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CANTERBURY SCENE

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Canterbury Scene definition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canterbury Scene Top Albums


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

4.29 | 1655 ratings
IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK
Caravan
4.30 | 828 ratings
ROCK BOTTOM
Wyatt, Robert
4.25 | 955 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 3 - YOU
Gong
4.25 | 971 ratings
IF I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, I'D DO IT ALL OVER YOU
Caravan
4.28 | 680 ratings
SPACE SHANTY
Khan
4.26 | 749 ratings
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH
Hatfield And The North
4.22 | 953 ratings
THIRD
Soft Machine, The
4.27 | 407 ratings
OF QUEUES AND CURES
National Health
4.20 | 534 ratings
THE ROTTERS' CLUB
Hatfield And The North
4.17 | 696 ratings
FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT
Caravan
4.13 | 639 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 2 - ANGEL'S EGG
Gong
4.27 | 245 ratings
TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER
Supersister
4.16 | 391 ratings
THE POLITE FORCE
Egg
4.20 | 302 ratings
MAINSTREAM
Quiet Sun
4.13 | 404 ratings
FISH RISING
Hillage, Steve
4.34 | 141 ratings
THE WORLD OF GENIUS HANS
Moving Gelatine Plates
4.12 | 364 ratings
NATIONAL HEALTH
National Health
4.22 | 208 ratings
VIVA BOMA
Cos
4.06 | 467 ratings
VOLUME TWO
Soft Machine, The
4.12 | 261 ratings
PICCHIO DAL POZZO
Picchio Dal Pozzo

Canterbury Scene overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

BEFORE A WORD IS SAID
Gowen - Miller - Sinclair - Tomkins
SPLIT SECONDS
Miller, Phil
ABBIAMO TUTTI I SUOI PROBLEMI
Picchio Dal Pozzo
CHRONOMETERS
Muffins, The

Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews


 Acid Motherhood by GONG album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.95 | 84 ratings

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Acid Motherhood
Gong Canterbury Scene

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

5 stars After Daevid Allen left GONG following the completion of the Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy in the 70s, the torch was passed to Pierre Moerlen who did a stellar job of shifting the band into a jazz-fusion band but all that wacky psychedelic Canterbury whimsy that Allen brought to the table was completely absent. While Allen himself would release some solo albums as well as explore other GONG splinter groups such as New York Gong and Gongmaison, the original GONG disappeared completely when Moerlen added his name to the band after "Shamal" and the original monosyllabic moniker was pretty much shelved until 1992's "Shapeshifter."

Upon returning to the UK, Allen resurrected his 70s creation simply by changing Gongmaison to GONG. Poof! It was so and the new GONG crafted the first album in almost 20 years and released "Shapeshifter" which boldly tackled the insurmountable task of trying to construct the fourth edition of Radio Gnome Invisible but sort of missed the mark. With this reunion the band was clearly reaching towards the past rather than reinventing themselves for the everything alternative 90s. While the prog revival was underway, bands like Dream Theater and Anglagard were taking it to new realities. GONG was sounding a bit dated. The 90s found a few archival releases as well as the cash in attempt of a remix of "You" and then another retro release in the form of "Zero To Infinity" in 2000. It seemed that GONG was forever stuck in the past.

But wait! Daevid Allen was all about progressing and after a decade of reliving the glory years without the expected results, he reinvented the whole GONG experience once again with 2003's most bizarre edition to the GONG universe of all, the mondo bizarro ACID MOTHERHOOD. Perhaps this album takes the Canterbury whimsy to its logical conclusion with the album cover of a smiling Allen whose is head attached to a pregnant woman's body and to make it even more ridiculous, there are two of them slapping each other's asses! LOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!! Yeah, it's a scary sight indeed but despite this rather unflattering display of psychedelic freakery run amok, ACID MOTHERHOOD was just what the doctor ordered to make GONG relevant in the 21st century.

