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Canterbury Scene definition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canterbury Scene Top Albums

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

4.27 | 1426 ratings
4.30 | 690 ratings
Wyatt, Robert
4.25 | 832 ratings
4.24 | 821 ratings
4.26 | 631 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.26 | 566 ratings
4.21 | 806 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.25 | 324 ratings
National Health
4.19 | 461 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.15 | 606 ratings
4.27 | 241 ratings
Quiet Sun
4.11 | 556 ratings
4.14 | 336 ratings
4.12 | 347 ratings
Hillage, Steve
4.22 | 198 ratings
4.25 | 175 ratings
4.12 | 297 ratings
National Health
4.38 | 95 ratings
Moving Gelatine Plates
4.02 | 443 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.10 | 225 ratings
Picchio Dal Pozzo

Canterbury Scene overlooked and obscure gems albums new

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Greaves, John
Picchio Dal Pozzo
Hopper, Hugh
Moving Gelatine Plates

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Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews

 Brave New World by ZYMA album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.39 | 13 ratings

Brave New World
Zyma Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I'm such a massive fan of ZYMA's debut called "Thoughts" that it was a no-brainer to track this one down. "Thoughts" just hit all the right buttons for me plus it was pretty cool to hear some Canterbury and Zeuhl shadings over the mostly Jazz/ Fusion style. This one continues with the Fusion at times but there's a Canterbury flavour mainly through some of the humour on here. It's just not the same as the debut, in fact it's a huge step backwards in my opinion. Plenty of violin and viola on this one as well as some flute and trumpet. We also get something called a Solina String Ensemble and there's a guest adding percussion, congas and bongos. Yes this is called "Brave New World" and it's 1979.

"Brave New World" gets things off on the wrong foot in a major way(haha). Lots of percussion, bongos etc. after a very lame intro that sounds like an ad for a new condo development or something. It reminded me of a part of the MIRTHKON debut which is funny, this not so much. Male vocals join in followed by female vocals as that lame chorus is repeated a couple of more times. A violin solo after 2 minutes followed by humerous male vocal melodies. The violin is back leading then the female starts to scat. Not a fan of this one.

"Sundays" is much better as we get this Fusion track with some killer drumming and bass playing on it. Atmosphere to start before the drums and bass kick in then the trumpet and electric piano. This reminds me of Miles it's so good. Distorted keys after 3 minutes changes the feel here as they replace the vocals. Vocal melodies return before 5 minutes and it ends with church bells. "Lunch Time" is a short 2 minute track of piano melodies until the bass arrives late. It's okay.

"Sunday Fever" sounds great as we get another Fusion piece. The drumming is outstanding. We get plenty of synths as the Solina String Ensemble joins in. Bass and a change a minute in as keys, percussion, drums and more help out. Vocal melodies followed by drums, violin and electric piano. That earlier sound is back late. "Transit" reminds me a little of DFA except the violin is very prominent here at times. The bass, drums and electric piano also stand out. Distorted keys and vocal melodies 2 1/2 minutes in then the violin is back late. Good song.

"Colours" is also very good except for the female vocals that turn me off part way through. This is the longest track at 8 1/2 minutes. Like "Sundays" we get atmosphere to start as sounds come and go. Violin is the first constant as drums, bass and percussion join in. The female vocal melodies after 3 minutes aren't bad but the vocals that follow are. She stops after 4 minutes as the flute takes over with the drums and so on continuing. Violin leads after 6 minutes then the Solina String Ensemble joins in. "A Nice Way To Say Hello" ends this recording and we get drums, flute, female vocal melodies, electric piano and more. I'm just not into this though. Violin comes to the fore early on as well.

A disappointment for sure but the instrumental work I have no fault with, in fact I quite enjoyed it many times over a listening period of this album. Just not my thing overall I guess.

