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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 | 1556 ratings
4.30 | 772 ratings
Wyatt, Robert
4.25 | 919 ratings
4.27 | 702 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.24 | 908 ratings
4.27 | 630 ratings
4.22 | 875 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.26 | 371 ratings
National Health
4.20 | 502 ratings
Hatfield And The North
4.16 | 660 ratings
4.24 | 280 ratings
Quiet Sun
4.11 | 603 ratings
4.15 | 371 ratings
4.24 | 224 ratings
4.13 | 381 ratings
Hillage, Steve
4.24 | 190 ratings
4.13 | 341 ratings
National Health
4.36 | 121 ratings
Moving Gelatine Plates
4.06 | 435 ratings
Soft Machine, The
4.03 | 490 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

National Health
Muffins, The
Greaves, John
Moving Gelatine Plates

Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews

 Pic_nic'@'Valdapozzo by PICCHIO DAL POZZO album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.56 | 28 ratings

Picchio Dal Pozzo Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Of PICCHIO DAL POZZO's four studio albums this one seems to get completely ignored by fans. This is the re-union album and so far their final studio release from 2004. When they got back together they decided to make an album dedicated to AREA's singer Demetrio Stratos. In part they did this because one of the band members found a tape of Demetrio singing live and solo from a 1979 concert. After cleaning the tape up and going digital with it they were able to use a lot of Demetrio's incredible vocal expressions on this album.

This all sounds too good to be true but my biggest issue with this album is with how experimental it is. I mean this is an Avant album all the way and as such it can be difficult. I'm not surprised to see Laplace's excellent review with 4 stars knowing what a fan he is of Avant music. My enthusiasm for this isn't really there despite being a big Demetrio fan and also a huge PICHIO DAL POZZO fan. Kind of strange too that the final 16 minute suite is live while the rest of the record is considered studio. They composed and recorded this album in a week at a farm called Valdapozzo. At least I tried and here's what I heard.

"Adriatico" has these avant pulses of sax, keys and more before some dark piano lines take over. Drums follow. I really like this. Some dissonant sax too. Some vocal expressions then the tempo picks up after 2 minutes. A slow almost swinging melody takes over with off- kilter sax. It picks up again and we get some odd vocal sounds before 5 minutes. Percussion and keys as it calms down after 5 1/2 minutes. Smooth sax after 6 minutes as vocal expressions and keys continue.

"Fetakyma" opens with spacey vocal sounds that come and go as we get some samples and a dark atmosphere. Strange stuff. Some sparse piano then sax arrives before 4 1/2 minutes. Bass before 6 minutes then the song starts to brighten with a beat and sax. It turns chaotic and avant 8 minutes in. Suddenly this catchy beat takes over, distorted keys too then blasting sax. A calm with vocal expressions, samples and atmosphere follows.

"Pugni Chiusi" was actually a song Demetrios sang with in his first band called I RIBELLI. Dark atmosphere as sounds echo and sax comes and goes. Percussion as it all turns louder and more dissonant after 4 minutes. It settles down again then a change as it brightens with sax and a beat to end it.

"Boccasedrio" opens with what sounds like vibes as spoken words arrive. Other sampled voices too as it builds. It's kind of cool how they use Demetrio's vocals. An active rhythm kicks in around 1 1/2 minutes with vocal expressions coming and going. Sax after 2 1/2 minutes. Vocal expressions then more sax. Dissonant sax after 4 minutes. It winds down late with vibes like the intro. "Epitaffio" is the final short track before the live suite. Tribal-like drums and Native chanting along with nature sounds.

The Valdapozzo(Live) suite worth about 16 minutes is up next to end the album. "Laboratory" is the first section and we get atmosphere as drums and other sounds come and go. Guitar too along with keys join in. It's quite experimental here, no real melody before 3 minutes. Sounds like electronics late as it blends into "Kitchen" with the smooth sax arriving along with percussion. Melancholic sax late as it blends into "Upstairs Room" where deep bass sounds, a beat and sax take over. It turns intense around 2 minutes with frantic sax sounds, percussion and more. Dissonant sax before 3 1/2 minutes then slow pulsing sounds with active percussion. It brightens late and blends into "Entrance" where we get an energetic beat with plenty of other sounds. It's building 2 minutes in. This is good! An intense ending followed by applause.

