Sunday, September 11, 2022

The 2020s: Favorite Canterbury Style Releases


MAGICK BROTHER & MYSTIC SISTER Magick Brother & Mystic Sister (2021)

Delightful retro psychedelic funk bordering on Egg, Khan, and Caravan Canterbury Style music from this Spanish quartet. Bassist Xavi Sandoval sets up some very nice grooves for listeners to get hooked into while Eva Muntada's Burt Bacharach- and Northettes-like vocals an Maya Fernández's flutes lend their ethereal magic as well.

Line-up / Musicians: 
Eva Muntada: piano, synthesizers, organ, mellotron & vocals
Xavi Sandoval: bass & guitars
Marc Tena: drums & vocals
Maya Fernández: flute

1. "Utopia" (4:56) opens like SOFT MACHINE's "Slightly All the Time" before going its own direction with Eva's lovely vocalise tracks and Maya's swallow-like flute. I'm in heaven! At 2:25 the song switches gears as it moves into CARAVAN territory to support some awesome synth and fuzz-organ work. The final minute sees us being carried off into the floating world of GONG guitars. Wow! What a trip into yesteryear! Amazing song! (9.5/10)

2. "Waterforms" (4:06) opens with a funkiness that could come from a 1970s Black Exploitation film! Isaac, Curtis, or Marvin! Amazing! Drive that Caddy with that Detroit lean! When Eva's voice penetrates my consciousness, my bubble is burst and I am back in Europe--though with a definite 1970s-feeling 21st Century West Coast Psychedelic Funk (a la BRIAN ELLIS and STARVING DAUGHTERS). (9.25/10)

3. "The First Light" (2:24) early PINK FLOYD psychedelia. A little too imitative. (4.25/5)

4. "Yogi Tea" (5:16) like a Burt Bacharach lounge funk psychedelia! Great keys, bass, and flute interplay with perfect jazzy drum support. I love Marc's voice--and vocal! He sounds like a god! (Or like KHAN's Nick Greenwood!) West Coast Psychedelic Funk at its finest! One of my favorite songs of the year! (9.5/10)

5. "Arroyo del búho" (4:49) almost a Ravel/Satie/or Gordon Brothers flute & piano duet. (8.75/10)

6. "Echoes From The Clouds" (4:07) another song that brings back so many flower power melodies of the late 60s and early 1970s--from Sergio Mendez's Brazil '66 to Caravan and "MacArthur's Park." Great flute and bass play. (9/10)

7. "Movement 2" (2:39) except for the flutes, this could be straight from a BRIAN ELLIS album! Awesome three-part James Bond/Austin Powers-like film soundtrack. Great presence from the congas. Excellent flute play. (5/5)

8. "Love Scene" (3:32) another perfect soundtrack imitation from late 1960s/early 1970s psychedelic filmdom. Awesome Hammond work, Eva! (9/10)

9. "Instructions For Judgment Visions" (4:33) hippy flute folkpsych with GONG-like narration. (Or is it Eric Burden's WAR's "Spill That Wine"?) (8.75/10)

10. "Les Vampires" (6:40) Burt Bacharach-Brian Auger collaboration for a soundtrack to a B-movie horror flick? (9.25/10)

Total Time 43:02

91.39 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of retro-psychedelic prog. So wonderful to hear this gorgeous funk!

MANNA / MIRAGE Man Out of Time (2021)

A collection of Dave Newhouse songs that contain some of his most complex, well-developed ideas since he went solo. I love that there is so much going on within each song that I pick out entirely new and different things with each listening.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dave Newhouse / keyboards (1-6), woodwinds (1-3,5,6), voice (3), drums (4), yelling (4), electric piano (7,8), bass clarinet (7), saxophone (4)
- Sean Rickman / drums (1-3,5,6)
- Jerry King / bass (1,2,6), trumpet (5), trombone (1,5)
- Mark Stanley / guitar (1,5)
- Carla Diratz / vocals (2)
- Bret Hart / guitar (2)
- Dereck Higgins / bass (3)
- Rich O'Meara / vibes, marimba (3,8)
- Alanna Cohen Duvall / voice (3)
- Guy Segers / bass (5)
- Forrest Fang / violin (5)
- Gary Rouzer / cello (5)
- Fred Frith / guitar (6)

1. "What's the Big Idea?" (4:19) all musicians here seem to be traveling their own solo paths while somehow, amazingly, creating a wonderfully mature weave. (9.5/10)

2. "World Song" (3:49) great drumming beneath Carla Diratz' bluesy singing and the rest of the band's baseline weave. (8.5/10)

3. "In for a Penny" (4:34) great Canterbury slow groove (Fender Rhodes, horns, and bass) over which xylophone, flute, vocalise, and drums create some wonderfully melodic trails. (9/10)

4. "Red Ball Express" (2:56) one of Dave's more free-form, boundary-pushing, almost laughable, hot air balloon ride compositions that remains somehow tethered to the ground by the mellifluous winds. (4.25/5)

5. "4 Steps Back" (10:45) a very well conceived and realized Canterbury style jazz song with nice contributions from strings and Mark Stanley's electric guitar--and a most excellent contribution from drummer Sean Rickman. I love the Muffins-like eight and ninth minutes and then the pugillistic final two minutes. Great editing and mixing to get this one to sound so perfect. (18.75/20)

6. "Fred's Dream" (3:58) opens with a sound, styling, and pacing that is quite reminiscent of STEELY DAN or some other Gary Katz production (Rosie Vela or Love and Money). GREAT melodic and harmonic structure. (9.5/10)

7. "Silver Age" (4:00) opens like something from HAROLD BUDD and THE COCTEAU TWINS' The Moon and the Melodies 1986 album. Fun! (8.5/10)

8. "These Days" (2:32) beautiful, peaceful keyboard (Fender Rhodes) work over which Rich O'Meara splays his marimba work. (4.75/5)

Total Time 36:53

I am so grateful for Dave's detailed liner notes explaining the etiology of each song: they are so enjoyable to read. The Coronavirus pandemic definitely allowed Dave the time and room to fully and completely develop and rework his ideas into wonderfully complete feeling songs.

