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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 | 1169 ratings
IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK
Caravan
4.30 | 561 ratings
ROCK BOTTOM
Wyatt, Robert
4.27 | 668 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 3 - YOU
Gong
4.29 | 497 ratings
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH
Hatfield And The North
4.29 | 442 ratings
SPACE SHANTY
Khan
4.24 | 662 ratings
IF I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, I'D DO IT ALL OVER YOU
Caravan
4.21 | 696 ratings
THIRD
Soft Machine, The
4.19 | 376 ratings
THE ROTTERS' CLUB
Hatfield And The North
4.15 | 506 ratings
FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT
Caravan
4.29 | 183 ratings
MAINSTREAM
Quiet Sun
4.22 | 252 ratings
OF QUEUES AND CURES
National Health
4.10 | 458 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 2 - ANGEL'S EGG
Gong
4.13 | 289 ratings
FISH RISING
Hillage, Steve
4.25 | 151 ratings
TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER
Supersister
4.08 | 376 ratings
THE SOFT MACHINE
Soft Machine, The
4.13 | 245 ratings
NATIONAL HEALTH
National Health
4.10 | 268 ratings
THE POLITE FORCE
Egg
4.22 | 139 ratings
VIVA BOMA
Cos
4.01 | 332 ratings
VOLUME TWO
Soft Machine, The
4.06 | 199 ratings
PICCHIO DAL POZZO
Picchio Dal Pozzo

Canterbury Scene overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

THE WORLD OF GENIUS HANS
Moving Gelatine Plates
GILGAMESH
Gilgamesh
SOFT HEAP
Soft Heap
THE BRUISED ROMANTIC GLEE CLUB
Jakszyk, Jakko M.

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Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews


 To the Highest Bidder by SUPERSISTER album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.25 | 151 ratings

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To the Highest Bidder
Supersister Canterbury Scene

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Supersister - To the Highest Bidder (1971)

Among the earliest progressive rock groups we find the Zappa and Soft Machine influenced Dutch band Supersister, often listed under Canterbury because of its stylistic simularities. The band is however a conservatory band from The Hague. The young band, which recorded their debut in their teens (just look at the cover of 'Present from Nancy' 1970), led by keyboardist Robert Jan Stips has released three albums which I really like, this being the second and perhaps most advanced.

Supersister has a unique style you'll come to recognise instantly, without it being particularly consistent. Their finest compositions have the fast jazzy drums of Marco Vrolijk (often in odd time signatures), who always finds a way to get an exciting feel in the music. The keyboards and distorted organs often take the lead with fierce fast themes in which both darker and lighter atmospheres appear, yet whatever the emotional effect of the music is - it still sounds highly optimistic. Supersister is about joy. The Flute of Sacha van Geest takes another leading role during melodic pessages. Ron van Eck, on bassguitar, keeps up the pace and gets involved melodicly quite often. The dopey vocals of Robert Jan Stips add to the loose atmospheres and playfulness of the music.

'A Girl Named You' is classic up-tempo supersister; heavy, jazzy, rockin' and silly at times. 'No Tree will Grow' is symphonic ballad type track, quite unique in the Supersister discography. 'Energy (Out of the Future)' is a long track with all Supersister elements, perhaps a bit more avant-prog then most of their work. 'Higher' is a sympathetic, yet silly song. Just how a Supersister album should end.

Conclusion. This is among the best progressive rock records from seventies Netherlands and it should be listened to by everyone interested in Canterbury, eclectic prog and jazz-rock. Most of my favorite prog records are dead serious, but Supersister really managed to get the fun into prog. Four and a halve stars!

 Continental Circus by GONG album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.03 | 99 ratings

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Continental Circus
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Daevid Allen was well aware that making a soundtrack for a film was one way to get some extra cash in the early days, much like PINK FLOYD did early in their careers. Of course Allen was part of SOFT MACHINE in the mid sixties playing with FLOYD at the UFO Club and no doubt he followed PINK FLOYD's career. The film "Continental Circus" was about the Grand Prix Motorcycle circuit and in particular Australian Jack Findlay who had a great career of 20 years which is incredible since he wasn't part of a sponsored team but privately funded. We get sort of a stripped down version of GONG here of five members with Gilli Smyth taking care of almost all of the compositions and adding her space whispers as well. At around 34 minutes this certainly was a full length album back in the day and it contains four tracks.

