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Canterbury Scene definition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canterbury Scene Top Albums

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

4.27 | 1392 ratings
4.30 | 675 ratings
Wyatt, Robert
4.24 | 808 ratings
4.26 | 617 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.23 | 812 ratings
4.26 | 551 ratings
4.21 | 790 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.24 | 314 ratings
National Health
4.15 | 592 ratings
4.17 | 452 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.28 | 232 ratings
Quiet Sun
4.11 | 547 ratings
4.13 | 323 ratings
4.12 | 336 ratings
Hillage, Steve
4.25 | 169 ratings
4.22 | 187 ratings
4.13 | 288 ratings
National Health
4.02 | 434 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.03 | 384 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.10 | 219 ratings
Picchio Dal Pozzo

Canterbury Scene overlooked and obscure gems albums new

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Miller, Phil
Gowen, Miller, Sinclair, Tomkins
Soft Heap
Hopper, Hugh

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Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews

 Fourth by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.47 | 266 ratings

The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by ALotOfBottle

3 stars In October of 1970, Soft Machine started recording their fourth studio album. Their previous, two-disc release, Third , contained four long epics, each with its distinctive flavor. Robert Wyatt's piece, 'Moon In June', which was the only vocal track on the album, clearly showing his own musical vision, quite different from one of his band-mates. In fact, on his first solo album, The End of an Ear, Wyatt described himself as an "Out of work pop singer currently on drums with Soft Machine". The jazz-fusion oriented path Soft Machine had taken undoubtedly did not please his musical sensibilities. For their upcoming album, the group invited a double-bass player, Roy Babbington, who had previously played with Keith Tippet. A horn section, different from the one on Third, was also added, consisting of Alan Skidmore on tenor saxophone, Jimmy Hastings on alto flute and bass clarinet, Nick Evans on trombone, and Mark Charig on cornet. Fourth was released in early 1971 and was followed by Robert Wyatt's departure from the band.

Soft Machine's style on Fourth may appear as radical compared their first two works from 1968 and 1969, but is in fact merely a natural development they made from Third. The recruitment of a double-bass player, however, is a breakthrough and a turning point in the band's career. This might be interpreted as a definitive cut-off from rock. Yes, they probably still could rock out, but they were by no means a rock band anymore. The group creates a unique blend of elements of Miles Davis' mid-late sixties post-bop, free jazz of Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, and Charles Mingus, and ambient music, that could be connected with pioneering bands such as Popol Vuh. Fourth also has a one-of-a-kind, inexplicable flavor that indicates that Soft Machine is a European outfit and differentiates them from contemporary groups from the United States. Similarly to Third, Fourth is largely focused on improvisation, therefore showcasing the instrumentalism of the musicians.

The newly-recruited horn section helps the band in reaching a certain amount of versatility in their sound. Although Elton Dean's alto saxophone and saxello is still dominant in the band's soundscapes, they are now enriched with sounds of a flute, a trombone, a cornet, and a tenor sax. Most often, these instruments play together, creating an interesting 'metal wall' of horn sounds, but solo parts on each of them are not uncommon. Mike Ratledge's keyboard rig is extended with a Hohner pianet, which the virtuoso finds particularly useful on parts, where strong rhythmical background is needed. His signature fuzzed-out Lowrey organ sound, which is one of the few common elements between Soft Machines debut and Fourth, plays an important role on his break-neck speed solos. With a double-bass player onboard, Hugh Hopper's contribution might seem limited, but the bassist's unique style and bass timbre is still crucial to Machine's sound. Robert Wyatt, who quite rightfully might not have been happy with a direction his band took, proves how much of a versatile drummer he was with his accurate and precise drumming.

