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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

4.28 | 1524 ratings
IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK
Caravan
4.29 | 746 ratings
ROCK BOTTOM
Wyatt, Robert
4.25 | 897 ratings
IF I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, I'D DO IT ALL OVER YOU
Caravan
4.27 | 684 ratings
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH
Hatfield And The North
4.24 | 887 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 3 - YOU
Gong
4.27 | 611 ratings
SPACE SHANTY
Khan
4.21 | 852 ratings
THIRD
Soft Machine, The
4.26 | 359 ratings
OF QUEUES AND CURES
National Health
4.19 | 488 ratings
THE ROTTERS' CLUB
Hatfield And The North
4.15 | 646 ratings
FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT
Caravan
4.25 | 269 ratings
MAINSTREAM
Quiet Sun
4.12 | 584 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 2 - ANGEL'S EGG
Gong
4.15 | 363 ratings
THE POLITE FORCE
Egg
4.23 | 216 ratings
TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER
Supersister
4.12 | 374 ratings
FISH RISING
Hillage, Steve
4.25 | 185 ratings
VIVA BOMA
Cos
4.13 | 327 ratings
NATIONAL HEALTH
National Health
4.36 | 110 ratings
THE WORLD OF GENIUS HANS
Moving Gelatine Plates
4.06 | 424 ratings
VOLUME TWO
Soft Machine, The
4.03 | 476 ratings
THE SOFT MACHINE
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

SPLIT SECONDS
Miller, Phil
THE WORLD OF GENIUS HANS
Moving Gelatine Plates
BEFORE A WORD IS SAID
Gowen - Miller - Sinclair - Tomkins
GILGAMESH
Gilgamesh

Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews


 The Polite Force by EGG album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.15 | 363 ratings

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The Polite Force
Egg Canterbury Scene

Review by Luqueasaur

5 stars A distorted cover to a distorted music played by distorted minds: 9/10

EGG's debut had indications of the band's leaning to progressive rock, although their music was at best some sort of daringly uncommon psychedelic rock. It wasn't until THE POLICE FORCE that they decided to exploit the boundaries of their imagination and create dazzlingly complex pieces merged with strange, avant-garde experiences (such as the vile outro of Long Piece No. 3 Pt. Three), focusing mostly on a rehearsed instrumental madness. Their psychedelic tendencies were still present, blatantly visible in the distorted album cover, the track Boilk, and songs' lyrics, sometimes mundane and anecdotal, sometimes mysteriously symbolic.

While in many times this tendency is materialistically translated in distorted synthesizers and guitars, their exploratory - and therefore not exclusively psychedelic - pretensions are dominant. Sure, the tracks sound objectively "Canterbury Scene" (actually, the Moog reminds me of Tarkus' on many occasions) with its typical mixture of experimentation, jazz and psychedelic rock, but EGG makes sure to live up to its title of progressive rock, attempting at every moment to craft creative and unforeseen blends of instruments and synthesizer tunes. Be aware that 90% of the instrumental section is occupied by a variety of keyboards and Moog moods, more often than not accompanied by wicked guitars or, exceptionally at Contrasong, frenetic brass instruments.

The first track, Visit to Newport Hospital, features a haunting proto-metal Moog intro that abruptly transitions to a much smoother and jazzier performance, presenting Mont Campbell's disappointed vocals and a terrific multilayered midsection. The melancholic atmosphere of the track is a reflection of its saddened nature:

Now looking back it seemed to be a happy time [...]

It was a freedom that we'd never felt before

And now we're doing this instead

Shortly after it ends, the very first notes of Contrasong indicate a rise in dynamism, but it isn't until the intricate vocals kick in that the complexity increases exponentially. The experimental tendencies are demonstrated through the oddly played 9/8 main verse with its confusing arrangement of overlapped brasses, piano, guitar and drums; the latter's rhythm pattern is particularly perplexing but also really catchy. If Visit to Newport Hospital is calm, Contrasong is deranged. Even Campbell's voice transitions from its previous moroseness to conformism, as it contemplates Contrasong's lunatic environment with an unnatural calmness, perhaps of a sedated maniac. Its highly cryptic lyrics crystallize the song's enigmatic nature:

Gazing quite vacantly into space one day

sitting up in my bed surrounded by

a few Sunday papers and their colour supplements

all of them superficially interesting

happily unaware that somewhere somebody was aware

that somewhere somebody was awake and well

undisturbed

living on

If you didn't capture EGG's disorderly nature heretofore, they strike it like a brick to your head on Boilk, a strange track strangely reprised from their strange last album. An experimental track featuring a wiiiide array of really, really crazy electronic noises. Moonchild is but a baby compared to this.

