterbury is also a genre of great warmth. The fairytale dreaminess of, say, King Crimson's early work is one reference but I feel that it does not hit the mark. It has a tone of it's own, one that is Canterbury's own. And yet this warmth is encircled by the most spiky and challenging, difficult creations ever made. I know that alot of subgenres might fit into this description but Canterbury is to me the optimum of them all. If I wa sto pick out any subgenre that fully embodies prog I'd say "Canterbury". I would. I swear.

Egg is one of the groups engaged in the Canterbury scene. The organ of Dave Stewart is as ever present and recognisable, not only by sound but very much in execution. The man is brilliant. The sound of Egg on this album (as I am reviewing it) is not easily defined. It all kicks off with the heaviest organ riff ever (sort of) but leads into this jazzy, laidback groove which manages to draw strength from an oozing power source. This source of power and might comes, obviously, from the musicians themselves. There is a restrained demonstration of power I find hard to describe. Anyway, the song is amazing and the best of the lot, I feel. It is the track I listen to more than the others, if that accounts for anything.

"Contrasong" is another very good track, built around chords and beats that sound hectic and askew. But all in a good way. "Boilk" is an experimental piece that is interesting and certainly very well performed. It is however very experimental and not one I retur nto with the same urgency as the first two tracks mentioned.

The B-side of the old vinyl, I suppose, is made up of "Long piece", a suite consisting of four pieces. It is also very experimental and complex but very enjoyable. They stretch out and showcases a musical vision that is really somethig to behear. (Is there such a word? I suppose not.) The parts are different, obviously, but when listened to in one long sitting the result is baffling. One might accuse them of noodling but I feel they never enter that empire of Boredom. I am intrigued throughout.

So, when all is said and done I have to say that this album is an essential listen, if you at all is interested in the development of progressive music. If you're simply into good, challenging and diverse prog I'd say this is for you aswell. The impeccable musicianship and vision of the possibilities if musis is baffling, enjoyable and very much endearing. It has stood the test of time very well and offers a great listening experience.

 Air - Fiction by MUFFINS, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1979
1.05 | 2 ratings

Air - Fiction
The Muffins Canterbury Scene

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

1 stars In 1979 The Muffins released an under-the-radar LP, which had neither a catalogue number nor a label, was pressed in about 1000 copies with a black front cover and was handed in gigs or sold via mail order.Title was ''Air - Fiction'', first side were home studio recordings, while the flipside was captured live on March 3rd, 1979 at Psychedelly (propably somesort of stage/club, located in Bethesda, Maryland).

If you have listened to the atonal moments in ''Hobart got burned'' from the band's debut, then you should propably know what to expect from this album in its full length.This is highly improvised R.I.O.-styled music flirting with Free Jazz and not comparable to the very interesting sound of the debut.Totally dissonant, deeply experimental, bursting a sense of freedom and getting even a bit noisy in the process, ''Air - Fiction'' should be regarded as a fun experiment by the band on loose performances.The first side contains only hints of ''Manna mirage'' in a couple of tracks, featuring bass, drums, sax and flute, otherwise this falls deeply into musical non-sense with keys, sax, flute and clarinet changing heading roles and competing for useless soloing.At least some parts remind of the dense and intercative sound of the band's debut.''Fiction'' is even worse.It tends to a rather minimalistic execution on Experimental Music with some R.I.O. influences, lacking the meanings of cohesion, structure or composition.And speaking earlier of ''Hobart got burned'', the flipside contains the abstract minutes of this piece in full live display, without noticing that this track was recorded for the band's debut.

I consider this to be a recording joke and nothing more.The band itself has admitted that this was nothing more than a short experiment.Recommended only for die-hard fans of the group and starving prog collectors.

 The World of Genius Hans by MOVING GELATINE PLATES album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.24 | 74 ratings

The World of Genius Hans
Moving Gelatine Plates Canterbury Scene

Review by DamoXt7942

5 stars What an amazing palpitation, what an incredible thunderstorm, created with lots of normal instruments and lots of abnormal music vibes. It's a remarkable surprise this album "The World Of Genius Hans" be released in 1972, the sunrise period of Canterbury / avantgarde scene all over the world. MGP members' power is fantastic and crazy, and their union of music status is very rigid really ... you will get shocked via their magnificent sound gems each of which should be tied confirmedly with others.