Avant music fans should check this out along with AREA fans of course. I wish I liked it more.

 Split Seconds by MILLER, PHIL album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.48 | 20 ratings

Split Seconds
Phil Miller Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Phil Miller needs no introduction to those of us who are into Canterbury styled music. He's played guitar with DELIVERY, MATCHING MOLE, HATFIELD & THE NORTH, NATIONAL HEALTH and more. "Split Seconds" would be Phil's second solo album after the excellent "Cutting Both Ways" from the year before. He again decided to have his IN CAHOOTS band play on one part of the album as we get Pip Pyle, Fred Baker and Steve Franklin while Phil along with Elton Dean are the constants. The other part of the album features Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskins with John Mitchell helping out on one of those tracks and Richard Sinclair on another. It just seems to me that this is a pale version of his debut, you know like KING CRIMSON's fist two albums. The same style just not as good in my opinion. I miss Hugh Hopper too.

"And Thus Far" opens with guitar and synths as the drums and bass join in. A pleasant sound. Sax comes into the spotlight before 3 minutes. A calm around 4 1/2 minutes with the bass and a beat leading the way as synths and more come and go. Smooth sax after 8 minutes with bass and synths as it calms right down. The drums are back and soon it's a full uptempo sound before 11 minutes. A good start.

"Final Call" has a nice bass solo to start as the guitar and band all join in. I like the guitar after 3 minutes. "Dada Soul" is my favourite with Richard Sinclair singing and playing bass. It opens with percussion, atmosphere, guitar and beautiful female vocal melodies from Barbara. After that gorgeous intro Richard comes in with vocals. That intro will return and they will combine forces too. A really enjoyable track thanks to Gaskins and Sinclair.

"Truly Yours" is mellow as the sax joins in and it will be the dominant sound until the synths take over after 3 1/2 minutes. "Double Talk" is a uptempo track with a lot going on with the percussion, bass, synths and more. Soon the guitar is playing over top. It lightens before 3 1/2 minutes with picked guitar and percussion before kicking back in. "I Remain" is a smooth and relaxed tune.

"Your Root 2" sounds good to start as we get some depth to the sound here with the bass and drums. The sax comes in over top around a minute. A calm with bass before 4 minutes. Nice. This continues as drums help out then other sounds start to come and go until the synths start to make some noise before 6 minutes. Sounds like vibes and also sax kicking in before 7 minutes after some nice drum work from Pip.

I do like some of those IN CAHOOTS albums that would follow better than this one but "Split Seconds" certainly has it's highlights.

 Waterloo Lily by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.75 | 500 ratings

Waterloo Lily
Caravan Canterbury Scene

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

4 stars While critics and fans alike praised the unique concoction of jazz, folk and rock on CARAVAN's third album "The Land Of The Grey And Pink," despite it all the record company and management refused to put any money into promoting the album or the band in any way which led to incredible inner tensions and ultimately resulted in the departure of David Sinclair who was seduced away by Robert Wyatt to join the ranks of Matching Mole. While dumbfounded that they had lost such a vital ingredient to their unique piano, organ and mellotron driven sound, they avoiding a complete breakup by finding one of the few musicians in Sinclair's league in the form of Steve Miller who had played with Carol Crimes & Delivery prior.

Miller was a gifted jazz musician and after finding it impossible to adapt to Sinclair's unique style of playing, the band finally settled on placing Miller's style as the focus of the band's sound and thus CARAVAN was forced to jettison their digestible psychedelic pop sound of the previous album and create a more sophisticated collection of tracks that resulted in perhaps one of the most progressive albums of their career with some of the most bold and daring instrumental deliveries of their canon.

