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CANTERBURY SCENE

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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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

4.27 | 1350 ratings
IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK
Caravan
4.30 | 658 ratings
ROCK BOTTOM
Wyatt, Robert
4.24 | 791 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 3 - YOU
Gong
4.27 | 600 ratings
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH
Hatfield And The North
4.23 | 786 ratings
IF I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, I'D DO IT ALL OVER YOU
Caravan
4.27 | 532 ratings
SPACE SHANTY
Khan
4.21 | 771 ratings
THIRD
Soft Machine, The
4.24 | 302 ratings
OF QUEUES AND CURES
National Health
4.15 | 575 ratings
FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT
Caravan
4.18 | 438 ratings
THE ROTTERS' CLUB
Hatfield And The North
4.30 | 221 ratings
MAINSTREAM
Quiet Sun
4.10 | 537 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 2 - ANGEL'S EGG
Gong
4.13 | 327 ratings
FISH RISING
Hillage, Steve
4.26 | 161 ratings
VIVA BOMA
Cos
4.12 | 309 ratings
THE POLITE FORCE
Egg
4.22 | 178 ratings
TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER
Supersister
4.13 | 279 ratings
NATIONAL HEALTH
National Health
4.04 | 420 ratings
THE SOFT MACHINE
Soft Machine, The
4.04 | 375 ratings
VOLUME TWO
Soft Machine, The
4.10 | 213 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

THE WORLD OF GENIUS HANS
Moving Gelatine Plates
BEFORE A WORD IS SAID
Gowen, Miller, Sinclair, Tomkins
HOPPER TUNITY BOX
Hopper, Hugh
SOFT HEAP
Soft Heap

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Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews


 National Health by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.13 | 279 ratings

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National Health
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Groucho Barks

5 stars Being a closet Canterbury scene fan for more years than I care to recall, I am more and more drawn to National Health and this their first album. 1978 was never going to be a great year to release such an eclectic set....very Canterbury, very prog/fusion and even an ethereal feel with Amanda Parsons ur-scat vocals giving it a then contemporary Kate Bush edge. There is nothing concise or danceable here....well, it depends on how you dance I guess! There is a lot in common with Pierre Moerlens Gong and mid to late 70's Soft Machine and while you get a hint of Caravan (not in the sustained melodic passages sense) and the compositional twists and turns of Egg, I do feel it is the extended use of Parsons vox that gives this an anchor and also something to differentiate from the rest of the bands in the Cant. scene. 5 tracks and a near 50 mins, although it is a 50 mins that is utilised to the full. Very little noodling for the sake of ......even allowing for the adept musicianship on show. They are not afraid to utilise a heavier King Crimson groove at the start of 'Tenemos Roads' (which later on has echos of ELP)and any band with 2 keyboard players are going to go through the whole prog gamut of sound although mellotron is absent and while being firmly based in a prog/classical style, I can hear a sound not dissimilar to Herbie Hancock post Headhunters especially at the start of 'Elephants.' You also get a feel of Hamburger Concerto Focus (marvellous!) but the album is more than a sum total of these parts and influences. It is mood music, providing you can change moods several times over the 50 mins, but it keeps coming back to the oft ignored contributions of Amanda Parsons superb voice. As mentioned earlier....but Parsons is a far superior singer....you do get the Kate Bush colour wash but without the strained piping screech. Phil Miller provides both cutting and smooth jagged scale interludes on guitar without falling for McLaughlin speed freakery and Neil Murray (yes he who went on to Whitesnake err fame!) gives us non- blues/rock bass figures from jazz rock slides to a rolling punching foundation for the heavier passages. It's an album I can always lose myself in and it has grown on me (I confess over 35 years!) to be at the top of the sub genre. Although it isnt perfect it is certainly at least a 4.75 stars so rounded up to 5.
 If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.23 | 786 ratings

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If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by AngusH

5 stars Of all the bands I've found out about solely through the crazy world of progressive rock, Caravan would rank near the top. They were probably the most melodic of all the bands lumped in the Canterbury genre, and very accessible here, leaning more towards a 1960s rock sound than the jazzier influences of most Canterbury bands.

