Sunday, September 11, 2022

The 2010s: Favorite Canterbury Style Releases

There was a bit of a resurgence of new Canterbury Style-inspired music released in the 2010s. These are my favorites from this crop--including my all-time favorite Canterbury Style album here at number one.

 1. HOMUNCULUS RES Limiti all'eguaglianza della Parte con il Tutto (2013) 

A band from Italy in the AltrOck Productions stable whose debut album, 2013's Limiti all'equalianza della parte con il tutto, offers wild and humorous musical stylings that definitely evoke that light, airy Canterbury feeling. All songs (but one) are short (less than four minutes) and quirky in the SOFT MACHINE/ Matching Mole style. Great keyboard and synthesizer work, drumming, and rhythm section as each and every song incorporates amazing and unexpected whole-band syncopation and tempo and key shifts throughout. The laid-back vocals of composer and Casiotone virtuoso Dario ALESSANDRO are awesomely soothing. The Di Giovanni brothers, Daniele and David on drums and keyboards, respectively, flutist Dario Lo Cicero and not one, not two, but three keyboard players (including AltrOck ubiquity, Paolo "SKE" BOTTA), serve Dario's songs amazingly well.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dario D'Alessandro / guitar, Casiotone (2,7,11,18), Minimoog (4,5,16,17), Mellotron (9), glockenspiel (1), percussion (4,18), vocals
- Davide Di Giovanni / organ, piano, Korg MS10 (5,10,17), bass (16), drums (15-17), acoustic guitar (6), vocals (1,16)
- Domenico Salamone / bass
- Daniele Di Giovanni / drums, percussion, acoustic guitar (6,9), vocals (1)
- Mauro Turdo / guitar (1)
- Federico Cardaci / Minimoog (6,8,12), Mellotron (4,11,12), organ (12)
- Dario Lo Cicero / Akai EWI (2,6), flutes (7,8,18), sordone (9)
- Paolo "Ske" Botta / ARP Odyssey (1,7,11), Wurlitzer & glockenspiel (1), Farfisa organ (3,12,14), OSC OSCar synth (4,15), Synthorchestra (8,9,12), Hohner pianet (8)
- Giovanni Di Martino / Korg synth (3)
- Totò Puleo / trumpet (3)

1. "Culturismo Ballo Organizzare" (5:49) (10/10)
2. "Delta U" (1:52) (5/5)
3. "DJ Psicosi" (3:48) (10/10)
4. "Preparazione Bomba H" (3:12) (10/10)
5. "Sintagma" (1:08) (4/5)
6. "Jessicalaura" (3:17) (10/10)
7. "(che ne sai tu di un) Cerchio nel Grano" (3:48) (10/10)
8. "Rifondazione Unghie" (3:17) (9/10)
9. "La ballata dell'amore Stocastico" (3:15) (10/10)
10. "Chi Phi" (1:29) (5/5)
11. "Nabucco Chiappe d'Oro" (4:13) (10/10)
12. "Il papa buono" (2:51) (10/10)
13. "Accidenti" (0:23) (5/5
14. "Centoquarantaduemilaottocentocinquantasette" (2:05) (4.5/5)
15. "Profiterol" (1:28) (5/5)
16. "Estate 216 solstz" (1:23) (5/5)
17. "Puk 10" (2:24) (9/10)
18. "Il Contrario di Tutto" (2:20) (10/10)

Total Time: 48:02

Imperfect songs: 5. "Sintagma" (1:09) (8/10); 8. "Rifondazione unghie" (3:18) (9/10); 14. "Centoquarantaduemilaottocentocinquantasette" (2:06) (9/10), and; "Puk 10" (2:25) (9/10).

Perfect songs:  All of the others! (14 of them!!)

This is the best Canterbury album of the 21st Century and perhaps the best of all-time!!

97.2 on the Fish scales = 5 star album; a masterpiece of progressive rock music.

2. AMOEBA SPLIT -- Dance of the Goodbyes (2010) 

They're not from County Kent, they're not even English, but the Canterbury forms and sounds here, often subtle or slightly adapted, are undeniable and quite enjoyable. Someone in the band is even caring enough to provide many of the Daevid Allen pixiness with talking diatribes beneath the music and backwards or otherwise effected guitar tracks beneath the other music as Allen and Steve Hillage were fond of doing.

Line-up / Musicians:

- María Toro / vocals, flute
- Ricardo Castro Varela / Hammond, Mellotron, piano, Mini-Moog, arrangements
- Alberto Villarroya López / guitars, bass, composer
- Pablo Añón / soprano, alto & tenor saxes
- Fernando Lamas / drums
- Gastón Rodríguez / guitar (3)

1. "Dedicated to us, but we weren't listening" (3:50) opening with some GONG-like effects and then adding some melodic ALLAN GOWEN- or STEVE MILLER-like keys, smooth RICHARD SINCLAIR-like bass, and PYE HASTINGS- or PHIL MILLER-like guitar and you've got yourself a melange of Canterbury Scene musicians making . . . quirky Bohemian Canterbury jazz!? (8.75/10)

2. "Perfumed garden" (9:43) opening with the breathy voice of María Toro is, I must admit, a bit of a surprise--a welcomed one, as it turns out. The closest thing I can come up with this music is today's INNER EAR BRIGADE or REGAL WORM. There is SANTANA-ness to the instrumental section in the fourth and fifth minutes, but then the music breaks down into a slow, smokey torch singer lounge jazz not unlike ANNE PIGALLE or KOOP. But the flute-led instrumental section following María's vocal is Canterbury, pure and sublime. However you categorize the music of this song, let's all agree on one thing: it's gorgeous! (19.5/20)

3. "Turbulent matrix" (10:47) the superlative music that all artists Canterbury would be making today if they were to do it all over again. This is a gorgeous piece of fun, melodic, quirky, even flawless jazz. Incredible arrangements, tight cohesion, and fantastic drumming, all built over two piano chords! (20/20)

4. "Blessed water" (12:26) opens with sensitive, plaintive solo piano before Mellotron, bass, and the delicate voice of María Toro enter, continuing the same emotive pattern and theme, the music has a bit of ANNIE HASLAM-JON CAMP RENAISSANCE feel to it, even into the slightly built up instrumental section--which quiets down for the arrival of the alto sax--who lays down a beautiful solo. María gets the next turn, this time with flute, over some psychedelic guitar play and JOHN TOUT-like piano. A slightly heavier force enters as ELIANA VALENZEULA-like vocal passage of María's plays out. There follows a nice medium-yet-insistently-paced section over which electric guitar and saxophone perform very nice solos. The bass, drums, and piano are so smooth, so together! Everybody starts pushing the intensity up one notch at a time so that in the eighth minute things are peaking just before a ninth minute lull in which María returns to a sensitive SARA ALIANI (LAGARTIJA)-like voice, but hen she finishes the band launches immediately into a full-on blues-rock exposition in support of the electric guitar. Remember THE DOORS?! Big 'tron choir supports the next section as the song plays out over the final two minutes much like CARAVAN does in the orchestra-supported second half of "L'auberge du Sanglier/A hunting we shall go/Pengola/Backwards/A hunting we shall go (reprise)." Brilliant! Brings me to tears! (24/25)

5. "Qwerty" (0:49) did we mention that María plays a mean flute? Fun uptempo Canterburified jazz. (5/5)

6. "Flight to nowhere" (23:39) (44/50)
- I. Endless magic spell -- those could be considered GONG-like sounds and effects in the opening section with a similar STEVE HILLAGE guitar effect to the lead guitar as the music falls into step, but as soon as María begins singing I am once again brought back into the realm of torch singer lounge jazz. Magic spell indeed!
- II. A bleeding mind -- I don't really know where one section begins or ends but suffice it to say that a musical passage with crazed multi-languaged or clipped vocal dispersals lying beneath the music begin and continue over a span that I'm guessing might be representative of "a bleeding mind."
- III. A walk along the tightrope
- IV. Bubbles of dellirium

Total time 61:14

92.88 on the Fishscales = A/Five stars; one of the best Canterbury style albums I've ever heard or reviewed, old or new; a true masterpiece of joyful, creative, amazingly well composed, performed, and recorded music.