The album was titled WATERLOO LILY and found Steve Miller pushing Pye Hastings, Richard Sinclair and Richard Coughlan into more challenging musical arenas and thus stands as one of CARAVAN's most diverse sounding albums. The beautifully performed title track which opens, really presages a future supergroup event called Hatfield And The North which finds Richard Sinclair's sole vocal performance on the album sounding like something that could have been on "The Rotter's Club." The track which exudes a bouncy bass driven swing type of groove tells the tale of a large lady of questionable reputation while the musical drive simultaneously juggles a more ambitious construct with the expected Canterbury whimsy.

The album sports two lengthy multi-suite tracks surrounded by shorter ones with vocals. The first of these spirited displays of musical playfulness is the instrumental "Nothing At All / It's A Coming Soon / Nothing At All" which delivers a beefy bass line that ties the entire track together as the guitar solos trade off with keyboards and sizzling jazzy sax runs. The groovy rhythm ties the band's previous digestible pop hooks with a more jazz-laden speakeasy swinging sort of vibe which despite the length is quite easy on the ears. The three suites linked by the bass groove are quite distinct but somehow transition with ease.

The second of these is a medley of catchy vocal oriented jazz rock with extra emphasis on symphonic backings. The track breaks into an the most outstanding instrumental performances on the album with a flute solo that sounds like it's on speed! This track is easily the most ambitious thing CARAVAN ever laid down to tape and one of my top dog favorites of their career. The remaining tracks are pop gems finding Pye Hastings in excellent vocal form with brilliant songwriting and if you are lucky enough to have newer versions there are extra bonus tracks well worth the time.

Although the Canterbury jazz-fusionists had a dedicated audience, none of these bands managed to garner success at a substantial level but for those fans CARAVAN did attain in the past, many were not too keen on the new musical style that was thrust upon them. While "The Land Of The Grey And Pink" sold poorly, WATERLOO LILY literally almost caused the band to call it quits entirely. However after some internal reflection and the decision to sack Steve Miller, luckily Hastings, Sinclair and Coughlan found that the public was beginning to catch up to their musical style and by the time they regrouped with a new team to produce "For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night," as CARAVAN was finding slightly more enthusiastic public support.

Personally i may be one of the few who finds WATERLOO LILY to be one of CARAVAN's crowning achievements musically speaking. I find this album infinitely more interesting than the more uniform and toned-down "In The Land Of The Grey And Pink." WATERLOO LILY simply adds a new gusto to the classic CARAVAN sound with beautifully performed vocal tracks side by side with sophisticated jam band instrumentals that tackle multiple suites of true progressive rock brilliance. In my world WATERLOO LILY plays second fiddle to the only album of theirs that i consider a true masterpiece "If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You."

 Smell Of A Friend by LODGE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.02 | 8 ratings

Smell Of A Friend
The Lodge Canterbury Scene

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

3 stars While many artists in the Canterbury Scene and progressive rock in general faded away during the 80s while other forms of music dominated the attention span of the MTV generation, these same musicians didn't just go find a pasture and die! Many of them adapted to the scene but some stuck it out in the underground and pumped out projects with others from the scene. Such was the case for the short lived New York City band THE LODGE which found members of Henry Cow, Slapp Happy, Art Bears, Golden Palominos and others briefly getting together from 1987-1989 to create one album of 80s art rock titled SMELL OF A FRIEND.

THE LODGE is most notably the followup of Peter Blegvad's "Kew.Rhone" era or at least it was a intended to be as he and John Greaves were the primary forces that created their one album and the material was inspired by their previous projects together. The material continues in the line of Slapp Happy's pop sensibilities dressed up in Carla Bley's progressive jazz with a touch of Canterbury quirkiness and whimsy. After the lineup was complete the band consisted of Blegvad, Greaves, ex-64 Spoons guitarist Jakko Jakszyk, ex-Pere Ubu drummer Anton Fier, Kristoffer Blegvad and pianist / singer Lisa Herman with a few guest lending a hand.