ACID MOTHERHOOD was actually the bizarre fusion of three bands. Allen's classic 70s GONG, Japan's Acid Mothers Temple and Allen's American band University of Errors. From the GONG side of the equation it was only Allen himself and everyone's favorite space whisperer Gilli Smyth who were back in the driver's seat but more than cast their weight in this most psychedelic musical adventure. Kawabath Makoto (guitar, bouzouki) and Cotton Casino (synthesizer, vocals) were from Acid Mother's Temple and Josh Pollock (guitars, drums) and Allen's son Orlando Allen (drums) were from the University of Errors side of the table. The lineup was completed by bassist Dharmawan Bradbridge along with a few guest musicians including Greg Sheehan on hang and various percussive instruments as well as Kurt Schwitterse delivering some extra vocals.

While many supergroups fail to deliver the fusion goods of the respective bands from which they emerged, on ACID MOTHERHOOD all the musicians on board worked together so very well that the three bands merge into a whole for this magnificent 49 minute listening experience. Be warned though. If you take drugs and listen to this album while gazing at the album cover for too long. Your mind will explode! Given that there are three guitarists on board, ACID MOTHERHOOD is by far the noisiest and heaviest album within the entire extended GONG family's lofty canon. Allen was a master of attracting new to talent to his projects and this crazy romp through the psychedelic noise rock universe is perhaps one of my favorite GONG albums of all time!

"Oceans of Molasses" opens with a noisy mix of jangly glissando guitars that sound like John Cage during a bad trip as it sounds like a mix of psychedelic rock and doom metal. Scary stuff but the following "Supercotton" lightens things up with Allen's narration of silly stories along with Gilli Smyth's vocal antics. The music has a bouncy funky groove while the glissando guitars and psychedelic synth parts go gangbusters like fireworks. Allen raps the lyrics in almost a high school band marching band rhythmic drive while the track delve deeper into mind bending freakery but also includes some massive heavy guitar bombast that adds some serious punk and funk elements to the mix.

While "Supercotton" is clearly an Allen penned track, so too are "Olde Fooles Game," "Zeroina," "Brainwash Me" and "Waving" as they display all the zany whimsical wisdom along with Allen's vocal style and glissando guitar techniques taken to their logical conclusion. "Zeroina" in particular is a heavy punk infused beast with super crunchy guitars on steroids."Monstah!" follows suit with a punk infused brutal prog style penned by Pollack whereas "Bazuki Logix" and the lengthy 13 minute "Makototen" allow the Acid Mothers Temple elements to reign supreme that allow the hypnotic cyclical guitar and bouzouki riffs to lift off far from Earth's gravitational pull. The closing "Schwitless in Molasses" continues the doom laden antics of the first track and slow down to a snail's pace with heavy distorted echoey guitar chords, down-tuned bass runs and Kurt Schwitters playing the role of pixie with mischievous lyrics emerging from the fuzz.

Yeah, this is not your 70s GONG album by any stretch of the imagination. In fact there is really nothing else out there period that sounds like this one but this one works on so many levels. The tracks are all over the place which keeps the whole thing thoroughly entertaining and there's not one bad track on the entire album. The perfect mix of doomy despair mixed with the happy-go-lucky humor is a real treat. This is a woefully under-appreciated little slice of heaven in the greater GONG universe. Set your mind free and listen to this N-N-N-OOOOO-W-W-W !!!!

 Second Split by AMOEBA SPLIT album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.93 | 76 ratings

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Second Split
Amoeba Split Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Without Maria Toro's contributions on vocals, Amoeba Split's second album finds them chasing a somewhat more sober take on Canterbury music than their debut, Dance of the Goodbyes; if the previous album had been reminiscent of the classic Hatfield and the North sound, this is more reminiscent of later groups like Gilgamesh and other such outfits which tried a more serious spin on the Canterbury sound and leaned heavily on the jazz-rock side of things.

The end result is an intriguing, relaxing trip through jazz-rock realms with just a pinch of psychedelic pizzazz. A solid effort all round - I wouldn't put it above the debut album, but it certainly makes me want to keep watching the Amoebas to see where things go next.