3. DE LORIANS De Lorians (2019)

A new Canterbury-oriented band from Japan, of all places.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Soya Nogami / guitars
- Takefumi Ishida / saxophones
- Genki Goto / bass
- Hyozo Shiratori / keyboards
- Shizuru Yamaguchi (aka Syzeuhl "Meme" Joyer) / drums

1. "Daytona" (6:14) opens with a little cacophony similar to the musics of MAGMA and the 1960s free jazz innovators like Sun Ra, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Pharoah Sanders before settling into a multi-tempoed groove that could be something The Soft Machine could've done in the mid-1970s. In the fourth minute things slow down to an almost childish, tongue-in-cheek pace and style (like a National Health maneouver) before clicking into overdrive again. Sax and electric guitar are doing most of the work up top while the bass and drums are working hard to provide the solid base below. Interesting and complex if not always enjoyable. (8.75/10)

2. "Magso" (3:59) opens with some of the drama of one of countrymen BONDAGE FRUIT's dinosaur homages. The tribalistic drums and synth "vocal" diatonic growls are cool. In the second minute, things smooth out into the purer sound of jazz-rock fusion à la CARAVAN. Then things slow down into a more hypnotic groove to the racous thirty-second end. (9.25/10)

3. "A Ship Of Mental Health" (5:21) Quirky, bouncy lounge jazz with saxes and keys enriching another CARAVAN-like soundscape before a beer-and-chip break inserts itself into the song for a bit. (I'm reminded of ANTIQUE SEEKING NUNS.) The guitar-led two chord groove that follows is great but then it dissembles into a spacious stop-and-go interlude before restarting with the sax taking a turn screaming out the lead. A switch into more John Coltrane sound turns quirky-pop with angular guitar and sax interplay. (8.75/10)

4. "Gomata" (2:01) back to some of the jazzier BONDAGE FRUIT music before a CARAVAN-like groove establishes itself while synth "saw" solos over crazy weave of all of the other instruments. (5/5)

5. "Roccotsu" (3:29) quite reminiscent of some of the most memorable CARAVAN passages: slow and deeply emotional with its melodic lead saxophone. The kind of stuff that Picchio Dal Pozzo made such a great debut album off of. The second part picks up the pace with a 1970s film score type of rhythm and keyboard tracks. Most excellent. (9.75/10)

6. "Himalia" (3:06) opening with a militaristic drum and bass pulse, keys, guitars, and sax punctuate their melodic inputs over the top in robotic fashion. In the second minute there is a shift in tempo and foundational structure as space opens up for treated sax, ebowed guitar, and wacky synth play off one another in crazy King Crimsonesque melodies. (8.75/10)

7. "Daytona - Reprise" (0:34) nice non-percussive weave of the Daytona theme. 

8. "Toumai" (7:19) another classic jazz opening--almost big band-like--which settles into a slow groove for a short while before shifting into a HOMUNCULUS RES-like quirky pop weave followed by some more CARAVAN/SOFT MACHINE soundscape motifs. I feel as if CARAVAN sound palettes are common yet the structures are arranged into styles and forms that are more consistent with mid-1970s SOFT MACHINE. (13.25/15)

Total Time 32:03

Overall an enjoyable listening experience both for the sounds and styles but also for the complex tapestries pulled together by this band of tightly collaborating skilled musicians.
90.71 on the Fishscales = A-/4.5 stars (rated down for brevity); an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you like the Canterbury side of Jazz-Rock Fusion.  

4. HOMUNCULUS RES Della stessa sostanza dei sogni (2018) The third full-length album release from these creative artists from Palermo reveal a band that continues to grow and experiment though their sound and style while remaining as refreshingly quirky, humorous, and Canterburian as ever. The songs are far more complex, far more avant on some layers, while, gratefully, maintaining the light, even humorous approach to rendering music. I even feel somewhere in my gut that there has been a slight return to the loose, enjoyable spirit that was so prominent and prevalent throughout their 2013 debut, Limiti all'eguaglianza della parte con il tutto, (one of my top five favorite albums of all-time). 

Line-up / Musicians:
Dario D'Alessandro: guitar (R), voice, keyboards, bass (5)
Davide Di Giovanni: piano, organ, synth, acoustic guitar (9)
Daniele Di Giovanni: drums, percussions
Mauro Turdo: guitar (L)
Daniele Crisci: bass
Dave Newhouse (The Muffins, Rascal Reporters): saxophones, clarinets, flute (1, 2, 5, 9, 12)
Luciano Margorani (LA1919, NichelOdeon): guitar (5, 10)
Tommaso Leddi (Stormy Six): mandolin (5), trombone (10)
Rocco Lomonaco (Breznev Fun Club): winds orchestration (3), guitars and bass (11)
Petter Herbertsson (Testbild!): rhodes, keyboards, vibraphone, bass (final part) (6)
Lorenzo Leddi (Mamma Non Piangere, Ensemble Havadià): guitar (7
Giuseppe Turdo: oboe, french horn, english horn (3, 12)
Giorgio Trombino (Furious Gorgie): alto sax (1, 8), voice (5)
Paolo Botta (Ske, Yugen, Not A Good Sign): synthesizers, hammond, wurlitzer (1, 4, 5, 9, 10)
Dario Lo Cicero: flutes (3 and 7), chamois horn (12)
Alessandra Oria Bollino: voice (7)
Valerio Mirone  (Utveggi): voice (2)
Sara Zerilli: voice (12)
Pivio: electronics and samples (5)
Giovanni Rotondi: clarinets (11)
Marco Monterosso: whistle (9)

1. "La Cabala" (4:00) smooth with typically catchy HR melodies (9.5/10)

2. "Faccio una pazzia" (2:49) more odd, humorous, and avant than before. Quirky vocals similar to those explored by AltrOck stable mates HUMBLE GRUMBLE on their early release, Flanders Fields. I love the thick fretless bass contrasted by the sharp, staccato, odd-tempo hits of the horns and rhythm section. Funky sax solo by Dave Newhouse at the end. (8.5/10)

3. "Bianco supremo" (03:32) a pretty, bucolic song with melodies and sound renderings that harken back to the idyllic summer musics of the late 1960s. How many instruments can one clearly weave into one song? (9/10)

4. "Non sogno più" (02:44) This one has the feel of a late-1960s Latin jazz pop song. Fun, engaging, danceable, and gorgeous. (9/10)

5. "Mentre dormi" (04:16) opens like a Ben Watt/Tracey Thorn song before becoming all HR. Great shift at 0:45. I love the woodwinds and mandolin in the mid-section. Another great shift just before the three-minute mark leads into the electric guitar solo in an awesome reed-based outro. A top three song for me. (9.5/10)

6. "Rimedi ancestrali" (03:39) an odd-tempoed piano-based song with aged electro-pop sounds (the return of the Casio VL-TONE Vl-1?!!) performing some of the song's base fabric. I love Dario D'Alessandro's vocals on this one. Another top three song. (9.5/10)

7. "Se la mente mentisse" (04:16) a fun pop song with lead vocals from Alessandra Oria Bollino. The second part, instrumental/post vocal, sounds so much like a 70s Canterbury song. Then we return to the poppy vocal section while Alessandra scats the main melody with "la-la-las" in place of the words. Great flute work here from Dario La Cicero. Just pure fun—makes me so proud to be a human being (despite our inanities)! I cannot decide between this song and the album opener for my third top three song. (9.5/10)

8. "Il nome di Dio" (02:34) a quirky jazzy song with odd multi-voiced vocals over the top (and below). Great jazz rhythms and horn work after the 1:00 mark. I like the multi-layered synth work in that solo in the second minute. The song bounces back and forth from quirk vocal to jazz section one more cycle while ending with a nice little Casiotone solo. (8.5/10)

9. "Denti cadenti" (04:41) presents a very different recording soundscape with tons of reverb on multiple tracks (not just the voices). Harpsichord and other older-sounding instruments. Even a Hammond and Mellotron to go with piano and other more-"classic/common" prog instruments. (9/10)

10. "Dopamine" (03:49) another song that uses instruments and sounds sounding like they're straight out of the 1970s Canterbury Scene bands' repertoires. Great raunchy electric guitar work over the jazzy organ-led foundation. (9/10)

11. "Preludio e distrazioni" (02:09) is a slow, sentimental song with piano and multiple layers of woodwinds. Pretty first minute, shifts, then more gorgeous, ending with acoustic classical and electric guitar duet. (9/10)

12. "La casa dei sogni" (02:54) fun, horn-based, carnivalesque song with lead vocals by female singer, Sara Zerilli. Starts out slow but then picks up at 0:37 becoming more bouncy and upbeat. This could almost be a Stereolab song. (8.5/10)

Total Time 41:20

90.42 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music in the Canterbury style. Not as amazing or ground-breaking as their debut, but I do like this one better than their sophomore release—which left me kind of flat.

5. VIOLETA DE OUTONO Espectro (2012) A prog album with a sound and style very familiar to 1970s Rock Progressivo Italiano--especially to that of LE ORME--it also has quite a Canterbury feel to it--like KHAN, STEVE HILLAGE or CAMEL. Despite the pleasant, easy timbre and style of the vocalist, it is the instrumental sections of all the songs that really stand out. The keyboard play is outstanding and the wonderful electric guitar sound and style is kind of a cross between that of ROYE ALBRIGHTON and STEVE HILLAGE. And the melodies are the kind that haunt you and stay with you for days, pulling you back again and again to listen to see if it was real or if you were just imagining it.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Fabio Golfetti / vocals, guitars, producer
- Fernando Cardoso / Hammond organ, synth, piano
- Gabriel Costa / bass
- José Luiz Dinola / drums, backing vocals (7)
- Gabriel Golfetti / ocarina (3)
- Fred Barley / percussion (10)

The opening nine-minute 'epic,' "Formas-Pensamento" (8:54) (19/20) is repeated in a slightly longer English version as the album's last track, "New from Heaven" [9:26] (18/20]). It has a very familiar, laid-back vocal (uncanny likeness to that of LE ORME's Aldo Tagliapietra), and is a fairly simple song and instrumental construct with a relatively slow pace to it. Where it differs and excels is in the individual instrumental sounds and performances: synthesizer, guitar, and organ soli are all OUTSTANDING.