"Blues For Findlay" has such an infectious melody with vocals, a relentless beat from Pip Pyle, and it's very much guitar driven. The lyrics are lame or silly but hey it's GONG and they are known for this. You can't help but move to the music here as the vocals come and go. Check out the prominant bass before 6 minutes. The drum work and guitar continue to impress. We get some spacey guitar before 8 1/2 minutes as it settles back some then it kicks back in late. "Continental Circus World" is the only miss really. Although this track which splices bits from the film along with music does give us some context to what the movie is about, and at 4 minutes it's by far the shortest track. We get lots of motorcylce sounds and bits where the drivers speak about different things.

"What Do You Want?" is my favourite and it starts with a bass solo(nice) as light drums join in followed by spacey guitar sounds from Allen. I love this stuff. Vocals from Daevid 6 minutes in as the trippy instrumental sounds continue although it is softened here. The guitar then becomes more aggressive and we get backing vocals from Gilli that are GONG 101. Sounds like sax after 7 minutes that will continue to the end as the vocals stop. The guitar is the focus though and we get brief vocals to end it. "Blues For Findlay-Instrumental" ends it and is self explanatory really although while we get the same beat and melody the guitar is spacey this time throughout, plus we get sax on this one.

Like my buddy Tom Ozric I can't give anything less than 4 stars as we get three long tracks that in my opinion are as good as any GONG tracks that will follow in their career. Mind you I really like when bands jam in a spacey and psychedelic manner.

 The Polite Force by EGG album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.10 | 268 ratings

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The Polite Force
Egg Canterbury Scene

Review by FragileKings

3 stars My progressive rock education has finally brought me around to the Canterbury scene this year. It began with hearing Dave Stewart on Bill Bruford's "One of a Kind" album and then led to the purchase of Hatfield and the North's "The Rotter's Club", also featuring Dave Stewart. And now I have come to Egg. Also featuring Dave Stewart. It was a tough choice deciding which of the three Egg albums to buy. Reviews here are favourable to all three, and listening to a few samples on YouTube had me thinking pretty much any album would be good. However, upon hearing the intro to "A Visit to Newport Hospital" I felt there would surely be something here for me to dig. That slow heavy music with a fuzz-toned organ is just too much like proto-doom metal for me to resist.

I feel the music on this album can be divided into three categories. One category is the lighter jazz feel that can be heard in the main song sequence of "A Visit to Newport Hospital" or "Long Piece No. 3 - Part 2". This music is very accessible with easy-on-the-ears sounds and smooth, light music. Expect some pretty organ and lovely piano.

The second category would be the more aggressive sounds of the intro to "A Visit to Newport Hospital" with the fuzz-toned organ or the intentional dissonance of "Long Piece No. 3" Parts 1, 3, and 4. The drums are more intense with deliberate enforcement of odd meters, and the bass rolls and grooves behind an array of keyboard sounds. This is where I feel the music deserves its progressive moniker. It's bold and gutsy, adventurous. It stays on the track while leaning far over. It's fun without being too crazy.

The third category must then be the experimental one. This is mostly to be found in "Boilk". My running commentary on this piece is:

"Running water for 39 seconds before a solitary organ note fades in and the water fades out. Some tubular bells. Very mellow like a cold winter evening on a desolate street when the snow is just starting to fall. Backwards cymbals? Starts getting weird like Pink Floyd's "Ummagumma". Our winter street is all misshapen and turning into a psychotic vision from the Outer Limits. Not my thing. Too avant guard. No proper song. Backwards music and voices. Just studio experimentation. Well, good for them. Now let's get back to something easier that sounds more like music. Wow! A stream of distortion static. Someone's playing with the oscillator. Ah, saved by a cheerless church organ."

"Long Piece No. 3" Parts 1 and 2 also include some of this stranger music. From my notes: "Now an intentionally mind-numbing performance on piano, organ and drums. Sounds mechanical, like a machine at work on the drums. I picture a bunch of black suited-musos with short cropped hair and thick, black-framed glasses stroking their goatees and subtlety nodding their approval." That's Part 1. Part 2 also includes some playing with oscillator knobs but that is situated between more enjoyable music.

A nod must go to the limited lyrics, which appear only in the first two tracks. The singing style is very Canterbury: English accent, not so talented vocals, and lyrics containing dry humour. From "Newport Hospital", a song about their early days as a four-piece in a band called Uriel: "We spent our time avoiding skinheads and the law / It was a freedom that we'd never felt before / And now we're doing this instead". "Contrasong", a fun song based on an interesting time signature and featuring trumpet and sax, includes a remark about pictures of horrible atrocities which were published in order to increase the paper's circulation.