 The Winstons by WINSTONS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.01 | 16 ratings

The Winstons
The Winstons Canterbury Scene

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

4 stars Emerging out of nowhere over the last year with a misleading pop-group-sounding name and bizarre eye-catching artwork, the self-titled `The Winstons' is the 2016 debut album of a trio of Italian indie-rock/pop musicians relishing in their love of all things Canterbury scene, early Soft Machine and Robert Wyatt, and perhaps even related groups acts as the Dutch band Supersister, with a welcome dose of early Pink Floyd on the side as well! While the hero worship on display here is somewhat blatant in its influences, the group completely nail the restrained production, anything-goes psychedelic daring, jazzy inclinations and infectious pop smarts of the late sixties/early seventies, making the disc feel like it's truly a lost relic of that era!

Opener `Nicotine Freak' quickly impresses with Wyatt-like dreamily wheezing English vocals over quivering organ and faraway sax before bursting to life with subtle plodding grooves. `Diprotodon' marries manic electric piano and fuzzy `Piper at the Gates of Dawn'-era Pink Floyd-styled organ runs to endlessly pumping runaway horn and sax blasts. Flighty flute, ruminative bass murmurs and a drawled vocal make `Play with the Rebels' a sun-kissed pop tune blessed by the psychedelic gods, fuelled by rattling drum spasms and cutting organ slivers, and the early Floydian-tinged `...On a Dark Cloud' builds eerily on uneasy organ, snappy drum bursts, despondent trumpet drifts and restless vocal desperation that reveals a surprising gothic heaviness before launching into a deeply immersive dark-laced jazzy improvisation (shame about the abrupt fade-out though!).

`She's My Face' is a unashamedly Beatles-influenced psych/pop-rocker, Roberto Dell'era nailing a John Lennon-esque vocal snarl, and his mangled 12-string guitar abuse reminds of the classic early Byrds albums! The smoother verses of `A Reason for Goodbye' could easily have fit on power-popper Matthew Sweet's `In Reverse' disc, but while Lino Gitto's wilder grunting chorus outbursts are somewhat misplaced, the rest of the piece offers a thrashing and uptempo blast of wild honking sax and furiously busy drumming with sublime Fender Rhodes-fuelled races. `Dancing in the Park with a Gun' is playfully jazzy with a sweetly cooing Wyatt-like falsetto vocal that races into a stormy psychedelic vacuum. Instrumental `Viaggio nel Suono a Tre Dimensioni' rumbles with wild grooving acid-rock guitars, tearaway bass and never-ending Hammond organ retro-vibes, `Tarmac' is a seductively doomed piano lament that aches with beauty, and album closer `Number Number' mixes constant buzzing organ with a droning Japanese vocal (yes, really!) in between psych-era Beatles-esque lethargic slurs and a haze of dreamy group voices, all wrapped up with a hint of tasty danger throughout.

More than just a simple `clone' album, full of incredible energy and thrilling playing, `The Winstons' is not only one of the absolute standout Italian discs released over the last twelve months, but simply one of best psych-pop/Canterbury/take-your- pick releases of the year as well, one that will surely feature very highly on plenty of `Best of 2016' lists. Fans of `Volume 1 and 2' of the Soft Machine, early Pink Floyd and the psychedelic experimentation of pop tunes of the era should absolutely make this vinyl-length disc their next essential purchase, and it will be fascinating to see where The Winstons head from here!

Four and a half stars.

 Kew Rhone by GREAVES, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.20 | 45 ratings

Kew Rhone
John Greaves Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

5 stars Tucked away amongst the plethora of stellar output from the progressive rock scene of the 1970s is this unusual musical specimen that defies all logic and expectations in about every way. First of all the artist listing is the first bout with ambiguity. This is really a huge band effort but the cover only credits JOHN GREAVES, PETER BLEGVAD and LISA HERMAN, however on the record, CD and spine of both appears only GREAVES (who wrote the music) and BLEGVAD (who wrote the lyrics.) In reality this release contained a staggering eight extra musicians who contributed percussion, trumpet, trombone, tenor sax, violin, viola, flute, clave and additional vocals. JOHN GREAVES, of course, was the bassist of Henry Cow as well as participating in National Health and Soft Heap. PETER BLEGVAD, of course, was the mastermind behind the avant-pop group Slapp Happy but also joined Henry Cow for a fleeting moment in time but always retained a connection with GREAVES and worked together on many projects. I'm not sure where LISA HERMAN comes into the picture as she was an American singer who somehow ended up performing vocals on this release as well as with another GREAVES / BLEGVAD group called The Lodge.