SMELL OF A FRIEND was recorded and released in 1988 and to no surprise came and went without hardly anyone noticing. While the subject matter and overall style is mined from the previous decade, the production and use of new wave type of guitar playing and electronic styles was clearly an attempt of being somewhat contemporary. While supposedly a successor to the well-received "Kew.Rhone" album of 1977, the album in reality feels nothing like that one as it is primarily driven by straight-forward rock guitar riffs or piano ballads. It would be fair to call SMELL OF A FRIEND a much more pop friendly album with only small touches of progressiveness.

Lyrically the album was more of a strange beast with several songs tackling the unlikely topic of "milk" in the perspective of ritualistic practices found in the occult world. Many tracks were derived from the worlds of philosophers and mythologists. The album also mixes in elements of tone poetry, African rhythms, art rock and chamber chorales. All in all, there is also a loose Steely Dan type of vibe to the whole thing. After THE LODGE released SMELL OF A FRIEND they toured around Europe with old members leaving and new ones jumping on board but ultimately the loosy-goosy nature of the band resulted in a premature breakup.

While connected to the Canterbury Scene of progressive rock, it seems a stretch to include it in such but remains an interesting artifact from the underground of the 80s. Unfortunately THE LODGE's one and only album doesn't really catch on fire like Bevgrad and Greaves earlier albums. There seems to be too much focus on trying to be contemporary and therefore the pop aspects overshadow the obvious attempts to create more subtly complex music. If melodies were the focus of music in the 80s, THE LODGE didn't seem to craft very many exciting ones and while trying to do so extinguished the progressive touches that could have been nurtured. Overall, THE LODGE pumped out on good album but i highly doubt that it will go down as some lost classic.

 Rock Bottom by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.30 | 772 ratings

Rock Bottom
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by Progfan97402

5 stars There is no album like it in my collection, even Soft Machine. The album has a "downer" mood to it, many thanks to the accident (pushed out of a third story window) that left him wheelchair bound, but the surprising thing about all this was the material was written before the accident, but recorded after, so I'm sure the mood was caused because of the accident, but not the lyrics. Sadly he was no longer able to play a full drum kit anymore, so he had to switch to keyboards and hand percussion. He brought in some guests that many will recognize, such as Mike Oldfield, Richard Sinclair (Caravan, and by then a member of Hatfield & the North), Fred Frith, Hugh Hopper, Laurie Allan (who played drums on Gong's Flying Teapot), Ivor Cutler (no relation to Chris), and others. So the music has the somber, reflective tone to it, instead of manic drumming like he did on Soft Machine and Matching Mole. The music has a rather experimental edge and tends to have a more RIO feel to it, so I can't see why RIO fans wouldn't like this. Besides I'm certain this album did have a major impact on RIO to begin with. It's not an easy listen and it's not something you'd listen to everyday, but it's one of the greats of music regardless of genre well worth seeking out. I'm discouraged to throw five stars just anywhere (like what happens at Amazon), but this is truly deserving of it! Of course, don't expect anything like Soft Machine's first three albums (I know he's on the fourth one as well, but was forced by the other band members not to sing, a big reason he left), as this is totally different (he was clearly letting everyone know that he's not completely bound to the legacy of Soft Machine).
 Rejoice! I'm Dead by GONG album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.87 | 131 ratings

Rejoice! I'm Dead
Gong Canterbury Scene

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

4 stars It's always a crying shame when a prominent member of a classic rock band passes away after decades of divine musical service but even more so when two of the founders pass on within a year of each other. Of course i speak of Christopher David Allen or better known as Daevid Allen who passed on in 2015 after having founded the sounds-like-no-other band GONG all the way back in 1967 only to be joined shortly thereafter by the unparalleled space whisperer Gilli Smith the following year. It seems like their bond was strong as they traveled the space ways together and even death could not separate them. With their passing so too does the entire identity of GONG as a new chapter unfolds without two of the most unique personalities in all of rock history. After 2015's "I See You," which saw the duo laying down their last earthly performance together, the rest of the crew was given the green light with blessings to continue one of progressive rock's most recognizable Canterbury jazz infused space bands. While many fans may find this of poor taste, it certainly isn't the first time that Allen parted ways only leaving the band name to showcase other talents. The only difference now is that he won't be coming back.

