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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

4.28 | 1592 ratings
4.31 | 788 ratings
Wyatt, Robert
4.25 | 940 ratings
4.28 | 646 ratings
4.27 | 720 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.24 | 925 ratings
4.23 | 908 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.26 | 387 ratings
National Health
4.20 | 512 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.16 | 672 ratings
4.24 | 289 ratings
Quiet Sun
4.27 | 233 ratings
4.12 | 615 ratings
4.16 | 381 ratings
4.13 | 391 ratings
Hillage, Steve
4.12 | 351 ratings
National Health
4.23 | 198 ratings
4.35 | 128 ratings
Moving Gelatine Plates
4.07 | 449 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.03 | 506 ratings
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

Moving Gelatine Plates
National Health
Gowen - Miller - Sinclair - Tomkins

Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews

 Hidden Details by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.94 | 12 ratings

Hidden Details
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

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

4 stars The name SOFT MACHINE evokes god status in progressive rock circles, a band so far ahead of their time that they not only were one of the key pioneers in launching the entire progressive rock universe way back in the mid-60s, but singlehandedly created the jazz-fusion niche world which would finally be penned the Canterbury Scene. The band has been somewhat of a spawning ground for some of the jazz-rock world's most gifted musicians as well as having been a nursery ground for countless other bands to have split off from. For one to trace the family tree of this productive rotating collective over the decades is tantamount to rocket science physics equations with band members leaving, returning and new ones continuously adding new idiosyncrasies. The band can claim nearly thirty musicians in all who have come and gone with a whole bunch of related bands when you take the extended close relatives into consideration.

Just check out this impressive list of SOFT MACHINE spinoffs: 2nd Vision, Adiemus, Daevid Allen Trio, Bluesology, Brainville, Centipede, Command All Stars, Elton Dean's Ninesense, The Dedication Orchestra, Gilgamesh, Gong, In Cahoots, Isotope, Matching Mole, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, Nucleus, Pip Pyle's Equip'Out, Polysoft, Short Wave, Soft Bounds, Soft Head, Soft Heap, Soft Machine Legacy, Soft Mountain, Soft Works, Symbiosis, Keith Tippett Tapestry Orchestraa, which of course along with Canterbury's other pioneers emerged in the big bang of the entire scene in the nascent proto-prog efforts ofThe Wilde Flowers. And while it may be hard to believe that this band that released their debut all the way back in 1968 is still finding new life, lo and behold an entirely new version of SOFT MACHINE has appeared with their 2018 release HIDDEN DETAILS which emerges 37 years after the last studio album "Land Of Cockayne" and a whopping half century after they forever changed the musical landscape with their eponymously titled psychedelic pop classic debut.

With a release under the original moniker, one would expect this to be an announcement of sorts of some type of reunion album that finds the original members of the classic period getting back together to reclaim their jazzy rock ingenuity of the past. Of course, i'm not really sure if a "classic" lineup has actually ever been established with this band since it seems like every album, studio and live, sports a different lineup as musicians flowed through the band like a never-ending river however personally i would assume that it would include any of the members from the debut to the "Third" era. To assume this, however, you would be mistaken indeed, for the SOFT MACHINE of 2018 is a completely different beast altogether. Well, let me rephrase that, an old beast shedding a part of its moniker to usurp the throne of the progenitors of the original band. Not exactly what i was expecting, however the results aren't nearly as disastrous i had feared. Not by a long shot.

HIDDEN DETAILS, in actuality, is an extension of the related group Soft Machine Legacy which was formed in 2004 as a new variant of yet another related band called Soft Works. This newly coined band in the greater SOFT MACHINE family emerged when guitarist John Etheridge replaced the late great Allan Holdsworth and then released three albums in the forms of the self-titled debut (2006), "Steam" (2007) and "Burden Of Proof" in 2013. Out of the original Softies, only Hugh Hopper was involved on the first two albums before being replaced by Roy Babbington (another 70s member), otherwise the rest of the group consisted of Etheridge on guitars, Theo Travis on sax, flute and Fender Rhodes piano and John Marshall on drums. While not the classic early years, Marshall played drums on "Fifth" and stuck around throughout the rest of the 70s and 80s as did Babbington.