Their superb vibe above mentioned can be felt via the first titled track. Many essences this one has ... madness, delicacy, and intensive explosion ... all of them come from the inner space beneath their complex mind. But yes, not difficult to understand. You can keep yourself directly upon the soundscape, and purely enjoy their pleasant sound trip. They should make you happy and crazy along with their tricky bullet shower.

Let me say this album might be produced as a majestic satanic suite completely, and not be divided with pieces of tracks but all songs can be thought as movements of a suite. Until the last track "Un Jour ...", they might squeeze their quirkiness deep into our brain. Again I shout, what a surprise this album be completed in 1972. No suspicion their novelty and bizarre soundscape should construct permanently not only the Canterbury but also RIO / Avant music scene as a perfect sound credential. Bravo.

 Dance Of The Goodbyes by AMOEBA SPLIT album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.92 | 33 ratings

Dance Of The Goodbyes
Amoeba Split Canterbury Scene

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Spanish band AMOEBA SPLIT was formed back in 2001, and released an initial demo in 2003. Seven years later they returned with their debut album "Dance of the Goodbyes", a production which gained the band a lot of attention and a sold out initial run of the CD. The album was reissued in 2014 through Azafran Media and Musea Records.

The Canterbury scene isn't one explored by too many other bands with a contemporary history, so just about any additions to that scene is met with interest by those with a fascination for that particular style of progressive rock. Amoeba Split is a quality addition to the list of bands active in this field, and especially those with a strong affection for the more jazz-oriented bands exploring this style of music should enjoy just about all aspects of this production. A highly recommended album, and then especially to those who have a taste for the bands generally described as belonging to the Canterbury scene within the progressive rock realm.

 Paradise Filter by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.12 | 56 ratings

Paradise Filter
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by ProgShine
Collaborator Errors & Omissions Team

4 stars Caravan was pretty much dead when it comes to Studio Albums. During 80's they had two, during 90's one and 00's one more (but they released a huge load of live albums during this time).

In 2013 the band announced a crowdfunding campaign for their new studio album Paradise Filter (2013) and I was happy to see that the campaign was 146% completed. I was happy because is nice to see a crowdfunsing campaign that is fair when it comes to the values and rewards and unlikely so many others that try to rip of their own fans.

Anyway, I wasn't very excited when I've heard some snippets of the album and I thought that the album would be a huge flop. That's why it took me over a year to actually listen to it.

Another huge thing on Caravan world in 2013 was that original drummer of the band Richard Coughlan passed away in December of that year and had been in poor health for quite some years. Paradise Filter (2013) is the only album of Caravan that doesn't have Richard playing his unique style...

Well, it turned out that Paradise Filter (2013) is a damn solid album that can stand well against many of the classic works of the band. They have what they always had, a feet in the Pop a feet in the Prog. I've seen many people saying that the band went Pop on this album.... I think they really don't know what Caravan was really about as they were always a big Pop act all the way. Weird because some many really Pop bands are labeled as Prog... anyway.

Paradise Filter (2013) is a bit less than 50 minutes long and is a solid 4 stars and although is no masterpiece you can hear it at any given time. Tracks like the opening 'All This Could Be Yours', 'Fingers In The Till', 'Pain In The Arse' and the title track that closes the album show they still have gas to go.

I recommend!

 The Rotters' Club by HATFIELD AND THE NORTH album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.18 | 408 ratings

The Rotters' Club
Hatfield And The North Canterbury Scene

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Last year (2014) I stretched my progressive music boundaries into Italian prog and Canterbury scene. I'll tell you right up front here that jazz and jazz fusion are not where I usually lean my ears. I have always thought it was cool when a metal band or symphonic prog band experimented with a bit of jazz; however jazz music and jazz fusion is not something I rave and drool over. Nevertheless, if there's one thing the last three years have taught me it's that when it comes to prog there is good music to be found almost anywhere.