Side one of Fourth is occupied by three tracks. The work starts with Ratledge's composition 'Teeth'. It starts out with a complex theme, which smoothly dissolves into a jam (which at parts reminds me of 'Hope For Happiness' from Soft Machine's debut). Then, we are approached by Hopper's piece 'Kings and Queens', which despite following a simple structure is one of the most memorable tracks from the album with a slightly gloomy, melancholic feel. Side one is closed with 'Fletcher's Blemish', a loud, atonal, horn-driven jam that lies just on the border of being classified as free-jazz and fusion. Side two comprises Hugh Hopper's four-part suite 'Virtually'. Part 1 is kept in a traditional jazz feel and is based on improvisation. Part 2 builds up tension, which leads to an atonal jam with Elton Dean's saxophone in the foreground. Part 3 opens with dissonant noises achieved by manipulating instruments with studio equipment on dreamy electronic ambient basis. Part 4 is basically an extension of Part 3 with smooth passages fading until the end of the album.

Fourth marks the end of Soft Machine's Canterbury scene years and begins what is known as group's 'classic' era as a jazz-fusion act. The music on the album might not be very compelling, at least in my book, but is a much-needed listen and is crucial to the development English jazz to come. A lot of the times, one will find their thoughts drifting far away from the music, which might be a testimony of its' well, soporific aspect. The album is more than decent in its own right, but is rather stodgy, insignificant, and unmemorable at the same time. No wonder why Robert Wyatt left Soft Machine. However, it is recommended to listen to the album and forge your own opinion. Fourth gets well-deserved three stars!

 Camembert Electrique by GONG album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.78 | 313 ratings

Camembert Electrique
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars After recently enjoying "Obsolete" by Dashiell Hedayatt with pretty much this same lineup of GONG backing him up I had to finally review "Camembert Electrique" which was released the same year as "Obsolete". According to the liner notes this is the first "real" GONG album as "Magik Brother" was a solo Daevid Allen release although they put Gilli's name on the album cover too. Subsequent re-issues changed "Magik Brother" to being a GONG recording but in reality "Camembert Electrique" is the first true GONG record. This album really does fit in well with the trilogy that would follow. It's maybe less polished and as mentioned in the liner notes "... Camembert epitomises the early GONG, ie stoned loonies having a great time, who also happen to be excellent musicians. It's full of raw energy, more tape loops, space-whisper and glissando guitar, topped off with inspired sax playing. The later albums were more sophisticated and polished but they lack the edge and anarchy of Camembert."

"Radio Gnome Prediction" and the closer "Gnome The Second" are 27 second opening and closing bits with spoken words and strange sounds. "You Can't Kill Me" is a rock song with Daevid on vocals as Gilli helps out. Sax before a minute. Check out the guitar 2 minutes in on this great instrumental section that lasts until after 3 minutes. It turns instrumental again except for Gilli's whispers then Daevid returns on vocals while Pip keeps busy on the drums, lots of sax too. "I've Bin Stone Before" sounds like a Dylan song both vocally and the theme. This is like a hymn with that floating organ helping out. Sax eventually joins in and Daevid channels Wyatt briefly before 2 minutes.

"Mister Long Shanks/ O Mother/ I Am Your Fantasy" opens with a catchy sax led section that speeds up as the vocals join in. The "O Mother" section sounds like an early Zappa tune on the chorus part. The final section starts before 2 1/2 minutes and it's melancholic and mysterious as Gilli speaks the lyrics slowly in a haunting atmosphere. Love it! "Dynamite/ I am your Animal" has this line repeated over and over as drums and more help out. It kicks into a groove before a minute as the second part of this song arrives with Gilli on vocals as sax joins in in this determined and relentless passage. Contrasts between the two sections continue.

"Wet Cheese Delirium" is a very short piece with funny spoken words and sampled sounds. "Squeezing Sponges Over Policemen's Heads" is just over 10 seconds of sampled voices. The next three tracks are my top three tunes on here, so I imagine if I owned this on vinyl back in the day I'd have worn out side two. "Fohat Digs Holes In Space" features dramatic sounds as the drums pound and spacey synths help out. It settles in quickly though with bass, percussion and spacey sounds reminding me of "Continental Circus" a soundtrack that GONG released the same year. So good! Vocals after 4 minutes as Daevid and Gilli both sing. Sax before 5 minutes after the vocals have stopped. What a great track!

