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CANTERBURY SCENE

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Canterbury Scene definition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dick Heath
Based loosely in part on the source: http://www.allmusic.com
(Edition 3, Aug 2009)

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

Canterbury Scene Top Albums


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

4.28 | 1575 ratings
IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK
Caravan
4.30 | 783 ratings
ROCK BOTTOM
Wyatt, Robert
4.25 | 932 ratings
IF I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, I'D DO IT ALL OVER YOU
Caravan
4.27 | 711 ratings
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH
Hatfield And The North
4.24 | 918 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 3 - YOU
Gong
4.27 | 638 ratings
SPACE SHANTY
Khan
4.23 | 893 ratings
THIRD
Soft Machine, The
4.26 | 377 ratings
OF QUEUES AND CURES
National Health
4.20 | 506 ratings
THE ROTTERS' CLUB
Hatfield And The North
4.16 | 665 ratings
FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT
Caravan
4.24 | 284 ratings
MAINSTREAM
Quiet Sun
4.12 | 610 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 2 - ANGEL'S EGG
Gong
4.25 | 228 ratings
TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER
Supersister
4.15 | 375 ratings
THE POLITE FORCE
Egg
4.13 | 386 ratings
FISH RISING
Hillage, Steve
4.13 | 344 ratings
NATIONAL HEALTH
National Health
4.23 | 193 ratings
VIVA BOMA
Cos
4.35 | 124 ratings
THE WORLD OF GENIUS HANS
Moving Gelatine Plates
4.07 | 439 ratings
VOLUME TWO
Soft Machine, The
4.03 | 497 ratings
THE SOFT MACHINE
Soft Machine, The

Canterbury Scene overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

THE WORLD OF GENIUS HANS
Moving Gelatine Plates
BEFORE A WORD IS SAID
Gowen - Miller - Sinclair - Tomkins
SOFT HEAP
Soft Heap
ABBIAMO TUTTI I SUOI PROBLEMI
Picchio Dal Pozzo

Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews


 Pentanine by GONG album cover Studio Album, 2004
2.95 | 53 ratings

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Pentanine
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by WFV

3 stars Definitely underrated and sorely underheard.

Of course the fusiony material of Pierre Moerlen's Gong is compared to the unfusiony space cadet Gong. Often, I find, in the negative.

I love both and wish this ensemble would have put out more contemporary records. I acquired this beauty several years ago and after many listens gave it a high three star. After revisitation a few years later it gained half a star. Third revisit it gets 4.5 in my collection.

Not for the average rock oriented proghead, this fusiony record is mostly melodic with some new age flavoring. Moerlen lines up with unknown Russkies behind him who are obviously fabulous musicians.

One wishes this lineup did three or four outings together. The opener, Lacheur, and Blue Nuit standout for me.

As I said, not for the average proghead, so while I may give it high marks if taking everything into account here this gets three from me.

 To The Highest Bidder by SUPERSISTER album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.25 | 228 ratings

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To The Highest Bidder
Supersister Canterbury Scene

Review by WFV

5 stars Supersister's sophomore release expands upon the incredible sound of the debut into the realms of the all time classic progressive rock recordings. I love In the Land of Grey and Pink but this album may just inch above it for me. Classic opener, stupendous second song (No Tree Will Grow is one of recorded musics finest 7:40) and the third and fourth tracks only expand upon the awesomeness. An all time progressive rock classic at the top of the Canterbury style. This album belongs in the collection of every prog fan.

