Theodore Stone gives you the lowdown on what makes the Canterbury Scene oddly brilliant.
I doubt that anyone will deny that Progressive Rock is a straightforward genre, steeped in normality. However, lurking within its depths lays a form of music whose weirdness extends far beyond the cosmos, whilst also involving some terrible uses of the double entendre, and a truckload of jazz.
The genre ‘Canterbury Scene’ takes its name from the city of Canterbury, which provided a place for many bands of this emergent genre to practice and perform in. Chief among these was the Canterbury-based band ‘The Wylde Flowers’, who’s many members would go on to form most of the key artists within this sub-form of music. Combining jazz, rock, blue-eyed soul, extreme psychedelica and erratic improvisation, Canterbury Scene sounds like nothing else, for better or for worse (but probably worse).
Caravan – Arguably the defining band of this genre, Caravan formed out of the aforementioned band ‘The Wylde Flowers’ and forged ahead with a path laced with jazz and folk-pop. Their 1971 album ‘In the Land of Grey and Pink’ is held by many as the pinnacle of Canterbury Scene, thanks to its gorgeous marriage of free form jazz and pop sensibilities.
Robert Wyatt – Arguably the most well known participant of this genre, Robert Wyatt is something of a national treasure. His accomplishments as a songwriter, singer and drummer has earned him legions of fans, and his 1974 album ‘Rock Bottom’ means that he’s forever earned his place in the hearts of fans of this genre.
Soft Machine – This entire genre is a weird one, but Soft Machine wins the prize for sheer madness. Featuring the previously mentioned Robert Wyatt on drums (for the first few albums anyway), the band moved from a position of psychedelic pop to one of free-form jazz and electronic instrumentalism. If you don’t believe me, then I recommend that you listen to their third album ‘Third’ to be proven wrong. Just remember to listen to it with an open mind.
Hatfield and the North – Grossly underrated and eerily beautiful, Hatfield and the North is a slightly more obscure band when compared to the above-mentioned artists, despite the fact that almost all of them are quite obscure. However, Hatfield’s rigidly structured improvisation and eclectic soloing provide for an experience unlike anything else. Give their debut album a listen; it’s undoubtedly worth it.