Lastly, Long Piece No. 3 is an entirely instrumental song with stratospheric ambitions and a solid performance. Sometimes sweet, sometimes vicious; sometimes distorted, sometimes straightforward; sometimes jazzy, sometimes psychedelic; always unruly, unpredictable, challenging.

THE POLITE FORCE takes the pretension of experimentalism on prog rock to its utmost extremes (at least for 1971) without in any moment losing approachability. A spectacular Canterbury Scene release and an imperative listen to anyone willing to check avant-prog before prog was even a thing.

 Chronometers by MUFFINS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.86 | 35 ratings

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Chronometers
The Muffins Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Another entry in Cuneiform's excellent range of archival RIO/Canterbury releases, Chronometers is a selection of early works by the jazzy, Canterbury-influenced Muffins. It consists of demo recordings by the 1975-1976 lineup of the band - Newhouse, Scott and Swan are in place, but Sears hasn't arrived yet and the group is joined by Michael Zentner on guitar and Stuart Abramowitz on drums. Whilst you might expect the sound quality of some mid-1970s demo tapes to be a bit shaky, actually the release sounds remarkably fresh - evidently the original engineering was pretty decent and the tapes were well-preserved, and Kit Watkins & Steven Feigenbaum did a fine archaeological job of preparing them for release.

In fact, some of the tunes flow together in such a way that it's hard not to see this as more than a mere odds and sods collection, but a lost Muffins double album in its own right; the general aesthetic approach is reasonably consistent throughout, as you'd expect given that this was recorded over a reasonably tight span of time by the same lineup. I wouldn't say it's quite on the level of the band's excellent debut, Manna/Mirage, but it's certainly getting there.

 Magic Bus by MAGIC BUS album cover Studio Album, 2010
4.33 | 29 ratings

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Magic Bus
Magic Bus Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I had to track this one down after really enjoying their sophomore release "Transmission From Sogmore's Garden" and while I feel this is a step down from that one I still highly recommend this their self-titled debut. Love the cover art on this album by the way. Like the second album I thought of Canterbury with that distorted organ along with GONG and VIOLETA DE OUTONO.

"City Of Sand" opens with spacey atmosphere before a slow but catchy rhythm kicks in then the guitar starts to play over top before it kicks into a full sound with organ. Nice bass before 1 1/2 minutes then the song changes completely after 2 1/2 minutes as we get a calm with vocals and strummed guitar. It does build some with bass and drums but it's still laid back. I like his voice. Back to that catchy rhythm before 5 1/2 minutes then the vocals return.

"Magic Bus" is a song the kept getting stuck in my head this past week. We hear the sounds inside a bus before we get these CSNY-like vocals and harmonies that take over. Love the distorted organ, very Canterbury-like. What a feel good song this is when the vocals arrive along with the harmonies on the chorus. More distorted organ after 3 minutes followed by flute then guitar to the end.

"Gods Of The Mountain" is such a relaxed tune with almost spoken vocals to begin with. A slow beat, bass, keys and guitar in this slow moving start. It picks up after 2 minutes but then settles back with flute as the vocals step aside. It sounds like mellotron before 4 minutes followed by those almost spoken vocals. It picks up with flute then the guitar takes over. It becomes more passionate as well.

"Tucan Pyramid" opens with harp. Did I just say harp? Also relaxed vocals as harmonies and organ follow. It picks up 2 minutes in followed by distorted organ. It picks up even more then the guitar leads followed by organ as they continue to trade off. "Holy Road" is live and it does sound different as the sound quality isn't as good but it's fine. A folky tune with vocals and guitar leading the way.

"Milky Way" opens with nature sounds as this guitar melody arrives and rises in sound. GONG comes to mind with this song. Soon bass, flute and more join in but it's still mellow. It kicks into a fuller sound before 1 1/2 minutes. That guitar led melody from earlier is back and the vocals return as well. So good! Love the bass here too along with the flute. The tempo speeds up quite a bit surprisingly 5 1/2 minutes in but again check out the bass.