I don't think there's a weak moment on this album. 'As I Feel I Die', and 'And I Wish I Was Stoned / Don't Worry', and 'With An Ear To The Ground You Can Make It' are classics of the genre - the later in particular being a favorite of mine, and the epic 'Can't Be Long Now' is one of my favorite 10+ minute long progressive rock songs. The sax on this track still gives me chills after all these years. Hell, even the tracks that barely clock in at a minute long - the quirky 'Asforteri' and bossa nova-influenced 'Limits' - seem essential on an album of this quality rather than throwaways or filler. I like everything Caravan released from the self-titled debut up to and including Cunning Stunts (parts of, anyway), but to me this represents their best single release, slightly ahead of In the Land of Grey and Pink.

 Magic Bus by MAGIC BUS album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.18 | 13 ratings

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Magic Bus
Magic Bus Canterbury Scene

Review by NickArvas

4 stars I first came across one of their songs, the dream-like 'Gods Of The Mountain' while I was on this very site. As soon as it was done, I looked up the song, the album and the band, disappointed that so few know about them! The songs on this album move silkily after one another, and for a debut, the result is simply brilliant. The band themselves have said that their music is influenced by bands from the psychedelic era, and this is seen throughout the album. Their mix of folk, psychadelia and prog works, and works very well, at that.

Through their debut album, Magic Bus certainly showed that the Canterbury Scene is alive and kicking. From smooth, velvety rockers, to calm, silent little numbers, their music is quite exquisite. If you are into more of a hard rock styled Prog (a la Jethro Tull), you might not be into their albums, and their lyrics aren't top notch (good, but not great), but this is a band that one comes to love through their simplicity.

This band is no innovator, nor can they be called revolutionary, but this does not take away the fact that is one great band. Give them a try and I assure you, you will not regret it.

 Rainbow Dome Musick by HILLAGE, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.44 | 69 ratings

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Rainbow Dome Musick
Steve Hillage Canterbury Scene

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

5 stars What a fascinating one-off `Rainbow Dome Musick' turned out to be in the diverse catalogue of guitarist Steve Hillage, as well as a completely ground-breaking work overall. He may have offered sublime Canterbury Scene-related offerings such as `Fish Rising' (not to mention his time with Gong and Arzachel) and spacey rock works with the trio of `L', `Motivation Radio' and `Green', but this 1979 album he composed with his partner Miquette Giraudy is something else entirely. Recorded especially for the Rainbow Dome at the Festival for Mind-Body-Spirit at the Olympia London that ran from April 21-29 in 1979, it has become one of the seminal and definitive ambient/progressive electronic works of the Seventies that still maintains its incredible status to this day.

The album is split into two side-long completely instrumental pieces. `Garden of Paradise' is a pool of soft running calming streams, meditative chimes, shimmering electric piano tiptoes, glissando guitar wisps, rippling loops and weeping ethereal guitar strains that gradually build in rapturous ecstasy. Ebbing washes of spacey wavering synths seem to hover in the air, a sense of reflective stillness pervading the mood. The second side's `Four Ever Rainbow' holds soothing chimes, groaning electronic trickles, mysterious electronic drifts, tranquil delays of electric guitars, time-altering synth caresses rising and falling, and waves of serene glissando strains reach for the heavens lifting aching veils of angelic cries.

`Rainbow Dome Musick' is just as iconic as other albums that successfully blended spacey electronics and new age/ambient atmospheres with guitar such as Ashra's `New Age of Earth', and it's one of the few albums that can completely alter the ambience and temperature of your environment. `Rainbow Dome Musick' was an album way ahead of its time when it was released, its aura and mystique has maintained for over 35 years now, and it still sounds absolutely timeless today.

Five stars for a classic and definitive ambient/electronic/new-age work.

 Space Shanty by KHAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.27 | 532 ratings

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Space Shanty
Khan Canterbury Scene

Review by JPaulo

5 stars I'm in love with this album. The calm atmosphere is absolutely harmonious between the organ, the guitar and the voice. The duets between the guitar and the keyboards and even between two guitars are fantastic. A litle bit of Camel but in my opinion, it's a masterpiece of Canterbury Scene. A great music construction inspiration, and we must listen with a good stereo material, because the studio engeneering sound, was made the duets in two different record pists. A beautiful record with songs and music, that we follin in love and whant listen one more time. Beutiful keiboards and beautiful guitar arrangements. The only record of this band that I now and one of my favourites ever. I give 5 stars because it's really a masterpiece and in my opinion, one of the most canterbury Scene beautiful album's ever made.
 Pudding En Gisteren by SUPERSISTER album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.85 | 92 ratings

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Pudding En Gisteren
Supersister Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

