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CANTERBURY SCENE

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 | 1152 ratings
IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK
Caravan
4.30 | 547 ratings
ROCK BOTTOM
Wyatt, Robert
4.27 | 659 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 3 - YOU
Gong
4.30 | 486 ratings
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH
Hatfield And The North
4.29 | 437 ratings
SPACE SHANTY
Khan
4.23 | 654 ratings
IF I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, I'D DO IT ALL OVER YOU
Caravan
4.21 | 681 ratings
THIRD
Soft Machine, The
4.19 | 372 ratings
THE ROTTERS' CLUB
Hatfield And The North
4.15 | 502 ratings
FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT
Caravan
4.22 | 252 ratings
OF QUEUES AND CURES
National Health
4.28 | 183 ratings
MAINSTREAM
Quiet Sun
4.10 | 454 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 2 - ANGEL'S EGG
Gong
4.13 | 288 ratings
FISH RISING
Hillage, Steve
4.08 | 364 ratings
THE SOFT MACHINE
Soft Machine, The
4.13 | 244 ratings
NATIONAL HEALTH
National Health
4.11 | 263 ratings
THE POLITE FORCE
Egg
4.23 | 146 ratings
TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER
Supersister
4.22 | 138 ratings
VIVA BOMA
Cos
4.02 | 323 ratings
VOLUME TWO
Soft Machine, The
4.05 | 202 ratings
PICCHIO DAL POZZO
Picchio Dal Pozzo

Canterbury Scene overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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THE WORLD OF GENIUS HANS
Moving Gelatine Plates
KEW RHONE
Greaves, John
CHRONOMETERS
Muffins, The
SPLIT SECONDS
Miller, Phil

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Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews


 R.S.V.P. by SINCLAIR, RICHARD album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.61 | 9 ratings

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R.S.V.P.
Richard Sinclair Canterbury Scene

Review by Jordi Planas

4 stars Richard Sinclair is one of the best bass players in prog-rock. You can notice his brilliant bass lines in records he made with Caravan, Hatfield & the North or Camel. He is also a very good, underrated singer, but maybe that has not been fully appreciated as much of the music he has recorded with those bands was instrumental. In the first 90's he recorded two very recommendable solo albums, but it's really sad that they were almost gone unnoticed. Maybe that was because as a solo artist he was going independent, so not much promotion was done. Maybe because his music was not "fashioned" at all (nothing to do really with neo-prog). The first one ("Caravan of Dreams") is really good, with some tracks being recreations of old material (such as the superb "Didn't Matter Anyway"). "RSPV" has again contributions from old friends, such as Andy Ward, Jimmy Hastings, Kit Watkins, Hugh Hopper or Pip Pyle. And some outstanding material: "What's Rattlin'", the incredible "My Sweet Darlin'", "Over from Dover" (both with a delicious bossa-nova flavor), the proggy "Out of the Shadows" or the nostalgic "What in the World". There are plenty of elegant jazz arrangements here, but this record is also very song oriented. This is music to enjoy with no hurry, and really pleasant if you are open-minded.
 Volume Two by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
4.02 | 323 ratings

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Volume Two
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

5 stars OK. Call me a SOFT MACHINE slut for giving their first two albums 5 stars but damn! I really love these guys and a belated introduction to their musical output hasn't dampened my enthusiasm to their sound one bit. In fact it may have enhanced it. I, like countless others, weren't around at the time of these releases to comprehend their musical meisterhood and it seems like many a music fan of the era didn't get to appreciate their ingenious jazz-fusion whimsy at the time of its release. SOFT MACHINE continued their evolution on VOLUME TWO by ratcheting up all the unusualness of their first album and keeping just enough of the familiar poppiness to give a musical structure to embellish upon. The whimsical glee exerts itself full throttle on the first track with their childlike playfulness meets their adult contemplative spirituality on "Pataphysical Introduction." You know you are in for something special right away.