Are you thoroughly confused yet? Well, i am! Just to relay the details of exactly what happened for this new album to come about, the band announced in 2015 that they would tour with the "Legacy" part being dropped out of their name and Soft Machine Legacy minus the Legacy is simply SOFT MACHINE, so in effect HIDDEN DETAILS is R-E-A-L-L-Y, technically speaking, the fourth Soft Machine Legacy album in disguise, JUST to make things in this Canterbury universe even M-O-R-E confusing. And you thought it was only the music that was complex? Well, the proof is in the pudding that absolutely nothing is easy to figure out in this slice of jazz-rock infused world. LOL! Enough of all that! How's the friggin' music you wonder. In short, very good! In fact, so much better than i ever could've hoped for.

Whether you like the name change or not, these guys somehow manage to harness that ineffable SOFT MACHINE sound from the past and embark on a modern day fusionist journey that breathes new life into a rather infertile nook of the progressive rock universe, all the while keeping it firmly grounded in the the contemporary world that animates new creativity into a classic sound all the while brandishing a slick modern production job. Right from the hard hitting opening title track, this quartet elegantly captures the classic SOFT MACHINE zeitgeist with crazily laid out time signatures, heavy sax, bass and drum action as well as a rock guitar sound that the early Softies eschewed. Theo Travis proves to be a veritable brass blower as his technically infused playing reminds of the greats such as Elton Dean's best performances only in a more streamlined and controlled manner.

While these guys, who are well into their 70s i believe, crank out the title track as effortlessly as they would've decades ago, it's not just the technical workouts that bedazzle the listener on HIDDEN DETAILS. The secret sauce is in the veritable smorgasbord variety of the tracks which even include the unthinkable reworkings of "The Man Waved At Trains" (from "Bundles") and "Out Bloody Rageous" (from "Third) which prove that this current SOFT MACHINE lineup was quite confident with their abilities to carry the torch by taking that last leap of faith and dropping the "Legacy" ending of their band name. The former track is a flute rich jazzified slow rocker that triumphantly engages in all the expected jazzy timings and sweet sensuality of a flute based melodic drive. While the latter captures the expected "Third" era warmth but adds a much silkier and smooth spaced out version that takes some of the aggressive drive out of the original. While being faithful to the original in spirit, these modern day renditions are quite an achievement.

Perhaps the greatest triumphs of HIDDEN DETAILS comes from the more complex atmospheric pieces such as the the title track and the angular avant-garde motifs of "Ground Lift" and "Flight Of The Jett" which exude a greater sum of the parts that takes you into an entirely different realm where the sound stabs paint a pointillistic reality on the other side of perception. Masterfully executed and uniquely interwoven into the overall fabric of the album. On the other side of the spectrum lies the immediately more catchy and perceptible melodic (in jazz fashion) tracks such as "Broken Hill" and "Fourteen Hour Dream," the latter of which has a downright danceable groovy bass riff that is accompanied by a soul massaging flute performance. As the album ends with the ambient "Breathe," i take this as breathing a sigh of relief as i just listened to an album that i loved despite having every fear that it would be some irrelevant retreading of the past with nothing but recycled bits regurgitated in a nauseating disrespectful fashion. Wow. I couldn't have been more mistaken.

Progressive rock is a persistent beast and while bands like SOFT MACHINE have never been the most commercially successful, their musical maturity has earned them a high place in the greater rock universe in terms of respect and durability. While the classic combo of musicians like Mike Rutledge, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and Hugh Hopper may only be distant memories for long time prog lovers and mere encyclopedic entries for those of us who weren't around to experience the initial lineups of the great SOFT MACHINE classics, it's reassuring to know that a bunch of stalwart virtuosos of this magnitude are keeping the Canterbury torch burning. HIDDEN DETAILS is a testament to not only to the SOFT MACHINE "Legacy" but to the entire Canterbury Scene actually. While this one will not usurp the throne of classics like "Third" as top dogs in my world, this one does inspire me to fill the gap and investigate all of the other spinoff bands that the members on this album have played in. This was, indeed, one of the greatest surprises of 2018!

 Rock Bottom by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.31 | 788 ratings

Rock Bottom
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by Foxprog

5 stars What a story!

Robert Wyatt's debut album, just wow! A former drummer from "Soft Machine" falls out from the third floor window and writes this album in hospital as he is pain. Robert knows that he will never play drums again. He starts writing this album in the hospital and learns to play keyboards and sing, truly outstanding. Robert really does what he loves, to be one with the music. You can really hear on this album that he is suffering. The dark and moody melodies are really, really good.