My favourite though is "And You Tried So Hard". It opens sounding like heaven and it builds. Daevid's vocals are so smooth and well done. This sounds like a 60's hit before theatrical vocals and a rougher sound take over. Back to that earlier sound 2 minutes in and Gilli sings a minute later. It ends like it began. "Tropical Fish/ Selene" has funny vocal sounds to start which are replaced by an uptempo instrumental section. Vocals join in reminding me of Syd-led FLOYD. I like the instrumental section starting before 2 minutes with lots of guitar and sax. This is so good as Gilli helps out. Daevid's back vocally after 4 minutes and I love the passage before 6 minutes as Gilli sings and the guitar riffs.

A very solid 4 stars. I just want to quote the liner notes about a second manager that GONG hired back then named Giorgio Gomelsky. "One day Gomelsky turned up babbling about this band he'd seen. Like GONG, they had their mythology, even their own language-MAGMA. In due course Gomelsky took them on as well and Daevid got to see them! As he recalls, "Incredible. All these men in black with inverted tantra symbols. Their music took the breath out of your lungs, it was like upside down Wagner. Christian Vander delivered imitation Hitler speeches in the middle of drum solos, and the singer looked like Valkyrie and had a four octave voice. Anyway they were like our shadow. There was GONG, colourful, anarchic, all going different directions, but trying to pull together. MAGMA were all incredible musicians, but totally disciplined, Vander would hit them with a stick if they played a wrong note. It was like ying and yang."" Gomelsky did put them on tour together with each alternating as the headline group but there was not a single night where both bands played well.

 Fish Rising by HILLAGE, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.12 | 336 ratings

Fish Rising
Steve Hillage Canterbury Scene

Review by ALotOfBottle

4 stars Steve Hillage's musical career can be traced back to his days in the band Uriel with Dave Stewart, Mont Campbell, and Clive Brooks. In 1968, Hillage decided to begin studies at the University of Kent in Canterbury, which made it unable for him to continue playing with the group. Uriel recorded only one album, under the name Azrachel. The three other musicians changed their name to Egg. In 1971, Hillage formed a one-album project Khan, which would break up only one year later. He settled in Gong, playing on all three parts of the legendary Radio Gnome trilogy. After leaving the band, Hillage teamed up with Dave Stewart, his friends from Gong, Mike Howlett, Tim Blake, Pierre Moerlen, Didier Malherbe, Miquette Giraudy, and Lindsay Cooper of Henry Cow, and recorded his first solo album, Fish Rising.

The music of Fish Rising could closely be compared to that of Gong, but without the strange, comedic input of Daevid Allen. The album is rich in dreamy soundscapes and ambient, space-like textures. The influence of Canterbury-style jazz becomes evident on improvisational passages. The main melodies and themes of the pieces though, are kept in a rather popular convention with ballad-like vocal parts. Hillage often lays down a dry guitar riff with the whole band building a theme around it. On the instrumental parts, he takes care to keep good balance between jazz-fueled improvisation and more 'distant', beat-less passages. Studio equipment works in favor of the lush, cosmic feel of Fish Rising, enriching the music with various delay units, reverberated instrument sounds, Gong-like electronic shimmer effects, and oscillator devices.

Steve Hillage's guitar style and tone may remind the listener a bit of those of Manuel Göttsching from Ash Ra Tempel (who released his guitar-dominated solo album, Inventions For Electric Guitar the very same year). The guitarist switches between a wide variety of sounds ranging from as far as clean, glassy tone supported by a chorus effect, to dirty crunch on rhythm parts, to sustaining fuzz on solos. In addition, Hillage sings with his characteristic, gentle voice. Dave Stewart's organ, Tim Blake's synthesizers, and Miquette Graudy's keyboards all play a crucial role on the album. The wind section of Lindsay Cooper on bassoon and Didier Malherbe on sax and flute gives this release a unique flavor, sort of reminiscent of Gong. Pierre Moerlen's dynamic and accurate drumming is perfectly suited for the work. Moerlen also plays percussion, which really adds to the its distinct sound.