The bonus tracks on the CD reissues are interesting novelties, but add nothing to the final result

 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.23 | 893 ratings

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Third
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Eric_T

5 stars This is one of my all-time top five albums and certainly my favourite "Prog" item. It consists of four side-long pieces (on the original vinyl) which are each in a distinctive style but share the basic structural approach of having striking melodic themes linked by passages of improvisation. "Facelift" is brash and powerful, driven along by Hopper's springy bass lines and Wyatt's chopping drums. Mike Ratledge's first solo is his most exciting on the album. "Slightly All The Time" is more contemplative and features Elton Dean at his most lyrical. "Moon In June" is a Wyatt masterpiece which many feel is worth the price of the album on its own. "Out Bloody Rageous" is the most overtly jazz-oriented piece and also (in shortened form) served as my introduction to the Soft Machine when included on a 1970 CBS sampler.

This is an album that simply could not have been made now. It comes from a time when groups were allowed to record adventurous music. I am grateful to have been around to pick up on it. There's not a weak passage on the album - 5 stars for sure.

 Thoughts by ZYMA album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.95 | 57 ratings

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Thoughts
Zyma Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars There's all sorts of reasons offered why the idea of the "Canterbury" scene may be a bit of a misnomer, and one of them is how a range of groups who never even had much connection to the Kentish town managed to nail the style. A sprinkling of European outfits produced compelling work in the style, and to those ranks we can add Zyma, whose debut album teases out the jazzier and folkier aspects of the Canterbury sound. Imagine Hatfield and the North if they were less rock-oriented and one of the Northettes stepped up to become lead singer and you wouldn't be too far away.
 Premiere Vision De L'Etrange by OCARINAH album cover Studio Album, 1978
2.09 | 3 ratings

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Premiere Vision De L'Etrange
Ocarinah Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

2 stars I'm sure there will be many positive reviews for this one eventually as it seems to be highly thought of by most reviewers who have rated this one. They were a trio from France who released this sole album in 1978. We get a drummer, bassist and synth/guitarist. All three had a hand in composing these five instrumentals. I must say that I've owned this one for at least 8 years and it's not a legit copy as it was released by Tachika Records back then. My only option at the time.

I have to pat myself on the back here because I really don't like the sound of the synths on this album yet I spun this one over and over and over again, many times. And the synths have the same tone throughout and it's very prominent. Relentless might be a better word I suppose. He does play some guitar too but yeah synths dominate here and the album comes off as being samey. Honestly I just don't like it and so I won't be doing a detailed review as I just can't bring myself to go through it one more time.

As far as the Zeuhl designation goes I have a hard time agreeing with it, but then I'm not sure where else you would put it. The bass while prominent at times isn't fuzzed out or in the Zeuhl style. No chanting of course either or Fender Rhodes. It comes off as a melancholic synth driven album that fails to capture my appreciation in any way. I'm glad I finally spent some time with it if only to know I'm not into it(haha). I tried.

 Fourth by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.49 | 305 ratings

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Fourth
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Although they had only formed a mere five years prior from the ashes of the Wilde Flowers, THE SOFT MACHINE had transmogrified from a beat inspired 60s psychedelic pop and proto-prog entity into a fully fledged jazz-fusion behemoth after adding Elton Dean to the roster for their epic 1970 double length album "Third" which found the trio turned quartet not only dropping the definite article "THE" from their moniker but also found the role of founding member Robert Wyatt's input quickly diminishing from the overall scenario. On the first two SOFT MACHINE albums, Wyatt's role was the main feature with his unmistakably unique vocals showcasing the music but with the addition of Dean along with an additional cast of guest musicians mostly out of the jazz circuits, Wyatt found himself ever more estranged from the creative direction that his fellow band mates were conjuring up around him and by the time "Third" came out he had to fight tooth and nail just to get the one vocal song to be sandwiched into the jazzy skronk wonderland of all things free form jazz surging with psychedelic overtones.

