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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

4.28 | 1128 ratings
4.30 | 538 ratings
Wyatt, Robert
4.27 | 648 ratings
4.29 | 476 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.28 | 428 ratings
4.23 | 640 ratings
4.21 | 675 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.15 | 494 ratings
4.18 | 368 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.28 | 182 ratings
Quiet Sun
4.19 | 250 ratings
National Health
4.10 | 445 ratings
4.13 | 280 ratings
Hillage, Steve
4.11 | 260 ratings
4.07 | 356 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.22 | 143 ratings
4.10 | 239 ratings
National Health
4.21 | 134 ratings
4.01 | 319 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.06 | 198 ratings
Picchio Dal Pozzo

Canterbury Scene overlooked and obscure gems albums new

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Moving Gelatine Plates
Miller, Phil
Muffins, The
Jakszyk, Jakko M.

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Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews

 The Soft Machine by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.07 | 356 ratings

The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy

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

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

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

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

 Paradise Filter by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 2013
2.88 | 38 ratings

Paradise Filter
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by DrömmarenAdrian

3 stars The British Canterbury band Caravan has been an important part of my prog discoveries the past two years and I have got anything fresh and lovely from almost everything they have done. Thirteen records have they done, many of them have got bad reviews from listeners here but I have liked even records as Back to front, The Album and Cunning Stunts. Their latest record from 2003 though didn't got my fully attention. In the very end of last year 2013 Caravan released their thirteenth studio album "Paradise filter" and it took some while before I could listen to it. I like the appearence of the cover. The Caravan sign is fresh and simple and the title has a computer style and the main motive is some strong coloured fields.

Four of the participating musicians have been in Caravan before. Most important of them are of course Pye Hastings, without whose voice and light attitude there hadn't been any Caravan. Also we have Geoffrey Richardson whose strings from time to time have given this music a lot of splendor and Jan Schelhaas who also played keyboards in the band in the middle of the seventies. Jim Leverton has played bass in the band since 1995. The drummer Mark Walker and guitarist Doug Boyle are new. Beside these musicians some are missed of course: Richard Coughlan, who died last year, the keyboard wizard Dave Sinclair and the charismatic Richard Sinclair is also missed, even if Caravan still is a reliable band.

Actually I was a bit suspicious when I put this record but instead the music made me satisfied. "Paradise filter" is not a fantastic record that Caravan should be remebered for, but it is a great collection of well performed songs. Some of the songs are very decent. I think I like "I'll be there for you" most(8/10). It's a happy song with an instrumental world which proudly bears the mantle of this prog band. "Trust me I am a doctor" is another lovely piece, well composed and sung and has great guitars too(8/10). Then we have "All this could be yours" which enters the record with melodical light and the catchy Pye and some English strings(8/10). "Fingers in the till" is also very sympathic with a smart melody and guitar(7/10) as well as "I'm on my way" which even if it's a bit bluesy has some old Caravan' feeling. The other compositions are reasonable but not interesting. My overall impression is that this is a good late Caravan record. It doesn't seem to have intentions to fight with old Caravan in originality but it doesn't need to do that. If I would judge records after how progressive they are this would have got a very low rating. Now I'm going to give it three strong stars. It is not a magic record, but it pleases me as a Caravan fan, and I am sure others will like it too. I think Caravan is worth your time!

 Jet Propelled Photographs by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1989
3.07 | 17 ratings

Jet Propelled Photographs
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy

3 stars Although these demos of the first lineup of SOFT MACHINE were recorded as far back in 1967, they wouldn't see the light of day until this compilation was released in 1972 under the title "Faces And Places Vol 7." For some strange reason, not content with simply re-releasing these 10 tracks under the same name over the years, it has also been released under the following titles: "Jet-Propelled Photographs," "Jet Propelled," "At The Beginning," "Memories," "Soft Machine 1967 Demos," "London 1967,"Les génies du Rock n°042: At the Beginning"and simply "Soft Machine." Almost as many titles for this compilation as there are tracks!

