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CANTERBURY SCENE

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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

4.29 | 1723 ratings
IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK
Caravan
4.28 | 866 ratings
ROCK BOTTOM
Wyatt, Robert
4.25 | 1017 ratings
IF I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, I'D DO IT ALL OVER YOU
Caravan
4.25 | 994 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 3 - YOU
Gong
4.27 | 777 ratings
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH
Hatfield And The North
4.27 | 705 ratings
SPACE SHANTY
Khan
4.21 | 988 ratings
THIRD
Soft Machine, The
4.27 | 432 ratings
OF QUEUES AND CURES
National Health
4.21 | 563 ratings
THE ROTTERS' CLUB
Hatfield And The North
4.18 | 727 ratings
FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT
Caravan
4.14 | 669 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 2 - ANGEL'S EGG
Gong
4.26 | 259 ratings
TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER
Supersister
4.16 | 410 ratings
THE POLITE FORCE
Egg
4.14 | 424 ratings
FISH RISING
Hillage, Steve
4.17 | 314 ratings
MAINSTREAM
Quiet Sun
4.34 | 150 ratings
THE WORLD OF GENIUS HANS
Moving Gelatine Plates
4.12 | 381 ratings
NATIONAL HEALTH
National Health
4.21 | 216 ratings
VIVA BOMA
Cos
4.10 | 352 ratings
BUNDLES
Soft Machine, The
4.06 | 483 ratings
VOLUME TWO
Soft Machine, The

Canterbury Scene overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

THE BRUISED ROMANTIC GLEE CLUB
Jakszyk, Jakko M.
SPLIT SECONDS
Miller, Phil
GILGAMESH
Gilgamesh
CHRONOMETERS
Muffins, The

Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews


 The Rotters' Club by HATFIELD AND THE NORTH album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.21 | 563 ratings

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The Rotters' Club
Hatfield And The North Canterbury Scene

Review by Psychedelic Paul

3 stars HATFIELD & THE NORTH were a two-album Canterbury Scene band, named after the well-known A1 Motorway sign on the Great North Road from London to Edinburgh. Their first eponymously-titled album passed by virtually unnoticed at the time of its release in 1974, but their second album "The Rotters' Club" (1975) is much better-known. The line-up for this second album featured Dave Stewart on keyboards, Phil Miller on guitar, Richard Sinclair on bass and lead vocals, Pip Pyle on drums, a 4-piece brassy horn section and a 3-piece female choir of Barbara Gaskin, Amanda Parsons & Ann Rosenthal, collectively named The Northettes.

The opening song "Share It" sounds strangely familiar, even upon first hearing. This upbeat jaunty Jazz-Rock number is very reminiscent of both Caravan and Camel. There's no doubting that Hatfield & the North are an English band from Richard Sinclair's clear-cut vocals, which sound as English as fish & chips. The obscure lyrics are a riddle wrapped in an enigma though, but that only adds to the quaint English charm of this catchy tune . Here's a brief opening taster of the lyrics:- "Tadpoles keep screaming in my ear, Hey there! Rotter's Club! Explain the meaning of this song and share it" ..... The bizarre meaning of this particular song will perhaps forever remain shrouded in mystery, when even the singer sounds baffled by the abstruse lyrics. And now for a little instrumental lounge music with "Lounging There Trying", which sounds like the kind of sophisticated improvisational Jazz you might listen to whilst coolly sipping a gin and tonic in a trendy cocktail lounge. There's no clue as to what the strangely-titled "(Big) John Wayne Socks Psychology on the Jaw" might be all about, because it's a brief 43 second instrumental, and the slightly discordant music bears little relation to the bizarre song title. This leads us into the even shorter "Chaos at the Greasy Spoon", which does indeed sound chaotic and a bit of a tuneless mess to be absolutely honest, so it's something of a blessed relief that it's less than half-a-minute long. Next up is "The Yes No Interlude" which is not so much an interlude, but more of an extended 7-minute instrumental jam session, where the musicians throw caution to the wind with gay abandon and let loose with some wild and improvisational Canterbury Scene Jazz. We're back to more familiar territory with "Fitter Stoke Has A Bath", which sounds like a typical lively Jazz-Rock song that Caravan might have recorded, although the meaning of the weird song title and lyrics are just as obscure as Hatfield & the North's instrumental numbers. Here's a brief example of the totally nonsensical lyrics:- "Bing billy bong - silly song's going wrong, Ping pong ping, clong cling dong, Tie me up, turn me on, Bing billy bang, Desperate Dan, frying pan, Cling clong cling, Bong bing bang, Michael Miles, Bogey man," ..... Yes indeed! Song lyrics don't come much sillier than that! They sound like the kind of wacky lyrics you might have heard in a typical Eurovision Song Contest entry from the 1970's. There's a return to some kind of normality - or whatever passes for normal in the bizarre musical world of Hatfield & the North - with "Didn't Matter Anyway". This is a gentle Caravan-esque song floating on a mellow wave of flute and delicate keyboards. It's the most approachable and easy-to-listen-to song on the album. You can just relax and let the worries and cares of the day slip away listening to this gorgeous insouciant song, because whatever might have been troubling you, it probably "Didn't Matter Anyway".