On the logically yet uncreatively titled 4 (pronounced FOURTH), the SOFTS had all but jettisoned their Canterbury influences and psychedelic vocal whimsy in favor of an all out instrumental jazz-fusion attack set on sizzling with Elton Dean casting his weight based off his recent solo album "Just Us" of the same year. The result is the beginning of the classic jazz-fusion era of SOFT MACHINE and on FOURTH they followed Dean's lead who developed his fierce alto sax and saxello playing skills in his days with Keith Tippett. While the avant-garde Ornette Coleman styled free-for-all sax solos whizzing around at light speed play a central part of the overall sound of FOURTH, the psychedelic 60s hadn't been totally erased from memory as Mike Ratledge finds the perfect way to engage his complementary Lowrey organ and Hohner piano riffs into the jazz-rock paradigm that hearken back to the swinging 60s so close yet so suddenly so very far away. Likewise Hugh Hopper's grounding and stabilizing bass lines rein in the loose-wire horn sections augmented by Dean's frenetic sax attacks along with guest musicians Mark Charig (cornet player also of Keith Tippett fame), Nick Evans (trombonist of Keith Tippett fame), Jimmy Hastings (alto flute / bass clarinet of Caravan) and Alan Skidmore (tenor sax also of Keith Tippett fame).

The result of the heft of this brass heavy congregation steered the SOFT MACHINE sound into extreme avant-garde jazz-rock fusion territory which even added yet one more guest musician: Roy Babbington of Delivery to contribute his double bass. The tracks run the gamut of chilled to frenetic. The moderately improvised nine minute opening track "Teeth" takes influences ranging from the bop fueled epics of John Coltrane to the fuzzed out surrealism of Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" era. The track exhibits the perfect compromise between the structured hard bop chord patterns and sophisticated harmonic idioms with the unstructured improvisational soloing of Dean's hyperactive sax runs. "Kings And Queens" offers a completely chilled out contrast, a bass groove dominated Hopper contribution in between the more frenetic constructs created by Ratledge and Dean.

"Fletcher's Blemish" on the other hand is a Dean written piece that takes the free form avant-garde schizoid madness of crazed masters such as Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor and channels their unhinged tendencies through a flurry of tortured jagged sax attacks in a style that is directly lifted from Dean's solo debut. On the original album the second side of FOURTH was completely consumed by the four part suite "Virtually" which are treated as separate tracks but thematically connected and constructed out of a more collective approach of various extended themes that keep enough structure in the mix to allow individual members to go off on musical tangents all the while finding the perfect tension between composition and improvisation although like most of the running time of FOURTH, Dean does seem to get more than the lion's share of soloing time.

While utterly musically ostracized in the very band he helped create, Robert Wyatt may be silent and sitting in the back corner like a castigated child misbehaving on the playground but he is in fact on the album and it would be his last one with SOFT MACHINE before permanently solidifying his newly found Matching Mole (which as is commonly known a parody of SOFT MACHINE from the French translation "Machine molle.") However despite any demotion in creative input to the band's musical selections, Wyatt performs like a pro easily pounding out the heavy duty hardcore jazz drumming skills required of a seasoned veteran to handle when playing in a jazz-fusion ensemble of such magnitude and while he may have suffered a terrible accident which would rob him of his talents, on FOURTH his talents are eked out in a most satisfying way as he effortlessly and impeccably morphs his stylistic approach between the fuzzy psychedelic Gong inspired brume into the punishing freneticism of Dean's sax abuse segments in full hard bop mode.

SOFT MACHINE's FOURTH has been chastised and kicked around since it was released and to this very day remains substantially less revered than its predecessors as well as later releases with some even calling it the absolute nadir of the SOFT's vast and overarching career and i for one am quite disconcerted with how Wyatt's bandmates treated him and subjugated him to the role of a circus chimp who merely went through the motions of what he was told to perform, however at the same time i'm rating the music itself and as a lover of free form jazz and all things musically extreme, i have to fall on the side of loving this one with the caveat of agreeing with the almost universal consensus that it is indeed a step down from the SOFT's first three classics. One of the problems results of course from the obvious overreach of Elton Dean's influence which affects Ratledge's ability to stand out for much of the album despite his warm and inviting key runs filling every nook, cranny and cadence. Taken as a representative album of the Canterbury Scene, this one will surely disappoint but if accepted as a unique slice of early 70s jazz-fusion that happens to have a little of what came before in the mix with an emphasis on free form improv passages, then i have to say that this album easily achieves the "excellent" seal of approval.