1. Sea Song 9/10, The whole album is really keyboard intensive as is also the first song. Great lyrics and piano. Most importantly the song brings a dark atmosphere, which really strikes me. Around 4min mark he starts singing as he is in pain, sad and beatiful at the same time...

2. A Last Straw 9/10, I don't know how to describe this one. I just really like this one. Great bass, piano and some nice guitar too in the last part. The atmosphere is just too good!

3. Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road 9/10, Beware of the trumpets! It feels like someone is chasing you in the whole song. I don't know if Robert meant that death is chasing him but it sure sounds like that! A fast-paced song, flows really well! Get ready for a ride.

4. Alifib 8/10, Okay, the next two songs are the strangest ones on the whole album. If you listen them individually without the whole album you propably would be like "wtf is this". Guitar is in a big part. Also the backing lyrics are there trough the whole song too.

5. Alife 8.5/10, This one continues straight from the previous one. Such a dark song, very "Van Der Graaf Generator" like. The wind instrument does some serious crazy stuff here. This always gives me Shivers...

6. Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road 10/10, Jesus christ that guitar solo... The whole album is build up for this one and it truly works well. The legendary Mike Oldfield is playing one of the most beautiful, sad and epic solos of all times. Feels like the guitar is crying. Has a little bit same feeling as the solo in "Firth of Fifth". Also the album sounds like it has a happy ending, which is nice.

This album is not flawless by any means, but it's epic! For me this is one of the best albums ever. You really can't listen this one like pick one song and listen it. You have to put earphones on and focus trough the whole album. As I said before, the atmposhere is unique. Bravo Robert!

 Full Circle - Live 1988 by GONG album cover Live, 1998
3.80 | 13 ratings

Full Circle - Live 1988
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by WFV

4 stars Excellent artifact from the Pierre Moerlen era. The sound and vibe here are far more organic than the bland Live album released in 1980. The recording is quite full and there is exquisite banter that really gives the album an exciting, intimate feel. A healthy selection of band favorites make this a top live album worth seeking out. My personal favorites on this album are Exotic and Leave it Open, but all the tracks put together make this something no fan of Pierre Moerlen's Gong should be without. In fact, this is among the best late eighties prog performances I've heard.
 Seven is a Jolly Good Time by EGG album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1969
4.68 | 12 ratings

Seven is a Jolly Good Time
Egg Canterbury Scene

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

5 stars A 7-inch Canterbury gem! A 60's single containing prog! Something one don't run into too often.

EGG, one of the earliest Canterbury acts, or prog bands altogether, were a trio of organist-pianist Dave Stewart (later a member in Hatfield and the North, and National Health), bassist-vocalist Mont Campbell and drummer Clive Brooks. Originally there was also the to-be-famous guitarist Steve Hillage around; at the time the group was called URIEL. That quartet of very young musicians played at youth clubs in 1968, with The Nice and Pink Floyd as their most notable influences. When Hillage went to study history and philosophy at Kent University - located in Canterbury - , the remaining trio changed their name to Egg. In the spring of '69 they recorded this debut single, just before teaming up again with Hillage on his summer holiday, to make an album under the name of ARZACHEL. Yeah, pure Canterbury spirit in that sense too.

'Seven Is a Jolly Good Time' is a happy and musically complex, organ-centred song, and a fine example of Canterbury prog at that. I think of the early SOFT MACHINE as their kindred spirit. Mont Campbell is a pretty good vocalist, and already that alone makes Egg sound nicer (!) than their better-known contemporaries The Nice. The lyrics tell of a boy who starts "writing songs in all the rhythms I could find". The brief song toys with odd time signatures while the structure featuring a suitable amount of chorus repetition keeps it relatively accessible in its quirkiness. The monomanic "really doesn't matter - squeek! - really doesn't matter - squeek! - really doesn't matter - squeek! - really doesn't matter" section is rather similar to certain moments, a decade or more later, by bands such as Talking Heads, 10cc or the 80's King Crimson... The sound quality is very good for the sixties, it doesn't suffer from the echoey psych vibe like the Caravan debut album.

'You Are All Princes' is a bit longer song at 3:45. Not quite as quirky, but no less interesting or good-sounding [proto-] prog song with a psychedelic edge. Organ sounds terrific, and later a harpsichord joins in merrily, at first bringing Floyd's 'See Emily Play' in mind. Melodically both of the songs in this seminal single are charming. And what's increasing their value even further, they didn't appear on any of the three albums of Egg. They are to be found on a cd edition of the eponymous debut (1970). One could hardly expect more of a 7" single from 1969. Five out of ten ratings (without reviews) here have given five stars, and I'm glad to agree.