What's that title all about? Not sure. As far as i can figure it out: KEW is a suburban district in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames while RHONE is either a major river in Switzerland or a wine producing region in France. Since this album is an intellect's paradise incorporating all kinds of anagrams, palindromes, verbal sophistication and mind bleeps, then i can only admit that i have not been able to figure out (nor taken the time) to decipher all the embedded cleverness that has been implanted into this album. The fact is that this is the product of musical nerds who had too much time on their hands and is probably one of those albums where you could literally listen to for your entire lifespan on the planet and constantly be having new insights whether true or perceived about what exactly this album represents. I prefer not to look too deeply into it for i've discovered that my insights are not exactly those that were intended by the artists involved. And it is totally unnecessary to glean these nuances to enjoy this album. The music stands on its own on many levels including just digging the avant-grooviness on display. This is one of those extremely rare albums that combines the complexities of avant-prog with the sensibilities of catchy almost ear-wormy pop hooks which shows the genius of the two masters in action with the help of an army of extremely talented musicians to pull it off. However, deepness is a virtue. This album of many levels can suck you in upon first listen but keep you guessing about all kinds of things.

Not a bad long term strategy i do say although this one was pretty much a commercial dud upon release. One important trivial fact is that it was not only released on the same day as The Sex Pistols' "Never Mind The Bollocks" album which was the big bang of the punk scene but it was also released on the very same LABEL! It seems Virgin Records (UK) was covering all grounds by not only releasing the last relics of the fading prog scene of the 70s but also picking up on the new pulse of the British youth that would capture a new generation of discontents not willing to delve into the complexities of prog where you have to listen multiple times to figure it out. While KEW. RHONE. isn't exactly a "Tales From Topographic Oceans" in prog complexity, it does embed within its initial catchiness several layers that can be deciphered. I'll only cover the basics as this one requires some effort if you want to dig deeper. On the surface this is a typical Canterbury Scene inspired jazz-fusion extravaganza that incorporates avant-prog as well as various strains of jazz music into the mix.

Right from the start this feels like a complete fusion of Rock In Opposition initiators Henry Cow's avant-prog approaches on such albums as "Western Culture" only with LISA HERMAN's vocals on board really reminds me of Lindsay Cooper and her various projects ranging from Art Bears to News From Babel. While the avant-prog is on full display stylistically, there is a strong connection on many tracks to the Hatfield And The North as LISA HERMAN delivers her vocal style with a strong Northette way of phrasing which shows a link to Barbara Gaskin, Amanda Parsons and Ann Rosenthal's angelic contributions of the Hatfield And The North albums. At times there is also a subtle Return To Forever vibe from the Flora Purim era as well as incorporating a plethora of jazz history ranging from hard bop to marching band type segments. In short, this is a beautiful and intricate and highly sophisticated album on many levels and for sure one of those underrated and short changed masterpieces of the 70s. I surmise that this is the case not only because of the ambiguities that spring forth from its weird and unassuming first impressions but also from a introverted passive aggressive form of jealousy that can emerge from the discovery of a sophistication so sublime that it literally scars the emotionally unprepared for such magnanimity. Whatever the case, if you LOOOOOVE the Canterbury Scene and crave avant-prog more than processed sugar and really secretly hoped that the two styles would have a salacious love affair, then look no further than KEW. RHONE. This is an amazingly brilliant album on so many levels that it should be banned for its sheer tenacity and utmost boldness. OK, maybe not. I'm just glad it exists.