 Blue Dogs by MANNA/MIRAGE album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.98 | 4 ratings

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Blue Dogs
Manna/Mirage Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 4.5 stars. A must for anyone into THE MUFFINS as Dave Newhouse spear-headed this project bringing along fellow MUFFINS Billy Swann and Paul Sears. Dave's son George also plays drums along with Paul Sears. We also get a guitarist and French horn player. The music is Canterbury in nature and I like how they give a nod to the past at times plus the humour on display. The album is named after the cover art, a painting by Gonzalo Fuentos Riquelme who happens to be a big fan of Rio/Canterbury.

"Canterbury Bells" is a top three and man what a feel good song this is for me. Like being home really, especially the Canterbury-like keyboards. Bass and a beat support and horns arrive around 1 1/2 minutes. A toe-tapper and head-bobber for sure. A calm 3 minutes in with piano only but soon the drums and keys join in. Horns again after 4 minutes as it stays relaxed. Keyboards end it.

"Duke Street" opens with keys that create a catchy melody before the horns join in. Back to the piano and some percussion before a bass horn or is that clarinet joins in playing a melody over top. Soon horns are blasting. It ends with a sample of a classy man speaking about music and theatre. It's funny.

"Muffin Man Redux" features blasting horns but they are restrained some are taken over by drums, an upright bass, guitar and horns. So much going on. This great sound goes on and on then the intro returns with drums this time. I like when it turns melancholic with a bass horn, percussion, other horns and atmosphere. A darker mood here. The drums signal a change as horns arrive in an upbeat and lighter mood, silly in fact. A change with dark piano lines and melancholic horns, drums and more. So good. Love the sound late too with the distorted keys, piano and drums before that sample of the original Muffin Man song ends it.

"Lost In A Photograph" opens with horns that drone before a beat and bass join in. This is laid back but it does turn louder with keys and horns before settling back again with a lazy horn over top. Themes are repeated.

"Blind Eye" is a top three although I'm not sure how "Muffin Man Redux" isn't in my top three but this is a really good album. This was my favourite right from the very first listen. That dark sounding organ to start sounds amazing before it kicks in with drums. So good! Electric piano only then it kicks back in with horns this time and some inventive guitar as the organ runs. Horns and drums to the fore as it changes then settles back with electric piano, horns and more. A dissonant horn starts to make some noise late.

"Shaving Time" brought HATFIELD & THE NORTH to mind right away. Bass and drums to start and they create this catchy rhythm. Soon horns and more join the fun. The tempo picks up as things get even more lively. Drums only before the clarinet joins in. Horns start to blast as it builds. Here we go! A lot of fun!

"Rovian Cue" is my final top three and maybe my favourite along with "Blind Eye". Man that piano is so uplifting to me as the horns and percussion join in. So beautiful when the flute arrives. Keyboards and piano impress here too. Why am I so moved? Tasteful horns are back then that catchy beat returns with horns then flute as themes are repeated.

Man this was too much fun and so well played and composed of course. Makes it inside my top 20 for 2015 so yeah this was one of the ones I missed a few years ago.

 Pic_nic'@'Valdapozzo by PICCHIO DAL POZZO album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.56 | 28 ratings

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Pic_nic'@'Valdapozzo
Picchio Dal Pozzo Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Of PICCHIO DAL POZZO's four studio albums this one seems to get completely ignored by fans. This is the re-union album and so far their final studio release from 2004. When they got back together they decided to make an album dedicated to AREA's singer Demetrio Stratos. In part they did this because one of the band members found a tape of Demetrio singing live and solo from a 1979 concert. After cleaning the tape up and going digital with it they were able to use a lot of Demetrio's incredible vocal expressions on this album.