There had been a few personal changes from Volume One to VOLUME TWO. Robert Wyatt was still in charge of drum duties and lead vocals. Mike Ratledge stayed on board for as keyboardist, but on this release bassist Kevin Ayers was out and Hugh Hopper who guested on the first album was now in. This time around Hugh's brother Brian Hopper guested on the sax (both soprano and tenor.) This album is really two long tracks but because of the advise of Frank Zappa the band broke those two longer tracks into many because of the fact one could reap more royalties that way. The album is actually very short clocking in at just over a half an hour but there is so much going on in that time that it actually feels longer to me.

VOLUME TWO is the logical evolution from "Volume One." Instead of just jettisoning the psychedelic pop leaning template that had begun before their first album and still utilized on the debut, the band keeps this as a template and simply expands the avant-garde and jazz-fusion tendencies developed on their debut. The result is another superbly excellent album that is short but sweet. The jazz factor is ratcheted up quite a few notches but the underlying flow of the album remains comparable to the debut. As with the previous album this is a grower. No SOFT MACHINE album unleashes its secrets easily. One must listen attentively to let the magic unfold at his or her own time. For me personally, I find this an excellent successor to the debut and a logical bridge between the debut and the even more jazz infused developments of "Third." Yeah, the only totally unoriginal thing about this band is that they could have been more creative in naming their albums!

 Land of Cockayne  by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1981
2.98 | 88 ratings

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Land of Cockayne
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

3 stars It's always wonderful accidently rediscovering an album in your collection that you simply forgot you had, perhaps coming across it again after finding it was put back in the wrong place what feels like a lifetime ago! Case in point for me, Soft Machine's final work (with the exception of endless compilations and archive releases), `Land of Cockayne', a record that often causes much derision from die-hard fans of the band. Looking back now, this was the first Soft Machine related album I owned, at a time right at the start of my prog collecting when I had no patience or the frame of mind for anything jazz/fusion related. Coming back to it now, with an appreciation and better knowledge of the various Soft Machine incarnations, I find while it's a perfectly worthy and distinctive release from the group, full of restrained but tasteful playing by a bunch of consumate professional musicians (now including members from bands such as If, Nucleus, Cream) that you can only admire. It may be a world away from the ragged psych early days, the sonically violating noisy exploratory middle years or the driving fusion after that, and yes, it's smooth, pleasant and often a little too squeeky-clean, but there are still moments scattered throughout where the band really simmers, and at the very least, there's almost nothing that's actually terrible on the entire LP.

The opener `Over 'N Above' is actually one of the poorest moments, a repetitive and slightly bland AOR fusion-lite plodder that's at least twice as long as it should be. There's some silly orchestral strings over part of it that sound like it's wandered in from an Alan Parsons Project album, but I suppose the sighing wordless harmonies give it a slightly recognizable Canterbury sound. Tinkering programmed loops and raindrop-like synths patter `Lotus Groves', sounding more like something off a later Ashra disc with an almost New-Age influence, but there's some nice (if slight) fretless bass from Jack Bruce murmurring away drowsily in the background, and drifting flute gives it a mysterious old-world sound. `Isle of the Blessed' is a dramatic cinematic orchestration that grows more impressive as it progresses, eventually taking on a sweeping romantic quality. `Panoramania' is the first real workout on the disc, a sax fuelled mid-tempo jog with a tasty extended Rhodes electric piano solo spot from John Taylor in the middle (that just becomes a little politely unhinged in a few momens as nicely as possible!), droning harmonies, gentle synths/orchestration, and John Marshall's peppy drum-work - pretty tasty stuff. The first side closes with a brief electronic and sax lament interlude.