 The Universe Also Collapses by GONG album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.33 | 17 ratings

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The Universe Also Collapses
Gong Canterbury Scene

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

3 stars It's hard to believe that it's been four years since GONG founder Daevid Allen left this world and passed on into the eternal psychedelic haze that vibrates to form everything in the known universe but his legacy is strong as is the band that he founded way back in 1968 as it was his desire that new talent steer the psychedelic musical outfit into fresh new territories without losing the zeitgeist of the original intent. Following Allen's last album with GONG, the 2014 "I See You" came the 2016 "Rejoice! I'm Dead!" which showcased yet another version of GONG this time without Allen, without Pierre Moerlen and without any of the musicians that came and went throughout the band's lengthy existence.

While that album showcased that GONG was a viable unit taken into its next chapter of reality, the second post-Allen release THE UNIVERSE ALSO COLLAPSES pretty much leaves no doubt that GONG will continue on into the foreseeable future and seems to have found a new stable lineup with former Cardiacs and Knifeworld guitarist / vocalist Kavus Torabi, guitarist Fabio Golfetti, saxophonist / flautist / percussionist Ian East, ex-Jade Warrior bassist Dave Sturt and drummer / percussionist Cheb Nettles. While it's hard to imagine a post-Allen Gong actually pulling off the vision without one of the most unique personalities no longer in the scene, this new version of GONG has spent the last few years touring both by headlining as well as with another ex-GONG legend Steve Hillage.

Featuring only four tracks THE UNIVERSE ALSO COLLAPSES delves more into the classic psychedelic sounds of GONG's 70s period that incorporates funky bass grooves, glissando guitar, pulsing synth and haunting saxophone slides which takes a completely different approach than "Rejoice! I'm Dead!" Rather than developing the new sound set out on that album, THE UNIVERSE ALSO COLLAPSE casts its gaze into the classic GONG years for inspiration but in the process only displays why those classic albums are so classic and why this attempt to recapture those magical moments pales in comparison. While the band claims that the album aims to bridge the worlds of lysergic exploration and quantum physics, ultimately it fails to revive the golden years as its missing the whimsy and imaginative explorations that Allen along with his cosmic whisperer Gilli Smith were masters of.

The album starts with the 20 minute + "Forever Recurring" which insinuates some sort of multi-suite cosmic journey to planet Lysergia and back and to be honest it is the most psychedelic track on the album but after the slow brooding synthesized intro that slowly ushers in a rhythmic pulses and eventually lyrical content, the track just floats by without ever developing into anything more substantial. This is literally a 20 minute track that finds the same groove ad infinitum as the guitars, sax and heavier percussive forces join in. It's an ok track for sure but lacks the sheer variety of the classic years and becomes a tad monotonous even though it alternates between heavier and softer passages. Most of all it is woefully deprived of that playful introspective philosophical quandary and pixie fueled spontaneity of the Allen years.

"If Never I'm And Ever You" is a short intermission but a welcome dynamic relief with choppy guitar riffs and a heavier foray into the world of time signature rich progressive rock with stellar jazzy saxophone contributions. This track is much more interesting and i wish at least half of the time allotted for the first track was given to this one to develop as it has more potential. Next up is the second longest track "My Sawtooth Wake" which at slightly over 13 minutes sort of combines the psychedelic meandering of the first with the heavier punchiness of the second. Once again it's basically a repetitive cyclical loop of a bass groove, haunting synth and glissando guitar antics which after a couple minutes slows down and turns into a contemplative vocal sequence with different timing signatures and slow tempo. Much more interesting. Should've been the first track.

The finale "The Elemental" is completely different as it starts out with a clean rock guitar chord progression and instant vocals. The psychedelia has been replaced with more of a singer / songwriter approach which sets it apart from the rest of the album as well as pretty much anything in the known GONG universe. While it's not a bad song it does bring to focus Kavus Torabi's vocal style which unfortunately has neither sufficient charismatic magnetism nor the driving dynamics to really bring the track to full potential, which after a few listens to this album perfectly describes THE UNIVERSE ALSO COLLAPSES as an album. Despite the noble attempt to remain faithful to the band's overall vision, it feels like these guys are holding back from really making the band their own as if the great spirit of Allen watches in the background and remains steadfastly in the psyche of its current lineup.