Other song favorites include: the refined, bluesy STEVE HILLAGE, CAMEL, and even SANTANA-like 4. "Ondas leves" (7:38) (Sample link is from a live performance.) (14.5/15); the amazing Latin-riffed SANTANA-like "Solsticio" (6:30) (Sample link is also from a live performance. Sorry for the poor quality.) (9.5/10); "Montanhas da mente" (5:14) (especially the awesome final three minutes; nice keyboard work all around; love the jazzy CAMEL/NEKTAR-like instrumental sections) (9.5/10); the upbeat, fast-paced CAMEL and PINK FAIRIES-like "Claro escuro" (5:06) (impressive drumming!) (8.25/10); the simple and very poppy, catchy, "Algum lugar" (4:14) (8.75/10); and the LE ORME throwback, "Anos-luz (Manito's Dream)" (4:47) (8.5/10). Heck! Even the little GONG-like percussion-and-slide-guitar experiment that is the title song is good! (1:12) (4/5) The only song that falls a little short is 3. "Dia Azul" (5:26) and this cuz it's a little dull and not as animated or emotionally charged as the others. (7.75/10)

Total time: 58:28

I gotta admit: There's no one out there doing music like this. It grooves, it's smooth, it's emotional, it's evocative, it's instrumental solos are so different than the rest of current prog. Here melody and feeling reign supreme. This is the modern equivalent to KHAN's classic (and my all-time favorite Canterbury classic) Space Shanty. The drumming, keyboard work, and guitar playing are all so mature and proficient--perfectly timed, packed with incredible emotion, and skilled as true virtuosos: they make it sound so easy. Espectro is also an album that keeps growing on me--inviting me back again and again instead of getting old and stale. Highly, highly recommended, folks! Especially if you like mostly steady-paced, highly melodic music with a lot of excellent, excellent soloing. 

89.79 on the Fish scales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music. This album deserves to be heard. A lot! 

6. MOOGG Le ore, i giorni, gli anni (2011) Wonderful Canterbury jazz in the vein of HATFIELD AND THE NORTH (without The Northettes)--all this from a quartet from Brescia!

- Gianluca Avanzati / bass
- Marco Dolfini / drums, percussion, vocals
- Toni Gafforini / electric piano, synths, Mellotron
- Ivan Vanoglio / guitars

1. "Le Ore I Giorni Gli Anni" (7:22) is a great jazz tune in the Canterbury/CARAVAN/HATFIELD AND THE NORTH tradition using many of the same instruments and sounds as well as constructions and stylings as those bands. Great song. And a pretty good voice from drummer Marcos Dolfini! I LOVE both of the two different guitar soli in the fourth minute. Such a fun song! There's even a bass solo! (13.5/15)

2. "Classe 21" (6:38) The drumming is so 1970s! So are the keys, rhythm guitar and bass lines. Wonderful replication and execution--yet sounding fresh! I love the second section with its vocals being run through an effects box and the awesome lead guitar sound. (9/10)

3. "Il Perche' Di Esser Me" (5:48) great song:  pacing, melodies, mood, performances, and vocals. One of my favorite songs from the year! (9.5/10)

4. "Gli Arroganti" (instrumental) (7:18) has the definite vibe of 1970's Black Sexploitation movie soundtrack music. Herbie Hancock doing a Bill Cosby show soundtrack. (12.75/15)

5. "Responsabilità" (4:30) has such a HATFIELD sound and feel to it--thought the vocal is so AREA/Demetrio Stratos! My favorite part of the song is the instrumental soli! (8.5/10)

6. "Lunalia" (instrumental) (4:41) is a gentle, simple, pretty, four-chord, keyboard-driven soft-jazz instrumental. Nice but nothing earth-shatteringly new or beautiful here. (7.5/10)

7. "Moogugni" (instrumental) (3:06) another soundtrack that could easily come from the 1970s--AREA or some African-American funk-jazz band. Very tightly performed. (9/10)

8. "Welfare Botanico" (14:41) opens with an almost DEODATO "Also Sprach Zarathustra" sound and feel to it before everything quiets down and restarts with a hypnotic organ, bass, and drum line over which the electric guitar solos. By the end of the second minute, we've heard some bridges, transitions, and shifts which allow the keyboard a turn in the solo position. At 2:15 it turns back to the elgtr. until a stop-and-start bridge at the end of the third minute leads into a very pretty CAMEL-like section. This part could've been on Moonmadness! The fifth minute takes us through a few twists until at 4:35 Marco's mellifluous voice sings us into the palm of his hand. Beautiful! And powerful. Then, at the six minute mark, we turn into an awesome kind of KHAN Space Shanty-like jam section--which goes on at a great speed for over three minutes before we slow down at the 9:10 mark for a return to the Deodato electric piano sound and another spacey, jazzy hypnotic section. Nice drum play in this section! At 10:42 we move into a little more upbeat, almost disco-beat section. How HATFIELD-ish! Nice! Even the ensuing 'delicate' vocal section is fitting--especially as it precedes the crescendo of voice, synths and band into one of the high points of the album. How perfect! Not the most sensibly constructed song but it is an awesome rollercoaster ride--one that should not be missed! (29.5/30) 

Total Time: 54:02

These guys have not only picked up the torch on some amazing sounds and influences from the 1970s but they've embraced and made it their own. Definitely a band to keep one's eye on for the future!

90.23 on the Fishscales = five stars; A-; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and a very welcome revival of all that was great with 1970s Canterbury style music.

7. BEYOND-O-MATIC Relations in the Border Between (2013)

Part Canterbury fun, part Komische space rock, this is a eminently enjoyable album, start to finish. With a psychedelic sound reminiscent of the 60s and 70s San Francisco scene (which is, coincidentally, from where this band hails).

1. "In the C" (5:14) is a very GONG-sounding jam with plenty of wild electronic gadgetry playing around in the background throughout. (10/10)

2. "Tick Tock" (2:29) Again, Daevid Allen's GONG is all that comes to mind while listening to this one. (9/10)

3. "Wish" (15:38) With this song the band move into the realm of space/psychedelia. (Not that Canterbury bands--especially Gong and Steve Hillage--didn't use space/psychedelia sound palettes and techniques.) (9/10)

4. "In Two Os" (12:57) (8/10)

5. "Turn Switch to Trust" (10:43) is a very cool, very spacey, slow and ethereal journey into nether worlds--like a shamanic journey. Wonderful vocal layering throughout this beautiful song. (9/10)

6. "But the Love" (10:04) I love the slow build, "Hurdy Gurdy Man"-wavering of the guitar tracks and poetic lyrics of this one. (9/10)

7. "Out of C" (2:26) a true Country/Western-Bluegrass song! (8/10)

88.57 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

8. MAGIC BUS Transmission from Sogmore's Garden (2014) 

Canterbury is back! Wonderful, wonderful fare from Devon's Paul Evans and friends. Nobody but nobody has so well captured the CARAVAN 1970-72 sound so well! And yet the songs are each pure and original (with a few borrowed riffs here and there). Excellent musical composition. Wonderfully quirky, hippyish lyrics and happy-go-lucky singing with outstanding contributions from guitars and flutes. 
     Hailing from "transition town" Totnes, Devonshire, UK, Tim has gathered around him a dedicated crew of accomplished musicians who all have one thing in common: they feel that the spirit of the late 1960s and early 1970s--especially the musical spirit of the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene and the Canterbury spirit of SOFT MACHINE and CARAVAN--is still alive and that they are merely expressing themselves in that same spirit. 