5 stars The original lineup of this band put together three albums in rapid fire succession: 1971-72 before losing a few members (one of which was leader, keyboard player, and producer Robert Jan Stips--who would go on to join Golden Earring through their monster hit album, Moontan). This is the third of that trilogy. The band has grown. Their experimental nature has been nurtured further but they are also putting here on display a greater maturity in their lyrical content and a greater command and confidence in the polishing department and recording/engineering departments. As I listen to Pudding en Gisteren I find myself wishing that their first two albums were rehearsed, recorded and produced as well as this one. The opening song, "Radio" (4:00) is full of silliness--not the least of which is the end segment with "radio narrator" speaking over the band's appropriate "soundtrack" music. It's an okay song, despite its entertainment value. (7/10)

The second song, "Supersisteretsisrepus" (0:16) is one of those silly throw-away songs so common to early (pre- paralysis) Robert Wyatt project albums--this one a keyboard solo.

Song 3, "Psychopath" (3:58) is a tongue-in-cheek cabaret-like song in the Monty Python Life of Brian vein. Humorous, intelligent lyrics sung/spoken over piano and then piano and harpsichord duet in the middle section and then joined by Mellotron strings for the final third. (8/10)

4. "Judy Goes on Holiday" (12:38) is the epic that completes Side 1 of the album. It opens with a very catchy synthesizer/flute riff, which is then periodically repeated throughout the song in order to bring the band back to center before venturing off into some of the more EGG-heavy or CAMEL-light passages that make up the body of the song. I find the mix of this song interesting for the consistent "compartmentalization" of each of the individual performers--keys in left, bass center up front, drums center in back, flute center-right and guitars full right. An odd slow, spacious section begins in the fifth minute that allows the band some percussive playfulness. Then a slow keyboard and flute duet begins mid-song that is absolutely gorgeous--very much in a CAMEL/Latimer- Bardens or Hackett-Hackett way. Like Satie "Gymnopedia," I could listen to this forever. The song eventually returns to the opening riff and pacing. (9/10)

5. Side 2 is filled with one song, one epic--one of the finest epics Canterbury music has to offer, the title song "... (Music for Ballet)" (21:00). From the opening riff and its variations which fill the first two minutes, to the organ and flute interplay and rolling bass lines in the more varied tempos of the second movement, to the smooth, cool grooves and key sounds in the CAMEL-esque third movement, this is an absolute masterpiece of instrumental music. I do love the way Supersister can cough up so many catchy and memorable and fun melodic riffs. Each section/movement of this piece is grounded in at least one of them. There must be about 20 of them through the course of this song! I can often hear sections appropriate for ballet, as the title indicates, but not the majority--though there are a few themes that feel like variations on already-existing classic ballet themes. I mean, I know dancers can dance to just about anything, but as for your typical musical score intended specifically for ballet, I don't see this one as one of those. I'd like to see it staged as such. (10/10)

Definitely a weird and diverse album with questionable lows but with more solid, mature, and memorable highs-- namely the two epics; they are not to be missed. Accordingly, I think this album must claim its place among the pantheon of prog masterpieces.

 The World Of Genius Hans by MOVING GELATINE PLATES album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.35 | 84 ratings

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The World Of Genius Hans
Moving Gelatine Plates Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

4 stars Definitely more on the jazzy side of what we call Canterbury music. Moving Gelatine Plates' second album--released only a year after their surprisingly mature debut--displayed a better quality of recording and engineering to equally mature and accomplished instrumental jazz arrangements. Other than the debut's "London Cab," I like this album hands down over the debut. There is more warmth in the songs and performances here--and a feeling that the band is more relaxed, as if they are just grooving and enjoying themselves and their unique sound.

The opening song, the fourteen-minute epic title song, 1. "The World of Genius Hans" (14:05), is a very jazzy piece with some quite technically challenging ensemble sequences all working coherently and cohesively together. (9/10)

2. "Funny Doll" (4:29) opens with some light, bouncy interplay between sax and lead guitar with snappy bass and drum play beneath. Towards the end of the first minute the band gels into a full sound just before a male voice sings to us in a kind of Benmont TENCH kind of raspy way. The following jazz section is quite lovely, with the band playing really tightly and with some awesome multi-insturmental melodies. In the fourth minute it starts to get a little more mathematical just before a very fun section with a circus-master like vocal saying "good-bye" to us. Awesome song! (10/10)