"Back To The Garden" is my favourite but the rest are all fairly consistent and well done so no top three this time. Birds can be heard in the intro as relaxed vocals and harp join in. Vocal melodies and organ follow then it kicks into gear before 2 minutes. Man this is amazing! Nice guitar 2 1/2 minutes in as the vocals step aside. Check out the bass 3 minutes in as the vocals return. Oh my! A nice instrumental section follows with organ before 4 1/2 minutes. A calm with vocals a minute later then it kicks back in again without vocals this time. Great tune!

Another solid album by these Brits and having heard they just released a new one, well I obviously need to track it down and get back on that hippy bus.

 Open City by MUFFINS, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1985
3.65 | 14 ratings

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Open City
The Muffins Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 4.5 stars. I had pretty low expectations considering that this is a compilation album of outtakes, demos, live excerpts and songs from radio shows. Or something like that. First of all the sound quality is excellent and not sub-par in the least. We get a couple of guests in Mark Hollander from AKSAK MABOUL and Fred Frith whom most here will know. I liked this from the first listen and man there's a lot of horns on this one. In fact a variety of sax and clarinet along with flute and aboe. ZAPPA, HENRY COW and SOFT MACHINE all came to mind at various times. I believe all of these tracks were recorded in 1980 or close to that year but not released until 1985.

"Queenside" opens with fuzz along with determined piano and drums as they hit the ground running. Vocals and blasting horns a minute in then there's that fuzz again. Love this stuff. Dissonant horns after the vocals stop before 2 minutes as it becomes insane, then it settles in with lots of horns as the bass and drums help out. A Zappa vibe after 2 1/2 minutes then we get more dissonant horns before 4 minutes as the intensity rises.

"Hobart Got Burned" has this innovative and interesting start with experimental sounds, and a tension in the background that is building until it kicks into gear and the tempo picks up as the horns cry out over top. So good! Unlike that sentence. "Horsebones" has horns all over the intro but it all stops as we then get this dissonant, and I mean dissonant horn(haha). A beat kicks in as it builds after a minute. Horns will dominate again. It winds down late to end it.

"Antidote To Drydock" opens with what sounds like bass clarinet and eventually sparse sounds will come and go as the horn continues until it kicks in before 2 1/2 minutes. It's more intense 3 minutes in, just insane with all of these sounds coming at us at a high speed. So impressive. "Zoom Resume" hits us full blast from the start with mostly horns.

"Boxed & Crossed" is complex with so much going on. It does settle back though which I also find interesting. Vocals 2 minutes in and soon they are shouting the lyrics. The bass and drums seem to mimic the horns after 3 minutes. It turns dark with almost whispered vocals before 4 minutes and this continues to the end. So good! "Under Dali's Wing" is dominated early by drums and horns. Some vibes before 1 1/2 minutes followed by some vocal expressions, bass then dissonant horns. They are having fun.

"Vanity, Vanity" and the next song "Dancing In Sunrise, Switzerland" are two of my favourites and Frith plays guitar and piano on both while Mark Hollander plays alto sax on the first of the two. I absolutely love both of these tracks. "Blind Arch" also hits the spot for me big time. I just like how it sounds like the band is warming up with all of the sparse sounds coming and going. Love the fuzz and electric piano especially. Horns eventually join in and is that aboe 5 1/2 minutes in? The distorted keyboards late bring Canterbury to mind for me.

"Expected Freedom" is an interesting song with that suspense in the background from the tension and the off-kiltered sounds over top. "In The Red" is another killer track and one of my favourites. It opens with electric piano and sparse sounds. I like the flute and bass just before 3 minutes then a horn starts to lead the way. I still like that bass as well as the drum work. It's all so good! Check out the e-piano before 4 1/2 minutes as the bass and drum just kill.

"Not Alone" is a long one at over 13 1/2 minutes. It's jazzy to start out with drums, bass and electric piano before the horns kick in. It's fuller 1 1/2 minutes in then the flute comes in over top. The lead instruments will keep changing though. Such a pleasant and beautiful sound 2 1/2 minutes in. Oh, man I dig this section. The tempo picks up 4 minutes in and then the flute returns. It settles back as the flute continues. Quite the instrumental display 7 minutes. How impressive is the drumming and piano especially. Fuzz follows. The bass leads after 9 minutes then it kicks in again with horns. It settles 10 minutes in with electric piano only to follow. Beautiful sound. It kicks in again with sax over top to the end.

"Open City" is short but that's my only complaint with this live piece. It opens with clapping before electric piano, bass and drums kick in and man they all impress.