The album opens with the innocuous little celebration of Nature and the joyous gift Life, "Sunflower" (3:51). It is very much a piece straight our of the hippy folk scene of the 1967 "Summer of Love." (9/10)

2. "Ballad of Lord Sogmore" (5:15) starts out sounding like it came straight off of the 1972 KHAN album, Space Shanty. The acoustic guitar strumming, electric guitar sound and riffs, and Jay DARLINGTON (formerly of KULA SHAKER and OASIS)'s vintage keyboard work make it a dead ringer for Canterbury Scene music. Even Paul EVANS' voice is quite similar to that of Steve HILLAGE (though it is also quite similar to that of Mont CAMPBELL). Then there is the Indian interlude, to seal the deal, before we kick back into KHAN-mode for awesome organ and electric guitar soli. (9/10)

3. "Cosmic Rays of Dawn" (3:47) opens with a gentle Canterburian soft jazz feel with arpeggiated organ chords and single note electric guitar accents before Evans' Robert WYATT-like voice sings a WYATT-like lyric in that emotionally vulnerable Robert WYATT way. At 2:36 an up-tempo, jazzy instrumental section with its trilling flute play ensues to the song's end. (10/10) 

4. "Three Days" (7:32) opens quietly before a "Golf Girl" kind of groove establishes itself and the band and the flute play on about the sun, sunshine and nature. At 2:15 a muted voice sings over a bit of a tired-sounding carnival sound. Then, after a little jazzy bridge, by 2:55 we're back to the perky walk-through-the-park song established after the pastoral opening. At 4:10 we shift into a more somber, slowed down instrumental section that preludes a kind of FOCUS "Tommy" section. Very cool! Great groove and awesome guitar play and sound! Flute takes over the soloing around 6:10--for quite a stretch--before that old friend the Canterbury "buzz saw" organ takes a turn. The band in the background is having some fun with it's syncopated up-tempo, and then it's over! (10/10) 

5. "Jupiter 3 AM" (8:37) opens with some very spacey synth washes fly around before Paul starts singing with his slowly-paced and well-spaced acoustic guitar strums. Then the full band joins in and the song slowly builds into a foundation for some jazz noodling--which then rather abruply dissipates into more of an instrumental étude. Then the music shifts into a chord and melody sequence that is quite reminiscent of that of NENA's "99 Luftballons" for about 20 seconds before bridging back to a minor key version of the opening music. At 4:55 a slow-bouncing organ and flute prep us for a full decibel breakout into a hard-rock variation on that NENA chord sequence. This then evolves into a swirling, speeding crescendo before some heavy chords are struck in syncopation before letting the music re-establish that happy-go-lucky NENA theme as it was in the fourth minute. Electric guitar and flute get the most solo exposure as the song plays out the final 75 seconds like this. Nice jazz excursion! I just love Jay DARLINGTON's mastery of the Canterbury organ sounds. (9/10) 

6. "Seven Wonders" (5:33) opens like an early PINK FLOYD song before Paul EVANS' gentle vocal enters singing in a sensitive Robert WYATT/Steve WINWOOD/Peter GABRIEL way. Love the interplay of the recorder! Slow, plodding song--again, very much in the PINK FLOYD vein continues until 2:55 when a CSN&Y/AMERICA-like harmonized "la-la-la, la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la" bridges us to a heavier CARAVAN-like instrumental section--which just as elusively fades into a flute with guitar strum part before giving way to the real meat of the song: a full out Mike RATLEDGE-like "buzz saw"organ solo! This song has more trouble establishing itself--establishing a flow and identity, but it is still a brilliant reflection of all-things Canterburian. (8/10)

7. "Morning Mantra" (6:55) returns us to that happy-go-lucky CARAVAN music In the Land of Grey and Pink era, with a vocal very much in the style of the great RICHARD SINCLAIR. Flute solo fills most of the third minute before the vocal returns over a delicate arpeggiated descending chord progression. "I love my life" is the dominant lyric in this lazy song expressing one's slow morning love and appreciation for life and all it has to offer. Nice flute and electric guitar interplay in the fourth and fifth minute instrumental sections. "Love, love, love, love," seems to be the message here. You dig? (9/10)  

8. "Earthpod" (4:44) the album's final song opens with fade in Mellotron giving way to a gently strummed guitar to support Paul's vocal about this tiny little planet we live on in a kind of lament for the passing of time (which one cannot help but wonder if his intention is with regards to the listening to this album or since the idyllic days of the 60s?). Organ support and the end of the first verse result in the entrance of the full band and the establishment of a more KHAN/STEVE HILLAGE song sound and melody (like "Hollow Stone"). Beautiful! Return to singing the second verse--this time with full band in subtle support (Mellotron, high-frequency flanged electric guitar, drums and gorgeous b vox!) Jay's Mellotron is actually given a solo in the fourth minute! The album closes with harmonized "Ahh"s and emotional flute solo. Gorgeous! (10/10)

90.0 on the Fish scales = a five star album; a masterpiece of progressive rock music. This album is so upbeat and refreshing--and polished! Truly a resuscitation of much that was once wonderful in the Land of Canterbury! One of my favorites from 2014!

9. AMOEBA SPLIT Second Split (2016) 

A greatly anticipated second album from Spanish instrumental Canterbury Style jazz artists whose 2010 debut album, Dance of the Goodbyes, caused quite a stir in this old heart. The music here on Second Split is definitely on the jazzier side of things--much like Dave NEWHOUSE's MANNA/MIRAGE project from late in 2015. At times I'm hearing riffs from the DAVE BRUBECK/PAUL DESMOND age ("Sundial Tick" 4:48] [9/10]) and others more of a jazz- rock mode in the vein of CHICAGO or BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS--especially in the arrangements for the horn section. And then there are the uses of odd/funny-sounding instrumental effects and/or shifts within the music. This is truly a entertaining and mercurial album--as is each song--taking twists and turns that the listener couldn't possibly foresee--yet none are wasted or superfluous, all serve to explore new ideas, new rhythms and combinations of sound and harmony.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Ricardo Castro Varela / Hammond, piano, electric piano, Moog, composer & arrangements
- Alberto Villarroya López / 12-string guitar, bass, electric piano, Moog, composer & arrangements
- Pablo Añón / alto sax
- Eduardo "Dubi" Baamonde / tenor sax, flute
- Rubén Salvador / trumpet, flugelhorn
- Fernando Lamas / drums, percussion
- Felix Arias / 12-string guitar (6)
- Iago Mouriño / Hammond organ (1), Moog (4-6), piano (5,6), electric piano (6)
- Sara García / violin (3)
- Arantxa Vera / viola (4)
- Elena Fernández / viola (3)
- Lucía Quinteiro / cello (3)
- Risto Vuolanne / double bass (3)
- Israel Arranz / vibraphone (3)

1. "Clockwise" (9:03) three songs in one--all three excellent and enjoyable. (18.5/20)

2. "Sundial Tick" (4:48) opens with a melody line as if from a classic 1950s or 60s Broadway musical (Porgy and Bess' "Summertime" comes to mind before the "Take Five"-like tempo and style take over). Three different melodic themes seem to rotate through the song with different harmonic structures explored by the big band each time. (what is that synth sound at the three minute mark?) Truly an exceptional and intricate though fun song. (9/10)

3. "The Book Of Days" (2:25) opens with chamber string quintet before what sounds like two vibraphones join in. How cool! The double bass and violin morph into more café jazz sound as the vibes continue and, eventually, take over. How clever! (4.5/5)

4. "Those Fading Hours" (8:34) opens with a dirty electric piano creating some chords and arpeggios before strings engage to add intermittent and constant accompaniment--violin becoming the first main melody maker (alternating with the flute). Has a very MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA feel with a lot of pent up, potential energy feeling ready to explode on us. Incidental "noises" from the organ and other keys only adds to that feeling that at any minute things are going to break loose. The synth solo that begins at 3:30 seems to open this door--and then a fuzzy electric guitar-sounding keyboard takes over and seems to unleash a little of the spirit of the Mahavishnu himself. Despite the loosening up of the belt for the rest of the band, the ensuing horn play seems to keep things in check--but no! the instrumentalists are suddenly all trying to solo at the same time! But what happens! The band shuts down at 6:45 leaving space . . . out of which emerges an acoustic guitar and moog synth making animal (or insect) mating calls as the infant children laugh their end-of-the day laughs. What a marvelously odd song! I love it! (19/20)

5. "Backwards All The Time" (8:22) opens as the most straightforward jazz song yet, but then at the 0:45 mark, it morphs into a classic 1970s jazz rock fusion confabulation--a cross between JEFF BECK's "Freeway Jam," DEODATO's "Super Strut," ALAN PARSONS PROJECT's "I Robot," and CHICAGO's "I'm a Man"!!! Weird and wonderful! The dual alien synth and piano soli in the fifth minute are just too weird for me. Then they're back to jazz with a trumpeter in the lead. (There's that "Summertime" theme again!) Then, at 6:20, the hammond takes over and brings it back into jazz rock territory. Such a chameleonic song! Not sure if it all works but it is brave and adventurous! I think it suffers a bit from lack of a coherent, consistent flow--too many stories being told here. (12/15)

6. "About Life, Memories And Yesteryears" (8:12) opens quite sedately, as compared to all of the previous songs, with long sustained melody solos coming from keyboard 'flute' and 'saxes.' Real horns eventually join in as a bouncy, churchy hammond organ plays in the back right channel. Chunky keyboard fuzz bass takes over as electric piano and drums take front and center at the 4-minute mark. Horn section is soon added. Perhaps the weakest song on the album if only for it's lack of catchy melody. I mean, it's not till the 6:40 mark that the first likable melodic hook is presented, before that it's all about (I think) displaying all of the things the keyboards can do. (11/15)

Total time 41:26

87.05 on the Fishscales = B/a strong four star album; highly recommended as an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection though, in my opinion, the band really misses the vocal and flute talents of founding member María Toro: she brought an entirely other dimension (or to) to the band's music. 