I personally do not take to the weird experimentation parts but the rest of the album I rather like. I doubt I will be buying any more Egg albums. This one is enough for me. Glad I bought it, though. "A Visit to Newport Hospital" is my favourite track. Not an album to be enjoyed by all but a good example of a trio that were mixing jazz with rock and who were trying to branch out into new territory. The spirit of progressive music indeed. Almost four stars, but rounded down.

 Waterloo Lily by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.75 | 375 ratings

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Waterloo Lily
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars ''In the land of grey and pink'' was well received by the press, but didn't bring much of a commercial success to Caravan, who thought that the main reason was the limited promotion by Decca.As long as David Sinclair was proposed a place in the emerging Matching Mole by Robert Wyatt he left the band and his replacement was Carol Grimes and Delivery's Steve Miller.Actually Carol Grimes and Delivery would have a good representation on the next Caravan album with Steve Miller's brother Phil playing lead guitar and Lol Coxhill playing the sax.Caravan entered the Tollington Park Studios in London in November 1971 to record ''Watreloo Lilly'', helped also by Jimmy Hastings on flute, Mike Cotton on trumpet and Barry Robinson on oboe.The album was released in May 1972 on Deram, front cover is part of the painting series ''A rake's progress'' by William Hogarth.

Now the band should be partly regarded as old Caravan and partly as Delivery with this combination affecting the material, which obtained a twist towards jazzier backgrounds, always surrounded by sophisticated arrangements and the familiar dashes of British Pop.While Caravan were always known for their positive music, ''Waterloo Lilly'' even enters the territories of a happy state of mind.The music is full of changing tempos but with reduced dramatic instrumentals and leaning more towards tricky, soft and elaborate Canterbury-spiced Jazz Rock, where the instrumental parts still play a major role, but the overall atmosphere is extremely optimistic with charming vocals and naughty jazzy experimentations.With Steve Miller playing the Wurlitzer piano, grand piano, organ and harpsichord Caravan's music has a certain depth, this time featuring more loose instrumental parts with light jamming sections, while the addition of flute, oboe and trumpet will turn the music often to more orchestral enviroments.With a looser approach the album is reasonable to contain a couple of long pieces with some furious and more laid-back jazzy arrangements, containing careful guitar plays and double keyboard/piano interactions, especially the 5-part ''The love in your eye / To catch me a brother / Subsultus / Debouchement / Tilbury kecks'' is an epitome of Canterbury Prog with orchestral and jazzy overtones over complex instrumental arrangements.The short pieces contain lots of poppy vibes, especially in the vocal parts, cause the music is still grounded in a less intricate yet deeply jazzy basis.

Not the best album of early Caravan.The choice of the band to switch towards more jazzier tunes was welcome, but resulted to a lose of their strong identity as proposed in the previous album.However all tracks are really good and the aforementioned mini-epic is particularly great with some impressive instrumental ideas.Warmly recommended, albeit not totally representative of Caravan's stylistical momentum during early-70's.

 The Unauthorised Breakfast Item by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.28 | 81 ratings

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The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by Kjarks

4 stars Here's a gem of subtlety, which is not surprising because Caravan is composed of musicians who have demonstrated in their heyday how much they could be inventive. What is astonishing is that they have recovered their whole creativity after 25 years of very poor albums.

We find ourselves 30 years in the past, always with this mixture of humor and virtuosity, lightness and seriousness that are the marks of the so british Canterbury style. And they have kept their admirable melodic sense. What has however changed is the purity of the sound in the many brilliant instrumental parts of the album. Even the only weak song of the disk, unfortunately placed in the second position, "Revenge", is transcended by a splendid instrumental final.

This perfect sound, from the beginning to the end of the disk, could probably be seen as a loss of the Canterbury soul. But it also removes a rough side, some kind of draft aspects that were not always relevant during the 1970's.

And modernity in the sound does not pollute or interfere with the Caravan identity which is so specific. It can greatly distinguish this album from those the band produced in the past, while still providing an undeniable continuity in the style.

This disc would deserve, in my opinion, between 4 and 4.5 stars if we could further refine the notes.

 Rock Bottom by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.30 | 561 ratings

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Rock Bottom
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by DrömmarenAdrian

5 stars The next album from 1974 for me to both encounter and celebrate is Robert Wyatt's second and so renowned "Rock bottom". Wyatt had earlier released "The End of an ear" 1970 but this is his witohout competition most known record. The cover hasn't many colours, perhaps the music is so good it doesn't need to sell, it's like The Beatles' "White" album.