It's time now to don a dinner jacket and order a dry martini - shaken not stirred - for the Side Two opener "Underdub", because it's another pleasant cocktail lounge diversion to while away four minutes of spare time whilst waiting for your dinner date to arrive for the evening. And finally, we arrive at the 20-minute long suite "Mumps" to close out the album. The music is divided into four parts with the kind of weird and crazy titles that we've come to expect by now:- 1. "Your Majesty Is Like a Cream Donut (Quiet)"; 2. "Lumps"; 3. "Prenut"; 4. "Your Majesty Is Like a Cream Donut (Loud)". The Jazzy Canterbury Scene music is just as eccentric and off-kilter as the titles suggest, featuring another wild excursion into uncharted realms, occasionally sounding atonal and disjointed, but always unexpected and totally unpredictable. It's an endlessly complex arrangement that deserves to be listened to several times to truly appreciate the musical diversity on offer here.

"The Rotters' Club" is undoubtedly an essential album for fans of the Canterbury Scene sound, but it's not so essential for Prog-Rock fans generally. The album won't be to everyone's taste, because this is wild and improvisational Canterbury Scene music that's nowhere near as approachable and easy to listen to as the more melodic and harmonious sound of Caravan and Camel for instance. Hatfield & the North have more of a complex Jazz Fusion feel to their music than a standard Jazz-Rock sound, which might cause con-Fusion to less enlightened listeners. On the other hand, if you're in the mood for some uninhibited and unrestrained Jazzy flights of fancy, then head on up the Great North Road to the sound of Hatfield & the North.

 National Health by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.12 | 381 ratings

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National Health
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Psychedelic Paul

4 stars NATIONAL HEALTH were a Canterbury Scene outfit formed from the remnants of Hatfield & the North and Gilgamesh. The band featured Dave Stewart on keyboards (who later went on to form a duo with Barbara Gaskin in the 1980's), Phil Miller on electric guitar, Neil Murray on fretless bass, Pip Pyle on drums and percussion and Amanda Parsons on vocals. National Health recorded three albums during their brief time in the spotlight:- "National Health" (1977); Of Queues and Cures (1978); and "D.S. Al Coda" (1982). It's time now to take out a prescription for National Health's first album and find out if music really is the best medicine.

The album opens with the bright and sparkling "Tenemos Roads". Running at over fourteen minutes long, it's a complex improvisational and uplifting piece of music with some truly dynamic keyboard virtuosity from Dave Stewart, with Amanda Parsons' lovely soprano vocals soaring up up and away into the wild blue yonder like a high-flying bird. It may be hard to discern the lyrics to discover what "Tenemos Roads" is all about, so here's a brief taster:- "From the cradle to the grave, There are roads for us all, That we'll find, and follow to the end, Leading upwards to a place in the stars, Ten million miles away, There's a path called Tenemos Roads" ..... This warm and inviting opening number is like a radiant sunburst of glowing rainbow colours that's guaranteed to brighten up the the dullest of days. It's All That Jazz and a lot more besides and just what the doctor ordered.

Next up is the 10-minute-long "Brujo" which transports us to calmer climes with a gorgeous pastoral woodwind opening, conjuring up images of gently rolling green pastures bathed in warm golden sunshine. This serves as a prelude to another sunburst session of wild improvisational Jazz-Rock with some ethereal vocalese ad-libbing from Amanda Parsons. The music is positively aglow with complex time signatures, dynamic changes of tempo and some delightful keyboard flights of fancy from Dave Stewart. In other words, it's everything we've come to expect in the best Canterbury Scene music. Apparently, "Brujo" is Spanish for sorcerer, so just lie back and let this music weave its magical spell on you.