 In The Land Of Grey And Pink by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 1425 ratings

In The Land Of Grey And Pink
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by Rodrigo Andrade7

5 stars This is my introduction to CARAVAN and aswell to the canterbury scene. I am astounded with the music produced on this album from the beginning to the very end, this is solid 5 stars for me in just one single listen. All the tracks on this album are solid and mark a very unique sounding and highly intelligent music like I never had listen before. You can clearly hear jazz and psychadelic elements all over the place, making it such a good combo in a album. The epic "Nine Feet Underground" is literally a ocean of music, 22 minutes of amazing musicianship, this band has amazing vocals and very clever song writting. The only bad thing about this album is that I cannot find any flaw or bad thing about it. Hehe seriously, this is a masterpiece of a album which remains as one of the most quintessential albums of the canterbury scene and to this day, it is between my favorite albums of all time without any doubt.
 Switzerland 1974 by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Live, 2015
4.00 | 2 ratings

Switzerland 1974
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Another archival SOFT MACHINE release that I just couldn't say no to, yes I have a problem. They are a top ten band for me though and in my opinion it's the DVD here that makes this a solid 4 star album. Not that I have any issues with the audio cd it's just that I already have "Floating World Live" with this same lineup but recorded a year later, and I just like the audio better from that one. Both of course feature guitarist extraordinaire Allan Holdsworth along with Babbington, Jenkins, Marshall and Ratledge. It is interesting that when Holdworth joined the band SOFT MACHINE decided that any live shows would feature new material with Holdsworth as they never had a guitarist before, let alone one of the best on the planet. Okay I just remembered that Gary Boyle played on the live archival release from the "Seven" tour called "NDR Jazz Workshop-Hamburg Germany 1973" my favourite live release by the band. Another excellent archival live album is "British Tour '75" with John Etheridge on guitar who was recommended by Holdsworth. The latter left when Tony Williams asked him to be part of his band, an offer Holdsworth says he couldn't say no to, just a great opportunity to play with the best drummers ever.

So this 1974 live recording is from Switzerland and more specifically the Montreux Jazz festival on July 4th. So people in the audience would be hearing material not yet released that would mostly appear on the "Bundles" album. I like when the boys finish playing and the announcer comes out and introduces each member of the band then before he walks off he says it was nice to see John Marshall again and he mentions seeing him at the same festival 4 or 5 years earlier with NUCLEUS who came away with first prize at the time. And yes everyone but Ratledge in this lineup played for NUCLEUS at some point.

The highlight for me is the almost 17 minute version of Jenkins "Hazard Profile". Just a classic tune where Holdsworth shows off his chops beginning just before 3 minutes and he does light it up. I like the fuzz after 10 minutes then the horn after 12 minutes as the rhythm section turns more intense. "The Floating World" has this mood that draws me right in. The atmosphere and keys especially. Some vocal melodies from Allan then the bass comes to the fore. "Ealing Comedy" has some massive fuzz in it, very growly and powerful stuff. "Bundles" is one of my highlights, especially the guitar and drums. "Land Of The Bag Snake" has Holdsworth just ripping it up.

"Joint" sounds like electronics and drums mostly, quite avant sounding like smoking a joint I suppose(not even close). "The Man who Waved At Trains" like "The Floating World" is simply an uplifting and laid back tune with keys and drums leading this time. The bass and horn that follows adds a lot. Trippy stuff(like smoking a joint). It will be reprised later on(the song). "Peff" is intense and horn led. "LBO" is all about Marshall and his drum set. "Riff II" is a pretty heavy tune man as Marshall continues to impress. "Lefty(Collective Improvisation)" is experimental with drums leading early as the horn comes in. It settles late. "Penny Hitch(Coda)" has a good groove to it as the horn plays over top. The guitar joins in before 2 minutes. It settles 4 minutes in as light drums, bass and keys lead the way to the end.