These tracks which were supposed to be SOFT MACHINE's first album are all that exist of the 1967 lineup with Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers, Mike Ratledgte and Robert Wyatt. What we get here is a sound not too far removed from the Wylde Flowers' version of jazzy pop songs that have a slight progressive edge to them but light-years away from the more masterfully developed debut album that would finally emerge after the departure of Daevid Allen.

These tracks are actually pretty good as far as 60s pop oriented songwriting goes and I find this to be a gleeful little listen every now and again. Nothing else at the time sounds like this and although this isn't even close to the full on jazz-fusion that would take off in just a few short years, it is an interesting relic of history that shows a legendary band finding their own sound. A few of these would be spruced up to be included on the first album and some of them would be used on solo albums by individual members. Hardly essential but certainly sufficiently entertaining and a glimpse into their inchoate ideas.

 Paradise Filter by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 2013
2.88 | 38 ratings

Paradise Filter
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by madcap68

3 stars What I wrote about "The Battle of Hastings" applies here as well: There is much on this album that I like, just not too much prog, really. So, although I consider this to be quite a fine album (some songs stronger than others, of course) I can't give more than 3 stars here, progwise...

Musically, it's close to TBoH, although I'm missing older brother Jimmy Hastings' woodwinds that are missing here (for the first time?). Nevertheless, Geoffrey Richardson's viola fills some gaps in a nice way.

After some listening, it's probably a little weaker than TBoH, which might have the catchier melodies, and "The Unauthorized Breakfast Item", which might have a little more edge, but if you liked those, this one should definetely be worth a try.

 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.21 | 675 ratings

The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Anon-E-Mouse

5 stars It's that time of the year again (June) when I usually reach for this CD. (The old vinyl is still here too, but .my turntable is long gone to Heaven.) So, why this album? Simple. For the track "Moon in June". On the side, it's also a gentle reminder of this excellent band that hasn't received much attention lately in the reviews.

I love pretty much all incarnations of Soft Machine. At this point they leave their early psychedelic approach and delve into Canterbury/ Jazz-Rock without compromises . Four long tracks on this double album (none much under 20 mins) are quite a mouthful to digest. Mainly because these tracks command due attention. This is not a criticism from my part, but one is to allow sufficient time to duly pay attention in place of listening to music on the run. It also helps if one is in the mood.

Having taken care of the bulk of this album (3 tracks!), I'd like to reflect on "Moon in June" which is perhaps one of Robert Wyatt's finest moments before forming Matching Mole. Here he sings softly and plays multiple instruments onto a dynamic beat. Truly charming and effective. Then the second half of the song turns into a full blown instrumental jazz run typical of that era of British approach. How these two widely different halves merge so well is a bit of a mystery, but they sure do. It's almost sexual and in a way I am reminded of Robert Fripp's skills of creating tension and release in some early KC tunes. But this piece is almost in the reverse of that. Like gentle foreplay followed by furious and sustained activity. This piece alone is worth your purchase. but the whole album is pretty good, nevertheless.

 Babel by COS album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.59 | 29 ratings

Cos Canterbury Scene

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars Positive reviews and good sales followed the release of ''Viva boma'' and in 1977 Daniel Schell begins to deep into diverse music styles such as Folk, Pop and Contemporary Classical Music.He had to face again though the departure of his drummer and keyboardist.Guy Lonneux was replaced by Phillipe Allaert, while Marc Hollander helped the band in just a couple of tracks for a third album, before skipping through the Avant-Rock scene, forming Aksak Maboul, while he also became a member of Art Bears.The album was finished with the help of Placebo's Marc Moulin on organ, François Faton Cahen and Julverne's/Abraxis' Charles Loos on piano with former Pazop and Abraxis Dirk Bogaert contributing on flutes and voices.The album ''Babel'' was recorded at Shiva Studios in Brussels during the summer of 1978 and released on IBC.