10. THE WINSTONS The Winstons (2016) 

The result of the effort of a trio of Milanese pop stars when they turn their efforts to the pop- and jazz-side of the 1960s and 1970s psychedelic, Canterbury Scene—most specifically the styles explored by Robert Wyatt.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Enrico Gabrielli ("Enro Winston") / keyboards, woodwind, vocals
- Roberto Dell'Era ("Rob Winston") / bass, 12-string guitar, vocals
- Lino Gitto ("Linnon Winston") / drums, keyboards, vocals
- Xabier Iriondo / soundmetak (?) performer (1)
- Roberto D'Azzan / trumpet (4)

1. “Nicotine Freak” (4:32) starts out as a pure Robert Wyatt imitation—psycho-babble and all—and an amazingly accurate reproduction, at that. Organ, multiple voice tracks and a little intermittent background sax and electric guitar for the first two minutes. Then all hell breaks loose with the full band breaking into an awesome organ and bass pulse while the multiplicity of male vocal tracks play their weave over the top. Incredibly powerful second half! One of my top three songs for the album. (10/10) 

2. “Diprotodon” (4:09) is probably the most solid Canterbury sounding song on the album (except for the chunky bass). The Farfisa organ play is so fun, so nostalgic! Very much in the same spirit as the two recent HOMUNCULUS RES albums, if a little more reliant on the horns (saxophones) and bass. Another top three song. (9/10) 

3. “Play with the Rebels” (3:42) opens with flutes over organ and cymbal play. When the English vocal enters it takes on a kind of KOOP meets or Brit Pop like Eric Burden/The Animals, Rod Argent or Paul Weller or even Harry Nilsson late 1960s sophisticated intelligent pop feel to it. Aside from the Procul Harum-like organ, it is pure pop late 60s pop. Very, very good late 60s psychedelic pop. (9/10)

4. “…on a Dark Cloud” (7:53) opens like some kind of psycho journey until at 1:00 a pulsing STEREOLAB-like synth bass and Farfisa organ take the fore. Drums and horns begin their contributions at the 2:00 mark. At 2:37 another Robert WYATT-like vocal display takes center stage—only this time sounding more like John WETTON. The dominance of the heavy, chunky bass again takes us slightly away from Canterbury and more into King Crimson or even Zeuhl territory. (9/10)

5. “She’s My Face” (4:22) returns us to the late 60s organ-dominated psychedelic pop.  Sounds a little more emo than it needs. The carnival mood set at the 1:54 mark is cool but weird, but we are quickly turned back into a kind of WHO-frenzy with some BYRDS-like 12-string electric soloing. The song definitely grows on you. Could be a PAUL WELLER-like radio hit. (8/10)

6.  “A Reason for Goodbye” (6:01) opens with a kind of minimalist structure of bass arpeggio and sparse cymbal play while the male lead vocalist sings with a kind of combined Roger Daltry-Robert Wyatt-Joe Strummer form. The jazzy bridge in the middle of the fourth minute is a nice twist before the song simplifies for a return to the vocalist’s singing to Jennifer. The final 90 seconds has the band amping back up for a MOTORPSYCHO-like instrumental jam. (8/10)

7. “Dancing in the Park with a Gun” (5:17) is a definite Canterbury style song with a particularly direct social-political message. It is strongly imbued with the spirit of Robert Wyatt again. One of my top three songs of this album. Any song that uses the word “symmetry” is automatically held high in my esteem. Very psychedelic song. (9/10)

8. “Viaggio nel suono a tre dimensioni” (3:33) is an instrumental that opens and closes with a male voice speaking in Italian as if for radio/television or an advertisement. In between a kind of SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET frenetically paced round establishes itself. The bass play is fun, the swirling organ play, too. (8/10)

9. “Tarmac” (3:30) is a slowed down, bare bones piano-based dirge in which the Robert WYATT-like vocal performance exactly matches the melody play of the piano. So like Sir Robert’s solo work. Probably the weakest song on the album. Musically. (7/10)

10.“番号番号 (Number Number)” (6:11) is a very psychedelic take on the Canterbury style of music—with a Beatles/Doors influence as well. Apparently the lyrics for this song and 2. “Diprotodon” were written by Japanese artist Gun Kawamura (who did the album art) and sung in Japanese by Gabrielli and Dell-Era. The first half of the song drags on a bit, but the shift in tempo and style that begins with the bridge at 2:50 is awesome. Here is where the very distinct influence of The Beatles and The Doors can be felt. Good song. (8/10)

Total time 42:36

An album of refreshing mastery and creativity despite its draw from older music and artists. One of the few who has been able to synthesize older styles and sounds into a totally new and refreshing form. Very nice use of organ, jazzy drums and saxophone throughout. Kudos, Lino, Roberto and Enrico!

85.0 on the Fish scales = a 4.5 star album; B; a near-masterpiece of jazz-pop Canterbury-styled progressive rock music.

11. MANNA/MIRAGE Blue Dogs (2016) 

With a bit of a Canterbury Style music revival picking up steam it is no wonder that the USA’s only true contributor to the sub genre, The Muffins would chime in with a contribution of new music. Only, mid-production one of the band’s members had to excuse himself, leaving Dave Newhouse, Billy Swann, Paul Sears and friends with the decision of whether or not to move forward. Under the guise of the clear reference to the parent band’s 1978 debut album of the same name, Dave and company decided to go ahead and finish the album in progress. Apparently revived by their recent work with Cuneiform label stable mate GUAPO and AltrOck Productions’ HOMUNCULUS RES, as well as Richard Wileman’s KARDA ESTRA projects, Dave and Paul, respectively, have gathered enough impetus and support to self-produce this album of seven songs which come in at a rather brief 36 minutes in length. And boy are we fortunate and am I happy that they did! I’ve been dancing around the house and in my car to the likes of the ear candy opener, “Canterbury Bells” (4:50) (10/10), ever since! Everytime I play this in the house my wife says, “That’s so Seventies!” And I say, “So?!” The bass, drums, and steady yet-syncopated piano chords bounce us along at a nice walking pace while an odd array of horns and percussion build unusual chord and harmonic layers over the top. Just brilliant! Should be a soundtrack to a video/commercial! One of my favorite songs of the year!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dave Newhouse / keyboards, woodwinds, drums
- Mark Stanley / guitar
- Steve Pastena / French horn
- Billy Swann / bass
- Paul Sears / drums
- George Newhouse / drums

2. “Duke Street” (4:47) opens a little more playfully, with a piano playing a little two-bar ditty over and over in a kind of 50s/60s be-bop style—like Duke Ellington (for whom the song is named and who is present via a tape recorded sound clip from an interview of his at the end of the song), Thelonius Monk, or even Paul Desmond. The foundation established, the jazzy brush-played drums, double bass, and multiple horns play in a kind of big band style—playing as a group in chordal unison while single instruments take turns soloing over the top. If I have any complaint about this song it’s that there really is no significant shift of the foundation. (9/10)

3. Muffin Man Redux” (7:23), we find out toward the end, is a jazz song that is built over the ditty that we know as “Do you know the muffin man?” Until the avant shift at the 2:20 mark, the song presents itself as another small-scale big band song—not far from the Glenn Miller or Stan Kenton style. At 3:25 a drum interlude preps us for a kind of carnival-atmosphere in which, at the 4:13 mark, the “Muffin man” theme is presented. At 4:30 the music moves into a very catchy, melodic section with piano, electric bass, and jazzy drums laying another steady foundation over which the 
At 5:46, the lone piano seems to be beginning a return us to the muffin man melody—but no! another pretty melodic variation picks up and plays on until the final twenty seconds when a single microphone is used to pick up a man and his ukelele playing and singing out the “muffin man” nursery rhyme before saying “bye bye, everyone” in a condescending as-if-to-children voice. Some great sections to this humorous song. (8/10)

4. “Lost in a Photograph” (4:21) opens with a slow jazz big band foundations, double bass and flute gently standing out the most. At 1:10 a shift brings forth a “chorus” melody from the horn section before a sax takes on the lead duties over the original opening foundation. An eminently enjoyable little dirge that even takes on some nice STEELY DAN hues and in the third and fourth minutes. No complaints here! (As a matter of fact, I would not mind at all if this one went on longer!) (9/10) 

5. “Blind Eye” (4:57) is the first song on the album that, to my ears, really sounds like an avant/RIO/Canterbury song. The initial rhythm and sounds established are familiar to me in a kind of BRUFORD/YUGEN way. The guitar soloing that begins in the second half of the second minute is quite angular and discordant. The section that begins at 2:15 is pure avant/RIO in a kind of UZED/PRESENT way. The ensuing section uses some very Middle Eastern or klezmer-type melodic sounds and structures—which is then varied and embellished over for the fourth and first half of the fifth minutes before fading away to leave an electric piano to delicately play out the final 40 seconds. An interesting song but not my favorite. (8/10)

6. “Shwang Time” (4:58) opens with a kind of Pink Panther-meets-James Brown kind of feel as double bass and snare drum play with and off of each other. At 0:49 the rest of the little big band joins in with multiple melodies and being represented simultaneously but woven together in a fun, 1960s kind of way. At 1:55 there is a shift into a more insistent, ascendant bass and chordal progression giving the song a kind of YES-like feel! A tom-only drum section allows for some different horn interplay—eventually morphing into what sounds and feels like a 1920s jazz dance piece (with a film-noire detective theme playing within.) Odd but fun song! (9/10)

7. “Rovian Cue” (4:10) obviously refers to Karl Rove’s cue ball shaped head. Regardless of the meaning of the title, the song has a kind of slap-happy, fun feel like one of Sweden’s DUNGEN’s happy songs or something from Sicily’s current Canterbury revivalists, HOMUNCULUS RES. The piano play in the final minute feels so much like that of VINCE GUARALDI (jazz pianist most famous for the original Charlie Brown television specials’ soundtracks). Next to the album’s opener, this is my favorite song on the album. (10/10)

Total time 34:05

A late comer to the 2015 catalogue of albums, this is one that is well worth everyone’s listen and patience—it’ll grow on you in a very pleasant way!