The music of Wyatt's "Rock Bottom" is a wonderful mixture of styles and musical expressions. It has a crazy experimental approach with avant-garde influences as well as the calmer soft jazzy Canterbury sound which I love from Caravan's records. Extraordinary compositions together with instrumentality without borders make this such interesting music. The light vocals of Wyatt, the basses of Richard Sinclair and Hugh Hopper and Laurie Allan's drums together with trumpet, clarinet, saxophone and viola of guest musicians of high standard make us understand what a band we are listening to. On one song for example Mike Oldfield plays guitar.

Two songs would I consider ebtter than the others: "Sea Song"(10/10) which made me so astounded when I heard it for the first time and the odd but catchy "Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road"(10/10). Three other songs surprises us every second with glimpses of glory: "A Last Straw"(9/10), "Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road"(9/10) and "Alifib"(9/10). I haven't mentioned "Alife" yet. It's the album's least intriguing song even it it is very good too(8/10). I won't write so much about the record. So many have done it before me but I can recommend it for very prog lover. An average on 4.58 makes this a five star record.

 Live by PICCHIO DAL POZZO album cover DVD/Video, 2013
4.02 | 3 ratings

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Live
Picchio Dal Pozzo Canterbury Scene

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

3 stars The 1976 debut album of this long-living group from Genova, Italy, was dedicated to Robert Wyatt, and it's considered as the most outstanding Italian release of the Canterbury style. Their other studio albums date from 1980, 2001 and 2004. This concert from 2011 (filmed at the La Claque club in Genova) doesn't much sound like Canterbury to me, but perhaps HENRY COW and some experimental jazz releases from the Canterbury family tree can be thought of as kindred spirits. At times the music is rather experimental and angular, but most of the time it's relatively calm and nicely flowing with lots of reed instruments. Always very intellectual and contemplative, actually in my opinion sometimes approaching the state of being slightly tiresome. There's a completely new line-up on stage, occasionally accompanied by a sexy female saxophonist and two original members, both playing tenor saxophones.

The concert's visual look with old film samples and light aesthetics supports the music remotely the same as the more recent shows of Peter Gabriel, though naturally in a much smaller scale. In addition to the 82-minute concert the DVD includes a 44-minute documentary (with English subtitles), in which the original members talk about the beginnins - it all started in a kindergarten, they say -, amusing anecdotes, etc, always one man at the time, each against various surroundings such as a beach, a car, a field, a country house... This looks technically rather amateurish and would have notably improved with further editing, but the concert itself is a rare treat for anyone enjoying personal, arty jazz. 3½ stars.

 To the Highest Bidder by SUPERSISTER album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.25 | 151 ratings

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To the Highest Bidder
Supersister Canterbury Scene

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

5 stars It should be mentioned that Supersister were intelligent enough to throw some singles in the market in order to become more popular, despite their highly challenging sound.''She was naked'' predated the ''Present from Nancy'' album and ''A girl named you'' as well as ''No tree will grow'' were released for the promotion of the second album ''To the highe$t bidder''.Of course all were cut-out versions and the full album would reveal the dominant sound of the band.The sophomore work of Supersister came out in 1971, again on Polydor.

So, ''A girl named you'' is presented in its full 10-min. length here and what a tremendous opener this is.A tour-de-force of splendid, fast-paced rhythms, a cataclysm of keyboard and flute interplays with organ and harsichord in evidence, some Classical and symphonic undertones and extended psychedelic passages with mellow singing and superb background instrumental majesty.A fantastic cross between FINCH and CARAVAN.Same goes for ''No tree will grow'', the track is delivered here in its full 8-min. version, characterized by a dramatic intro on a disorted fuzz bass and piano, supported by the calm vocals of Robert Jan Stips and leading to a low-tempo instrumental section with an orchestral atmosphere, based on keyboards and piano, the ending frenetic rhythm is excellent to say the least.''Energy'' clocks at 15 minutes and is the band's most ambitious composition on the album.It reminds me a bit of FOCUS and NATIONAL HEALTH, it features a fairly instrumental sound with a great number of rhythm changes, shifting climates and instrumental intercations, passing from Classical interludes to jazzy territories, led by an omnipresent organ, electric piano and flute.Awesome professional music with a top composing level, extremely dense with only sporadic vocals, displaying both ethereal and dramatic moods.One of the highlights of the 70's.''Higher'' is a short, jazzy farewell with a tropical atmosphere, keyboards and flute combine for a warm and melodic mood in the vein of CARAVAN to calm things down, a beautiful piece and a great choice to say goodbye.

Do yourself a favor and grab this album, there are several reissues out and you will certainly regret it if you pass this one by.A band ahead of its age, this is superb Prog Fusion with Canterbury splashes, almost perfect from the first to the very last note.A masterpiece of Prog music and of course an extremely highly recommended effort...4.5 stars.