So why "The Rotters' Club" and not something by Soft Machine or National Health or even the debut by Hatfield and the North? As it happens, this album is mentioned among 65 recommended prog albums in the book "Citizens of Hope and Glory: The Story of Progressive Rock" by Stephen Lambe, and I have found the book to be very useful as a guide in my prog education. I began with owning barely 20 of the 65 albums and now I am somewhere over 50 and I have enjoyed all but one of them. So, I put my faith in chance and my own patience with new music and bought the CD with five bonus tracks from the "Afters" album.

Though there's a fair bit on the album that shouldn't thrill me because of my usual preferences, I have been finding the album actually quite enjoyable. The opening track "Share It" is a short and witty song with a synthesizer solo that I can get into. It's an upbeat, jazz-influenced number performed by a rock band. Richard Sinclair's English accent and English humour, and his somewhat laid back delivery, make the vocals interesting and rather fun. Thankfully, he makes an appearance on a few of the tracks. The rest are all instrumental.

One thing I have come to take caution with is the synthesizer sound used by jazz fusion bands (see my review of Bill Bruford's "One of a Kind" album) but I am glad to report that on this album I quite enjoy the keyboards. Dave Stewart uses some smart and sassy sounds for lively solos but also soft lounge tones that remind me of metal tines being plucked. The electric piano sound works well. As this is a jazzy album, I find that the drum sticks spend more time on the cymbals and snare than anywhere else. It gives the music a very light feel, unlike a lot of what I usually listen to. The bass guitar is busy and I do like that. In particular, the King Crimson / John Wetton bass sound used in "Chaos at the Greasy Spoon" is appealing.

As guitar is very important to me, I am pleased to mention some very fine psych-sounding fuzz-toned guitar which appears two or three times for some soloing. The solos themselves are not especially spellbinding (coming from a metal perspective) but they are a welcome addition to the sound palette. I am also a sucker for flute and there are some appearances there as well.

The music is light and for the most part pleasant and beautiful with that jazzy swing to it. There is a little bit of sonic experimentation near the end of "Fitter Stoke has a Bath" which brings to mind what I heard on Egg's "The Polite Force" but thankfully this is much more agreeable to my ears. Mostly you can expect very light keyboard-led jazz with the guitar hanging well back until solo time. There is some brass as well as one would expect to hear on a jazz fusion album; however, Dave Stewart's keys and Jimmy Hastings' flute are what provide most of the lead instrumentation.

The one long epic track, "Mumps" covers a range of territory. It begins with and includes at least two times more a duo of female vocals singing softly and in high tone some "la-las", and this is the turn off point for me. I enjoy female vocals like this usually but perhaps because of the jazz thing, at least one of them will sing an odd note that probably sounds very cool in jazz but not at all in more traditional music like folk or classical. I did discover, though, that these vocal parts precede more interesting musical segments, including guitar solos and an almost ELP-like keyboard piece. After the first two listens I was put off by "Mumps" but after giving it both ears today, I found it has a lot of good material making it worth the 20 minutes of attention.

The mood of the album continues with the bonus tracks, two of which are just different versions of what already appear on the main album. The one stand out track is the completely and stylistically different "Oh, Len's Nature", which plays like a mid-seventies heavy metal instrumental. I suspect it was recorded live and this is only the demo version as the sound is not so polished. But this had potential to be quite a heavy rocker. How this ended up in their repertoire is baffling.

Though I haven't become enamoured with Canterbury scene to the point that I will hunt down many more albums, what I have learned from the jazz fusion of Hatfield and the North, Egg, Bruford, and even Happy the Man is that I can confidently buy a jazz fusion album and find it a pleasant holiday from the usual suspects in my music player. I am quite comfortable giving this album four stars.

 Theatre Royal Drury Lane by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Live, 2005
4.02 | 50 ratings

Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by rusty

4 stars Yes, that hidden weird backwards then forwards coda (just 2 minutes of it) of looped Alifie, then a very angular guitar (surely fred frith?). what an oddity. the album is - yes I know the sound slips a little... ever been to a rock concert?... but the emotion is all there. Wonderful. Well, I just wnted to add that short piece of info, as I have had the album for 3 years and never heard that hidden track till tonight (after 3 minutes of clapping and 3 of silence... ) I did wonder what the 12 minute running time comprised. Maybe not every CD has this? Be interested to hear which ones do.
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Canterbury Scene bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
KEVIN AYERS 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
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
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