This has shot to number 4 on my best of list for 1985, it's that good! This is a great record but then THE MUFFINS have a lot of those.

 Matching Mole by MATCHING MOLE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.64 | 210 ratings

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Matching Mole
Matching Mole Canterbury Scene

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

4 stars Hard to believe that a simple innocent band like the Wilde Flowers could blossom so quickly and splinter into so many disparate directions. After that fortuitous breakup, both Soft Machine and Caravan continued on in the psychedelic pop world but as Caravan continued to create ever more sophisticated progressively oriented psychedelic pop, Soft Machine on the other hand was hell bent for leather for jumping into jazz-rock territory only to abandon the rock part of the equation altogether. While this was perfectly suited for the such jazz leaning members such as Elton Dean, Robert Wyatt was feeling like a fish out of water and was very quickly getting squeezed out of the band's decision in musical direction. Come Soft Machine's "IV" and he had enough.

Whether he was fired or voluntarily left of his own volition is a mute point. The fact was that Wyatt's creative outlets were being stifled and it was time to move on. Move on he did and while Soft Machine was more interested in proving themselves as jazz musicians and abandoning all the rock creds that created progressive rock's Canterbury Scene, Wyatt was ready to jump back onto the Canterbury bandwagon and take control of his own musical direction. The result was the cleverly named MATCHING MOLE where Wyatt put the whimsy back in the Scene and created a pun on "Machine Molle" which is simply the French translation of Soft Machine!

Wyatt hooked up with Caravan organist David Sinclair (who remained with that band), original Quiet Sun bassist Bill MacCormick and guitarist Phil Miller who had played with Carol Grimes & Delivery. Wyatt continued his role as a drummer but also contributed a great deal of piano, mellotron and lead vocals. In a way, MATCHING MOLE's eponymous debut is the first "true" 70s Canterbury Scene album, at least in that famous cohesive sound since both Soft Machine and Caravan while going their own ways remained psychedelic pop and in the case of Soft Machine's "Third" and beyond, more a jazz-rock fusion band. MATCHING MOLE was the first album in the subgenre to create that perfect fusion sound of psychedelic rock and jamming sessions with all the technical jazz touches side by side with the humorous whimsical style that the style had become synonymous with.

While this was indubitably Wyatt's baby, he seemed to still be letting other's influence his decision as to what was to make it on the album. This is abundantly clear on the first track "O Caroline" which is really the one track that doesn't fit in with the rest. While Wyatt composed the majority of tracks on the album, it was Sinclair and his slick Caravan pop sensibilities who composed the opener "O Caroline," a track about breaking up with his girlfriend and apparently supposed to be a single as it appears on the remastered version as a bonus track titled "O Caroline (Single version.)" It is a whiny little track with a piano based melody riffing along about, well, girl trouble things. Not necessarily bad subject matter but clearly a stab at some sort of crossover success. While the two following tracks "Instany Pussy" and "Signed Curtain" are also based in catchy melodies and not overtly complex, they do sound more like the classic Canterbury style with an ostinato bass line frosted over with psychedelic touches and the famous organ sound that instantly screams the style albeit more on the accessible side as well. These two track in many ways portend the much more complex leanings of the future Hatfield & The North projects at least in sound.

While the first MATCHING MOLE album starts off rather ho hum with a tame crossover type track and slowly transitions into more interesting musical turf, it really takes off on the fourth track "Part Of The Dance," the sole Miller contribution creates a lengthy nine minute plus jazzy psychedelic jam session that utilizes all the progressive rock signature sounds with a rad mellotron and organ accompaniment punctuated by a plethora of time signature workouts and Miller's stellar guitar work that would eventually find a second calling in Quiet Sun. The remaining tracks never deviate from the progressive rock world and only get more psychedelic, more otherworldly and more proggy as they commence. It's actually quite astonishing how the album ratchets up from totally accessible and borderline cheesy to ultra-sophistication in both musical performance and production values. Perhaps a slow burner but more than worth the wait.

Speaking of production values, this album is fairly notorious for having been poorly recorded despite appearing on a major label like CBS Records when it debuted in 1972, however i highly recommend the newer remastered version that came out in 2012. It not only has a bonus disc with a ridiculous amount of surplus material including alternate session takes and BBC Radio One sessions but also includes the single edits and the stellar previously unreleased near 21 minute prog behemoth "Part Of The Dance Jam" which most certainly would have been included on the album if permission for a double album would have been granted. It is a sprawling jam that takes the MATCHING MOLE psychedelic Canterbury sound and merges it with more of a Soft Machine "Third" type of composition. Not to mention the production has been improved 100 fold and although not exactly sounding like it's a bristling new album recording in modern times, sounds crisp and clean for an album recorded many decades ago.