Come on, guys! Let loose and let the creative juices flow. This sounds like a tribute band trying to capture GONG's glory days but without the wacky whimsy and dynamic sense of variety that made the Radio Gnome Trilogy years to special. The attempt to replicate Hillage's guitar style but not building upon it just sounds weak! This is a decent album but won't go down as one of the band's greatest achievements. Hopefully this new GONG will find a way to forge their way into the next chapter of the psychedelic music scene but they will have to step it up as there countless modern bands that have already found new directions to take psychedelic space rock. If you're hoping for a new album that will blow you away then look to the past but if you want a pleasant yet predictable slice of modern Canterbury infused psychedelic space rock then THE UNIVERSE ALSO COLLAPSES does satisfy on that level.

 Abbiamo Tutti I Suoi Problemi by PICCHIO DAL POZZO album cover Studio Album, 1980
4.18 | 110 ratings

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Abbiamo Tutti I Suoi Problemi
Picchio Dal Pozzo Canterbury Scene

Review by Prog duck

5 stars Such great Italian prog. Heavy influence of jazz and a little Avant-garde style composition. The smooth time changes, tone change, mood change and the usual tendency of circling back to a light-hearted feeling composition are all great aspects of this album. This is one of my favorite Italian albums and I think it is a must hear. Although this album is loosely correlated with the Canterbury scene sub-genre, it greatly deviates from other Canterbury artists. Henry Cow's 'Western Culture' seems to play a part in their music, hence the 'Avant-garde style'. The use of saxophones, flute, recorders, etc. is also a great aspect of this album and the directions they took because of the use of these instruments are incredible. This album is just oozing with creativity and complexity. For the vinyl collectors out there, this one may be hard to find. Especially for those not in Italy and Europe. Such a shame that I can't get my hands on one! This album is, once again, so great and is worthy of 5 stars.
 Caravan by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.69 | 502 ratings

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Caravan
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nº 250

Caravan was one of the most formidable progressive rock acts to come out of England in the end of the 60's. Still, the band has never achieved the great success that was widely predicted for them at the beginning of their career. They were never much more than a very successful cult band at home, really. Apart from a brief moment in 1975, they were barely a cult band anywhere else in the world. They only ever charted one album in their first six years of activity, but they made a lot of noise in the English rock press, and their following fan base has been sufficiently loyal and wide to keep their work in print. But, despite all I said before, they were nevertheless considered a key part of the Canterbury scene, blending psychedelic rock, jazz and classical influences to create a very distinctive progressive rock sound.

"Caravan" is the eponymous debut studio album of Caravan and was released in 1968. The line up on the album is Pye Hastings (lead and backing vocals, guitars and bass guitars), David Sinclair (backing vocals, organ and piano), Richard Sinclair (lead vocals and backing vocals, guitars and bass guitars) and Richard Coughlan (drums). The album had also a participation of the brother of Pye Hastings, Jimmy Hastings (flute), as a guest musician.