Another fine live recording and these guys have a lot of those.

 Second Split by AMOEBA SPLIT album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.05 | 23 ratings

Second Split
Amoeba Split Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars A greatly anticipated second album from Spanish instrumental Canterbury Style jazz artists whose 2010 debut album, Dance of the Goodbyes, caused quite a stir in this old heart. The music here on Second Split is definitely on the jazzier side of things--much like Dave NEWHOUSE's MANNA/MIRAGE project from late in 2015. At times I'm hearing riffs from the DAVE BRUBECK/PAUL DESMOND age ("Sundial Tick" 4:48] [9/10]) and others more of a jazz- rock mode in the vein of CHICAGO or BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS--especially in the arrangements for the horn section. And then there are the uses of odd/funny-sounding instrumental effects and/or shifts within the music. This is truly a entertaining and mercurial album--as is each song--taking twists and turns that the listener couldn't possibly foresee--yet none are wasted or superfulous, all serve to explore new ideas, new rhythms and combinations of sound and harmony.

1. "Clockwise" (9:03) three songs in one--all three excellent and enjoyable. (9/10)

2. "Sundial Tick" (4:48) opens with a melody line as if from a classic 1950s or 60s Broadway musical (Porgy and Bess' "Summertime" comes to mind before the "Take Five"-like tempo and style take over). Three different melodic themes seem to rotate through the song with different harmonic structures explored by the big band each time. (what is that synth sound at the three minute mark?) Truly an exceptional and intricate though fun song. (9/10) 3. "The Book Of Days" (2:25) opens with chamber string quintet before what sounds like two vibraphones join in. How cool! The double bass and violin morph into more cafÚ jazz sound as the vibes continue and, eventually, take over. How clever! (9/10)

4. "Those Fading Hours" (8:34) opens with a dirty electric piano creating some chords and arpeggios before strings engage to add intermittent and constant accompaniment--violin becoming the first main melody maker (alternating with the flute). Has a very MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA feel with a lot of pent up, potential energy feeling ready to explode on us. Incidental "noises" from the organ and other keys only adds to that feeling that at any minute things are going to break loose. The synth solo that begins at 3:30 seems to open this door--and then a fuzzy electric guitar-sounding keyboard takes over and seems to unleash a little of the spirit of the Mahavishnu himself. Despite the loosening up of the belt for the rest of the band, the ensuing horn play seems to keep things in check--but no! the instrumentalists are suddenly all trying to solo at the same time! But what happens! The band shuts down at 6:45 leaving space . . . out of which emerges an acoustic guitar and moog synth making animal (or insect) mating calls as the infant children laugh their end-of-the day laughs. What a marvelously odd song! I love it! (10/10)

5. "Backwards All The Time" (8:22) opens as the most straightforward jazz song yet, but then at the 0:45 mark, it morphs into a classic 1970s jazz rock fusion confabulation--a cross between JEFF BECK's "Freeway Jam," DEODATO's "Super Strut," ALAN PARSONS PROJECT's "I Robot," and CHICAGO's "I'm a Man"!!! Weird and wonderful! The dual alien synth and piano soli in the fifth minute are just too weird for me. Then they're back to jazz with a trumpeter in the lead. (There's that "Summertime" theme again!) Then, at 6:20, the hammond takes over and brings it back into jazz rock territory. Such a chameleonic song! Not sure if it all works but it is brave and adventurous! I think it suffers a bit from lack of a coherent, consistent flow--too many stories being told here. (8/10)

6. "About Life, Memories And Yesteryears" (8:12) opens quite sedately, as compared to all of the previous songs, with long sustained melody solos coming from keyboard 'flute' and 'saxes.' REally horns eventually join in as a bouncy, churchy hammond organ plays in the back right channel. Chunky keyboard fuzz bass takes over as electric piano and drums take front and center at the 4-minute mark. Horn section is soon added. Perhaps the weakest song on the album if only for it's lack of catchy melody. I mean, it's not till the 6:40 mark that the first likable melodic hook is presented, before that it's all about (I think) displaying all of the things the keyboards can do. (7/10)