 Radio Gnome Invisible Part 1 - Flying Teapot by GONG album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.93 | 482 ratings

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Radio Gnome Invisible Part 1 - Flying Teapot
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by hi_t_moonweed

4 stars Funnily enough I managed to acquire this album in late 1973. I "found" it in a local record store while working in a small country town. As the cover suggests it is not most straight laced album or band on the planet and the store owners were as pleased to offload it as I was to buy it. This album was my first encounter with Gong and the band has never disappointed. TFTP is a very interesting album as there is as much going on, on the vinyl as there is on the gate fold (but that is another story). Every listener has their own tastes and opinions which is why albums like this one are not easy to review. Personally I very much enjoy this album, as it is light-hearted as well as musically sound as easy to digest. If you don't take the content too seriously, you may actually enjoy the journey to planet GonG. I am, you are, we are-crazy-.
 Phillip the Egg by MAGIC BUS album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.88 | 40 ratings

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Phillip the Egg
Magic Bus Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Magic Bus have pretty strongly established their style in the two albums preceding new release Phillip the Egg, and they don't really deviate from it here - again, it's an intoxicated bland of Canterbury-esque whimsy (drawing largely on the warm humour of Caravan and the mystical interests of Gong) with West Coast hippy sensibilities, as well as tight jamming in the instrumental sections reminiscent of the overlap between Ozric Tentacles and You-era Gong. If that sounds like the sort of thing you'd enjoy, then you're in luck, because that's exactly what hatches out of this egg. If you've heard Magic Bus's preceding albums, you pretty much already know what to expect here and whether or not you'll like it.
 Big Hogg by BIG HOGG album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.19 | 7 ratings

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Big Hogg
Big Hogg Canterbury Scene

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

3 stars Sounding as if they've been hibernating near a Scottish Loch for the last 40 years suddenly emerges what sounds like everything contemporary of all the 70s Canterbury favorites such as Soft Machine, Caravan and Hatfield and the North. Hailing from the extremely un-Canterbury Celtic northern city of Glasgow, somehow the members of BIG HOGG had found an affinity with the lovely whimsy of the jazz, psychedelic rock and folk all having a little love affair with each other. Well, it seems the slumber is over and after many decades a few bands have decided to join the ranks of the geographical specific style of bands that never ruled the roost but have since become cult icons in the fringe world of progressive rock revival. BIG HOGG not only displays their worship of everything Canterbury on their self-titled debut album but display a stealthy command of all its different aspects although on the mellow down home type of style as heard on the earlier 70s bands.

So, add all the ingredients of Caravan, early Soft Machine and a healthy dose of blues rock, English folk and even jazz pop and then six band members playing guitars, trumpet cornet, tenor horn, trombone, flute, bass and percussion, oh and then add a few more extra helping hands to receipt spoken word poetry, play a little alto sax, hammond organs, Rhodes piano and skronk baritone and you have all the ingredients for a hugely fat sounding album that proves that the little scene by the River Great Stour is hardly dead at all and increasingly more explored as the 21st century progresses (think The Winstons and Amoeba Split) and what we have here is a stellar example of retro-prog that despite wearing more than a few influences on its sleeves, still finds enough differentiating vectors to create a nice fresh take on things.

It all starts with 'When We Were Young' with a quirky rock guitar riff finding a Robert Wyatt type vocal style punctuated by jazzy instrumental counterpoints. Proving that their no one trick pony, the second track 'Dog People' takes a jazzier approach for a while before reeling into a psychedelic free jazz frenzy accompanied by a spoken narrative delivering a poetic prose before a thumping bass and horn section steal the show and create a full-fledged Canterbury-tinged rocker fortified with jazz-pop sensibilities and then changing vocal styles to a more Captain Beefheart type of schizoid blues man mode. While the music seems to be a little too serious at times to qualify as a full-fledged candidate for Canterbury inclusion, the humor is more subtle as the boogie-rocker 'Turn To Prayer' explains in the situation with a few curse words interspersed nicely. 'Rabbit Plateau' changes gears into acoustic folk territory with sensual flutes on valium mode but joined by a distinct Caravan-esque guitar riff complete with echoey psychedelic atmospheres. Another notable track includes the frenetic 'Bad Salad Boogie' with it's Ornette Coleman sax freak outs accompanied by a more tamed bass and horn groove with all those jazzified time signature jumps so beloved by fans of National Health or Gilgamesh as the track mellows out.