The perky uptempo jazz/fusion of `Hot-Biscuit Slim' has enough punchy busy drumming, driving spirited sax-work and a sprinkling of glistening electric piano to bring some catchy and foot-tapping grooves. `(Black) Velvet Mountain doesn't really go anywhere, just a soaring powerful orchestral melody over a Pink Floyd-like solid drumbeat and a nicely played but somewhat unthrilling lead electric guitar run from Alan Holdsworth. He makes a better impression on the twisting guitar of `Sly Monkey', a little more playful and energetic number with infectious sax melodies and gulping bass. All the players get little moments to shine in this compact little arrangement. Sadly the album closes on a wretched piano and sax interlude `A Lot of What You Fancy' that is so cosy it practically comes with an oversized knitted Christmas sweater from your Mum to keep to warm in winter. Thanks a lot, Mum.

Depending on your preferred version of the band, this album may be as far removed from what your interpretation of Soft Machine should be as possible. I actually find it a perfect background listen to enjoy, especially if I'm not in the mood for their earlier blistering feedback dirges and honking hell! `Land of Cockayne' may not be greatest album to properly end on for the Soft Machine, but it's varied and eclectic, and all the musicians involved here delivered a respectable and perfectly enjoyable listen with their dignity intact.

Three and a half stars.

 Fools Meeting by DELIVERY album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.45 | 38 ratings

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Fools Meeting
Delivery Canterbury Scene

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Fool's Meeting' - Delivery (70/100)

As was often the case for progressive albums released on the cusp of 1970, Delivery's one and only LP Fool's Meeting sounds torn between prog innovations and the blues and psychedelic obsession of the late 1960's. In the case of this Canterbury Scene proto-supergroup (most of the members would go on to great success with the likes of Caravan, Gong and Soft Machine, among others) it's the fetishized American blues rock that keeps them grounded in the past. Although they do it well, it ultimately holds Fool's Meeting from being as distinguished and memorable as some of the records these musicians would work in later incarnations of their careers.

When it comes to this late Sixties' British response to longstanding American blues tradition, I'm most inclined to point the finger at the first two records from Led Zeppelin's career; there was no doubting where most of Zeppelin's influence was coming from, but they added a new kick that made it interesting. Delivery does much the same on Fool's Meeting, with the notable exception that while Led Zeppelin amped up blues with the fuzz of hard rock and proto-metal, Delivery has imbued the style with the nuance and interplay of jazz music. It's an incredibly promising combination, and when Delivery successfully manage to pair the two, the result is significant. "Miserable Man" in particular is a fantastic example wherein Delivery nail the atmosphere of both styles. Disappointingly, as the album progresses, the jazz aspect becomes less prominent, leaving the dated blues rock to preside, complete with predictable 12 Bar songwriting patterns. Delivery's jazz rock still finds its way through the cracks in the form of the occasional saxophone solo (as is the case in "Fighting it Out", but the excellent promise of Delivery's style doesn't feel realized here. Very fortunately for after-the-fact listeners however, the scaled fusion of jazz with psych and rhythmic rock would found the basis of the Canterbury Scene.

While the musicianship on the album is appropriately strong, the most memorable element of Delivery's music is undoubtedly the smoky voice of Carol Grimes. Although she's the only member that wouldn't have a lasting impact on the Canterbury Scene past Delivery, her vocals are excellent, wrapped up in a confident vibrato and charismatic presence that might warrant comparison to Robert Plant's bluesy howling on the early Zeppelin albums. More common comparisons to Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick are not beyond reason, but Carol Grimes takes a fiercer approach to her vocals. She would go on to play with a host of blues and jazz acts as the years went on, and while her post-Delivery albums might be worth checking out for her voice alone, it's something of a disappointment that we didn't get to hear her voice in any more progressive rock. With a voice like hers, I'm surprised she didn't become more of a legend. There's a gaggle of female vocalists in the 'occult retro rock' scene today that are trying to sound exactly like her, most probably without ever knowing it. Of course, none have ever truly succeeded.