89.0 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

12. INNER EAR BRIGADE Rainbro (2016) 

COS and STEREOLAB comingled and recorded for the first time!
     Just kidding. This album is, however, for our times, quite unusual. At first I thought it "cute" and "interesting" but as I've given it many more listens I hear so much of two of my favorite "recent" or rather late in life joy-bringing discoveries in Canterbury styled music (of which there is so little coming out in the 21st Century) and, more specifically, the music of the unique Belgian group, COS. Actually, if you took 1970s COS and 2000 STEREOLAB you would have INNER EAR BRIGADE. Vocalist Melody Ferris sounds stylistically a bit like Kitchen Thieves’ AMY DARBY or Thinking Plague’s ELAINE DI FALCO, though the PASCALE SON (COS) and LAETITIA SADIER (STEREOLAB) comparisons are unavoidable. And these guys are from West Coast USA!
     This is an album of pure joy and fun. Even the extended jazz grooves with their serious and accomplished horn play and solos are fun. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Bill Wolter / guitars, keyboards, electronics
- Doug Port / drums (1-9)
- Pat Moran / bass (1-9)
- Andrew Vernon / keyboards, Farfisa Organ (1-9)
- Ivor Holloway / tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, clarinet
- Melody Ferris / voices
- David Shaff / trumpet (1-9)
- Nick Peck / Hammond B-3 Organ, clavinet, piano, electric piano, Moog synthesizer, mellotron (1-9)
- Ryder Shelly / vibraphone (1-9)
- David Slusser / Slussomatic, electronics (1-9)
- Shayna Dunkelman / vibes, crotales (10)
- Jordan Glenn / drums (10)
- Curtis McKinney / electric bass (10)
- Charith Premawardhana / viola (10)
- Max Stoffregen / piano, synthesizer (10)
The opener, 1. “Knee” (5:02) is such an ear catcher! Sounds a bit like an ELVIS COSTELLO song as it might be performed by STEREOLAB. (9/10)

2. "Oompah" (5:07) has some KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND riffs and influence as well as feeling like some of FROGG CAFE's most CHICAGO-ishness. (8/10)

3. "Missing the Train" (3:41) feels a lot like a song coming from the 1960s Brazilian-influenced period of U.S. pop jazz.  (8/10)

4. "Rainbro" (5:01) is perhaps my least favorite song on the album. It has more of a "bland" Stereolab feel to it--the melodies and chord changes are not quite as catchy as other songs--though I love the final 30 seconds. (7/10)

5. "Too Good to Be True" (4:12) has some social-political commentary like that commonly found in Stereolab songs as well as some nice XTC-like jazz guitar sound/work. (8/10)

6. "Somnambulist Subversion" (4:36) uses two long-out-dated instrumental effects: the cheesy synth and the ragged distortion strum of a punk-like guitar that begin the song. Once voice, horns and percussives, tuned and untuned, join in, the song takes on a more early Elvis Costello sound and feel. (9/10)

7. “Nutjob" (3:14) is an instrumental that begins in a tight Canterbury fashion: whole band chord staccato progression before settling down into a pleasant kind of jazz beat to support trade off solos from horns, Farfisa organ & crazy synths, distorted and jagged guitars, tuned percussives. (9/10)

8. “Forgotten Planet” (6:02) is my favorite. It  begins with flute and tight Stereolab-like rhythm bass with vocalist Melody Ferris’s scatting Pascale Son (COS)-like. Wonderful Canterbury song! (10/10)

9. “Dirty Spoons” (5:13) begins with an acoustic guitar playing an arpeggiated chord sequence that is just heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Bandleader Bill Wolter is gradually joined by the rhythm section, keyboards and horns--which take over the presentation of the melodies on this awesome instrumental. Parts have an almost Acid Jazz feel to it, only without the house downbeat. Another favorite. (10/10)

10. “25 Miles to Freedom” is notable for both its length (10:31) and its different jazz beat--like a kletzmer-meets-Philip-Glass or like the 1988 Pat Metheny-Steve Reich collaboration on “Different Trains.” Melody Ferris’s jazzy vocals aren’t quite as warm or alluring on this one--and actually make it obvious that on this particular song it’s the instrumental sections that are the standouts--like the violin, sax, and vibraphone trio in the seventh minute, or the STEELY DAN-like sax solo in minute number eight. (9/10)

Total Time 52:36

My favorite songs in which Melody’s voice shine are the wordless “Forgotten Planet,” “Missing The Train,” “Oompah,” “Knee,” and “Rainbro.”   
The more I listen to this album, in a variety of locations, the more I think that this is, in fact, a masterpiece of progressive rock music. (My favorite listening venue thus far has been in the car, uninterrupted highway driving.) This could be slightly tainted by the fact that the album gets better and better with each song, but could be also because I am so craving upbeat, happy prog--kind of like what we lost with the fadeout of the Canterbury Scene.  

87.0 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars of fun, intelligent, joy and for resurrecting fresh, jazzy, Canterbury music.

13. HOMUNCULUS RES Come si diventa ciò che si era (2015)

While not quite as new, fresh, happy, upbeat, melodic, or loose and quirky as their debut, this is still an excellent album release fully within the Canterbury sound. The music feels to me as if it is now more work, more effort, less fun, less imbued with the frivolity of youth and its devil-may-care joy. I miss some of the layers and sudden stops and shifts, and I do not like the way the drums are recorded. I hope the future music of this wonderfully spirited band veers more toward songs like "Balacqua" (3:40) and the epic "Ospedale civico" (17:52) and less like the opening few songs here.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dario D'Alessandro / guitar, Casiotone (2,7,12), MS10 synth (3,8-10,12), MS2000 synth (4,5,11), bass (4,7,10-12), glockenspiel (6)
- Mauro Turdo / guitar
- Davide Di Giovanni / Nord Electro synth (2), keyboards & synth (13), bass (8,13), drums & percussion (13)
- Daniele Crisci / bass
- Daniele Di Giovanni / drums, percussion
- Aldo De Scalzi / vocals & organ & guitar (4)
- Wyatt Moss-Wellington / vocalese & backing vocals (10)
- Fabrice Chouette / Yamaha MOX6/CS15d (2)
- Patrick Dufour / Yamaha MOX6/CS15d (2)
- Jarrod Gosling / Mellotron, Philicorda organ & Octave Kitten synth (3,6)
- Paul "Ske" Botta / ARP Odyssey (5), OSCar synth (2,9), Roland RS 202 (11), mixing
- Steven Kretzmer / piano (8)
- Giuseppe Turdo / oboe & English horn (1)
- Giorgio Trombino / alto saxophone (3,5,14)
- David Newhouse / saxofones (soprano, alto, tenor & baritone) & bass clarinet (9,10)
- Dario Lo Cicero / flutes & flageolet (10)

1. "Operazione Simpatia" (2:11) (8/10)
2. "Doppiofondo del Barile" (2:50) (8/10)
3. "Vesica Piscis" (6:22) (8.25/10)
4. "Dogface reprise" (1:50) (/5)
5. "Opodeldoc" (4:26) (9/10)
6. "La Felicità" (1:27) (/5)
7. "Ottaedro" (2:45) (/10)
8. "Egg Soup" (0:50) (/5)
9. "Belacqua" (3:39) (9/10)
10. Ospedale Civico (17:52) (32/40)
11. Dogface (3:40) (9/10)
12. S invertita (0:52) (/5)
13. Paum/ (1:53) (/5)
14. Schermaglie (1:51) (/5)

Total Time: 52:28

84.29 on the Fishscales = B-/four stars; a decent album by but by no means a shining example worthy of high praise or universal recommendation. For those with an undying love for all things Canterbury.