Firsh Rising comprises five pieces. The opening 17-minute 'Solar Musick Suite' is divided into four movements, each having a different feel. 'Aftaglid' and 'The Salmon Song', two other multimovement pieces, follow a similar pattern of the sung theme being presented and later resolving into instrumental madness, which displays the fantastic musicianship of Hillage's companions. Besides 'Solar Musick Suite', Side 1 also consists of shorter tracks, "Meditation of the Snake" and 'Fish'.

The style of Steve Hillage's solo debut, Fish Rising points the direction in which he would go in the following years. To make sure his musical vision is executed in the best possible way, he teamed up with the musicians of the highest order. The result is without a doubt incredibly pleasing. The album's sound is distinct and innovative, yet a bit familiar. Fish Rising is an absolutely quintessential Canterbury scene work.

 Caravan by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.67 | 423 ratings

Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by ALotOfBottle

4 stars The roots of Caravan can be traced back to a Canterbury-based group The Wilde Flowers, which played art rock with strong influences of hard-bop. Most of future Caravan members had been in the band at one point or another. The drummer Richard Coughlan, bassist Richard Sinclair, and keyboardist David Sinclair (Richard Sinclair's cousin) founded a new band in 1968 and called it Caravan. The band's initial plan was to follow footsteps of Soft Machine. It is said that the four often sought suggestions from the more established Soft Machine and borrowed their gear, while they were busy touring United States with Jimi Hendrix. In October of the same year, they were signed to Verve records to record their self-titled debut album, released in January of 1969.

The style of Caravan's debut owes a great deal to psychedelic rock. The genre may have lost most of its freshness and piquancy by then, but its influence was very much present. Elements of jazz are expressed in rhythmical feel on most of the tracks, as well as modality. However, the album is really song-oriented. Phenomenal songwriting is what really sets this apart from the more improvisation-based Soft Machine debut. The pieces are emotion-filled and give the impression of being written with great care. Rarely does this album approach fast, lively or loud territories. The moods are rather soft and mellow, but kept in a psychedelic fashion, a little stoned and "cooked". Lyrically, the album explores some peaceful hippie themes, which correspond well with the smooth sound of the band.

The song-oriented approach that Caravan has partly chosen becomes clear since the very first note coming from Pye Hastings' 12-string electric guitar. Although he rarely finds himself playing "epic" guitar solos, he sounds to be incredibly proficient in a role of a rhythm guitarist, laying down simple patterns. Hastings takes the lead vocals on the first half of the album. His voice is very gentle and delicate. It pairs incredibly well with Richard Sinclair's vocals, who sings primarily on the other half of the album. His now legendary vocals are a bit goofy and wacky, but play a prominent role in Caravan's sound. Sinclair also handles bass guitar parts, quite competently I might add! His cousin, Dave Sinclair is the group's keyboardist. His Hammond organ provides a lush, dreamy sound, perfectly suited for the band's sound. His style owes a great deal to American soul music as well as Anglican music traditions. The great late Richard Coughlan is a fantastic drummer, finding himself comfortable in odd time signatures as well as use of multiple percussion instruments. A flautist Jimmy Hasting guests on one of the tracks.

The album consists of eight tracks. These have a good diversity between them, but are kept in a rather similar feel. This creates an impression of a logical, consistent whole. One track such as "Ride" can have a little bit of an Indian influence, reminiscent of psychedelia, while the next piece, "Policeman", has more of a pop ballad-oriented sound to it, but in a very good taste. The album opener, "Place Of My Own", one of Caravan's classics takes a simple theme and enriches it with sparkling jazz bits. "Magic Man" is another favorite from the band with Dave Sinclair's characteristic organ play. "Love Song With A Flute" is probably the jazziest of the tracks with a strong hard-bop influence. It also is the only track to feature a flautist, Jimmy Hastings.