To my chagrin, the Canterbury Scene has generally alluded my progressive rock listening experience. For what it's worth, Fool's Meeting is more than enough to pique my interest in the style, with the full knowledge that the album has only scratched the surface. Carol Grimes and Delivery have earned their respective spots as quiet legends in the British rock pantheon. Especially if you're a fan of Caravan, Gong, Hatfield and the North, National Health, Soft Machine or any of the other bands these guys would play future roles in, Delivery should stand as an excellent history lesson.

 Paradise Filter by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 2013
2.97 | 46 ratings

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Paradise Filter
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by FXM

4 stars This is Caravan's thirteenth studio album and is released ten years after their last one "The Unauthorised Breakfast Item". I find it hard to believe that it is ten years since that was released and it is something I still listen to quite regularly.

"The Unauthorised Breakfast Item" represented a return to form after some mediocre releases. So I was eagerly awaiting the release of "Paradise Filter". While it may not be as excellent as the previous album it is still very good and is an album that can stand proud amongst their discography.

It starts well with an uptempo track "All This Could be Yours" displaying some nice guitar riffs. There are a few of those quirky humourous songs such as "Trust Me I'm a Doctor"so typically of Caravan throughout their career.

Highlights on the album include I'll Be There for You" which features a banjo played by Geoffrey Richardson who manages to make the instrument sound good. "This Is What We Are" is another good one. The final track is the title track and is a nice soothing piece of music initially but livens up half way in with some fine guitar work followed by nice flute before it returns to the earlier mood. Another highlight is "Farewell My Old Friend" which is a fitting tribute to their former drummer Richard Coughlan who passed away last year

On their past albums there were often one or two tracks that I found annoying but not in this case. Overall it is a mellow album with fine musicianship, reflecting the maturity of the band members. Its a recording to chill out to, maybe on a summer's evening watching the sunset with a glass of fine vintage wine.

A definite 4 star recording!!!

 Camembert Electrique by GONG album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.72 | 250 ratings

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Camembert Electrique
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Gong - Camembert Electrique (1971)

I've been a longtime listener of the Radio Gnome Trilogy (RGT), but finding this record on a vinyl is a different game. I was excited at first listen and what suprised me is the fact that 'Camembert Electrique' sounds very professional and well recorded - perhaps even better then the first two installments of the RGT. Of these four records that share the same style and ethos I think this one is most intense & bizarre, almost like avant-prog sometimes.

The album has some clear Canterbury/Zappa influences, but Daevid Allen' craziness has its own flavour. The lyrics already hint towards the themes of the RGT on some tracks, on other tracks it just plain silly in a hippiej fashion like on 'I've been stone before'. The musicianship is quite frantic on some tracks 'You can't kill me' & 'Dynamite', on other tracks the vibes are more relaxing. The second side is overall a bit more attractive for the progressive rock listener, whilst the first side is more psychedelic and acadic.

Conclusion. Very good record, though I'd prefer the less frantic approach of 'Flying Teapot'. For fans of Gong this is not to be skipped, fans of Canterbury and psychedelic/space rock might also want to give this a spin. Four stars!

 In The Land Of Grey And Pink by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 1152 ratings

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In The Land Of Grey And Pink
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by JCDenton

2 stars For years I thought "Nine Feet Underground" was the only good track.

I returned to this album years later with little memory of the rest of the album. They all sounded okay another time through, except "Love to be Louis the Canterbury Kingsmen". Wow. I'm surprised these tunes didn't sound bad anymore. I almost was going to say that I enjoyed them.

But then "Nine Feet" came on. A very short time had passed when I realized this song completely blows the rest out of the water. It's not even that the other tracks are bad. They just seem tame and not so captivating by comparison. "Golf Girl" and "Winter Wine" are good tunes. All the potential is there, but the band doesn't jam when it's time to grow loud and heavy. The soloing is pretty good, but after a time just feels typical, undistinguished and seems like noodling to fill up some more time. By the time the title track comes about, I'm impatiently waiting for the reason I dug up the recording. Why overshadow the other lesser tunes with the lengthy epic containing most of the interesting ideas and melodies? Each part of "Nine Feet" is better than nearly all other songs on the album.