"Caravan" has eight tracks. All tracks were written by Pye Hastings, David and Richard Sinclair and Coughlan. The first track "Place Of My Own" starts with a powerful intro and a sad, yearning, organ dominated motif, after which the fragile, almost childlike vocal of Pye Hastings intones a lyric and melody of the most heartfelt beauty. There's an instrumental passage on the song that features what just might be one of the most glorious organ solos on the album. Then, we have a perfect chorus again, quieter and more subdued, with a louder reprise. The second track "Ride" was built around a very 1968 eastern inspired melody line interspersed with loud instrumental breaks in which Richard Sinclair shows what a bass legend he truly is. The third track "Policeman" shows even more the pronounced vocal talent of Richard Sinclair. It's an early example of his perky, charming and very English compositional style that would grace the future works of Caravan. His cousin David shines, as always, on his mighty organ. The fourth track "Love Song With Flute" is another glorious Pye Hastings song. It has the hallmarks of Caravan's best songs, a slow minor keyed intro, a simple and divine vocal melody building up to a satisfying, resolving chorus with gospel like vocal harmonies and a big ever so slightly dischordant, crescendo. The track then moves with a lovely flute solo by the guest musician Jimmy Hastings. The fifth track "Cecil Rons" begins in free form. It evolves into a tone bass driven in one verse that alternates a nursery rhyme with manic exclamations and an atypically atonal vocal line from Pye Hastings. But, Caravan can never resist to the big chorus in an absolutely perfect contrast with the chaos around it. A kind of a waltz coda from totally different world closes the track, the like of which Caravan never attempted again on their following works. The sixth track "Magic Man" is a delicious and a very beautiful simple song in waltz time with a chorus you will never forget. It makes an amiable lyric reference to their Canterbury buddies, Soft Machine, and features David Sinclair at his very best. It represents the most beautiful moment on the album, a truly magic moment. The seventh track "Grandma's Lawn" represents Richard Sinclair's second showcase in terms of vocals. It's a big propulsive gem of a track in a similar vein to Syd Barrett's unreleased classic song "Vegetable Man". The echo effect on the vocals is just right for the cavernous general mood of the song. The eighth track "Where But For Caravan Would I?" encapsulates all that is great about the rock in the beginning of prog. In fact it's the best track on the whole album. The quiet verse melody is glorious. After two and a half minutes, the song explodes into an amazingly riff over which David Sinclair rocks and grooves. The harmony vocals take the tune even further past sublimity. The riff returns, faster then slower, and the song ends on jarring, repeated guitar dischords and a massive crash on Richard Coughlan's ever awesome drums. Unremittingly complex yet bursting with infectious melody, this is the sound of a great progressive band at the height of its powers.

Conclusion: For their first album, Caravan was surprisingly strong. While steeped in the same British psychedelia that informed many of the bands in those days, Caravan relates a certain freedom of spirit. Caravan's debut straddles the fence between psych and prog. I think this album was always underrated. It has a lot of beautiful psychedelic songs and represents a perfect example of the music in the end of the 60's and of what would be the prog and the beginning of the classic golden era of the prog rock music in the glorious days of the 70's. In fact only the lengthy final track "Where But For Caravan Would I?" really goes further than simply flirting with prog. This is clearly a great prog track. I always considered Caravan the best and most representative band of the Canterbury scene. Their five first studio albums are all excellent and represent a great intro into this sub-genre of prog. This is definitely an album not to be missed, really.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Supersister Projekt 2019: Retsis Repus by SUPERSISTER album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.11 | 8 ratings

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Supersister Projekt 2019: Retsis Repus
Supersister Canterbury Scene

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "Sweet OK Sister" was a band founded in 1967 in the Netherlands. They changed their name to Supersister later, but were still the same band. Considered part of the Canterbury Scene, they had a sound similar to "The Soft Machine" and "Caravan". The band originally released 5 full length albums between 1970 and 1974. Since that time, two of the original members have passed away, but, original founder Robert Jan Stips has recently decided to release a new album in March 2019 (the vinyl version was released in early April 2019) under the name of Supersister Projekt 2019 which harkens back to the original sound of the band. These are all new songs, 11 total with a run time of 39 minutes, with individual tracks ranging from 0:44 to 7:59. Robert provides the keyboards and vocals, but there are many musicians joining him in this new album, which is called "Retsis Repus".

Right off the bat, you get that somewhat minimal, somewhat dissonant and somewhat odd sound with the Progressive Folk and Canterbury sound, each instrument is easy to hear and distinct. Minimal percussion, interesting vocals and harmonies, and fuzzy guitars give it all that retro sound in the first track "Memories Are New IV", but the clarity of it all makes it current. Then there is that layer of jazz that permeates the music, you'll hear that clearly in the piano led "I Am You Are Me/Tramitter". The sound here is bright and there is a instrumental section in this that is long enough to let all of the solos breathe, most of them being piano or synth solos.

"For You and For Nobody Else" (the longest track on the album) continues with the jazz orientations, as expected, but has the inclusion of brass this time around, and very airy vocals. The tempo slows down later and meanders along in a nice way with violin, brass and piano creating a pastoral feel. The tempo alternates back and forth several times with the percussion staying mostly far in the background. "Max Eco" is a complex and more rock style than the previous track, but still with the odd melodies and progressive style. The vocals might be a little strange to a listeners that haven't had much experience with this style of music as they are somewhat dissonant and definitely not your standard fare which in a way reminds one of the complexity of "Comus", but much smoother sounding (it is progressive after all). "Hope to See You There Again" is a nice, almost blissful, instrumental (mostly anyway) which makes me feel like I'm flying above the clouds.