This all sounds too good to be true but my biggest issue with this album is with how experimental it is. I mean this is an Avant album all the way and as such it can be difficult. I'm not surprised to see Laplace's excellent review with 4 stars knowing what a fan he is of Avant music. My enthusiasm for this isn't really there despite being a big Demetrio fan and also a huge PICHIO DAL POZZO fan. Kind of strange too that the final 16 minute suite is live while the rest of the record is considered studio. They composed and recorded this album in a week at a farm called Valdapozzo. At least I tried and here's what I heard.

"Adriatico" has these avant pulses of sax, keys and more before some dark piano lines take over. Drums follow. I really like this. Some dissonant sax too. Some vocal expressions then the tempo picks up after 2 minutes. A slow almost swinging melody takes over with off- kilter sax. It picks up again and we get some odd vocal sounds before 5 minutes. Percussion and keys as it calms down after 5 1/2 minutes. Smooth sax after 6 minutes as vocal expressions and keys continue.

"Fetakyma" opens with spacey vocal sounds that come and go as we get some samples and a dark atmosphere. Strange stuff. Some sparse piano then sax arrives before 4 1/2 minutes. Bass before 6 minutes then the song starts to brighten with a beat and sax. It turns chaotic and avant 8 minutes in. Suddenly this catchy beat takes over, distorted keys too then blasting sax. A calm with vocal expressions, samples and atmosphere follows.

"Pugni Chiusi" was actually a song Demetrios sang with in his first band called I RIBELLI. Dark atmosphere as sounds echo and sax comes and goes. Percussion as it all turns louder and more dissonant after 4 minutes. It settles down again then a change as it brightens with sax and a beat to end it.

"Boccasedrio" opens with what sounds like vibes as spoken words arrive. Other sampled voices too as it builds. It's kind of cool how they use Demetrio's vocals. An active rhythm kicks in around 1 1/2 minutes with vocal expressions coming and going. Sax after 2 1/2 minutes. Vocal expressions then more sax. Dissonant sax after 4 minutes. It winds down late with vibes like the intro. "Epitaffio" is the final short track before the live suite. Tribal-like drums and Native chanting along with nature sounds.

The Valdapozzo(Live) suite worth about 16 minutes is up next to end the album. "Laboratory" is the first section and we get atmosphere as drums and other sounds come and go. Guitar too along with keys join in. It's quite experimental here, no real melody before 3 minutes. Sounds like electronics late as it blends into "Kitchen" with the smooth sax arriving along with percussion. Melancholic sax late as it blends into "Upstairs Room" where deep bass sounds, a beat and sax take over. It turns intense around 2 minutes with frantic sax sounds, percussion and more. Dissonant sax before 3 1/2 minutes then slow pulsing sounds with active percussion. It brightens late and blends into "Entrance" where we get an energetic beat with plenty of other sounds. It's building 2 minutes in. This is good! An intense ending followed by applause.

Avant music fans should check this out along with AREA fans of course. I wish I liked it more.

 Split Seconds by MILLER, PHIL album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.48 | 20 ratings

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Split Seconds
Phil Miller Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Phil Miller needs no introduction to those of us who are into Canterbury styled music. He's played guitar with DELIVERY, MATCHING MOLE, HATFIELD & THE NORTH, NATIONAL HEALTH and more. "Split Seconds" would be Phil's second solo album after the excellent "Cutting Both Ways" from the year before. He again decided to have his IN CAHOOTS band play on one part of the album as we get Pip Pyle, Fred Baker and Steve Franklin while Phil along with Elton Dean are the constants. The other part of the album features Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskins with John Mitchell helping out on one of those tracks and Richard Sinclair on another. It just seems to me that this is a pale version of his debut, you know like KING CRIMSON's fist two albums. The same style just not as good in my opinion. I miss Hugh Hopper too.