REJOICE! I'M DEAD is officially the 14th studio album released by GONG only two years after the last Allen contributions and the following year after his passing however despite Allen having reached the proggy pearly gates, his resonant vocals from the past appear on the tracks "Model Village" and "Beatrix." Officially at the helm is newbie to the band Kavus Torabi of former Cardiacs and Knifefield fame on on vocals and guitar but the rest of the band remains steady since the previous release giving GONG a somewhat stable lineup despite the loss of two founding members. There are two versions of this album. The regular nine track version and another special 2-CD version with a bonus DVD. The second disc on this version has a couple extra tracks, a few demos as well as some rehearsal recordings. The DVD is an audio disc with 24/96 PCM stereo and DTS 96/24 5.1 digital surround mixes.

The album is somewhat of a serious salute to the mastermind and whimsical hippie who started the whole thing back in the 60s as is apparent by the title and soundwise the band pretty much traces the footsteps of the past and straddles through the Canterbury tinged psychedelic rock that they have been famous for since the Radio Gnome Trilogy in the mid-70s. REJOICE! I'M DEAD sees a lot of different new flavors as well as Torabi brings a lot of his post-punk sensibilities to the table most notably on the new wave guitar sounds heard on the title track. However they do become engulfed by the special guest star appearance of Steve Hillage who cranks out some retro sounding space guitar most remanent of his "Fish Rising" period and with an extended journey into the psychedel-o- sphere, GONG prove that they have what it takes to carry on the jazzed out space ways of planet GONG's most tripped out jam sessions.

The track "Kapitial" is particular rough around the edges with a frenetic heavy guitar although it's pacified by the jazzy sax outbursts of Ian East. Likewise the vocals are heavily fortified with an echoey space syrup that in tandem creates one of my favorite tracks of the album. "Model Village" offers a last of an Allen performance and one that borrows right from the Radio Gnome days with subdued space rock and jazzy brass sequences embraced by Allen's poetic prowess and another surprise appearance by off and on again member Didier Malherbe offering his most respectable duduk performance which sounds like a magic eulogy and celebration of life for his long time friend of the ages. Unfortunately the duduk does not stick around and leaves the party way too soon.

"Beatrix" is some sort of short French chanson performed by Allen by would have been much better with Gilli Smith as it sounds like something right out of the "Angel's Egg" playbook. "Visions" is a true space cadet journey into an ambient stream of synthesized sounds accompanied by a lazy sax that slowly oozes out sultry notes as the electronica slinks by with tripped out vocals joining in intermittently and serves sort of as a long extended intro to the near twelve minute "The Unspeakable Stands Revealed" which continues the tripped out space effect only the jazz-rock instrumentation tags along for the ride and thus ups the tempo. This is one of those ratcheting up effect tracks that slowly builds on itself and adds progressive electric guitar riffs, vocals chants as well as those clever Canterbury sax phrasings. The track adds a sprinkling of vocals after several minutes and becomes a heavy post-punk type of track swimming in the psychedelic sea of Canterbury jazz!

Both ending tracks "Through Restless Seas I Come" and "Insert Yr Own Prophecy" offer more of the same heavy guitar induced psychedelic space rock juiced up with jazz and flute. REJOICE! I'M DEAD is overall a fairly decent album as it carries the torch with dignity and gusto and ushers GONG into the post-Allen era well into it's fifth decade of existence as a band that turned a greater rotation of talents sort of ensemble. While this is indeed an excellent album it does lack some of my favorite GONG characteristics provided by the irreplaceable team of Allen and Smith. Perhaps my biggest complaint about this one is the poor vocal skills of Torabi as he is the weakest vocalist in the GONG history books. While getting the job done, he doesn't have that unique flair and offers no humor to the mix. That's another thing i miss tremendously is Allen's zany silliness that popped out when least expected.