"Yellow Days" goes back to the jazz feel, but even with the strings and brass and the odd fuzzy synth, it still has that nice, smooth sound. Soft vocals come in after 2 minutes as everything turns quite minimal and pensive. "Next Door Movie" is another instrumental led by some interesting brass and string exploits with a xylophone also having it's own say. Progressively complex, yet smooth and airy at the same time. "Cuckoo" is a witty track with harmonized vocal layers and silly spoken words and sung lyrics. "Hope to See You Again" ends the album with a nice lushness.

Canterbury lovers will enjoy this album for it's strangenss and unpredictability and prog lovers will enjoy it's complexity. There are defintately legitimate ties to the sound of other Canterbury bands like Comus and Gong, but the overall sound isn't quite as choppy as those bands as there is this airiness and smoothness to the music in this album. But I still think it will appeal to fans of those bands, like myself. I feel it just misses the 5 star mark, but it definitely is an excellent album that seems to get better the more you hear it. Highly recommended to fans of the genre.

 For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.17 | 696 ratings

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For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night
Caravan Canterbury Scene

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

5 stars CARAVAN had suffered the same fate that many ambitious artistically oriented early 70s bands shared, namely a lack of financial stability in exchange for the overtly sophisticated progressive developments that they were developing. After what should have been their breakthrough success album with "In The Land Of They Grey And Pink," the band found its first major shakeup as founding member and keyboardist Dave Sinclair jumped ship and joined Robert Wyatt in his fledgling Matching Mole project. After reasserting their desire to carry on as a band, the remaining members recruited a replacement in the form of Steve Miller who filled the role quite nicely but also brought an overload of jazz sensibilities to the table. After the change in direction that resulted in the following "Waterloo Lily," CARAVAN's bold new direction left many fans alienated but not all was lost as many new ones filled their shoes. Feeling like the band's direction was merely spinning wheels, Miller's recalcitrant stance of wanting to follow Soft Machine into ever jazzier arenas didn't go over too well and he was relieved of his duties.

After his short stint with Matching Mole, Dave Sinclair rejoined the band and with the addition of viola player Geoff Richardson, the band added a completely new dimension to its sound and the result was the interestingly titled and fifth studio album FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT. The reactions of "Waterloo Lily" were mixed as some found the new direction favorable while others found it detracted from the band's potential however FOR GIRLS was universally praised for returning back to the rock elements as well as the challenging addition of a stellar horn section and elaborate symphonic orchestrations. The perfect mix of things conspired to create CARAVAN's last great album before they would water down their sound into a series of bland AOR sounding albums from which they would never fully recover. Now as a quintet, CARAVAN also solicited the help of twelve session musicians which makes FOR GIRLS sound like a larger than life experience.

The difference between FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT is immediately apparent as the the feisty "Memory Lain" which on some editions has the following "Headloss" tacked on, opens with a predominantly guitar and bass driven rock groove exhibiting faster tempos and heavier percussive drives than the dreamy offerings of the past. The track despite its rock guitar dominance still finds many opportunities to delve into psychedelic meanderings, heavy pile driving organ runs and the progressive jazzy chops that were characteristic of the Canterbury crowd of the era. While CARAVAN was clearly on the poppier side of the Canterbury spectrum, FOR GIRLS flawlessly balances the more accessible melodic developments with intricate uses of harmonic sophistication, subtle jazz touches and of course the traces of whimsy ubiquitous in the Canterbury vernacular. In some ways tracks like "Headloss" come off as straight forward hard rock but the incorporation of the bluesy viola, atmospheric organ touches as well as the Steely Dan-esque jazz-fusion harmonic touches take it to a totally different reality.

