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Hatfield And The North - Hatwise Choice - Archive Recordings 1973-1975, Volume 1  CD (album) cover


Hatfield And The North

Canterbury Scene

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Well apart from VDGG's latest offering , I might have found this year's best release. On top of it , Richard Sinclair dedicated it: "To Hugh , but he WAS listening". This album could be seen as BBC sessions album (although not handled by Hux records) and can be seen as a major release. Apart from this album called also Volume 1 (meaning that a volume 2 is in the works), Richard and Pip both told me that a brand new album with new compositions was also in the works.

As for the music in here , all material from BBC tapes (roughly 2/3 of the stuff) is of excellent sound quality , and among the rest , most of it is also. Only a few imperfections appear here and there. A lot of this stuff appears officialy for the first time, so much so that this album could almost be considered as a lost album . And the quality of the songwriting and musicianship is up to par with those historical two albums. Some sessions are previous to their debut album, but most of the tracks appear to have been written between the eponymous debut and The Rotter's Club. What a gift this is.

So all Canterbury freaks can dive in with no second thoughts, this is pure 100% Canterbury juice made from fresh fruits.

Go for it , guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Report this review (#38191)
Posted Friday, July 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've only received this excellent CD this morning in the mail, and have listened through twice, but am already thrilled with this resuscitated bit of history. The sound quality of the BBC recordings is (as always) excellent, the production very fresh and contemporary, and these cuts contrast well with the rawness of the concert excerpts, which vary in quality. An essential listening experience for Canterbury fans, in that one hears how they arranged and performed their music for live shows, as opposed to the carefully constructed studio work. There are also some rather ferocious avant-garde improvs, which show another side of their playing. Miller's guitar playing and Stewart's always cutting edge organ can be fully appreciated at length in all their glory. The album also provides an important missing link in the Canterbury lineage, in that it features several of Miller's pieces from Matching Mole, which formed much of their live repetoire at the start, like the seminal "Ethanol Nurse". The song "K Licks" seems also to be from this period, and Sinclair tries his best at Wyatt-like psychedelic scatting, not quite pulling it off. There are also cuts I've never heard, like "Laundry Soup", a ripping funk which veers into "Effing Mad Aincha", a screaming improv which seems like a hommage on Emerson's organ feedback abuse (an influence Stewart always graciously cites). Some may miss the luscious vocal arrangements with the Northettes, but again, it's great to hear how they handled this materiel as a live quartet. Only one star off for the sometimes dubious sound quality, but essential listening for fans of the most essential of the Canterbury formations.
Report this review (#70145)
Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars At last!

It's easy to overlook Hatfield and the North, because their music refuses to be pompous. Not for them the grand dramatic gestures of Yes, Genesis or ELP. Even when you compare them with other Canterbury bands, they may seem anonymous, since they didn't have a vocalist singing moving little ballads, like Robert Wyatt from Soft Machine or Pye Hastings from Caravan. When their bass player Richard Sinclair (who had also appeared with Caravan) bursts out in song, he sounds almost apologetic.

Nevertheless, the longer you live with the Hatfields' studio albums, the more you realise how original and how enjoyable their music is, and the more you wish there were more! Two studio albums (now re-released with bonus tracks) isn't much to go by, but fortunately we also have the Hatfields' true musical heirs, National Health, and there seems to be a new French band (Forgas Band Phenomena) who have resurrected the Hatfield spirit. (Not just a tribute band, mind you).

Even more fortunately, we are now also able to enjoy two retrospective releases of live-performances and BBC-recordings, of which HATWISE CHOICE is the first. Occasionally, sound quality is a little rough, but you're talking about a few isolated moments (out of a total of 69 minutes) and the playing is so delightful the listener doesn't get annoyed at all.

So there you are: nearly 70 minutes of top-drawer jazzy prog, thoroughly English, neatly orchestrated and an absolute treat for anyone who enjoys intricate but subtly poetic playing. When you hear the Hatfields' studio albums, you may sometimes get distracted by their wonderful guest players, but here it's just the original Hatfields quartet, and listening to them reminded me of what superb players they all were. Sinclair (on bass) and Pip Pyle (on drums) measure up to any rhythm section in prog. Phil Miller has a totally distinctive guitar sound (there's no-one remotely like him) and Dave Stewart simply used to be one of the most accomplished and inventive keyboard players in progressive rock.

In my mind there's no doubt people will still be enjoying this music a hundred years from now.

Report this review (#129124)
Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2007 | Review Permalink

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