REJOICE! I'M DEAD is a serious affair much in the vein of Pierre Moerlen phase despite the sound being different and tainted with vocals. Admittedly i had an instant negative reaction to this one as it was substandard to my ears compared to the great "I See You," but many listens in it began to unleash it's magic. One of the most noticeable differences is the most pumped up rock guitar with much more bravado than on previous albums. Also noticeably lacking is any attempt to replace Allen's zany antics and idiosyncratic silliness that permeates every release he had his hand in. Sadly missing as well are the Gilli Smith space whispers that add a cosmic feminine divinity to the mix. This is a pure boys club now and it really sounds like it. Not a classic but an excellent array of jazzy space rock in true GONG spirit. Allen is obviously overseeing from his unknown whereabouts. Miss the duduk's ubiquitous sound as well.

 Matching Mole by MATCHING MOLE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.62 | 219 ratings

Matching Mole
Matching Mole Canterbury Scene

Review by Kingsnake

2 stars Maybe this isn't just for me. When I listened to this, I thought the other reviewers wouldn;t like it, as I did.

But the reviews are raving. Maybe it's just not my kind of humor, or maybe it's because I don't do drugs. I can hear that the musicians are very talented and here and there I hear beautiful melodies (especially the piano-parts).

But the humor is just to much. I can't be bothered with this amount of humor in music. I do like Caravan and Supersister, but they are enjoyable to listen to. This is just annoying. "this is the verse, this is the bridge, this is the chorus or just another part of the song".

The music sounds like a jam-session, not like worthy compositions. It would have been funny if someone I knew did this, while being stoned. But it's not for me. Sorry.

 Barren Dream by MR. SIRIUS album cover Studio Album, 1987
4.22 | 44 ratings

Barren Dream
Mr. Sirius Canterbury Scene

Review by nikitasv777

5 stars This is Mr. Sirius debut album released in 1987. One of the most unique and individual progressive rock albums. The music covers the Canterbury Scene and Symphonic Prog. It's very pleasant music with lots of flute, vintage keyboards and female soprano vocals. This album is chock full of wonderful melodies sung in Lisa Ohki's (Hiroko Nagai) nightingale-sweet, soaring voice. Simply put, an absolute masterpiece and a basic addition to any serious progressive rock fan - the flute work are just flawless. This is high-quality symphonic progressive music. If you are an early Camel, Renaissance and Italian symphonic prog fan, you will love this album!
 Songs by GREAVES, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1994
4.02 | 16 ratings

John Greaves Canterbury Scene

Review by Walkscore

4 stars The Essential Greaves Album - very close to 5 stars!