The more upbeat rock approach continues on "Hoedown" but "Surprise, Surprise" slows things down a bit and emphasizes the atmospheric touches. The formidable "C'thlu Thlu" packs a double identity as it alternates the introductory Jethro Tull like guitar riffs (think of Martin Barre on the "Aqualung" album) along with a funk laden segment that offers an energetic uptick which makes it sound like two completely different songs were fused together and one of the more brilliant moments on the album. Likewise the instantly addictive "The Dog, The Dog, He's at It Again" not only showcases the distinct Canterbury humor in full regalia but also delivers a distinct dreamy mid-tempo melody that qualifies as a first degree ear worm but in the most pleasant aspect of the term. The track is characteristic of a perfectly written singer / songwriter style of musical sensibility augmented by things such as ska syncopation, orchestral backing and then a foray into a sizzling keyboard dominated series of soloing. A performance par excellence.

The final two tracks feature the over-the-top progressiveness and excessively titled "Be Alright / Chance Of A Lifetime" and closing finale "L'auberge du sanglier / A Hunting We Shall Go / Pengola / Backwards / A Hunting Shall We Go (Reprise)," the former which delivers another heavier rock veneer but also delves into the softer more flute oriented melodies of classic CARAVAN which i presume are aspects of each title although there is no clear distinction other than the stylistic change in the middle. Another great viola performance on this one. The closing medley of CARAVANism skirts near the ten minute mark and provides a multi-suite foray into the most progressive moments of the entire album. This is where the classical and jazz touches exceed the rock elements and the sophisticated orchestral parts are fully employed to create an exceedingly symphonic aural overload. While starting off soft and subtle and jumping into choppy off-kilter time signature laced guitar riffing, the track slowly evolves as it ratchets up into a fully fueled orchestral fury.

While many would argue otherwise, i personally rank FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT second only to "If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You" as CARAVAN's finest moment, one they would unfortunately never repeat as starting with the following "Cunning Stunts" the band vied towards more commercial accessibility due to financial pressures but in reality sounded more like a neutered animal that had lost all its mojo making vitality. While this album signified a new era for CARAVAN that would lead to the "New Symphonia" live album, the volatility within the ranks found this another short-lived rendition of the band and essentially left FOR GIRLS as a triumphant anomaly within the band's discography. FOR GIRLS latched onto the perfect mix of heavier rock, symphonic orchestration, jazz tinged subtleties and Canterbury cheekiness that conspired to create an unforgettably unique album in the entire rock paradigm. As far as i'm concerned, this blows "In The Land Of Grey And Pink" away which has remained the band's most popular album. This one displays a much more diverse series of approaches that worked in tandem beautifully

4.5 but too good to round down

 In The Land Of Grey And Pink by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.29 | 1655 ratings

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In The Land Of Grey And Pink
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by patrickq

5 stars It almost seems like assigning too many five-star ratings implies a lack of manliness here. I want to be a tough guy, believe me! But what am I supposed to do with an album as great as In the Land of Grey and Pink?

(Before I go further, I'll remark that the version I'm reviewing here is the 2011 Steven Wilson stereo remix from the 40th Anniversary set.)

The Prog Archives definition of a five-star album is "Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music," and this describes In the Land of Grey and Pink thoroughly. Its performances, production, and compositions are all first-rate.

The first song I heard from In the Land of Grey and Pink was the title song, which appeared on Supernatural Fairy Tales, a Rhino compilation. It's a pleasant, if inane, little song. For some reason I was inspired to look into Caravan further, and I looked up the band on Prog Archives. At that time, you could download full mp3s from the website, and I'm pretty sure that's where I got a copy of "Nine Feet Underground," which blew me away. In a textbook case of music file sharing benefiting the music industry, I eventually purchased the "Deluxe" edition of the album for almost $30. And it was worth it.

As it turns out, the nice-enough song "In the Land of Grey and Pink" is the least interesting on the album. It and the album-opening "Golf Girl," both sung by bassist Richard Sinclair, are relatively light, pastoral tunes which I've come to think of as exemplars of the "Canterbury sound." "Golf Girl" is slightly more accessible and wittier. Equally accessible, but catchier, is "Love to Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)," sung by lead guitarist Pye Hastings. Now when I say that "Love to Love You" is accessible, I don't mean that its lyrics are relatable, or even that they make sense. Actually, the lyrics throughout In the Land of Grey and Pink are pretty good for progressive rock, but can't possibly be meant to be taken seriously.