In the Land of-.. Hell, just skip to "Nine Feet Underground".

 Mind Over Matter by MILLER, PHIL album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.50 | 2 ratings

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Mind Over Matter
Phil Miller Canterbury Scene

Review by gypsydoc5

5 stars I'm feeling quite guilty of some sort of crime here for awarding 5 stars to a CD that is obviously, after just a few moments of listening, NOT progressive rock; but essentially the perfect example of what modern jazz should sound like. What we have here, is the most astounding collection of world class musicians that one could hope to gather, working together to interpret the thrilling compositions of an old friend and brilliant taskmaster, Phil Miller.

I received my copy of this album of songs from Phil himself, via international mail, shortly after it's release. There is absolutely no changing my mind after nearly three years; that this is the most uplifting, exciting, and meticulously delivered package of ear candy that Phil has produced to date, with six of the seven compositions written by Phil. Mind you, it does bear much more resemblance to Jazz, than what many would label prof-rock; but if your pleasures take ease in drifting from one genre to another, this is a treasure worth the travel.

There are significantly exhilarating high points demonstrated by each of the band members throughout this catalog; with the usual standouts on occasion being Fred Baker's propulsion of the bottom end searing through the atmosphere, and Mark Armstrong's blazing trumpet, which surely raises Miles from his resting place with each hair-raising note. Be advised: This is JAZZ in it's spellbinding and most emotionally jam-packed form. As for our old friend Phil Miller, he could get 5 stars playing Lawrence Welk covers; but here he shines the light so brilliantly, it's difficult to observe any musical boundaries. Seek this out, and expand your threshold.

 Tales Of Canterbury: The Wilde Flowers Story by WILDE FLOWERS, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1994
2.41 | 16 ratings

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Tales Of Canterbury: The Wilde Flowers Story
The Wilde Flowers Canterbury Scene

Review by DrömmarenAdrian

3 stars The Canterbury Sound is a special subgenre, little but very interesting. Its mixture of jazz and pop made a soft and easy listened form of progressive rock. The genre originated from this band "The Wilde Flowers" which existed in the sixties but never released anything then. This is a collection of demoes which is very insteresting for every prog lover. Afterwards members of this band formed Soft Machine and Caravan.

Musicians on the record are Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper, Brian Hopper, Kevin Ayers, Richard Coughlan, Grahan Flight, Richard Sinclair and Pye Hastings. The three tracks 17, 18 and 19 is actually with another band "Zobe" with Dave Lawrence, Bob Gilleson and John Lawrence.

I think this collection is underrated. You have to think about how early this was. Well many tracks feels a bit too simple and amateurish but other tracks are very fine and romantic. I like the lightness of the music and that it's the opposite of over produced music. "Impotence" is a typical Canterbury song with a soft pop melody in a jazzy landscape(8/10) and the romantic little "Memories"(7/10) or the little blues thing with wind instrument "Parchman Farm"(7/10) would I also recommend. "It's what I feel" with (I think) Richard Sinclair on vocals is very nice(7/10) as well as the lovely "She loves to hurt" which is more professional than others(7/10). The three Zobe songs are different from the others and I would recommend a closer listening also to them.

Many of the tracks aren't timeless gems and should perhaps just be heard as references but over all I think this album is pleasant and appealing. If you don't have enough spirit to hear it all I recommend "Impotence", "It's what I feel", "She loves to hurt" and "Memories". I consider the album an interesting start of wonderful bands. Three stars!