A 4.5 star album; highly recommended as an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

 In The Land Of Grey And Pink by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 1425 ratings

In The Land Of Grey And Pink
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars As one half of the Wilde Flowers which was, of course, the big bang band of everything later deemed Canterbury Scene, CARAVAN couldn't have been more distant from their counterparts The Soft Machine at this point. While Soft Machine had pretty much gone full on jazz with only scant traces of rock remaining, CARAVAN on the other hand took the psychedelic pop approach and with their third album IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK which is what i surmise to be the initial goal that the Wilde Flowers strived to achieve all the way back in the mid 60s. Unfortunately they just didn't have the chops and finesse to pull it off that far back. But it seems that CARAVAN never left those ambitions behind and despite a full-on entry into the progressive rock world of "If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You" which incorporated the best psychedelic features of the 60s with fresh and fertile ideas that were brewing at the turn of the decade, on album number 3 they chose to tame down any sort of bombast and focused on tamed down melodic developments that could in many cases pass as radio friendly tunes that your grandmum could sip tea to. Well, sort of?

The truth is IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK has always been a disappointment for me. Upon first listen i could not understand what all the fuss was about with this one. Where were the classical guitar workouts? What in the world happened to the symphonic light speed keyboard bombast? The crazed time sigs? The surreptitious proggy ways of cloaking a melody in rhythmic grandiloquence? Well, not on this one. Since this was my first CARAVAN album recommended by the leagues of prog fans who touted its virtuous nature, i simply abandoned the notion of pursuing any other albums from CARAVAN. After all, this was the best! Or was it? After by happenstance hearing "For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night," i was astounded that i was instantly hooked by that album and decided to revisit this album as well as check out all the earlier albums as well. Well lo and behold i had made a gargantuan booboo by simply writing this band off as wimpy wannabe progsters.

Like many prog albums, even the more accessible strain of artists require some time for the idiosyncrasies to sink in. Despite being the easiest entry point into the Canterbury Scene universe, CARAVAN is no exception. Yes, tracks like "Golf Girl" and the title track are instant accessible slices of psychedelic pop all gussied up in supplemental instrumentation such as flute, tenor sax, piccolo, bells, wind instruments and even trombone but upon further listening and comparisons to true pop songs of the era, there are indeed progressive attributes aplenty. It's just that these aren't in your face and set on fire. Yes, think of this as psychedelic pop rock but really, really goooood psychedelic pop rock. The kind Jefferson Airplane and other 60s bands just couldn't even come close to mustering up. While i do consider this a step down from the previous album, i have to admit that the compositions are well thought out and intricately spiced up with all kinds of subtle variations.

In the beginning i was a non-believer but in the end i have come around to appreciate this album as a very listenable and well respected entry point for many prog rock lovers to delve into a much more complex prog universe. I mean really. How can you resist those soulful organ and Mellotron workouts of David Sinclair, the baritone vocals of Richard Sinclair and the unmistakable rhythmic chops of Ricard Sinclair's bass with Richard Coughlan's drum contributions. However, one of the things that's really missing from this album unlike others is the guitar capabilities of Pye Hastings. Here he merely serves as a rhythmic underlord never getting to usurp the organ, piano and Mellotron dominant psychedelic world that very much coincides with the color limited Hobbit world of the album cover.