 Space Shanty by KHAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.28 | 646 ratings

Space Shanty
Khan Canterbury Scene

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


Any fans of progressive rock's Canterbury Scene are keenly aware that the whole thing began back in the mid-60s when the pioneers Kevin Ayers, Brian Hopper, Richard Sinclair and Hugh Hopper created the blueprint for the whole scene with the proto-offerings of the Wilde Flowers, however due to creative differences the band never realized their visions and splintered into Soft Machine and Caravan which would create a snowball effect for an entirely newly established branch of jazz-rock fusion. With a fork in the road, each set of musicians splintered into different directions. While both started out in a more playful psychedelic pop with progressive leanings mold, by the turn of the decade, Soft Machine was a full-fledged jazz-fusion instrumental band and Caravan had polished their progressive pop chops.

Fast forward a few years down the road and a fledgling Steve Hillage was just getting his feet wet in the music world after working in the psychedelic blues rock band Uriel aka Arzachel in 1969. As a result of the remaining three members forming Egg after the band split, Hillage found himself exposed to the world of England's Canterbury sound and learned a few tricks from his continued involvement with his former team. After a few years of academic studies, Hillage had the itch to start a new band which resulted in his next project KHAN which consisted of the lineup of Nick Greenwood on bass after his stints with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Dick Heninghem on organ and Pip Pyle on percussion but quickly Pyle joined Gong and was replaced by Eric Peachey. Soon after Heninghem baled as well leaving the entire project in question.

Despite having recently joined Egg, Dave Stewart came to the rescue and contributed his keyboard playing skills between gigs all throughout 1971 to KHAN's one and only album SPACE SHANTY. The sessions began with only Hillage and Greenwood which would set the stage for the final outcome. If you are lucky enough to have heard the remastered edition that contains the two bonus tracks "Break The Chains" (which never made it onto the album) and the first version of "Mixed Up Man Of The Mountains," it would all make sense as how SPACE SHANTY evolved from being super catchy pop rock songs with flowery hippie inspired lyrics to a more sophisticated slice of prog rock that craftily mixed Canterbury inspired progressive rock with jazz fusion and space rock. The formula was set and teased out until it created one of the Canterbury quintessential listening experiences that stands out from all the rest.

SPACE SHANTY is a brilliant mix of 60s almost Cream inspired harder edged rock in fine compositional form with the melody as the primary feature. Someone forgot to tell these guys that the 70s weren't about peace and love any longer and that cynicism and darker tones were in! Well, never mind. KHAN somehow didn't get the memo and remained staunchly in flower power mode with heart-warming lyrics that make you scream "power to the people!" Despite this extended flirtation with idealistic optimism, the music is off the charts outstanding. Of the six tracks, each begins with a beautifully arranged pop rock song that after a verse / chorus / verse normalcy begins to drift off into the progressive rock universe with each passage organically shapeshifting from various styles of space rock to jazzy fueled fusion to organ driven Canterbury heaven. The result is in my mind exactly what the Wilde Flowers were hoping to achieve had they stayed together.

The opening title track perfectly states the entire mission with the opening "I need you and you need me" belted out in poetic prose and vocals that remind me somewhat of Kansas. After the initial lyric driven rock in melodious splendor, the track deviates into "The Cobalt Sequence and March of the Sine Squadrons" which displays the veritable talent of the musicians involved in the KHAN project and although Dave Stewart and Hillage rule the show with blistering solos and time signature rich outbursts, hats off to both Nick Greenwood and Eric Peachey for finding ways of inserting their genius within the nooks and crannies. KHAN came off as a super group even at this early stage of the members' respective careers.

The entire album follows suit with melodic "normal" rock intros drifting away into a rotisserie of musical genre mashups with each musician finding abnormal ways of musical expression, ranging between loose jazzy jams and space rock extravaganzas with the track finding resolution by ending with the same vocal led melodic rock from which started the whole thing. Some tracks like "Driving To Amsterdam" display more phenomenal than usual keyboard outbursts from Dave Stewart and "Stargazers" finds the perfect way of juggling hyperactive progressive angularity with gentle placidity as the two styles alternate. This album is pretty cool as it displays not only much of Hillage's bluesy guitar rock of his Arzachel project but finds him perfecting his space rock echo approach that he would fully unleash once joining Gong.