Perhaps my main complaint about some of the newer Canterbury worshippers is that they try overly hard to be too faithful to the original sounds of the 70s and perhaps out of respect never venture too far into experimental realms however as heard on the first Picchio Dal Pozzo album, it has been proven that extreme originality with shocking results can be yielded from these influences. In the end BIG HOGG plays it a little too safe on their debut even if they pay all their tributes with technical precision in the proper Canterbury playfulness. A beautifully designed album that seems to fall just a tad short from competing with the heavyweights of yestercentury. Still though, if you're seeking some freshly constructed retro-prog of the mostly Caravan type branch, then BIG HOGG will not disappoint although with all the instruments on board here, i keep wishing they would expand their sonic tentacles a bit.

3.5 rounded down

 Phillip the Egg by MAGIC BUS album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.88 | 40 ratings

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Phillip the Egg
Magic Bus Canterbury Scene

Review by phil dud

4 stars Magic Bus' new album 'Phillip the Egg' starts with 'Mystical Mountain', a jaunty, infectious tune with a lovely burbling guitar sound, that bridges the gap between this offering and 2014s 'Sogmore'. However, the second (instrumental) part of the track heads us into a jazzier, spacier direction that gives a good indication of where the band seem to be progressing. There is great interplay between Darlington's impressive keyboard work and Waldstadt's nimble guitar. After the frenetic final section of Mystical Mountain, Fading Light comes as a period of blissful, pastoral calm. Trail to Canaa, to my ear, seems to combine an almost folky 'feel' with a chunkier keyboard sound, not unlike that used by some of the classic 70's Italian bands. Zeta and Distant Future possess almost 'Gong-like' riffs but are augmented by beautiful vocal harmonies. At the stage of writing, Kepler 22b is the standout track. It is, to my mind, the most 'progressive' track on the album and combines everything I love about Magic Bus. The band are fantastic musicians and this track showcases their talents from Mellorz' agile bass runs to Darlington's beautifully layered keyboard sounds, via Waldstadt's flawless guitar work and Goodwin-Darke's lovely flute figures. Paul Evans vocals are distinctive and beguiling and perfectly match his musical and lyrical vision. 'Phillip the Egg' is an outstanding album: brilliantly balanced, superbly recorded and musically rich. Put simply, it is the best album I have listened to in the last ten years and represents, for Magic Bus, a big step forward from their previous (excellent) albums.

Music, like all the Arts, is a reaction to and against what has gone before and it would be easy to simply compare the band to artists such as Gong and Hatfield and the North. There are obvious influences, but the band combine brilliantly to bring something fresh, vivid, new and exciting to the table. (4.5 stars)

Phil Dudman

 Phillip the Egg by MAGIC BUS album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.88 | 40 ratings

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Phillip the Egg
Magic Bus Canterbury Scene

Review by SteveConrad

4 stars Magic Bus 'Phillip the Egg' 'enter the astral porthole.

I was provided a preview copy of this album by the band.

MAGIC BUS is a Totnes, Devon-based band performing in the Canterbury Scene/West Coast vibe sub-genre within Progressive Rock Music. Current members: Paul Evans, Jay Darlington, Terence Waldstradt, Wihll Mellorz, Viv Goodwin- Darke, and Mitch Pike.

'Phillip the Egg' is their third album, set to be released May 1, 2017.

I'm no expert in the Canterbury Scene school of progressive music, let me be clear. I've learned a bit from reading an essay in Progarchives, the progressive rock 'bible'. I've heard some Caravan tracks, and a few of the names of the early musicians, like Steve Hillage, Robert Wyatt, Richard Sinclair have some resonance.

But my tastes lean more toward the symphonic and metal edges of progressive music and there's always plenty to discover and to hear.

I am, however, old enough to remember- and even to participate in to some degree- the free-love era of hippies, Woodstock, love, peace, and drugs.

In addition, I relate to this album by MAGIC BUS because although they don't explicitly say so, there's plenty to suggest that at least some members love fantasy and science fiction. The band logo itself suggests Tolkien-esque runes (Elvish, of course), and the titles of the 8 tracks on this album also suggest the sort of epic voyage found in the best of those genres of literature.