The first two pieces of music on Side Two "Borogoves (Excerpt from Part Two)" followed by "Borogoves (Part One)" seem strangely back to front, but putting that minor detail aside, "Borogoves" is a complex and compelling 10-minute piece of music where the listener never quite knows what's coming next upon first hearing. To try and put such a dynamic improvisational piece of music into words would do it a disservice, other than to say it's intricate and invigorating Jazzy music with more than enough unexpected twists and turns to keep any Canterbury Scene fan happy, and just in case anyone's wondering what a "Borogove" is, it's a silly mythical bird invented by Lewis Carroll for his nonsense poem, "Jabberwocky".

There are "Elephants" in the room for the final piece of music, which turns out to be a 14-minute-long free-flight instrumental jam session. It's another complex Jazz-Rock composition containing undecipherable lyrics, with the music sounding as marvellously wild and unpredictable as a stampede of "Elephants". It's an endlessly entertaining combination of gentle pastoral flute and keyboard passages and wild uninhibited outbursts of unrestrained Canterbury Scene music.

"National Health" is a playful and passionate avant-garde demonstration of evergreen Canterbury Scene music at its best, featuring an accomplished and experienced group of musicians who are really in their element with this eclectic and endlessly diverse album. Sometimes the Jazzy music is manic and unrestrained, and sometimes it's pleasant and pastoral, but it's always energetic and exhilarating. National Health is just the prescription you need for some lively Canterbury Scene Jazz.

 The Universe Also Collapses by GONG album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.65 | 44 ratings

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The Universe Also Collapses
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Progressive rock listeners will mostly like Gong because of the charismatic psychedelic space rock albums of the Radio Gnome Trilogy. Since enigmatic frontman Daevid Allen and 'space whisperer' Gilli Smith have both passed away the Gong tradition has been continued by a group of musicians which has been present since 2014's 'I See You' album - which was the last album on which Allen and Smith performed. Without any members of the seventies Gong the legitimacy of this line-up is debatable, but I would argue that this band deserves to be continued - especially with an album like 'The Universe Also Collapses'.

Present are the psychedelic and slightly dopey vocals with their jazzy timing, the space rock soundscapes, the jazz rock elements, a lost-in-time sixties refrain, the strong rhythmical section and above all that typical Gong sympathetic vibe. Add some very strong wind-sections by Ian East (that add a layer of VdGG intensity!) and some keyboard sounds that remind me a bit of CAN's 'Future Days' album - and you might get a picture of what to expect. The totality of it comes across as a group effort, rather than focusing on individual talents - which are evidently present. Of course, there's no replacing Deavid Allen's personality, but the vocals on this album are well done. I didn't like them at first, but somehow one moment later I 'found out' how much they are a charming tribute to Gong's founder. The production of the album is also very well done; a bit retro, yet modern enough to feel relevant in today's progressive rock landscape. Definitely better sounding - than say - 90% of the best albums of 2019.

I consider all songs (except the last) to be equally satisfying. 'Forever Reoccurring' is a twenty minute multi-part track that throws around all typical Gong elements and has a nice listenable pace to it. This song has the most Canterbury-like feel to it as well. Somehow this track has this conclusive or 'after though' feel about it, as if would perfectly fit right after the 'You' album. 'My Sawtooth Wake' is a thirteen minute track that further elaborates on the opening track and ends by musically referring to it. This would have made for a perfect ending to the album. The final song 'The Elemental' than sound a bit out of place with its songy feel and slightly flat mixing job. I actually rated the album as if this was just a bonus track.

In conclusion. With or without Gong legitimacy, this is the most charming space rock (and perhaps Canterbury as well) album of 2019! If the band would want to improve on this effort, it would have to expand on that varied Allenesque psychedelic songwriting - which also had a certain humanity to it. The jazzy instrumental space rock part is about as good as it could get in this tradition.