I really can't think of another album that so brilliantly melds the 60s ideals so well into a 70s progressive rock context. The brilliant musicianship and virtuosic outburst meld perfectly with placid mellow melodies that would come crashing down if not for the strong vocal performances of both Hillage and Greenwood. Everything serves the greater good of the atmosphere and melody on this one and the result is brilliant and compelling. Forget the hideous cover art. Ugh. The music is some of the most brilliant that the Canterbury Scene has to offer. Yeah, this was a grower for me as i had the initial ick factor with the flowery verbiage and rather dated organ sounds but the more i listened to this one, the more it weaseled its way under my skin.

Yes, this does have a dated sound but not every classic has to be timeless in nature. This is a masterpiece of the era and instantly takes me back to the classic musical year of 1972. This was a great start for Hillage. Unfortunately the band collapsed fairly quickly and despite some material being prepared for a second album, much of that would find itself onto Hillage's first solo album "Fish Rising." While only existing for a brief moment in time, KHAN somehow managed to create one of the ultimate classics of 70s progressive rock that has held up over the years. It was certainly an acquired taste for me but one i finally captured as i let the melodies sink into my skin first and then let the more fancy shmancy complexities follow. Great lyrics, great melodies, great technical wankery. What more could you possibly want? One warning is that this is mood dependent. I haven't found this brilliant on every listen but in the end, it is.

 Gilgamesh by GILGAMESH album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.87 | 153 ratings

Gilgamesh Canterbury Scene

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

4 stars One of the band's that emerged after the Canterbury's heyday nevertheless responsible for tethering together two prominent acts in the Scene, namely the extraordinarily larger-than-life supergroup Hatfield and the North and the also late to the scene but equally relevant National Health. GILGAMESH, named after a historical Sumerian king of the city-state, Uruk, was formed in 1972 by Alan Gowen, who entered the music world through the Afrobeat fusion band Assagai in 1971 before joining the ranks of the Canterbury jazz club.

After three years of various lineups including such Canterbury stalwarts as Richard Sinclair and a veritable who's who cast in the Canterbury world, a self-titled debut finally emerged in the final year of first run with the lineup of Gowen (piano, synthesizers, mellotrons), MikeTravis (drums), Jeff Clyne (bass) and Phil Lee (guitars). There are a few brief appearances by Amanda Parsons whose angelic ethereal siren effects clearly bring the Hatfield and the North connections to the forefront.

What comes off as a more straight forward jazz-fusion album than contemporary Canterbury music of the early 70s with a more orchestral sort of flow to the album, GILGAMESH still contains an ample dosage of angular harmonic complexities laced with subtle self-deprecating humorous effects most obvious in the track titles as well as on the album cover that depicts the game Chutes And Ladders depicted in a life on the road, the musician's guide approach.

Musically this debut is more airy with a floaty feather in the clouds sort of feel with the harshness emerging in the free-for-all compositional twists and turns that are presented in the three tracks that contain mini-suites however even tracks like "Notwithstanding" present some challenging jazz workouts that implement that indescribable Canterbury warmth that separates it from the rest of the jazz-rock world.

While clearly derived from the Hatfield and the North projects with Dave Stewart even joining in for vocal arrangements and co- production, GILGAMESH not only eschews the pure copy and paste approach by adding different stylistic meanderings but in retrospect provides the bridge between H&theN to the more dynamic complexities that Gowen would fully come to master on the National Health albums.

While tracks like the lengthy cumbersomely titled "One End More / Phil's Little Dance - For Phil Miller's Trousers / Worlds Of Zin" are quite exciting with all the unexpected twists and turns through dynamic, tempos and angular jitteriness the Canterbury Scene presupposes, there are lazy lackluster tracks such as the piano ballad "Lady And Friend," which sort of lollygag in a linear direction and provide nothing more than nice dinner music for an ear sensitive date.

GILGAMESH may not have released the most memorable slice of Canterbury with their eponymous debut but there is still a lot to love here with unexpected frenetic outbursts of creativity emerging between longer bouts of placidity. This album is also an important bridge between the two more important supergroups that rank amongst the best the Scene offered. The band would break up after this debut only to scatter and rejoin other groups but Gowen would reform the band with yet another lineup for the 1979 followup "Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into." In short, not the best Canterbury album but well worth the time.