"And Thus Far" opens with guitar and synths as the drums and bass join in. A pleasant sound. Sax comes into the spotlight before 3 minutes. A calm around 4 1/2 minutes with the bass and a beat leading the way as synths and more come and go. Smooth sax after 8 minutes with bass and synths as it calms right down. The drums are back and soon it's a full uptempo sound before 11 minutes. A good start.

"Final Call" has a nice bass solo to start as the guitar and band all join in. I like the guitar after 3 minutes. "Dada Soul" is my favourite with Richard Sinclair singing and playing bass. It opens with percussion, atmosphere, guitar and beautiful female vocal melodies from Barbara. After that gorgeous intro Richard comes in with vocals. That intro will return and they will combine forces too. A really enjoyable track thanks to Gaskins and Sinclair.

"Truly Yours" is mellow as the sax joins in and it will be the dominant sound until the synths take over after 3 1/2 minutes. "Double Talk" is a uptempo track with a lot going on with the percussion, bass, synths and more. Soon the guitar is playing over top. It lightens before 3 1/2 minutes with picked guitar and percussion before kicking back in. "I Remain" is a smooth and relaxed tune.

"Your Root 2" sounds good to start as we get some depth to the sound here with the bass and drums. The sax comes in over top around a minute. A calm with bass before 4 minutes. Nice. This continues as drums help out then other sounds start to come and go until the synths start to make some noise before 6 minutes. Sounds like vibes and also sax kicking in before 7 minutes after some nice drum work from Pip.

I do like some of those IN CAHOOTS albums that would follow better than this one but "Split Seconds" certainly has it's highlights.

 Waterloo Lily by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.76 | 509 ratings

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Waterloo Lily
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars While critics and fans alike praised the unique concoction of jazz, folk and rock on CARAVAN's third album "The Land Of The Grey And Pink," despite it all the record company and management refused to put any money into promoting the album or the band in any way which led to incredible inner tensions and ultimately resulted in the departure of David Sinclair who was seduced away by Robert Wyatt to join the ranks of Matching Mole. While dumbfounded that they had lost such a vital ingredient to their unique piano, organ and mellotron driven sound, they avoiding a complete breakup by finding one of the few musicians in Sinclair's league in the form of Steve Miller who had played with Carol Crimes & Delivery prior.

Miller was a gifted jazz musician and after finding it impossible to adapt to Sinclair's unique style of playing, the band finally settled on placing Miller's style as the focus of the band's sound and thus CARAVAN was forced to jettison their digestible psychedelic pop sound of the previous album and create a more sophisticated collection of tracks that resulted in perhaps one of the most progressive albums of their career with some of the most bold and daring instrumental deliveries of their canon.

The album was titled WATERLOO LILY and found Steve Miller pushing Pye Hastings, Richard Sinclair and Richard Coughlan into more challenging musical arenas and thus stands as one of CARAVAN's most diverse sounding albums. The beautifully performed title track which opens, really presages a future supergroup event called Hatfield And The North which finds Richard Sinclair's sole vocal performance on the album sounding like something that could have been on "The Rotter's Club." The track which exudes a bouncy bass driven swing type of groove tells the tale of a large lady of questionable reputation while the musical drive simultaneously juggles a more ambitious construct with the expected Canterbury whimsy.

The album sports two lengthy multi-suite tracks surrounded by shorter ones with vocals. The first of these spirited displays of musical playfulness is the instrumental "Nothing At All / It's A Coming Soon / Nothing At All" which delivers a beefy bass line that ties the entire track together as the guitar solos trade off with keyboards and sizzling jazzy sax runs. The groovy rhythm ties the band's previous digestible pop hooks with a more jazz-laden speakeasy swinging sort of vibe which despite the length is quite easy on the ears. The three suites linked by the bass groove are quite distinct but somehow transition with ease.