While numerous debuts of many of our favorite progressive rock bands might lack consistency, self-assurance or just plain skill, Caravan's self-titled debut is definitely the opposite. With a post-hippie escapist vision, this is a wonderful experience. Obviously, it is not flawless, but let's not forget that this is one of the albums pioneering the Canterbury sound. All in all, a very solid effort. Recommended!

 The Prime Moving Lumps by STUBBS album cover Studio Album, 1985
3.00 | 1 ratings

The Prime Moving Lumps
Stubbs Canterbury Scene

Review by ALotOfBottle

— First review of this album —
3 stars The fruit of "The Stubbs Effect"

The turn of the new decade, the eighties, marked the end of the glory days for Canterbury scene. However, the influence that the sub-genre had on many generations to come is undeniable. Stubbs were an incredibly obscure Japanese band, which recorded only one official album, Prime Moving Lumps before completely disappearing into the underground. The band's name is a clear inspiration of a piece by Hatfield and the North, "The Stubbs Effect". There is proof that the band members sent their album to the legendary keyboard virtuoso, Dave Stewart (who played in Hatfield and the North), who explained the history of the name "Stubbs". It was allegedly the last name of his schoolmate, who could not sing and when the tune got higher, his voice would get louder. Stewart called it "The Stubbs Effect".

The music of Prime Moving Lumps would not be out of place on a Canterbury scene album released circa 1975 or so. The inspiration of Hatfield and the North, National Health, and even Gilgamesh is evident. Stubb's material is entirely instrumental and their pieces rely strongly on showcasing the band members' musical skills. The recording quality is really a big downside of the album, which often makes it really unpleasant. In addition to gloomy and "blurry" sound, some very odd effects appear, sounding a bit like the introduction to a Soviet TV show in the early 80's. The album cover seems to share affinity with Caravan's In the Land Of Grey and Pink.

Yama[&*!#]a Kojiro, the Stubbs' mastermind, is definitely a very good keyboardist with a strong influence of the previously mentioned Dave Stewart as well as Mike Ratledge. He often uses the fuzz organ sound that Ratledge pioneered as well as synthesizers and an electric piano. Kasai Ken's guitar tone and playing influences can be traced to those of Phil Miller of Hatfield and the North and National Health and Phil Lee of Gilgamesh with their fuzz guitar timbre that seems to sustain for days. The rhythm section of Kamon Ryo on bass and Konno Kazuhiko does not seem to stand out in any way, but makes time signatures seem very smooth and natural. All things considered, all of the basic Canterbury ingredients are there.

The album consists of six tracks. Side A consists of shorter ones, while Side B includes two longer pieces, both above eight minutes. The tunes do not have a lot of variety and diversity between one another. They often follow a simple structure of presenting the main theme and falling into improvisational madness.

All in all, Prime Moving Lumps is a very decent effort. It is very hard to be the first reviewer of any work by the band. We can only wonder what Stubbs would have been able to do if they had found themselves in a more favorable environment. Although it does not emerge in any way whatsoever, it should be an enjoyable listen for fans of the jazzy side of Canterbury scene. Three stars!

 Für ein ¾ Stündchen by TORTILLA FLAT album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.52 | 16 ratings

Für ein ¾ Stündchen
Tortilla Flat Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars TORTILLA FLAT were a six piece band out of Germany who released this sole album back in 1974. It's very electric piano and flute driven with jazzy drumming, nimble bass lines and exciting guitar expressions. Many mention SUPERSISTER as a comparison but KRAAN's debut might be closer in my opinion. This is all instrumental except for a few humerous words.