John Greaves has produced solo albums since the late 1970s, although often sporadically. But with at least 16 solo albums, he has by now a long discography. He is not an easy composer to categorize, although there is perhaps a touch of melancholic vaudeville (or something) in all his work. He began with Henry Cow, playing bass on their first three albums, and then on National Health's two last (out of three) albums, as well as the joint Henry Cow/Slapp Happy album 'Desperate Straights'. It was while making the latter that he met Peter Blegvad, with whom he would make his (probably) most famous album 'Kew.Rhone'. While I really like that album, 'Songs' is my favourite Greaves album. While Kew.Rhone is highly inventive and original, it largely keeps the same sound and feel all the way through, and one needs to be in a particular mood for it. 'Songs', on the other hand, is highly varied, and yet flows very well from song to song, engulfing the listener in its warmth regardless of mood. On 'Songs', Greaves writes new songs while also re-interpreting a number of his older tunes, setting a pattern that would continue on many later albums. However, instead of having the same vocalists on every song, here Greaves invites a number of different vocalists to sing on the album, as well as himself. This further helps differentiate each track, giving each song a slightly different flavour and allowing the identify of each one to really emerge. Robert Wyatt is one of these guest vocalists, singing on three tracks, among them a re-interpretation of both the closing track ('Gegestand') and the title track, to his first album 'Kew.Rhone'. I must say this is just an amazing version of the song - the penultimate version in my opinion. Another Wyatt guest vocal is on Greave's 'The Song', a new song written for this album. And well, it is awesome. If Greaves could be said to have a signature song, this would be it (and 'Kew.Rhone' would have to be the runner-up). These are two exceptionally musical tunes, and Wyatt's presence elevates them even further, putting them among the best of the 'Canterbury' genre. But with only three guest vocals, Wyatt does not dominate here. Greaves brings in three other singers to sing on a total of seven of the other tracks, while Greaves takes the helm on only two songs (including the excellent ''The Green Fuse', with lyrics drawn from a poem by Dylan Thomas). Susan S'Ange Belling adds quasi-operatic vocals on three tracks, including a re-interpretation of the 'The Price We Pay' originally from Greaves' 'Parrot Fashions' album, while Kristoffer Blegvad (younger brother of Peter, with whom Greaves has written a number of songs, including those on Kew.Rhone) co-sings on three tracks. While the music, with instrumentation leaning on acoustic guitar, piano, and accordion, is largely subdued and sombre, it is also highly innovative with ethereal electric guitar additions by David Cunningham and the occasional saxello by (of course) Elton Dean, with the instrumentation changing from song to song. Yet each track builds on the previous one, and you just don't want to turn this album off. While I could highlight my favourite tracks (in addition to the Wyatt version of "Kew.Rhone" and Greaves' classic "The Song", for me these would include "The Green Fuse", "The Silence" and "Back Where We Began"), in reality every single track here is excellent and everyone will probably choose a different favourite. If anyone has not yet heard John Greaves solo music, this is the album I would recommend you start with - it is really high quality, warm, and often beautiful. I give this album 8.8 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is very very close to 5 stars.

 Verlaine Gisant by GREAVES, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.00 | 1 ratings

Verlaine Gisant
John Greaves Canterbury Scene

Review by Walkscore

— First review of this album —
4 stars The best of Greaves' Verlaine trilogy.

I am surprised that no one yet has reviewed this or the previous entry in the Verlaine trilogy. Verlaine Gisant is the third entry in John Greaves' trilogy of albums dedicated to poet Paul Verlaine, the tortured and romantic French 'fin de siecle' poet who died in 1896. While the first two albums involved poems by Verlaine set to music, this album is different. The lyrics here are written by lyricist Emmanuel Tugny, inspired by the book written by Gustave Le Rouge called "Les Derniers Jours de Paul Verlaine" (Last Days of Paul Verlaine). There are bits of Verlaine's poetry here, interspersed with new phrases, statements and lyrics from Tugny that speak to Verlaine's life and emotions. Musically, this is my favourite of Greave's Verlaine trilogy, although each of them are worth getting. The music on this one is simply excellent, and also somewhat unique - a combination of hypnotic chamber music for strings, pensive French 'chanson'-style composition, and Crimson-like electric-guitar dissonance, often on the same track. Definitely progressive-minded, although not really fitting in any of the categories here on PA. These are all vocally-based tunes with mostly sparse instrumentation, although there are often many strings being played at once. The tunes are 'normal' length, but often with two or three different sections. Greaves is often joined on vocals by Elise Caron (who sung on the wonderful album 'Chansons') and Jean Added, as well as Thomas De Pourquery. While Greaves' singing is better here than on many other albums (all the singing is in tune!), nonetheless the female vocals upstage on every song here, really great singing. The lyrics, which are all in French, can be quite jarring even when they are sung beautifully. To wit, one of the more beautiful songs on the album (with some excellent vocal harmonies) is simply called "Merde" (!). The most beautiful track here, reminding me a bit of the North Sea Radio Orchestra, is "La Poetesse" - a simply stunningly gorgeous piece of music. Other tracks I really like include "Autoportrait", "Air de la Lune", "Un Ange", and the opener "Air de la Derniere Demeure", but really there are no poor quality tracks on this album, they are all strong and fit together well. The album flows and creates its own distinct melancholy mood. Not only is it an excellent tribute to Verlaine, but a great piece of music. This would be a good place to start in one wanted to get into Greaves more recent mature albums. I often find myself drawn to put this on. I give this 8.4 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 4 PA stars.

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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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