 Fish Rising by HILLAGE, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.14 | 424 ratings

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Fish Rising
Steve Hillage Canterbury Scene

Review by Psychedelic Paul

4 stars Renowned guitarist STEVE HILLAGE has been part of the Canterbury Scene since the late 1960's. He was involved with two early one-album band projects: the psychedelic Arzachel (Uriel) album in 1969 and Khan's outstanding "Space Shanty" album in 1971. He's also been a longstanding member of the Jazz-Rock band, Gong. More recently, Steve Hillage was one half of the electronic dance duo, System 7. He also teamed up with ambient musician Evan Marc in 2008 to record the album "Dreamtime Submersible". The album reviewed here, "Fish Rising" (1975), is his first album in a long solo career spanning four decades and seven studio albums. He followed the "Fish Rising" album with six more releases in the late-1970's & early 80's:- "L" (1976); "Motivation Radio" (1977); "Green" (1978); "Rainbow Dome Musick" (1979); "Open" (1979); & finally, "For to Next" (1983). Many of Steve Hillage's bandmates from Gong featured on his first solo outing, including most notably, Pierre Moerlen on drums and percussion and Mike Howlett on bass. The line-up also included Dave Stewart on keyboards, who later paired up with Barbara Gaskin for "It's My Party (And I'll Cry If I Want To) in 1986. The 2007 remastered CD edition of "Fish Rising" added two bonus tracks to the original five pieces of music on the album.

"Fish Rising" consists of three long suites of music and two shorter songs. The album opens radiantly with the four-part "Solar Musick Suite", the longest piece on the album at nearly 17 minutes long. The first part "Sun Song (I Love It's Holy Mystery)" bursts into view like a brilliant ray of sunshine. This warm and melodic prog is positively glowing in rainbow colours with some simply sensational soaring guitar riffing from Steve Hillage. He's in fine voice too with his rich silver-toned vocals adding to the sense of warmth. It's a joyous and uplifting song with a flower-power message of love and peace and eternal optimism as these lyric reveal:- "So people look into each others eyes and gaze at them with certainty, We're gathered here today from all around to celebrate eternity, The spirit in the air is never far immersed in our totality, And the answers that we sit and hope to find, Are living here in side of we." ..... This joyful and invigorating music feels like the burgeoning arrival of spring, where colourful flowers are blooming in a twisting and transitional dance of new growth, as mother nature shakes off winter's cold embrace. This is warm and radiant music to stimulate and rejuvenate the soul. The "Solar Musick Suite" merges effortlessly into "Canterbury Sunrise", a lively Jazz-Rock instrumental, giving Steve Hillage a chance to really shine with some impressive soloing and with Dave Stewart providing sterling accompaniment on the organ. Next up is "Hiram Aftaglid Meets the Dervish", a wild and uninhibited whirling dervish of stirring Canterbury Scene music that's very reminiscent of some of Caravan's wilder Jazz-Rock freak-outs. Finally, there's a brief reprise of the glorious opening "Sun Song", to leave one feeling in joyously buoyant mood. Next comes the simply-titled "Fish", which is a bit of a tuneless mess to be perfectly honest, with the discordant music thrown together in a seemingly haphazard fashion. This is a fish that would have been better left in the ocean. The only good thing about this musical mash-up is it's less than 90 seconds long. Moving swiftly on now with the dreamweaving "Meditation of the Snake", a swirling and twisting magic carpet ride of transcendental ambience that washes over the listener like a blissful dreamwave of sound.

Opening Side Two now, we're going fishing with the 9-minute aquatic suite, "Salmon Song", and it's a pretty good catch too. It's a psychedelic rainbow trout swimming in a sea of spacey guitars, combined with some heavy sonorous riffing, and not forgetting those trademark Hillage guitar glissandos which soar right up into the stratosphere. This is one fish you won't want to throw back into the sea. And now we come to the album highlight, the 15-minute-long seven-piece suite, "Aftaglid", to bring the album to a dramatic and powerful conclusion. This is a real psychedelicatessen of musical styles, featuring gently pastoral acoustics, wild psychedelic riffing and Middle Eastern mantras, all combined together into a magnificent musical melange of sound.

"Fish Rising" is an album full of psychedelic delights, featuring super soar-away soloing, spacey New Age ambience, dynamic keyboard virtuosity, and jaunty Jazz-Rock, all combined together into a delicious potpourri of Canterbury Scene music. This fish-themed album will have you hooked.

 De Lorians by LORIANS, DE album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.15 | 27 ratings

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De Lorians
De Lorians Canterbury Scene

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams

5 stars What a novel impression. De LORIANS were born in Tokyo as a Japanese experimental rock combo in late 2010s, but with incredible technique and soundscape grandeur in their early days. This eponymous album has been released in July 2019, after gigging many many times around Tokyo and Europe, and you can find their energetic intention for launching their individuality strongly inspired by jazz rock, psychedelic, avantgarde, and especially Canterbury vanguards. This 32 minute theatrical framework is filled with explosive power of quirky melodic lines, complicated rhythmic basis, sensitive movements, and respect for rock pioneers.