"Tortilla Flat" is my favourite. It opens with someone looking for a radio station then the flute takes over along with drums and bass then the tempo picks up. When it settles down and turns darker I'm thinking ANEKDOTEN or LANDBERK surprisingly. The electric piano has replaced the flute and I love this sound. The flute is back before 2 1/2 minutes and a minute later flute is all we hear. Electric piano, shuffling drums and bass take over. So good! A calm with flute and piano before 7 minutes but soon it's flute only once again. The birds are singing at 8 1/2 minutes then it picks up late to end it. "Temperamente" opens with flute, drums and sparse piano as it starts to build, guitar too. It then settles back again with flute and piano standing out before it kicks into gear at 2 minutes to an uptempo groove. Lots of energetic guitar and drums as the tempo continues to change. "Fati Morgani" starts with intricate sounds that build as the flute plays over top. Percussion joins in after 2 1/2 minutes as we get a calm but soon it's percussion only to the end.

Electric piano and flute standout early on "Rumpelstiltzchen" as the drums join in. The tempo changes often and check out the bass which gives this a jazzy feel. An impressive track that ends with some silly vocals. "Leere, Chaos, Schopfung" is a top three track and it opens with some dark atmosphere that lasts for about a minute. Then keyboards take over in this melancholic section. So laid back but really enjoyable. The tempo picks up after 5 minutes as the flute plays over top. Catchy stuff then the piano replaces the flute as the bass throbs. Check out the guitar 7 minutes in as he lights it up. The flute is back leading at 8 1/2 minutes. "Obit, Anus, Obitanus" is a light and catchy Jazz tune although we get some deep bass lines early on. The keys and flute take turns playing over top. "Mohre" opens with flute, bass and acoustic guitar which all sounds very pleasant. The flute eventually leads the way until around the 5 minute mark when the guitar starts to solo over top. Nice. The flute returns as the guitar stops. Whistling ends it. A top three tune.

This album might be at the very top when it comes to albums needing a re-issue. A must! Close to 4.5 stars.

 Gilgamesh by GILGAMESH album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.89 | 126 ratings

Gilgamesh Canterbury Scene

Review by ALotOfBottle

3 stars In 1972, a keyboardist Alan Gowen, previously of the afro-beat band Assagai, Sunship (with King Crimson's Jamie Muir and Allan Holdsworth) and (one year later of) Hatfield And The North teamed up with a guitarist Rick Morcombe, saxophonist Alan Wakeman (the cousin of Rick Wakeman), bassist Jeff Clyne of Nucleus and Isotope and drummer Mike Travis to create Gilgamesh. After various personel changes, Wakeman left and Morcombe was replaced by a guitarist Phil Lee. In 1975, the quartet signed a record contract with Caroline to record their self-titled debut album.

Gilgamesh always remained fairly obscure, breaking up after recording two albums. Their sound is clearly shaped by their contemporaries, mainly Hatfield And The North. The band's sound however does not have the goofiness and the English sense of humor. As much as we could debate whether Hatfield And The North or National Health are fusion of progressive rock, Gilgamesh is a bit like Soft Machine - it's pretty much just straight-up jazz fusion. Unlike Soft Machine though, the quartet does not use jazz instrumentation like saxophones, but rather typical prog rock instrumentation of keyboards, a guitar, a bass and drums. The musicians are definitely very good at their craft. Alan Gowen's sound is dominated by an electric piano and a clavinet as well as a Chick Corea-like synthesizer. His style is inspired by previously mentioned Chick Corea as well as Dave Stewart and Mike Ratledge. Phil Lee's guitar work reminds of that of Phil Miller with pastel-like fuzz guitar. Mike Travis is a very decent drummer, capable of pulling off fantastic grooves, while Jeff Clyne's style is inspired by upright bass.

The album consists of eight tunes, three of which could be called "mini-epics" and two one minute-long piece. All the other tracks are kept between three and six minutes. Despite having a great dynamic variety between them and drawing dreamy soundscapes, they are very forgettable. And so is the whole album for that matter. The dry improvisation-based fusion style is quite boring, monotonous, ho-hum, and "too consistent". Despite the great instrumentalist abilities, every track (maybe with an exception of "Notwithstanding" and "We Are All / Someone Else's Food / Jamo And Other Boating Disasters - From The Holiday Of The Same Name") ask to get skipped. And it's a shame, because the band definitely could do much better than that! Just listen to the follow-up of this one!