3.5 but rounded up for the excellent musicianship on board

 The Children's Crusade by BRAINVILLE album cover Studio Album, 1999
2.79 | 6 ratings

The Children's Crusade
Brainville Canterbury Scene

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

3 stars BRAINVILLE was one of the many so-called Canterbury supergroups and with the bigwigs like Daevid Allen of Gong and Soft Machine, Hugh Hopper also of Soft Machine and Pip Pyle of Gong, Hatfield & The North and National Health, it's impossible to phrase it otherwise. The band was rounded out by the addition of Mark Kramer who was a bassist and producer and cohorted with many bands including New York Gong, Shockabilly, Bongwater and Dogbowl just to name a few. On the band's one and only studio album THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE, he handled keyboards as well as production duties.

While the band officially existed from 1998-2006 they only managed to squeak out this sole studio recording in 1999 with a few live albums to follow under the moniker BRAINVILLE 3 which signified the new lineup of Allen, Hopper and Chris Cutler on drums. This band and album has been somewhat a blip in the canon of the prolific musicians involved and remains a rather unappreciated obscurity in the massive sprawling list of releases that these Canterbury stalwarts participated in during their decades long careers.

If one is to expect the usual Canterbury jazz-fusion technical workouts laced with lyrical whimsy and intricate instrumental workouts then i'm afraid you've come to the wrong project from any of these performers. THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE, while having clear references to Daevid Allen's stint in Gong as well as having jazzy periods of Canterbury recognition, is much more in the noise rock and avant-garde camp with a larger than life fuzz bass in modern times more associated with drone metal bands like Earth and Boris rather than anything that came from the most beloved subgenre of progressive rock.

With eleven tracks clocking in over 51 minutes, BRAINVILLE are just plain weird with angular janglly melodic meltdowns, completely freaked out glissando guitar psychedelia and lots, let me repeat, LOTS of distortion drenching the entirely album like a Sonic Youth festival at Guitar Center. The compositions are not laced with those quirky and charming pop hooks either but are rather nothing more than instrumental freeform jams with extended passages into a total breakdown of form although at least one of the instruments, usually the percussion remains somewhat rhythmic while the guitar and bass have a free for all in hyperactivity.

While mostly instrumental, vocals do occur from both Allen and Kramer but the majority of the album is a tribute to noisy fuzz- driven fantasies. When Allen's vocals are at the helm, the Radio Gnome Trilogy era does come to mind in the over-the-top trippiness of it all but the fuzzed out freakouts are more akin to his work with the Acid Mother's Temple on the 2004 Gong release "Acid Motherhood," which was a more structured and accessible style obviously derived from this completely unhinged improv session called BRAINVILLE.

I doubt many will appreciate this from the Canterbury crowd but for those who love chaotic noise with hints of melodies struggling to coalesce as if everyone involved is heavily sedated and struggling to find reality, then this will surely find a place in your thumb's up category since the drive is relentless and the muddled murkiness of it all points more to atonal masters such as Glenn Branca and no wave bands like DNA rather than the Canterbury resumes of the musicians involved. Very much for the open-minded and adventurous noise lovers but for traditional Canterbury-ists, you'd best give this one a miss.

 m.a.n. (Memories Are New) by SUPERSISTER album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2000
2.83 | 10 ratings

m.a.n. (Memories Are New)
Supersister Canterbury Scene

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

3 stars It seems like everything that SUPERSISTER concocted in their wake had a connection to something else in their canon of classic prog and therefore the perpetual labyrinth of themes that added an extra layer to their short but sweet OK career. Same goes for the 2000 compilation titled M.A.N. aka MEMORIES ARE NEW and in fine print on the cover you will see "This is not the new SUPERSISTER reunion 2000 CD!" This phrase stems from the fact that the band swore when they broke up in the mid-70s that they would NEVER reform. Well reform they did for the 2000 progfrest in Los Angeles, CA and while this isn't a bona fide reunion album, it is more of a comeback than they ever bargained for. BTW, this was the first time the band ever played in the US. They were a European band through and through.

The title is a throwback to the B-side of the single "Bagoas" which appeared on the 1973 release "Iskander." The track itself isn't even included on this compilation (it's a rather no nonsense jazz-fusion instrumental track on slo-mo and rather meh IMO.) SUPERSISTER had a short but very dynamic career having caught the prog world by storm and then fizzling out as the scene itself dissipated. This compilation basically captures a bunch of unreleased material under the guise of the 2000 progfest reunion. It captures three distinct phases of the band's career displaying the reunion phase in live performances, unreleased tracks with an orchestra from their early 70s years as well as the years before their debut in their proto-prog Nederland beat mode.