Apparently sounds like their primary axis of "rock" should be in the Canterbury Scene like Matching Mole, Moving Gelatine Plates, especially Soft Machine. Guess they should've run toward worldwide music scene and this fact is told by their debut creation indeed, but some oriental, Japanese essence (aka "wa no seishin") can be found here and there, that can be accepted without any hesitation, amazingly. Based upon excessive tense atmosphere all around, there are momentary loose vibrations, phrases full of humour, or heartwarming intervals. And interesting is positive phase like a rolling stone or roller coaster jog reminding me of a Japanese jazz rock combo Djamra. Their soundscape can be thought not monistic nor centralized but pluralistic and diverse.

In conclusion, such a dramatic 32 minutes creation of theirs cannot be separated in 8 pieces. This is a magnificent suite to give you enthusiasm. Cannot believe half an hour under their parallel world will go away in a minute, mystically. Trust me, where will they go after releasing such a fascinating debut shot?

 Mainstream by QUIET SUN album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.17 | 314 ratings

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Mainstream
Quiet Sun Canterbury Scene

Review by Psychedelic Paul

3 stars QUIET SUN were a short-lived, British Jazz-Rock combo. Their line-up included Phil Manzanera (of Roxy Music fame) on guitar. Their one and only album "Mainstream" (1975) has been described as Canterbury Scene music, although none of the London- based band members are actually from the city of Canterbury. After all, Canterbury Scene is more of a musical description than a geographical location. Although Quiet Sun split up in 1972, Phil Manzanera got the band together again in 1975 for a one-off studio session and this album was the result. Renowned record producer and former member of Roxy Music, Brian Eno, participated in the making of the album, although he wasn't credited as the album's producer. The 2011 CD reissue of "Mainstream" included five bonus tracks added to the original seven mostly instrumental pieces on the album. So, what can we expect from Quiet Sun's "Mainstream" album? One suspects that the band were being a little bit ironic with the "Mainstream" choice of album title. Is it going to be mainstream music or something a little more offbeat? Well, let's find out.

It's sunny side up for the 7-minute-long opening number "Sol Caliente" (Spanish for "Hot Sun"), a warm and inviting sunburst of fuzzy guitar-driven, psychedelic Jazz-Rock. This long uptempo instrumental piece really gives the musicians a chance to shine in a psychedelic jazz guitar freak out, with a nifty keyboard player in his element and with the drummer pounding away on his kit with frenetic energy as if his life depends on it. It's not exactly a toe-tapper, because your feet could hardly keep up with the frantic pace of this upbeat and offbeat piece of music with its unusually complex time signature, so just lie back and enjoy it. There's more funky fusion on the way with "Trumpets with Motherhood". It's anybody's guess what this bizarrely- titled piece of music is all about, because it's another instrumental number. You might at least be expecting to hear some trumpets though in a piece of music titled "Trumpets with Motherhood", but no, there's not a toot of a brass trumpet horn to be heard anywhere, because this is another uptempo fuzzy guitar and electric piano combination. It's less than two minutes long though so there's barely time to nip out the room and make a cup of tea, so you may as well stick around for the next number, "Bargain Classics". You're unlikely to find this rare album in the bargain classics section of your local store though, as it's a pretty hard album to get hold of these days. So, what does the music sound like you may well ask. Well, it's a very offbeat and "off-piste" piece of music in a highly irregular time signature, which is intricately complex and fascinating to put it kindly, but which is all over the place, to put it unkindly. It all depends on your point of view: if you're an aficianado of Jazz Fusion, then you may go into rhapsodies of delight upon hearing this musical mayhem, but on the other hand, if Jazz-Fusion is not your thing, then you may want to skip to the next piece of music, which is "R.F.D.". The meaning of the initials "R,F.D." are shrouded in mystery, but this is a pleasantly soothing, laid-back mellow number to close out Side One, so lie back, relax, and let the music play as the cares of the day drift away, because this gorgeous piece of music is like a bright ray of sunshine on a hot sandy beach.