14. MAGIC BUS Phillip The Egg (2017

England's revivalists of the Bay Area psychedelia and Canterbury Scene have returned with another collection of one that flows and develops slowly in its complexity and dexterity over the course of the album. As a matter of fact, it seems to me upon repeated listens that the opening songs are fairly simple and pleasant and innocent while the trend progresses toward more expressions of anger and discord towards the end of the longer songs and the album itself. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Paul Evans / vocals, guitar
- Terence Waldstädt / guitar, backing vocals
- Jay Darlington / keyboards, backing vocals
- Vivien Goodwin-Darke / flute, percussion, backing vocals
- Wihll Mellorz / bass, guitar (7)
- Connor Spring / drums, guitar (7)

1. "Mystical Mountain" (8:50) a nice epic with simple Canterbury-lite (witty a la CARAVAN) approach to the vocal sections. The instrumental sections are more experimental but very subtly so. (8.5/10)

2. "Fading to Light" (3:36) absolutely gorgeous study in sound and space. I think the band are showing true signs of commitment to one another in diving deeply into their chemistry and technical proficiency. (10/10)

3. "Trail to Canada" (5:43) the first half is a bit innocuous but then a big shift and a rocking psychedelic second half lifts it up into memorability. (8.5/10)

4. "Zeta" (4:34) electronic psychedelia (reversed tracks) play from beginning before JEFFERSON AIRPLANE-like sound and structure establishes itself. The ethereal mid-section is interesting--perhaps a bit out of place. Nicely performed though there are a few sections that are a little drawn out with little or no development. (9/10)

5. "Distant Future" (7:11) is by far the most demanding both compositionally and of the listener--which is a good thing for this band. Discordant, edgie and syncopated, though still psychedelic--at least, until the fourth minute when a chorus temporarily gels it all together. The song returns briefly before going Fripp on us with some interesting lead guitar. I like the band's adventurousness here though it doesn't necessarily result in a beautiful or "shout about" song. (8.5/10)

6. "Kepler 226" (6:41) an instrumental that once again displays the band's cerebral commitment to technically complicated musics. (8.75/10)

7. "Kalamazoo" (3:30) a surprisingly sedate, more-acoustic-oriented approach to the band's sound. Nice but nothing extraordinary here. (8/10)

8. "Yantra Tunnels" (5:04) opens with harmonium and other Indian-sounding sounds. In the second minute Western instruments like drums and electric guitars enter and take over. This one rocks--like a good rockin' German Krautrock song from the 1970s. Even when it amps up a notch in the fourth minute it still (or even more) retains that Krautrock feel. (9/10)

Total time 45:06

I would have liked to hear more instrumental expressivity and complexity but am exceedingly happy for the input of this collection of songs that take me to a place that was much more innocent and carefree.

87.81 on the Fishscales = B+; 4.5; an excellent submission of psychedelic Canterbury-esque music. I predict that MAGIC BUS's next album is going to be a true masterpiece!

15. ROBERT JAN STIPS - SUPERSISTER PROJEKT 2019 - Restis Repus (2019)

RJS is the founder and key composer, keyboard player, and singer of the early Canterbury band, SUPERSISTER. Once he left the band around 1974 (to join GOLDEN EARRING--after their world-wide hit album, Moontan with the monster hit, "Radar Love") here, in 2019, RJS reveals a collection of songs that are either holdovers from that early 1970s period of his life or recent compositions that demonstrate how deeply the SUPERSISTER spirit has held steadfast within him. Refreshing in their upbeat, fun, and beautiful melodies, they remind one of how special those 1971-73 Supersister albums were

Line-up / Musicians:
Robert Jan Stips (The Nits) / Keyboards,Vocals (3,8) 
Peter Calicher / Keyboards (7,9) 
Bart Wijtman / Bass (1,2,4,9,10) 
Rinus Gerritsen / Bass (5-7,11) 
Bart van Gorp / Bass Trombone (1,4-7,9-11) 
Cesar Zuiderwijk / Drums (5,7,10,11) 
Leon Klaasse / Drums (2) 
Marco Vrolijk / Drums (4) 
Rob Wijtman / Drums (6) 
Rob Kloet (The Nits) / Drums (1,9,10) 
Henk Hofstede (The Nits) / Vocals (1,10) 
Joke Geraets (The Nits) / Vocals (1,10) 
Freek de Jonge / Narrator (10) 
Junior Huigen / Trombone (1,4-7,11) 
Marieke Brokamp / Violin (1,4-7,9-11) 
Thijs Kramer / Violin (4-7,9-11)

1. "I Am You Are Me / Transmitter" (4:44) (10/10)

2. "Memories Are New IV" (3:26) (8.5/10)

3. "For You And For Nobody Else" (7:59) (12.5/15)

4. "Sister Talk 1" (0:44) (4/5)

5. "Max Eco" (3:00) (8.25/10)

6. "Hope To See You There Again" (5:28) cool song that plays out like a cinematically emotional Post Rock song. (9.25/10)

7. "Yellow Days" (4:31) (10/10)

8. "Sister Talk 2" (0:35) (4.25/5)

9. "Next Door Movie" (3:12) another nice soundtrack song (8.5/10)

10. "Cuckoo" (3:58) live one room stage recording? Too goofy--though I like Robert Jan's narrative in the second minute. (7/10)

11. "Hope To See You Again" (1:24) (5/5)

Total Time 39:01

87.25 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a welcome contribution from one of the early leaders of the Canterbury sound and a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection.

Also Worth Mentioning:

MANNA/MIRAGE Rest of the World (2018)

One of Dave Newhouse's pet projects lives on and he's got a whole posse of collaborators to help sustain him.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Dave Newhouse (The Muffins, Diratz) / keyboards, saxophones, percussion, woodwings, doumbek, bass drum, accordion
- Billy Swann (The Muffins) / double bass (8), bass (8)
- Carla Diratz (Diratz) / vocals (3)
- Bret Hart (Diratz) / guitars (8) ebow (8)
- Sean Rickman / drums (1-5,7)
- Mark Stanley / guitars (1,4)
- Jerry King / guitars (2) basses (2) lyrics (2) NS bass (3)
- Forest Fang / violin (3)
- Derek Higgins / bass (5)
- Guy Segers (Univers Zero) / bass (7)
- William Jungwirth / drums (8)
- Greg Segal / bells (3) tiny cymbals (3) klickety klack (3)
- Michele King / vocals (2)

1. "Catawampus" (7:32) multiple winds herald the opening of this song (and album) before moving bass and tight drums kick in to support the song's establishment. At 1:10 a baritone sax synth buzzsaw interjects its two notes into the equation (as the chorus?). Jarring but interesting. After the second "chorus" the song downshifts into a looser, more laid back pace within which electric guitarist Mark Stanley has a chance to show their chops. Then Dave shows off a more subdued organ solo before acoustic guitar and keys finish it off over decaying drum play. Interesting with new sounds and combinations but, overall, nothing too exciting or revolutionary. (8/10) 

2. "Zed He Said" (4:22) Jerry King's simple, arpeggiated acoustic guitar chord sets the scene for Michele King's multi-tracked singing. Very nice melodies, friendly, inviting pace and structure, the instrumental mid-section is quite engaging and pleasant with some great melodies from the winds over the Vince Guraldi-like music. (8.5/10)

3. "Alchemist In The Parlor" (3:56) odd Beat-like song structure (to match the 1964 era of singer Carla Diratz's story?) turns mini-big band as the horns and keys bank together for the "chorus" sections between and after Carla's recitations. Fun music and song--kind of Jim Jarmusch-ish. Interesting story. (8.5/10)

4. "30 Degrees Of Freedom" (7:18) long introduction of keyboard rumbling and rolling as cymbols play turns into a smoother, more laid back and melodic piece at the two-minute mark. From that point on it is a very melody-oriented, two-chord groovin' song with drums and multiple horns and organ playing at complex harmonic chord play. Wailing electric guitar floats behind, panning around for a minute, before settling into a note-bending solo display in the sixth minute. Sounds really cool when the full ensemble of horns, bass tones, and keys are playing in full clutter behind. Sean Rickman is a madman! He must claim Keith Moon and The Muppets' Animal as influences! (9.25/10)

5. "Gonzalo's Paints" (2:42) very laid back, melodic, even bucolic full-band start eventually wends its way into very rich, cool, multi-track harmonies with a few instruments breaking off to solo here and there. Just a very cool, very rich tapestry, start to finish. (10/10)

6. "Miracle Walking" (3:14) three tracks (and later, more) of Dave's saxes weaving a kind of short-time rondo into chords. At the 90 second mark one sax veers off to go after a crazy free-jazz solo before returning to the fold just as the accordion makes it's debut. Nice construction! (8.5/10)

7. "Mini Hugh" (4:44) opening drum vamp as bass and, eventually, horns establish themselves. By the half-minute mark all have gelled into a steady jazz structure while the drums continue to be on full display. Sean Rickman can play! Organ, horn banks, and individual solos from alto sax, electric piano, fuzzed up bass guitar, and--all the while Sean keeps travelling over his kit as if he were on some kind of unmapped-yet-urgent walkabout. I hear some John Coltrane, Elvin Jones, and Jimmy Garrison in this music. (8.5/10)

8. "That Awful Sky" (4:49) kind of DAVID TORN (or ROBERT FRIPPertronics) and MAX ROACH/PAPA JO JONES meet STEVE REICH and PETER GABRIEL. Very cool, mesmerizing, haunting song. (9/10)

Total Time 38:37

87.81 on the FishScales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of jazz fusion/progressive rock. The music on Rest of the World is interesting--especially rhythmically, harmonically, and in its sound palette. It is diverse, melodic, deeply harmonic, and full of fun and even tongue-in-cheek jocularity. I know that Dave Newhouse is a school teacher; he must be a math teacher cuz every song he pens seems to be the expression of a mathematical possibility--an étude. Highly recommended!