''Babel'' was the obvious choice for the album's title with Daniel Schell wanting to identify the band's new style, which contained different elements and flexible influences.The music is still very jazzy with a strong Canterbury tone, hence the band has added a few clever breaks with Classical, Pop and Folk tunes, producing dreamy and inventive jazzy Progressive Rock.To my ears Cos had reached their peak at this point.Pascale Son's voice is not only sensational, but his wordless lines have become something like an additional instrument, which is pretty exciting.The musicianship is challenging, ethereal, demanding and often very rich, while the band never abandoned the basic style presented in the previous works, but developed it even further with impressive keyboard parts and Classical interludes.The instrumental battles are usually great with marching rhythms based on jazzy/symphonic piano, sharp electric guitars and a flawless rhythm section, leading to Canterbury Fusion stylings with technical solos and complex drumming.Parts of the album contain even some funky beats, but these are also well absorbed within Cos' trully progressive music.''Greeneldo'' is one of the very good dreamy, instrumental Prog/Jazz Rock pieces of the time with Son's voice battling the sound of organ and piano and the music going from dramatic breaks to pleasant, jazzy grooves.

For me the starting point of Cos' discography.Canterbury-styled Prog Rock with passionate executions and solid compositions.One of the best of the era regarding the style, strongly recommended to say the least...3.5 stars.

 Elsewhere by MASTER CYLINDER album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.33 | 8 ratings

Master Cylinder Canterbury Scene

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Master Cylinder is an obscure american band who manage to release only one album in 1980 named Elsewhere isseud at unknown label Inner City Records . A jazz rock band clearly influence by canterbury movement with National Health or Caravan as similarities but I can trace some Happy the Man progressions in their music aswell. This is quite good release, a total unknown and forgotten album that might be considered as a lost canterbury treasure. Not much is known about this band, they gone into oblivion fast but there are some nice synth parts,jazzy brass arrangements aswell primarily constructed with progressive flavours. 3 solid stars maybe 3.5 in parts.
 Live by PICCHIO DAL POZZO album cover DVD/Video, 2013
5.00 | 1 ratings

Picchio Dal Pozzo Canterbury Scene

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

— First review of this album —
5 stars Jazz-rockers Picchio dal Pozzo certainly stood out amongst other bands from their country in the vintage era of Seventies prog rock, the band favouring the Canterbury scene and Avant-garde styling of international artists such as Hatfield and the North, Henry Cow, Frank Zappa and the Soft Machine instead of the perhaps expected Italian progressive sound. Almost 40 years and four studio albums on from their beginnings, `Picchio dal Pozzo Live' offers an 83 minute performance captured at the La Claque Club in Genova on the 15th of January 2011, and is the kind of document that will not only please devoted fans of the band, but would also make for an exciting introduction to the group and their approach to complex jazz music that will only encourage new listeners to seek out their special past discography.

Comprised of a mix of original members and new additions, the band (sometimes with up to 9 members jammed onto the small stage at one time!) plays with a refreshing looseness, moving through acoustic-led movements, shimmering electronics and percussion experiments, with jazz/fusion workouts, big band moments and fully improvised passages. There's an unhurried, spiritual quality to this wonderful performance, and rarely has Canterbury-styled music sounded so ambient and truly hypnotic. The band here present a sumptuous collection of dreamy but sometimes noisy experimental jazz that is immaculately played, and the musicians display a precise execution of build and tightness, perfectly in synch with each-other to deliver a thrilling musical experience.