After all is said and done, this is an album i have grown to appreciate but not an album i have grown to love above all others. Even within the greater world of CARAVAN this is my least favorite of the first five essentials. It lacks the thrill and excitement of what came before and what came after and despite having so-called prog behemoth workouts like "Nine Feet Underground" which in reality are only stitched together pop hooks that are sewn together instead of creating a true wild and wooly instrumental magnum opus that delivers surprise and puts the listener in a state of awe. But in the end, IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK is a quite listenable album that does deliver in creating a nice relaxing stroll through their imaginary world. Perhaps only deserving the "sorta prog" label but whatever you want to label it, it is still a very rewarding listen if you don't have expectations of ELP meets Yes or Gentle Giant. Despite all the radio friendly potential, the record label failed to promote this album which led to abysmal album sales initially. The good news is that this album has become quite the classic of the ages and could certainly qualify as a mutant late bloomer. Unfortunately David Sinclair was so dismayed by its lack of notoriety that he would depart soon after and join Robert Wyatt in creating Matching Mole. Nevertheless, the band would sally forth and create a couple more worthy editions to any prog collection.

 Rock Storia E Musica: Soft Machine by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1983
4.00 | 1 ratings

Rock Storia E Musica: Soft Machine
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by thwok

— First review of this album —
4 stars This is a 3 song compilation from what many regard as The Soft Machine's best period. I agree that the band was at its peak between 1969 and 1973. They had done away with the absurd, unnecessary lyrics and disjointedness of their early records. Later in the decade, the band slips into fusion that's proficient, but somewhat anonymous. However, these are some of my favorite Soft Machine songs, especially "Chloe and the Pirates" and "Teeth".

I will concede that these three songs are readily available on various other releases. Therefore, we could wonder why these three particular songs were grouped together into one short album; they're readily available elsewhere. I don't see that issue as a problem that decreases the value of this release. I usually don't have the attention span to sit through an hour or more of most band's music. So If you're looking for a Soft Machine fix, this ROCK STORIA E MUSICA compilation fills the need very nicely.

 If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.25 | 831 ratings

If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

5 stars As the 60s abruptly became the 70s, the psychedelia of the former era was transmogrifying into something more sophisticated. With the prog rock explosive nature of 1969 occurring with bands like East Of Eden and King Crimson forever changing the rock history books, bands who came before who were more focused on the psychedelic pop aspects of the scene rather than the sophisticated compositions of what would develop suddenly found themselves upping their game manyfold and the creative expressions were sudden and highly effective. CARAVAN was one such band that was one half of The Wilde Flowers, with the other half, of course, being The Soft Machine. While Soft Machine started out on a similar trajectory as their counterparts, they seemed determined to race full speed ahead into the world of jazz and upon every subsequent release jettisoned the rock aspects of their music. CARAVAN had the complete opposite approach. They simply took the psychedelic pop rock features on their debut album and upped the sophistication several times over and focused MORE on the rock instead of less. The results equated in being one of the most exciting releases to exist in the progressive rock work in the early year of 1970.

IF I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, I'D DO IT ALL OVER YOU is only the second album by the mighty Canterbury Scene innovators CARAVAN, but it is in my opinion their absolute best album that took all the best features of the 60s and adopted the new developments that were quickly becoming the 70s. There is a perfect balance between old and new on this one and this album is the perfect marriage of the two eras in equal proportionality. The title track starts things out innocently enough with a catchy repetition of the words that make up the whimsical title track. This album captures the perfect period sound with catchy melodies that incorporates lots of organ runs and a plethora of rock and jazz instrumentation including not only the usual rock instruments but also sax, flute, claves, bongos, congas and other such oddities like hedge clippers and assorted ashtrays :O While the catchy passages and rich palette of musical timbres create a delightful listening experience, what really puts this album into the realms of true masterpieces is the intricate and well-designed compositions that keep the listener enthralled and ecstatic throughout the album's playing time.

While the title track reels the listener in with its catchy and psychedelic tribute to the 60s, the second track "And I Wish I Were Stoned / Don't Worry" creates a multi-part 8:12 track that takes the nihilism of the shattered utopian dreams of the 60s and seeks a route through escapism. The pinnacle of this leap into the progasphere comes full force on the penultimate 14:17 track "Can't Be Long Now / Franšoise / For Richard / Warlock" that pulls out all the prog punches. While the sections and components of these tracks encompass the same types of psychedelic pop tendencies, it's how they are all sewn together and how well each passage flows from one segment to the other.