The first four tracks are dedicated to the live performances that found the band playing together for the first time in a coon's butt's age with one track "Present From Nancy" from their debut and two others from the "Pudding En Gisteren" years with the inclusion of an unreleased track "Mexico" tacked into the middle for sort of a medley effect as it basically continues the melodic developments of "Radio." Track 5 - WTF? Tracks #6 - 12 were recorded on 4-10-1971 with the Tanz- und Unterhatungsorchester des NDR in Germany during their short stint as musicians for ballet fusion. Unfortunately the music isn't up to the classic SUPERSISTER mode and makes the weakest part of the compilation.

The last five tracks are dedicated to the era before their debut "Present From Nancy." These tracks are hit and miss as Stips and company were merely getting their feet wet however it's quite clear on the strongest of the lot such as the trippy and cool "Woods Of Frustrated Men," that the band were venturing into stranger pastures of musical exploration also made known by the unusual remake of the American traditional "I Wish I Was In Dixie." All in all, this is a really great supplemental supply of SUPERSISTER obscurities. Although not essential, for anyone who is a fan, this is the next logical step. It provides a historical context as well as some great music that doesn't fit neatly into their already eclectic canon. Well worth the time if you want to dig deeper.

3.5 but rounded down due to inconsistencies

 Pudding En Gisteren [Aka: Pudding & Yesterday] by SUPERSISTER album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.96 | 114 ratings

Pudding En Gisteren [Aka: Pudding & Yesterday]
Supersister Canterbury Scene

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

4 stars The career of SUPERSISTER was brief but moved fairly quickly. It all began in 1967 while the band members were still in high school and founded by singer / songwriter Rob Douw who would soon leave the newly formed the Nederlands beat group Sweet OK Supersister however the band continued with Robert Jan Stips taking the role as bandleader with his keyboard playing become the focal point. Only three years later the band honed their chops and copped an English Canterbury attitude and stunned the fledgling prog rock universe with their amazingly performed antics on "Present From Nancy." Only a year later, the band developed their ideas even further and presented a more mature vision with their highly popular "To The Highest Bidder." It was at this point that they became extremely popular in their native Netherlands and also turned some heads all across Europe.

All the critical acclaim cemented a series of concerts in their homeland and extensive touring throughout Germany, England, France and Italy. In no time at all the band was working with full-fledged orchestras with the help of the German TV channel NDR which commissioned a performance with the Tanz und Unterhaltungsorchester des NDR conducted by Alfred Hause. The newly constructed compositions by bassist / guitarist Ron van Eck and Stips found a whole new audience for SUPERSISTER and soon thereafter they announced a collaboration between SUPERSISTER and the Nederlands Danstheater (the Dutch Dance Theater Company). The project took SUPERSISTER into yet another new arena where the idea was that the band would provide the soundtrack to a modern ballet accompanied by rock music.

This was also the time that the band was hoping to expand the lineup by adding a new guitarist in the form of ex-Brainbox member John Schuursma, but despite all the efforts did not happen and although the whole project of ballet meets prog did occur with the Nederlands Danstheater, it did so without SUPERSISTER. Slightly dismayed, the band entered the studio to record their third album PUDDING EN GISTEREN, a title that was supposed to grace the ballet project but rather become the emphasis of a third album. One of the major effects of hearing this third release by SUPERSISTER without this knowledge means the album will be experienced completely out of context and results in a lackluster understanding of the high velocity evolutionary dynamics that were taking place at the time.

PUDDING EN GISTEREN (Pudding and Yesterday) was the end of the road for the original lineup after all the turbulence of the music business but despite not quite reaching the glory of their first two albums, this third one delivers the goods on many fronts. During the period of the two predecessors, there were many pop hooks incorporated amongst the technical workouts that were truncated for a more commercial friendly environment such as the single "A Girl Named You" and "No Tree Will Grow." On PUDDING EN GISTEREN, the hook-laden melodies were prime time and dominate the two major leading tracks "Radio" and "Psychopath," which shows the clever shapeshifters of the Canterbury sound moving away from the early Soft Machine playbook to a more Caravan based one, however these guys were brilliant in their execution.