In conclusion, the self-titled debut album of Gilgamesh presents phenomenal musicianship. However, it is overshaded by rather repetitive compositions, that lead to nowhere. This album is well suited for Canterbury fans and collectors, but not recommended for newcomers and those trying to get a taste of Canterbury scene. Much better things were to come from Gilgamesh. I am struggling between rating this album for two or three stars. Composition would get two stars, while playing would get four. So, the most adequate rating would be three stars!

 Deià...Vu by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.08 | 3 ratings

Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by Boojieboy

3 stars One of Kevin's most rocking albums (the others being That's What You Get Babe and Yes We Have No Mananas). It's not hard rock or anything, and not prog, but it does show that he could cut loose at times. I think guitarist Ollie Halsall helped contribute towards that.

The fastest song is My Speeding Heart. It kicks the pants off anything from his laid back and slow releases (including The Unfairground). There are several songs with a Caribbean and reggae feel, as is one of his strong points. There's also some humor there as in his earlier career, though it's in a more adult and slightly jaded manner.

Decent rock, with tropical influences.

 Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1983
2.40 | 6 ratings

Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain
Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by Boojieboy

2 stars Definitely NOT progressive rock, more like new wave. This is one of Kevin's strangest albums. The album was commissioned by someone else, and Kevin basically had to turn over control to the producer (his musicians, his production, his ways, his ideas). The biggest offense is using an early drum machine, keyboard bass, and sometimes electronic drums in place of real instruments and a real rhythm section. They sound quite cheesy at times, and sort of like Devo in areas, which is so not Kevin Ayers. This is almost like 180 degrees away from what he was about.

There are some decent songs on this, including 1) the heavier lead-off track Madame Butterfly, 2) probably his best version of Ollie Halsall's song Steppin' Out, and 3) Lay Lady Lay. There are several versions of those last two songs on other albums, but these might be the best. Probably the oddest song here is Who's Still Crazy? It's such a synthesized departure of Kevin's music, that he kind of rambles on in the vocal booth, obviously trashed and drugged, probably the only way to deal with the difficult situation.

I understand now why this album is so hard to find. I wouldn't be surprised if even some fans have even hidden it or removed them from circulation. There's probably a fear of giving people totally the wrong impression about Kevin.

Despite the criticism, it's still a stronger album than the last two bland duds that he released (Still Life With Guitar and The Unfairground). There's still some energy there and some life, even though it stuffed under a synthesized mess. There's more rock and drunkenness too, which is missing from his later albums.

I gave it 2-stars for the prog and rock community at large. For Ayers fans though - those who get him - I'd give it 3 stars.

 Shapeshifter by GONG album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.53 | 59 ratings

Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

4 stars I love this album. After about 20 years the inhabitants of planet GonG are back to Earth with all the crazyness of the Flying Teapot trilogy. It was a great surprise for me when I bought it. I didn't even know that actually GonG were still alive, and after the jazzy albums like Shamal or the Pierre Moerlen's solo works, I wasn't expecting anything like this, especially at the beginning of the 90s.

Shapeshifter deserves to be considered a classic album in GonG's discography. Even without Hillage of the Bambaloni Yoni's weird vocals it's a natural follow up to the trilogy. Like George Lucas with the Anakin's trilogy 20 years after Star Wars, the epic story of Radio Gnome restarted. The world the teapot is flying on is different from the swinging London. This makes more difficult producing a so intelligent psychedelia and this is another point in favor of the recently passed away genius that was Daevid Allen.

Who is not familiar with this side of early GonG, can expect an album made of short length songs tied together by a concept, very skilfully played and arranged with an excellent clean production and influences from rock, jazz, indo, beat... well, influences is not the right word. Allen was a master in mixing all the ingredients into his musical teapot.

No track by track description. This is simply a 4 stars album and one of the GonG's best.

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Canterbury Scene bands/artists list

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

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