Borrowing heavily from their classic debut self-titled album from 1976 (but sadly omitting my personal favourite, the suffocating spacy insanity of `Seppia'!), as well as choice selections from their other studio works and even an unreleased piece, this performance is simply not a tired or stale recreation of the numbers from those albums. Instead the band plays with a nimble and deft improvisational skill that breathes new life into these fresh interpretations. `Merta' is transformed into a beautiful nine-minute outer-space drone more along the likes of Gong, with strangely effective musette (a type of bagpipe) and tenor recorder solos. The strolling and quirky jazz of `Coccomelastico' is also stretched to over eight minutes, a spiraling clarinet solo a highlight, as well as some delirious electric piano noodling and fluid bass. The breathtaking `Off' takes on a shimmering, somber Post-rock quality with it's lush atmospheres and low-key scat vocalizing.

The driving `Il Presidente' holds together through a range of wild tempo changes due to technical drumming precision, and the second half even has a kind of Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree-like beautiful melancholy. `Adriatico' mixes relentless extreme avant-garde vocalizing with dark churning R.I.O grooving, `La Bolla' an unsettling late-night downbeat murky sax, flute, piano and percussion improvised musing. `Napier' is quirky and devilish with grand Mellotron and searing electric guitar solo in the outro, and it's not unlike a track from fellow Italian R.I.O band Yugen, unsurprising as some members of that band have appeared in previous live line-ups of Picchio dal Pozzo. The previously unreleased `Lindberg' is a sinister creeping piece full of cascading vocals, haunting piano, scratchy Mellotron and extreme percussion experimentation. The show closer `Uccellin Del Bosco' is a dirty big-band stomper that welcomes some guest and original members to the stage for a fitting finale.

The restrained editing of the DVD captures the musicians and their performance perfectly. There's lots of gentle fades, slow panning and subtle zooms, the camera rarely jumping around in a distracting way, instead taking the time to capture and follow each musician in a softly unfolding manner. The use of carefully placed stills of the band members is quite unique and adds a very reflective and thoughtful quality that suitably represents this sort of music. The disc also comes with an English subtitled 44 minute documentary on the band that is frequently good-humoured (also very surreal and a little bent!) as well as a short music video.

Along with other vintage Italian jazz-rockers such as Arti e Mestieri, Perigeo and Dedalus, the work of Picchio dal Pozzo is revered and treasured for a good reason, and this live DVD document is a welcome addition to their small but defining body of work that fans will relish. Despite their age, this is hardly a depressing case of old men churning out tired and safe bland product, this is a band challenging themselves and their audience with exciting, daring and unpredictable new music. This humble digipack collection from Black Widow Records contains sheer musical perfection for lovers of the experimental jazz end of progressive music, the Canterbury and Rock in Opposition sounds, and it comes with the highest recommendation for fans and brave newcomers.

Five stars.

 Rock Bottom by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.30 | 538 ratings

Rock Bottom
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This genre called Canterbury leaves me baffled every time. It is such an askew sounding genre, yet extremely focused and visionary. There's plenty of jazz, plenty of rock and plenty of everything and then stuffed into one big bucket of prog. Actually, I think that Canterbury may well be the prime example of prog in it's most vivid and exploratory manner.

As such it demands something special of the listener. Though melodic it is also, as stated, askew and spinechilling. Prog is by definition something to sink your teeth into but Canterbury, like zeuhl for instance, is really something else. Demanding, yes. Rewarding? Absolutely.

I came across this album having read about it's glory and godliness. At first I found it just a tad too bleak. It is not an uplifting listen, though I would not necessarily say it's a downer either. It is, really, a strange trip. Wyatt manages to create an album of sparsity though really rich in texture and body. I suppose you need to hear it to understand it. To me it is a wonderful example of restraint without holding back. Is that talking nonsense? I think not.

The first two tracks are incredible. "Sea song" is inexplicably beautiful, mellow, melancholic and simple in in it's complexity. "A last straw follows". A bit more rock feel to it, though jazzy. "Little red riding hood hit the road" is effect laden and full lf intricacy in instrumentation. Wonderful. "Alifib" recalls Hatfield & The North, I think, which is great. (Wyatt contributed vocals on the first Hatfield album.) "Alfie" is the strangest song on the album. Really it is scary, with it's half spoken vocals and eerie effects. The album ends with "Little red robin hood hit the road", on which Mike Oldfield adds some distinct guitar playing. An awesome track and a great way to end this gem of an album.