Side Two opens with one of the most bizarrely-titled pieces of music of all time: "Mummy was an Asteroid, Daddy was a Small Non-Stick Kitchen Utensil". It's just as well it's an instrumental piece, because if this song had lyrics, they'd probably make no sense at all, although that's never been a problem in the wierd and wonderful world of prog, where just about anything goes when it comes to song lyrics. Anyway, back to the music we have here, and it's another intense and fast-paced Jazz-Fusion freak out, which is *almost* as freaky as the track title implies, but don't let that put you off, because the music is very impressive. It's also pretty wild and "finger-licking" good, so be prepared to hear some fast and furious acid guitar riffs. We're off at a "Trot" for Song No. 6 now, a 5-minute-long piece of uptempo Jazz-Fusion which gallops along nicely to bring us to the closing piece of music on the album, "Rongwrong". It's another bizarre track title in an album full of peculiar and offbeat track titles, and at times, peculiar and offbeat music to match. "Rongwrong" is the longest song on the album at nearly 10 minutes in duration. It's also the first real song on the album, as it actually includes lyrics for the first time. If you think the song title is bizarre though, take a look at these off-the-wall lyrics:- "I'm looking in my little black book, to see if I was right or rongwrong, within the confines of whoremonger logic, to even try to sing this song. I could have asked the I Ching, but that would have taken up too much time, And with the time before fall, I didn't see there was no time to lose, If things got bad it could always turn into a blues, Like they do back home on the Delta ? grunt and groan." ..... Confused? You will be! Never mind the lyrics though, what about the music? It's joyful, uplifting and exuberant, but also quite offbeat, which is just what we've come to expect by now from an album that is a little bit off the beaten track.

This Canterbury Scene album of Jazz-Rock/Fusion is certainly not "Mainstream" and it may not be to everyone's taste, but it is pretty good and definitely worth a listen. One can't help feeling though, that the album could have been better if most of the tracks had included vocals instead of just the final song on the album. It certainly would have made the music more memorable if most of the tracks had included lyrics. That said, if you're heavily into Jazz-Fusion, then this rare long-lost album might be right up your street.

 Hatwise Choice - Archive Recordings 1973-1975, Volume 1  by HATFIELD AND THE NORTH album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2005
4.00 | 30 ratings

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Hatwise Choice - Archive Recordings 1973-1975, Volume 1
Hatfield And The North Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Hatfield and the North only release two albums in their brief existence - but those albums were such classics of the Canterbury scene that it's no wonder fans were left adamantly wanting more from their archives. Whilst some of the "new" song titles on here actually related to different recordings of familiar material, this mixture of radio, TV, and live recordings offers an insight into a more improvisational side of the band that the polished delivery of their studio material glosses over. I wouldn't put it on the same level as their two studio albums, but I wouldn't put it that far behind either.
 Love from the Planet Gong (The Virgin Years 1973-75) by GONG album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2019
4.51 | 5 ratings

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Love from the Planet Gong (The Virgin Years 1973-75)
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars This is a lavish boxed set covering the Radio Gnome Invisible years of Gong, as well as the Shamal album - arguably the last album from their Virgin run where their original psychedelic whimsy was still in evidence, before the more buttoned-down fusion style of Pierre Moerlen's Gong started to predominate on Gazeuse.

Not only do you get lavish remasters of the relevant albums from the original master tapes produced by Mike Howlett, but the overall presentation is overseen by Steve Hillage, and if you're aware of Steve's fantastic Searching For the Spark boxed set of his solo albums you know that Steve is no slouch when it comes to this sort of thing. Even better, you also get a wealth of live material here, including at least one complete concert corresponding to each studio album release, giving you a deep look at the other side of Gong during this era. (The embarrassment of riches on offer here makes the old Live Etc. double album rather redundant, in fact, because everything on there is on here, and found in its original concert context too.)

Buyer beware: DO NOT confuse the Charly Records Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy boxed set for this magnificent offering! Charly are only able to put out that set due to the legal confusion over who actually had the rights to Gong's work during this era - a question about which many arguments have been had, but to which a 100% definitive answer in court has (to my knowledge) never been arrived at. Charly do not have access to the original tapes from the Virgin vaults, and therefore any remasters of this material they put out will inevitably be inferior; what's more, the boxed set doesn't include any of the excellent live material included here, and perhaps worst of all the band don't get any royalties from Charly, whereas they DO get their well-deserved royalties from the sales of Love From the Planet Gong. If you are going to splash out on a boxed set of the Radio Gnome material anyway, you may as well get the boxed set which does it right - rather than one which will shortchange both you and the band!