3. "Astromonster" (6:20) opens with a rolling bass playing beneath some guitar, bassoon, and percussive oriental- sounding staccato melody weave. Then things slow down for a bit, as if to reset, before opening the third minute with some more straightforward, driving ensemble jazz with organ and fuzz bass. The fourth minute then brings in another shift--almost a bolero kind of Latin section with a very Santana sound and feel to it (except for the drums). The Santana-like melody is carried forward by the guitar until, at the end of the fifth minute, a faster paced start- and-slow alternating pattern is established for about a minute. The final minute sees a very slowed down regurgitation of one of the song's main melodies--from the flute! Weird but awesome song. (9/10)

The next song, 4. "Moving Theme" (3:56), feels like an 'tude, like a song created to exercise the group's dexterity and entrainment timing. Not particularly melodic or enjoyable except in the way one can appreciate the band members' command of their instruments and their ability to play tightly. It could just be what its title says: a theme for moving! (7/10)

5. "Cauchemar" (3:53) is a fast-paced piece that kind of follows one format for its entire four minutes--even trying to establish a melody line that follows the pop ABACAB-type of flow. (8/10)

6. "We Were Loving Her" (3:19) is a slow-to-unveil-itself piece that has a kind of MATCHING MOLE/SOFT MACHINE experimental feel to it. The song has nice melodies expressed by the saxophone in the last minute. (8/10)

7. "Un jour..." (1:30) has quite a SATIE feel to it despite it's being a bass and saxophone duet.

Perhaps not as silly as their debut but not as serious either. While not my favorite type of Canterbury music--I go for the more melodic fun stuff of Caravan and Supersister--it is not my least. The musicians and compositional team of MGP are definitely amazingly good and awesomely confident. What feels like their step forward in World of Genius Hans is how relaxed and fun the band feels to be on this album. Too bad they never generated the interest or fan base to sustain their passion.

 Civil Surface by EGG album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.73 | 162 ratings

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Civil Surface
Egg Canterbury Scene

Review by Progfan97402

5 stars Usually reunions happen a decade or more later, by which point their new material just never stacks up to the old and is forgotten. For example, Cream reuniting in 2005, but the old bad blood resurfaced (Ginger Baker has serious issues on how to get along with people and he still continued showing his contempt for Jack Bruce). At least they didn't try to embarrass us with new material that will be very substandard and never comparing to their classic material. Crosby, Stills & Nash (with Young sometimes) had frequently reunited through the years and gave us mediocre album after mediocre album. Egg, on the other hand, reunited in 1974, not too long after they broke up in the first place, so obviously not too much time has passed and was able to create another wonderful album worthy of your collection. Dave Stewart was busy with Hatfield & the North, but he felt there was enough Egg material that hasn't been recorded to be recorded and The Civil Surface is the results. While the Canterbury scene was becoming more fusion-oriented (witness the Soft Machine albums from the same time period, and of course Hatfield & the North, and later on National Health), Egg retained it's early '70s sound, it could have easily passed as a 1971 followup to The Polite Force. There are a couple of pieces dominated by wind instruments (Henry Cow members Lindsay Cooper, Tim Hodgkinson and Jeremy Baines appear here) but the rest is classic Egg. Themes from Hatfield & the North's debut show up, probably to let everyone know Dave Stewart's presence, or the fact Hatfield & the North hasn't broken up (and they hadn't, once The Civil Surface was released, Hatfield & the North released their final album The Rotter's Club). I didn't exactly know what to expect from Egg in 1974. The music by this time seemed behind the times, more fitting for 1971, but in the case of Egg, this works on their behalf. I was expecting a more full-on fusion brand of Canterbury more in tune with the likes of Hatfield but instead get more of the great early '70s Egg sound. I can only say that if you have their first two albums, you need this one as well!
 Paradise Filter by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 2013
2.99 | 68 ratings

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Paradise Filter
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by poito

1 stars Short and easy. Being this one of my all-time favorite bands I couldn't stop listening to each piece of music they issue. Unfortunately, once more, I wouldn't find what I was looking for (a miracle, may be). There is nothing left of early 70's canterburians. Hastings is long gone. This is a bunch of easy-listening cuts with far-from-inspired, far-from-prog and far-from-Caravan bits of conventional arrangements. Hastings singing takes it all, wooof, he never realized that we bore his oversweetened voice in the good times because he used it very little. This is a good example of how revolutionizing teenagers grow old to copy their hated parents taste. I do not buy they were always half-pop. Canterbury is a main root for all-time great symphonic prog, like it or not. In my view, some bands should not be allowed to (ab)use their name once their music is gone. For the shake of nostalgia I would spare a couple of cuts, "This is what we are", and the opening "All this could be yours".
 Civil Surface by EGG album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.73 | 162 ratings