 The Soft Machine by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.08 | 364 ratings

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The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

5 stars All one has to do is listen to the demos (available as Jet-propelled Photographs) recorded the year before to hear how quickly THE SOFT MACHINE was evolving their sound. It had been a wild ride since the days of the Wilde Flowers for drummer Robert Wyatt and bassist Kevin Ayers to get to this point. Mike Ratledge joined the band in 1966 when they officially formed as keyboardist and fellow ex-Wilde Flower veteran Hugh Hopper (bass) joins in on a few tracks here. Hugh would later join the band as a full member.

Originally the band also included Larry Nowlin on guitar but by the time we get to this debut album there is no guitarist to be found and just as well. It allows the band to emphasize how much a band can do with just a bass, keyboards and drums. Although Daevid Allen (guitars and vocals) was out and would begin his own Canterbury powerhouse Gong, on this debut we get a mixture of his own beatnik philosophy that he left behind, the psychedelic rock that was in fashion at the time and a new found appreciation for jazz that is incorporated into the nooks and crannies of the song structures creating a very new and exciting kind of music.

I personally believe that the sudden evolution can be attributed to the musical genius of Jimi Hendrix with whom SOFT MACHINE would tour. Hendrix was a major catalyst in the musical world at large and such a close proximity to his world surely must have served as an energizing lightning bolt for the band catapulting them suddenly into the more progressive interpretations of their earlier psychedelic pop churned out just a short time prior their debut. The band tackles the songs quite creatively. I love how the leading track "Hope For Happiness" is really one long track but in the middle they insert another track titled "Joy Of A Toy." That strategy is repeated throughout the album making a smooth. flowing album from beginning to end. The melodies are catchy, the musicianship is excellent and the arrangements are quite brilliant. Ayers and Wyatt trade off vocals complementing each other quite well.

This one was certainly a grower. Upon first listen most of the complexities passed me by and I was more focused on the psychedelic pop aspects of the music. To fully appreciate SOFT MACHINE albums takes patience and dedication to fully unlock the brilliance embedded into the music. Although I liked this album on the first listen, I have grown to really love it for its bold and daring display of creativity as well as for its long lasting influence on not only the Canterbury side of jazz-fusion but for the evolution of progressive music in general. A belated 5 star masterpiece in my world but one that will firmly remain in that status. You'll know you're hooked when "Hope For Happiness" becomes the dominant ear worm beckoning you to put on the album time and time again!

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Canterbury Scene bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
DAEVID ALLEN Australia
AMOEBA SPLIT Spain
ANTIQUE SEEKING NUNS United Kingdom
KEVIN AYERS 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
MILLER, SINCLAIR, TOMKINS GOWEN United Kingdom
JOHN GREAVES United Kingdom
NICHOLAS GREENWOOD United Kingdom
GRINGO United Kingdom
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH United Kingdom
STEVE HILLAGE United Kingdom
HOPPER DEAN TIPPETT GALLIVAN United Kingdom
HUGH HOPPER United Kingdom
JAKKO M. JAKSZYK United Kingdom
KHAN United Kingdom
THE LODGE United States
MASTER CYLINDER United States
MATCHING MOLE United Kingdom
MILLER & COXHILL United Kingdom
PHIL MILLER United Kingdom
MOOM United Kingdom
MOVING GELATINE PLATES France
MR. SIRIUS Japan
THE MUFFINS United States
NATIONAL HEALTH United Kingdom
PANTHEON Netherlands
PAZOP Belgium
JOHN G. PERRY United Kingdom
PICCHIO DAL POZZO Italy
PIP PYLE United Kingdom
QUANTUM JUMP United Kingdom
QUIET SUN United Kingdom
RICHARD SINCLAIR United Kingdom
SOFT HEAP United Kingdom
SOFT MACHINE LEGACY United Kingdom
THE SOFT MACHINE United Kingdom
SOFT MOUNTAIN Multi-National
SOFT WORKS United Kingdom
SUPERSISTER Netherlands
TORTILLA FLAT Germany
TRAVELLING France
VOLARÉ United States
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