The second of these is a medley of catchy vocal oriented jazz rock with extra emphasis on symphonic backings. The track breaks into an the most outstanding instrumental performances on the album with a flute solo that sounds like it's on speed! This track is easily the most ambitious thing CARAVAN ever laid down to tape and one of my top dog favorites of their career. The remaining tracks are pop gems finding Pye Hastings in excellent vocal form with brilliant songwriting and if you are lucky enough to have newer versions there are extra bonus tracks well worth the time.

Although the Canterbury jazz-fusionists had a dedicated audience, none of these bands managed to garner success at a substantial level but for those fans CARAVAN did attain in the past, many were not too keen on the new musical style that was thrust upon them. While "The Land Of The Grey And Pink" sold poorly, WATERLOO LILY literally almost caused the band to call it quits entirely. However after some internal reflection and the decision to sack Steve Miller, luckily Hastings, Sinclair and Coughlan found that the public was beginning to catch up to their musical style and by the time they regrouped with a new team to produce "For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night," as CARAVAN was finding slightly more enthusiastic public support.

Personally i may be one of the few who finds WATERLOO LILY to be one of CARAVAN's crowning achievements musically speaking. I find this album infinitely more interesting than the more uniform and toned-down "In The Land Of The Grey And Pink." WATERLOO LILY simply adds a new gusto to the classic CARAVAN sound with beautifully performed vocal tracks side by side with sophisticated jam band instrumentals that tackle multiple suites of true progressive rock brilliance. In my world WATERLOO LILY plays second fiddle to the only album of theirs that i consider a true masterpiece "If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You."

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Canterbury Scene bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
DAEVID ALLEN Australia
AMOEBA SPLIT Spain
ANTIQUE SEEKING NUNS United Kingdom
KEVIN AYERS United Kingdom
BIG HOGG United Kingdom
THE BOOT LAGOON United Kingdom
BRAINVILLE United Kingdom
CARAVAN United Kingdom
CLEAR FRAME United Kingdom
COS Belgium
DELIVERY United Kingdom
EGG United Kingdom
THE GHOULIES United Kingdom
MICHAEL GILES United Kingdom
GILGAMESH United Kingdom
GONG Multi-National
GOWEN - MILLER - SINCLAIR - TOMKINS United Kingdom
JOHN GREAVES United Kingdom
NICHOLAS GREENWOOD United Kingdom
GRINGO United Kingdom
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH United Kingdom
STEVE HILLAGE United Kingdom
HOPPER - DEAN - TIPPETT - GALLIVAN United Kingdom
HUGH HOPPER United Kingdom
JAKKO M. JAKSZYK United Kingdom
KHAN United Kingdom
THE LODGE United States
MAGIC BUS United Kingdom
MANNA/MIRAGE United States
MASTER CYLINDER United States
MATCHING MOLE United Kingdom
MILLER & COXHILL United Kingdom
PHIL MILLER United Kingdom
MOOM United Kingdom
MOVING GELATINE PLATES France
MR. SIRIUS Japan
THE MUFFINS United States
NATIONAL HEALTH United Kingdom
OCARINAH France
PANTHEON Netherlands
PAZOP Belgium
JOHN G. PERRY United Kingdom
PICCHIO DAL POZZO Italy
PIP PYLE United Kingdom
QUANTUM JUMP United Kingdom
QUIET SUN United Kingdom
SHORT WAVE United Kingdom
RICHARD SINCLAIR United Kingdom
SOFT HEAP United Kingdom
SOFT MACHINE LEGACY United Kingdom
THE SOFT MACHINE United Kingdom
SOFT MOUNTAIN Multi-National
SOFT WORKS United Kingdom
STUBBS Japan
SUPERSISTER Netherlands
TORTILLA FLAT Germany
TRAVELLING France
VOLARÉ United States
THE WILDE FLOWERS United Kingdom
THE WINSTONS Italy
ROBERT WYATT United Kingdom
ZYMA Germany

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