In conclusion, this is one great example of Canterbury but also prog in general. Eerie, demanding, bleak, rich and rewarding. It has everything one could hope for, really. However good, I cannot reward it five stars. This is an amazing album and I think an excellent addition to any collection. Essential? Well... In parts I think so but on the other hand no. I cannot put my finger on it. If you are looking to investigate Wyatt, start here. It is a good place to begin.

Four shining, glorious stars.

 Rock Bottom by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.30 | 538 ratings

Rock Bottom
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak

4 stars I've owned and listened to this album regularly for a few years now but to this day fail to feel the sadness others associate with listening to it. I know the story, and I can imagine Robert's mood and mindset whilst creating this album (how cathartic and, hopefully, healing!) To hear the man's shift in instrumental orientation is quite extraordinary. And the emotion in his voice is quite raw and beautifully, expressively carefree. The contributing band members must have been quite focused in the making of this one. The contributions of Richard Sinclair, Mongeza Feza, Gary Windo and Mike Oldfield's are especially notable, though Fred Frith's viola play in the second half of "Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road" is exemplarily of the album's seriousness.

1. "Sea Song" (6:32) (9/10) is plaintively beautiful if a bit monotonous.

2. "Last Straw" (5:47) (9/10) is most remarkable to me for Robert's vocalized 'trumpet' play-- something I quite enjoy.

3. "Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road" (7:41) (10/10) is a gorgeous song with amazing piano chord play, bass lines, and multiple tracked trumpets weaving among and beyond the tick-tocking percussive play. The distorted and reverse-effected keys, guitars and vocals are used to amazing effect. The Hedgehog is just weird.

4. "Alifib" (6:55) (8/10) is probably the album's oddest, saddest foray into self-pity and opiate- induced nonsense. Thank goodness it shifts into some more expressive free-form jazz with

5. "Alifie" (6:32) (8/10), an excursion into some deeper, darker expressiveness primarily via the inspired saxophone play of Gary Windo.

6. "Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road" (6:09) (9/10) is highlighted by some vintage Mike Oldfield guitar work (on multiple tracks) as well as some of Robert's cleverest wordplay.

Definitely a better listen if on headphones and while giving it one's full attention. It has a timelessness to it that makes it rise above the 4 stars it might otherwise deserve. The Hedgehog is just weird.

"Dinsdale!" . . . "Dinsdale!"

Data cached

Canterbury Scene bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
KEVIN AYERS United Kingdom
BRAINVILLE United Kingdom
CARAVAN United Kingdom
CLEAR FRAME United Kingdom
COS Belgium
DELIVERY United Kingdom
EGG United Kingdom
THE GHOULIES United Kingdom
MICHAEL GILES United Kingdom
GILGAMESH United Kingdom
GONG Multi-National
JOHN GREAVES United Kingdom
GRINGO United Kingdom
STEVE HILLAGE United Kingdom
HUGH HOPPER United Kingdom
JAKKO M. JAKSZYK United Kingdom
KHAN United Kingdom
THE LODGE United States
MATCHING MOLE United Kingdom
MILLER & COXHILL United Kingdom
PHIL MILLER United Kingdom
MOOM United Kingdom
THE MUFFINS United States
PANTHEON Netherlands
PAZOP Belgium
JOHN G. PERRY United Kingdom
PIP PYLE United Kingdom
QUANTUM JUMP United Kingdom
QUIET SUN United Kingdom
SOFT HEAP United Kingdom
SOFT MOUNTAIN Multi-National
SOFT WORKS United Kingdom
VOLARÉ United States
ROBERT WYATT United Kingdom
ZYMA Germany

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