So I approach this album as a musician, writer, reader, and fan of progressive rock music, and find in it sophistication, subtlety, fine ensemble playing, thematic repetition that helps build and release tension and many layers of texture and sound.

The context of the album, the title, the band's name, the members and their appearance, and their statements in public places cause me to believe they have made some commitments to the same sort of hippie vibe in which I grew and for a time embraced.

I heard this album as an expression of the longing for a simple, clean, peaceful, loving world, that so often seems to contrast with current reality. Hippies had the dream of a counter-cultural revolution, fighting non-violently against 'the System' and 'the Man' who were emblematic of structure, rules, order, bureaucracy, conformity, and submission.

MAGIC BUS with 'Phillip the Egg' appears to push in that direction via a cosmic journey, utilizing throw-back musical forms and sounds that encourage reminiscence about the '60's and '70's. However, the format suggests these musicians don't see the revolution able to save what this society, this world, has become.

I generally review albums via headphones, and was impressed with the layered, subtle musicality, the depth of keyboard sounds, the use of the flute, the interplay of guitars from clean to driven sounds right and left and center, along with excellent vocal lines and harmonies. The rhythm section was never showy- crisp drums alongside the roots-y bass-lines that sometimes took the lead, but were worlds away from the kind of in-your-face playing of Chris Squire or Geddy Lee.

In fact what I appreciated was how varied, changing, evolving, and engaging each track became, using a multitude of instrumentation and sound- mellotrons, synths, vibes, flute, and piano, plus the already mentioned guitar layers. None of this was the focus however.

Rather, it seemed to be the ensemble, the totality, that was the focus here. I caught flavors of the Middle East, and perhaps some Spanish sounds, and the use of repetition, yet varying. There might be bombast, as in Kepler 22b, but it would then evolve into something else.

Phillip the Egg became escapist, in the way Tolkien was escapist, yet also provided some commentary on contemporary times.

I found this an engaging, enjoyable musical experience. On a ten point scale I'd rate it 8.5/10- pretty darned strong.

Data cached

Canterbury Scene bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
DAEVID ALLEN Australia
AMOEBA SPLIT Spain
ANTIQUE SEEKING NUNS United Kingdom
KEVIN AYERS United Kingdom
BIG HOGG United Kingdom
THE BOOT LAGOON United Kingdom
BRAINVILLE United Kingdom
CARAVAN United Kingdom
CLEAR FRAME United Kingdom
COS Belgium
DELIVERY United Kingdom
EGG United Kingdom
THE GHOULIES United Kingdom
MICHAEL GILES United Kingdom
GILGAMESH United Kingdom
GONG Multi-National
GOWEN - MILLER - SINCLAIR - TOMKINS United Kingdom
JOHN GREAVES United Kingdom
NICHOLAS GREENWOOD United Kingdom
GRINGO United Kingdom
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH United Kingdom
STEVE HILLAGE United Kingdom
HOPPER DEAN TIPPETT GALLIVAN United Kingdom
HUGH HOPPER United Kingdom
JAKKO M. JAKSZYK United Kingdom
KHAN United Kingdom
THE LODGE United States
MAGIC BUS United Kingdom
MANNA/MIRAGE United States
MASTER CYLINDER United States
MATCHING MOLE United Kingdom
MILLER & COXHILL United Kingdom
PHIL MILLER United Kingdom
MOOM United Kingdom
MOVING GELATINE PLATES France
MR. SIRIUS Japan
THE MUFFINS United States
NATIONAL HEALTH United Kingdom
PANTHEON Netherlands
PAZOP Belgium
JOHN G. PERRY United Kingdom
PICCHIO DAL POZZO Italy
PIP PYLE United Kingdom
QUANTUM JUMP United Kingdom
QUIET SUN United Kingdom
SHORT WAVE United Kingdom
RICHARD SINCLAIR United Kingdom
SOFT HEAP United Kingdom
SOFT MACHINE LEGACY United Kingdom
THE SOFT MACHINE United Kingdom
SOFT MOUNTAIN Multi-National
SOFT WORKS United Kingdom
STUBBS Japan
SUPERSISTER Netherlands
TORTILLA FLAT Germany
TRAVELLING France
VOLAR… United States
THE WILDE FLOWERS United Kingdom
THE WINSTONS Italy
ROBERT WYATT United Kingdom
ZYMA Germany

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