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Civil Surface
Egg Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

4 stars Mont CAMPBELL, Dave STEWART, and Clive BROOKS' final EGG album was released over a year after the the band had broken up and the trio had gone separate ways. It was the incessant insistence of a small but vocal fan base that got the band to finally record some of the as-yet unrecorded material--which had been fan favorites from their live performances--that Dave gathered Clive and Mont back into the studio with a bunch of his current band members from Hatfield and the North, as well as a few other friends with whom he had recently worked--like Steve Hillage (on "Wring Out the Ground") from their KHAN collaboration.

1. "Germ Patrol" (8:32) opens with a cute Alice and Wonderland feel to it--even as the calliope-like organ, walking bass line and beating of the toms play along in a kind of circus way. I think, from it's title, that it's supposed to sound millitaristic but it's too fun and quirky to do so. Definitely in the "tongue-in-cheek" realm of musical renderings. Even the 'conversation' of multiple keyboards in the sixth minute seem comical. The ensuing "buzz bass" solo is the song's most serious moment but it is bookended by Dave's circus-like organ and piano play. I like the horns around 6:50 and the French horn solo to fade. A very memorable if not awfully melodic song suite. (10/10)

2. "Wind Quartet 1" (2:20) is, truly, a wind quartet, complete with flute, clarinet, bassoon, and French horn (though I swear I hear an oboe, too). Nice piece with a nice, very British, more classical than jazz, arrangement. (9/10)

3. "Enneagram" (4:13) has Dave Stewart using an organ sound that is much familiar to us for its bombastic use by Keith Emerson around the same time in his early ELP concerts and recordings. A rather exciting uptempo song with wide dynamic variation. (9/10)

4. "Prelude" (4:18) has some of that classical church organ sound dating back to EGG's first album. Dave's cerebral experimentation is matched by Mont's bass play with no drum or percussion play until the 1:15 mark. The surprise entry of the odd choral section as presented by the future "Northettes" is a bit discordant and disruptive, but no weirder than the solo organ play to the song's end. I guess it all works in the scheme of the whole "prelude" thing. (8/10)

5. "Wring Out the Ground (Loosely Now)" (8:11) is a cool song that opens with some very odd lyrics being sung out by Mont and then a section of experimental sound/noises before the actual song foundations are allowed to be established--over which some nice keyboard soloing occurs before everything slows down again at the 5:50 mark for Mont's vocal to continue. This is a very strong section of the song--very solid and confident sounding. (9/10)

6. "Nearch" (3:12) is another neochamber piece with Mont's French horn, Clive's precision drum accompaniment, Lindsay Cooper's bassoon and Tom Hodgkinson's clarinet, with Dave Stewart playing bass! Interesting exercise/ étude. (8/10)

7. "Wind Quartet 2" (4:48) finds us returning to the flute-dominated winds of the third song. Some nice medieval- like melodies and moods evoked here. (9/10)

My only problem with The Civil Surface is that it feels so cerebral--as if Mont and Dave were working out very complex mathematical formulae together through their musical collaboration. This just makes the music a little colder, a little less accessible to me, the listener. No wonder Clive wanted his drums to be loud and forward in the mix! This concludes the band's last album. Egg were a short-lived Canterbury band that definitely displayed the more classical side of the Canterbury jazz experimentation--and this while the members were only in their late teens and early, early 20s! They just happened to produce, however, some of the most interesting and some of my favorite music from the Canterbury Scene.

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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
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
MILLER, SINCLAIR, TOMKINS GOWEN United Kingdom
JOHN GREAVES United Kingdom
NICHOLAS GREENWOOD United Kingdom
GRINGO United Kingdom
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH United Kingdom
STEVE HILLAGE United Kingdom
HOPPER DEAN TIPPETT GALLIVAN United Kingdom
HUGH HOPPER United Kingdom
JAKKO M. JAKSZYK United Kingdom
KHAN United Kingdom
THE LODGE United States
MAGIC BUS United Kingdom
MANNA/MIRAGE United States
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