ALCO FRISBASS ALCO Frisbass (2015) I’ve toiled with writing a review for this simple, enjoyable debut AltrOck Productions album from the French duo of Patrick Dufour and Fabrice Chouette for over half a year now. And now I’ve finally figured out why! This is a Neo Prog album! This is a Neo Prog album by an artist who has an obvious affinity toward the keyboard-driven sounds and melodies of the Canterbury Scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, there is very little presence of the often complex, jazz- and classical-based structures experimented with and favored by those Canterbury artists in the music presented here by ALCO Frisbass. The sounds that Patrick and Fabrice create are obviously intended to replicate the sounds of the more common/famous instrumental sounds associated with the Canterbury “sound,” but to my ears, these sounds are not as close to the actual sounds of Canterbury artists like Mike Ratledge, Steve Hillage, Dave Stewart, Mike Oldfield, or Phil Miller as to be able to constitute the use of the word “replicate.” Plus, the use of guest musicians for the contribution of violin, guitar and mellotron actually serves to create a further divergence/distance/discord with the original mix of sounds used in the Canterbury scene.
     The other flaw with this very likable, even enjoyable music, is in the simplicity of the music—especially in the rhythmic foundations of each song. There are very few dramatic shifts in tempo, key signatures or dynamics in these songs; all instrumental soli are played as if the artists handling the instruments be melody-conscious while somehow acting quite disconnected from or even oblivious to the musical base coming from the background foundational instruments (bass, drums, and keyboards). Plus, the feel I get from the bass, drums and keyboards is that they are there more for the exclusive purpose of creating a foundational base for other instruments to solo over which is not the usual feel I get from the background instrumentalists in jazz or Canterburian songs. The original artists of what we call the Canterbury Scene feel as if they each remained creative individuals despite their place in the musical mix—leader, supporter or soloist—each actively and creatively contributing to the mix that makes up the foundational harmonic and rhythmic structure of each song—even beneath the not-infrequent soloists.

The album’s best songs—2. “Pas à pas” (6:42) (9/10), 4. “La danse du pantin” (7:44) (9/10), and 6. “Judith Coupeuse de tête” (9:08) (8/10)—each captivate a lot of nice melodious Canterburian sound and feel yet fail to reveal anything new or innovative—and never fail to ever impress with instrumental prowess, creativity or technique. There are more similarities in this music to Neo Prog like fellow countrymen XII Alfonso or Minimum Vital: melody—often exceedingly linear and simplistic—dominates heavily over harmony and experimentation—which is fine. As I’ve said throughout, this is wonderfully listenable, even enjoyable music. Not bad, just not great.

A 3.5 star album. Nice songs with nice sound but lots of potential for growth here!

ALCO FRISBASS Le bateleur (2018) 

AltrOck's almost-Canterburians are back with their sophomore album and it will not disappoint those who loved their first album. I, however, continue to be disappointed with the lack of full commitment to one style and lack of engaging themes over the course of an entire song (which continue to be long [inexplicably though not necessarily unjustifiably so]).

Line-up / Musicians: 
Frédéric Chaput: Bass, Electric & Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards, Synths & Modulars, Percussions 
Fabrice Chouette: Keyboards, Synths, Electric Guitar 
Patrick Dufour: Keyboards, Synths, Drums Programming 
Thierry Payssan (Minimum Vital): Acoustic Piano (1, 3, 4) 
Jean-Luc Payssan (Minimum Vital): Electric Guitar (4) 
Eric Rebeyrol: Cornet (1, 4)

1. "Soufre Et Mercure" (9:33) a song heavily doused in thick, chunky bass and swirling organ play, this is Zeuhlish! Nice keyboard work throughout but the electric guitar chord play is a weak spot. The third minute's Spanish-theme is also a bit disconnecting. Still, the mood remains dark and heavy, even through the Renaissance-themed section in the seventh minute. (8/10)

2. "Le Bateleur" (11:24) a basic and likable jam presents itself and then tries to get quirky and funky. Very nice keyboard work in the third minute. Also, a very engaging acoustic guitar-based section in the eighth minute that develops into a great GENESIS-á-la France section before decaying into boring and mundane. (8.5/10)

3. "Arcane Majeur" (7:13) nice jam with sections ranging on chaotic interspersed within a highly engaging and melodic tune. Things go downhill a bit once the piano enters. (9/10)

4. "Les Cartes Vivantes" (8:09) simplistic rhythm base from bass, drums, and keys with guitar and keys and cornet taking turns to lead with the melodies above. Awesome section with electric piano soloing over bass and R&B rhythm guitar in the seventh minute. (8/10)

5. "Ombre Terre" (7:54) the most Canterbury-sounding song on this round of ALCO FRISBASS tunes; very Hatfield and The North The Rotter's Club-inspired. The only problem is that it never really rises to that level of excitement or refreshing originality as one would hope, yea, the second half even starts to elicit feelings of irritability or disappointment. (8/10)

Total Time 44:13

83.0 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a solid contribution to the modern instrumental progressive rock catalogue. 

INNER EAR BRIGADE Dromology (2017) It's been five years since the wonderful Rainbro but this little gem makes the wait all worthwhile. A little heavier and more serious this time around but the compositional skill and instrumental performances have improved a notch (amazingly!)

Line-up / Musicians 
Bill Wolter – Guitar
Chris Lauf – Drums
Stephen Wright – Electric Bass
Melody Ferris – Vocals
Ivor Holloway – Tenor, Alto, and Soprano Saxophone
Eli Wallace – Keyboards (1,2,4,5)
Theo Padouvas – Trumpet (1,2,4,5,6)
Andrew Vernon – Keyboards (3,6,7)
David Shaff – Trumpet (3,7)
Aharon Wheels Bolsta – Tabla (5)

1. "Dark Sleep Fortress" (6:40) opens the album with a heavier but still avant sound that is fully recognizable for people who are familiar with their previous album, Rainbro. The band is thick and tight! Forgot how much I like these horns and the voice of Melody Ferris. Nice keyboard solo and horn section work in the final two minutes. Unfortunately, the bass line here just gets too old--not enough movement and variation. (8/10)

2. "Black And White Taste" (5:56) avant in a math rock almost THINKING PLAGUE way. Almost feels like a study in whole-band (even vocal) weave using odd time signatures. I have to admit that I don't like it when Melody's voice is used in this way. Great bass, sax, and electric piano work. (8/10)

3. "Shaman Coin Toss" (6:51) nice opening with lots of fast-paced whole-band movement. Almost HAIRCUT ONE HUNDRED energy here. Melody's voice brings us back to solid ground (in a good way) before the horns and fast-play and changes take us in other directions--many! And moving so fast! This is fun! The 1960s Bay Area-style electric solo is unfortunate; turns me off. Piano section is nice, simple, a surprising twist--coupled with a softer side of Melody. FROGG CAFÉ comes to mind here. As with some of the previous album, the mid-song tempo and stylistic changes are a bit mystifying. Still, a pretty amazing composition. (9/10)

4. "Bobotut" (6:12) bouncy, upbeat multi-thread weave with instrument-like vocals mirrored by sax and other horns throughout. Part NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA, part Astrud & João Gilberto. Gorgeous! Maybe my favorite song on the album! (9.5/10)

5. "Dromology" (8:55) love the winding rondo weave of the separated horns on this with Melody's long drawn out singing notes. (9/10)

6. "Targa Floria" (4:22) horns, repeated electric guitar riff, and Fender Rhodes-like keys fill the opening before the horn section starts doing its magic in several weaves. This is all multi-layered instrumental jazz--a very intricate composition very tightly performed. The horns in the mid-section and second half are quite nostalgic in a BURT BACHARACH-kind of way. A top three for me. (9.5/10)

7. "Birdie In The Wall" (6:57) awesome big-band kind of opening turns into a more intricate staccato  weave with Melody Ferris's smooth torch song vocal playing over the top. The second section gives this almost a SWING OUT SISTER sound. I love it! Such a great, smooth song! Definitely another top three song for me. (9.5/10)

Total Time 45:53

The further I get into the album I keep wondering why this wonderful bass player did what he did in the opening song.

89.29 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music. There's a little feeling of the genius of HOMUNCULUS RES here.

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