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Hatfield And The North - Access All Areas CD (album) cover

ACCESS ALL AREAS

Hatfield And The North

 

Canterbury Scene

4.05 | 3 ratings

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Matti
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Demon Music Group Ltd has released a series of concert CD+DVD sets under the title Access All Areas. Artists in the series include e.g. Caravan, Gong, Ian Gillan, Wishbone Ash and Belinda Carlisle, but I'm not familiar with other releases.

The legendary Canterbury band Hatfield and the North was active in 1972 - 1975 and released only two studio albums. In 1990 "they were summoned by Central TV to make a one-off appearance in their Bedrock series of one-hour music showcases". Three members out of the definitive quartet were present: bassist-vocalist Richard Sinclair, guitarist Phil Miller and drummer Pip Pyle. Original keyboardist Dave Stewart was replaced by French pianist Sophia Domancich. Before going into music, I wish to point out that the sleeve notes by Michael Heatley serve also as a good introduction to Hatfield and the North in general, in addition to shedding light on the gig itself. An amusing anecdote told by Sinclair: "A relatively small audience was apparently under the impression that it was a heavy-metal gig", and so "while Caravan [five days earlier] had an audience of 400, ours started at 250 and dwindled to around 100 when most of the Hell's Angels left".

Admittedly the gig lacks notable interaction between the musicians and the audience; the camera views favour close-ups while wider perspectives of the venue as a whole are not really shown at all. However, this is not necessarily a big minus as the the camera work, ie. the visual quality, is fairly good, as is the sonic quality too. Sophia (Pip Pyle's girlfriend, as the sleeve notes reveal) looks like a teenage girl from the 80's with her permanented hair and a serious-looking concentration on the keyboard. But she's an amazing player! The longest piece 'Blott on the Landscape' is composed by her. Music is enjoyable all the way, the whole quartet is doing great job.

What is disappointing is the shortness of the release, 51 minutes (identical contents for both the CD and the DVD), even though it was an 80-minute performance. The set list here contains nine tracks. None of them is from the eponymous debut album (1973), three tracks originate from The Rotters' Club (1975): 'Share It', 'Underdub' and 'Didn't matter Anyway'. By the way, Heatley mentions that Jonathan Coe's novel named after the album has long since surpassed its inspiration in Google results.

Since I'm so fond of Richard Sinclair's elegant vocals, the jazzy song 'Share It' and the slow-paced, dreamy 'Didn't Matter Anyway' are very nice, more recognizable numbers in the set, which as a whole is dominated by newer instrumental, complex and jazz-oriented music. Another highlight featuring vocals is 'Halfway Between Heaven and Earth'. What a lovely tune that sort of epitomizes the entire Canterbury prog scene and its feelgood playfulness.

All in all, an enjoyable concert CD+DVD with its minuses such as the shortness. For the nice sleeve notes I'll round 3 stars upwards. For a Hatfield fan who wants more than the two studio albums, this is very recommendable.

Matti | 4/5 |

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