 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.21 | 696 ratings

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Third
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

5 stars So intent was SOFT MACHINE to evolve at the speed of light into new musical territory that in only a few short years since they founded as a psychedelic pop band and then virtually establishing what would eventually be called the Canterbury Scene in the musical world that by the time they got to their THIRD album so they had practically abandoned all that had come before and dove head first into the world of free jazz and avant-garde psychedelia with only tidbits of rock still to be found throughout this sprawling and ambitious undertaking. Despite the gaudily ugly packaging and the horribly generic album titles, the music is some of the most complex and sophisticated that 1970 had to offer. SOFT MACHINE was simply ahead of the pack by first creating the Canterbury Scene of rock music well before any other takers would continue down that path but they also jumped into the seas of super complex jazz-fusion which can be heard on this bizarre and transitory classic.

THIRD has a much broader spectrum of sound than anything attempted by the band before. Still on board are Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals on the sole vocal track "Moon In June," Hugh Hopper on bass and Mike Ratledge on various keyboards but we also get Lyn Dobson on sax and flute, Jimmy Hastings (brother of Pye) on flute and bass clarinet, Rab Spall on violin and Nick Evans on trombone. The result of this expanded musical lineup is a big fat jazzy sounding album that is predominantly jazz in nature but has just enough rock and psychedelic influences to keep it firmly in the unusually experimental section on your shelf. The four tracks almost hit the 20 minute mark each but they often seem like they contain several tracks that combine to make a larger track.

"Facelift" is a live recording on the album and it starts out with very trippy sounding intro before getting into jazz-fusion territory. "Slightly All The Time" seems like a pure jazz piece in the beginning but really rocks out at the end. "Moon In June" is the only track to feature vocals and the last one of SOFT MACHINE to ever contain them. I personally think at least one track on an this mostly instrumental album adds a human touch to the bizarre soundscapes created. "Out-Bloody-Rageous" is evenly divided into four parts with the first being psychedelic, the second being jazzy, the third being keyboard oriented and the last part extremely trippy. This is simply a brilliant album from beginning to end but certainly not an easy one to digest. This one requires being well versed in both progressive rock and jazz to really enjoy. It takes many more listens than the average album to fully fall for. I certainly didn't warm up to it at first but eventually after many persistent and attentive attempts it has in the long run paid off handsomely.

I should also mention that is well worth tracking down the 2007 remastered version for not only do you get superb sound quality but a bonus disc from a concert at The Royal Albert Hall for BBC Radio Three in 1970. There are three tracks: "Out-Bloody-Rageous," "Facelift" and the previously unreleased "Esther's Nose Job." This is simply one of those albums where words fail to convey the many moods and dynamisms employed in these works. It is a must hear to understand for it is unlike anything that came before and since as far as I am aware. Classic.

 The Bruised Romantic Glee Club by JAKSZYK, JAKKO M. album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.70 | 24 ratings

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The Bruised Romantic Glee Club
Jakko M. Jakszyk Canterbury Scene

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars A 21st Century Schizoid Man

I first became aware of multi-instrumentalist Jakko M. Jakszyk through his involvement with ex-King Crimson members in the brilliant 21st Century Schizoid Band in which Jakko was the lead vocalist and guitarist. Some of his mates from that band in Ian MacDonald, Mel Collins, and Ian Wallace are also participating in this solo album as well as Robert Fripp. One of the songs featured on this album, the very nice instrumental Catley's Ashes, was previously performed with the 21st Century Schizoid Band as can be heard on their fantastic live album Pictures Of A City - Live In New York.

The Bruised Romantic Glee Club is an eclectic set of songs and instrumentals of generally good quality. The sounds are occasionally jazzy, occasionally folky. The presence of Dave Stewart from Hatfield & The North and Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper might explain why this has ended up under Canterbury Scene even though the music it is not generally in that style. Trying to find relevant comparisons, Colin Bass' An Outcast Of The Islands album and Hogarth-era Marillion came to my mind. Jakko is a good singer and writer as well as a great guitar player. Occasionally his guitar sound reminds me of that of Allan Holdsworth. The mellow, jazzy The Things We Throw Away reminded me of the style of Steve Morse.

The main album feature Jakszyk originals while the bonus disc features various cover versions including two King Crimson songs. Pictures Of An Indian City is Crimson's Pictures Of A City done with strong influences of traditional Indian music and it is thus very different from the original. The other King Crimson number is Islands which is very nicely adapted by Jakko. I wasn't previously familiar with the other songs being covered here, but they are generally good songs. I enjoyed this album.

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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
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
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