"Radio" begins as an almost saccharin display of pop earworm charm with that indefinable Canterbury Scene edge laced with Zappa- esque humor but after a few measures of "too sweet for its own good" erupts into an energetic jaunty ostinato bass driven rock bravado with clever spoken word narrative. The second track is a mere fifteen second electronically infused melody that merges into the third track, the equally addictive keyboard driven and almost Vaudville friendly tune "Psychopath' with intelligent lyrics as if Paul McCartney had cranked out a Beatles approved tune under the influence of heroin. Keeping in line with their Canterbury tinged humor, both lyric driven tracks are quite sardonic with an equal display of dark subject matter quilted in the expected whimsical dressing.

The fifteen second track aside, the album only has four bona fide tracks and by track number four "Judy Goes On Holiday," the SUPERSISTER of the past, namely the progressive rock masters who display their technically induced prowess in a parade of never- ending prog displays comes to fruition. On this track the band display not only their instantly addictive pop hooks, but tease them out into full pomp and awe which by the end even went in the the part of the Frank Zappa playbook that few others would dare, that being the doowop laden vaults of "Cruising With Reuben & The Jets." Ironically, PUDDING EN GISTEREN not only contains the shortest SUPERSISTER track with the fifteen second "Supersisterretsisrepus" but also the longest track of their career in the creatively complex 21 minute track "Pudding En Gisteren Music For Ballet," which displays the full technical prog compositional flare and musical gymnastics as their previous works.

PUDDING EN GISTEREN goes down in history as the weakest of the three albums with the original lineup for a reason. This one is less consistent and more awkwardly laid out than the first two. Add to that i find that "Judy Goes On Holiday" has an obnoxiously long middle section that meanders into mellow mode for far too long and then only emerges for a wear-out-its-welcome doowop loop of the same melody only sped up slightly after every measure for some sort of effect. The two pop oriented tracks coming first followed by the more complex ones seems out of balance but i have found the album somewhat addictive. While not as perfectly engaging as the first two, album number three is chock full of SUPERSISTER-isms to the max and despite the few complaints i carry, still remains a brilliant slice of early 70s progressive rock. Some have even deemed this their finest hour. While i can't say i share that consensus, i have to admit that this one, despite a step down in continuity and quality, is still an excellent delivery of the Canterbury Scene in progressive rock.

 In The Land Of Grey And Pink by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.28 | 1592 ratings

In The Land Of Grey And Pink
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by TiddK

5 stars I do award 5-stars sparingly, but this is one album that I believe deserves it.

The Canterbury Scene is / was the most quirkily English of all "prog's" sub-genres and seems - at least in my experience - to be the one least offensive to those rock writers who don't particularly like this genre. Caravan went through several line-up changes and barely survived the vicissitudes of punk, though they are now quite fondly regarded 'survivors'.

Out of the half dozen or so major studio releases they had in the 70s, I am not alone in rating "In The Land Of Grey & Pink" (a rather rude reference, as nearly all their album titles were) as their finest output. It's essentially an album of two distinct halves, much like Pink Floyd's "Meddle" only perhaps even more so. Side One (the first 4 songs on the CD) contains a mix of eccentric and very English songs, such as the title track ("In the land of grey and pink where only Boy Scouts stop to think" ... it's probably best I don't go into the salacious meaning of this!), all of which have a relatively light blend of folky/jazzy/rock, and lyrics the equal to Syd Barrett's on "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn". Take this from Golf Girl: -Standing on a golf course -Dressed in P.V.C. -I chanced upon a golf girl -Selling cups of tea -She asked me did I want one -Asked me with a grin -For three pence you can buy one -Full right to the brim. The melodies are bright and airy, and the instrumentation is reserved, with vocals and Hammond organ well to the fore.

Side Two however ('Nine Feet Underground'), is a different beast. Mostly instrumental, it's a single long piece of jazz/rock, in general much funkier than the songs on Side One. Like The Floyd's 'Atom Heart Mother' suite, it's a collection of (randomly named) sections that are linked together by a recurring theme.

If getting to know the album, then by all means listen to the whole thing in one go, but after a while you might find that listening to the first 4 songs requires a different mood to 'Nine Feet Underground', which tended to be the track I'd listen to after coming in from a night out.

To get to know the Canterbury Scene, you'd need to listen to at least 4 artists: Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, and Caravan. This album is not enough on its own for that purpose, but if you simply want one single album of melodic English quirkiness to accompany (for example) "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn", then this is it.

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Canterbury Scene bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
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
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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