 The Show Of Our Lives: Caravan At The BBC 1968-1975 by CARAVAN album cover Live, 2007
4.22 | 53 ratings

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The Show Of Our Lives: Caravan At The BBC 1968-1975
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Be aware that this set comes in two versions: the standalone version subtitled "Caravan at the BBC 1968-1975" has two songs (Place of My Own) and Ride) from a 1968 session which aren't included on the version (subtitled "Caravan at the BBC 1970-1975") compiled in the recent Decca/Deram Years compilation boxed set. (Presumably this is because those songs didn't come out on Decca or Deram, but Verve.)

That said, I wouldn't cry too much over those tracks - fun gems from Caravan's 1968 debut album though they are, they're rather minor songs which quickly fell by the wayside in the wake of the far superior material which Caravan would develop from 1970 onwards. On either version of this set, you get comfortably over two hours of live/live-in-the- studio renditions of much of the band's best material, as well as the odd rarity - perhaps the biggest rarity here being a 9 minute take on Feelin' Reelin' Squealin', which was an early single put out by Caravan's chums Soft Machine.

Magnificently covering Caravan's evolution from underground eccentrics to one of the more polished of the second- tier 1970s prog acts (in the sense of commercial success - they never hit ELP levels of showbiz prominence, but musically speaking they were a top notch act), either version of The Show of Our Lives is excellent, not least for having the good taste to stop comfortably before the wheels ended up coming off of Caravan by the end of the decade.

 Live Floating Anarchy 1977 by GONG album cover Live, 1978
3.59 | 70 ratings

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Live Floating Anarchy 1977
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

2 stars I was quite interested in how this revived version of Deavid Allen's Gong would sound in 1977. Don't be fooled by the band's timeline, this is no Pierre Moerlen's Gong record! This is Planet Gong, a reincarnation with Deavid Allen, Gilly Smith and a guitar player that sound a lot like Steve Hillage. The band updated its sound to stay interesting for the growing punk crowds whilst maintaining most of is spacey sound-effects. The band even expanded on its craziness, with lots of silly voices and almost no formal song-writing at all. The band also kept its jammy side on the two longer tracks, though with a more punk-based rhythmical approach (in stead of the fusion inspired rhythms on the earlier Gong records).

This could have all turned out fine, but in the end I want to listen to music that some good song-writing to offer along with instrumental prowess. On this album the shorter songs are all arguably weaker then even - for instance - the Gong debut album 'Magic Brother' (1969). Some passages just sound like crazy people acting crazy over a rather dull punkrock background. No song has a satisfying begin-end structure. Furthermore, the sound of this record is comparable to a strong bootleg album and when the music gets chaotic, it becomes just one big ugly woosh. The two longer instrumental jams are significantly better, especially the 15 minute long 'Allez Ali Baba' has some space rockin' moments. This tracks also sounds significantly better.

Conclusion. This falls way short of a live efforts like 'Live au Bataclan' or other Gong live-albums of the formal discography. It is mainly interesting because it offers an album full of new material from a period that didn't really produce a high quality studio album. Because of the lack of comfort in listening to this poorly produced live record I can't give more then two stars. I would however still recommend non-audiophile fans of Deavid Allen's Gong to give 'Live Floating Anarchy' a try. Somehow the price of the vinyl is also quite agreeable in Europe.

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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
BIG HOGG United Kingdom
THE BOOT LAGOON United Kingdom
BRAINVILLE United Kingdom
CARAVAN United Kingdom
CLEAR FRAME United Kingdom
COS Belgium
DELIVERY United Kingdom
EGG United Kingdom
THE GHOULIES United Kingdom
MICHAEL GILES United Kingdom
GILGAMESH United Kingdom
GONG Multi-National
GOWEN - MILLER - SINCLAIR - TOMKINS 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
THE KENTISH SPIRES United Kingdom
KHAN United Kingdom
THE LODGE United States
DE LORIANS Japan
MAGIC BUS United Kingdom
MANNA / MIRAGE 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
OCARINAH France
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
SHORT WAVE 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
STUBBS Japan
SUPERSISTER Netherlands
SUPPLY DEMAND & CURVE Ireland
TORTILLA FLAT Germany
TRAVELLING France
VOLARÉ United States
THE WILDE FLOWERS United Kingdom
THE WINSTONS Italy
ROBERT WYATT United Kingdom
ZYMA Germany

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