Far from being random, the different sections recur in logical formations where themes develop and appropriately move on and then are revisited. The general gist is that one track is a normal song length and then the next one that is progressive and lengthy serving with mini-suites that build up into a larger whole. IF I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, I'D DO IT ALL OVER YOU simply covers all grounds of the era. It includes a healthy dose of the psychedelic scene of the era, smooths things over with pop sensibilities and dresses it all up with progressive rock workouts and jam band excursions that include jazzy improvisational techniques. Nothing outlasts its welcome and even 45 years after its release still evokes a sense of excitement when listening to it. This truly is not only one of the best CARAVAN albums but a cornerstone of the early progressive rock scene as well. This is simply a major mandatory edition to any prog lover's world. Perfect in every way.

 Different Every Time by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2014
4.00 | 5 ratings

Different Every Time
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars - The first review - The main editor of this 2-CD set is Robert Wyatt's biography author Marcus O'Dair, whose liner notes are included on the leaflet. "Individual tracks were chosen simply on aesthetic grounds, but the compilation also had to work as a coherent sequence of music. Where possible, we also chose tracks that had a particular personal resonance for Robert. The selection was intended to be representative, but only up to a point." It is intentionally an unconventional compilation and as such it reaches its goals excellently.

The first CD covers chronologically the whole career of Robert Wyatt, starting from his SOFT MACHINE membership. There's only one SM track, but it's no less than the 19-minute 'Moon in June' from the double album "Third" (1970). I've always loved this jazzy epic of a charming, improvisation-like nature, starring Lowry organ, delicious drumming and Wyatt's inimitabe voice. The MATCHING MOLE albums (both from 1972) are represented with one track each, 'Signed Curtain' and 'God Song', very nice choices. Interestingly Wyatt's superb Rock Bottom album -- his first work after his physical accident that re-shaped him as a musician -- is represented only by a 1974 live version of 'A Last Straw'.

Here the album info contains the source albums. That's exactly what I miss on the leaflet, which on the other hand even lists the musicians on most tracks. 'Yesterday Man' seems to be taken from some EP; it's IMHO among the worst songs on this disc, whereas the lengthy 'Team Spirit' from Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard (1975) is great especially for the hypnotic bass sound. Sonically spatial and laid-back 'At Last I Am Free' is my personal favourite from Wyatt, in all its naive simplicity. The rest of the solo discography is squeezed in all-too-limited space (that's the price you pay when starting with an album side long epic!) but the choices are done in a very elegant manner, underlining the artist's personality and uniqueness, and payng no attention whatsoever to the commercial potential -- or rather, the lack of it.

But what makes this set very unconventional and adventurous is the 2nd disc, which contains material of other artists featuring Wyatt in a notable collaborator role. These artists include e.g. Scandinavian females JEANETTE LINDSTRÍM, ANJA GARBAREK and BJÍRK. Groups such as HOT CHIP, EPIC SOUNDTRACKS, GRASSCUT and HAPPY END are totally unfamiliar to me. Some tracks are pretty fascinating, others just hard to digest, as surprisingly many tracks sound rather arty-farty in their low-tempo minimalistic aesthetics. Amidst them the classic 'Shipbuilding' that Elvis Costello and Clive Langer wrote for Wyatt, feels like a friend's hand in the crowd of strange people.

'Still in the Dark' by MONICA VASCOLENOS is nice, thanks for her vocals, and the way Wyatt shares vocal duties with two women on WORKING WEEK's cool, lively song (an extended 12" version) is marvelous. All in all the stuff on this disc is not much vocal oriented. This set may be far too difficult for a listener unfamiliar with music of such free and intimate nature (containing more elements from chamber jazz than from pop/rock), but in the world of compilations this is really something special.

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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
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
VOLAR╔ United States
ROBERT WYATT United Kingdom
ZYMA Germany

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