"Golf Girl," "In the Land of Grey and Pink," and "Love to Love You" account for about thirteen of the album's forty-three minutes. The rest is occupied by the comparably progressive "Winter Wine" (sung by Sinclair) and "Nine Feet Underground" (sung by Hastings and Sinclair). Both are cut from the same cloth, and as the album's second song, the 7:36 "Winter Wine" serves as a preview of "Nine Feet," (22:43) which closes the album. Much has been made of the organ soloing on these songs and on the title track, and understandably so. Pardon the cliche, but keyboardist David Sinclair is on fire, especially on "Nine Feet."

I can't really say whether In the Land of Grey and Pink is, as many here claim, the best Canterbury Scene album ever; I haven't heard enough of the genre. Not knowing exactly how "Canterbury Scene" is defined as a subset of prog rock, I'll say that In the Land of Grey and Pink has significant elements of Symphonic Prog and Progressive Jazz, and to a greater extent, Progressive Folk. Despite these somewhat disparate ingredients, and although there are two distinct vocalists, In the Land of Grey and Pink hangs together as a single work.

So, great performances of great material. Highly recommended.

 Radio Gnome Invisible Vol. 2 - Angel's Egg by GONG album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.13 | 639 ratings

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Radio Gnome Invisible Vol. 2 - Angel's Egg
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by mariorockprog

5 stars is the fifth album by gong and his second album in his trilogy Radio Gnome. I considered it a really good album, the best of this band in fact, in contains a lot of passages of space rock, jazz, psychedelia and carterbury combination. Including more vocals that the third chapter, adding more variability, in fact that is the reason that mos of the members left after the following album. however the lyrics are not so deep and you are not going to find something meaningful, only a fictional history or maybe based in acid trips?. generally the quality maintains all over the album, and mainly the space rocks passages with the keyboards feels better made, the sounds are not monotone as in some part of their third one. A masterpiece of prog music and a must have album.
 Radio Gnome Invisible Vol. 3 - You by GONG album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.25 | 955 ratings

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Radio Gnome Invisible Vol. 3 - You
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by mariorockprog

5 stars 4.5: the third album of the trilogy Radio Gnome, and their most acclaimed album, the last one where the founder Daevid Allen appears before reappearing 1992. A very space, jazz, Canterbury combination and in sometimes it feels like avant garde that at the end delivers a excellent results. It contains the classic comedy style of a canterbury band mixed with a lot of space passages. I really liked, because it is not repetitive, it has a lot of good moments and it continues to evolve with every song. The space rock passages are well done including mostly keyboard atmosphere and very variable combination of sounds that make it hypnotic. A excellent addition to any prog collection and without doubts a masterpiece of Canterbury music.
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Canterbury Scene bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
DAEVID ALLEN Australia
AMOEBA SPLIT Spain
ANTIQUE SEEKING NUNS United Kingdom
KEVIN AYERS United Kingdom
BIG HOGG United Kingdom
THE BOOT LAGOON United Kingdom
BRAINVILLE United Kingdom
CARAVAN United Kingdom
CLEAR FRAME United Kingdom
COS Belgium
DELIVERY United Kingdom
EGG United Kingdom
THE GHOULIES United Kingdom
MICHAEL GILES United Kingdom
GILGAMESH United Kingdom
GONG Multi-National
GOWEN - MILLER - SINCLAIR - TOMKINS United Kingdom
JOHN GREAVES United Kingdom
NICHOLAS GREENWOOD United Kingdom
GRINGO United Kingdom
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH United Kingdom
STEVE HILLAGE United Kingdom
HOPPER - DEAN - TIPPETT - GALLIVAN United Kingdom
HUGH HOPPER United Kingdom
JAKKO M. JAKSZYK United Kingdom
THE KENTISH SPIRES United Kingdom
KHAN United Kingdom
THE LODGE United States
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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