90.94 on the Fishscales = A-/4.5 stars; a minor masterpiece of Canterbury style Jazz-Rock Fusion and one of my 10 favorite albums of 2021.

HOMUNCULUS RES Andiamo in giro di notte e ci consumiamo nel fuoco (2020)

My wife and I just sold our farm (happy/sad). We just returned from two days of cleaning out and driving to storage the family valuables (happy/sad). But then I opened up my computer after a couple days of absence to find that one of my favorite bands of the 21st Century had released its new album--on my mother's 85th birthday (happy/HAPPY). AUTO-BUY! I have to report that the band has (finally) returned to the (full) form of sophisticated Canterbury quirk of their 2011 debut. I am SO HAPPY to be listening to this beautiful yet happy music--especially in these COVID times. Thank you, Dario & company! And thank you to The Universe for releasing this album on my mother's 85 birthday! It will always make this album feel so special--like it was just for me.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dario D'Alessandro / vocals (1-4,6-10), rhythm guitar (1-4,8,9), keyboards (1-6,8-10), glockenspiel (2,5)
- Davide Di Giovanni / piano, organ, synthesizer, guitar (7)
- Mauro Turdo / solo guitar (1-6,8-10)
- Daniele Di Giovanni / drums
- Daniele Crisci / bass (1-6,8,10)
- Giorgio Trombino / alto saxophone (1,2)
- Petter Herbertsson / banjo, guitars, vibraphone, double bass (3)
- Giuseppe Turdo / oboe & French horn (4)
- Antonio Tralongo / viola (4)
- Emanuele Sterbini / vocals & guitar (5)
- Dominique D'Avanzo / vocals, flute, clarinet (5)
- Danilo Mancino / bass (7)
- Dario Lo Cicero / transverse flute, bass flute & bassoon (8,10)
- Patrick Dufour / electric piano (9)
- James Strain / bass (9)

Full, more detailed review in the days to come (as I will, no doubt, be listening to this album non-stop throughout the weekend). The PERFECT SUMMER ALBUM! If you want happy, melodic music to play on your days by the water, I could not think of a better one than this.

1. "Lucciole per Lanterne" (4.54) Canterbury and Homunculus Res perfection! (9.5/10)
2. "Il Carrozzone" (3:42) (9.75/10)3. "Buco Nero" (6:44) (8.75/10)
4. "Supermercato" (6:21) (8.75/10)
5. "La Spia" (4:36) (8.75/10)
6. "La Salamandra" (6:25) (9/10)
7. "In Girum" (3:37) sounds more like THE WINSTONS' debut album (and, therefore, MATCHING MOLE/Robert WYATT). (8.5/10)
8. "La Luccicanza" (4:27) (8.75/10)
9. "Tetraktys" (3:33) (8.75/10)
10. "Non Dire No" (3:45) opens as if a teacher/parent singing to (or for) children. When flute supplants vocal it becomes more rich and though still community feeling. Cool, different song. (9.5/10)

Total Time 47:59

The album starts out on a real high with the first two fast-paced joy-fests, but then then tempos settle into the middle inviting the listener to tune in more carefully to hear the clever and quirky nuances that the band throws in. 

90.0 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music and such a refreshing addition to my (so far) rather weak 2020 collection.

P.S. How could ANYONE call this music anything but Canterbury???!!!! This is NOT a RPI band!

ZOPP Zopp (2020)

Competent modern prog done in the Canterbury style most similar to Dave Newhouse's Manna/Mirage though I find Egg, Hatfield and the North, Supersister, and The Muffins also come to mind. Fine sound engineering and overall production for this sometimes simplistic and basic imitation of the best sounds of Dave Stewart, Robert Jan Stips, Phil Miller, Richard Sinclair, and others.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Ryan Stevenson / keyboards, Mellotron M4000D, Hammond organ, Arturia analogue synthesiser, Korg CX-3 organ, piano, Hohner Pianet T, bass, electric guitars, Nord Electro synth, voice, sound design, noises, field recordings, percussion
- Andrea Moneta / drums, percussion, drum recording
- Andy Tillison / piano (6), Hammond organ (3), Leslie processing (2,5,6), co-production (3,6,9)
- Theo Travis / flute (6)
- Caroline Joy Clarke / voice (1,7,8)
- Mike Benson / tenor saxophone (9)

1. "Swedish Love" (1:32) pure and delightful Hatfield and the North . . . until the eerie/bizarre second half (4.5/5)

2. "Before The Light" (6:05) Eggish with some Supersister sprinkled in (8.75/10)

3. "Eternal Return" (5:06) I hear Supersister, Cos, The Muffins, and a little Khan in the first half of this one. The big pause in the middle brings forth a little Jean-Luc Ponty and Mike Oldfield feel! (8.25/10)

4. "Sanger" (3:20) sounds like The Muffins with Hugh Hopper's bass! (8.5/10)

5. "Sellanrå" (3:29) an interesting sound experimental starting with the organ start and some nature noises and then piano arpeggi and sparse echoing electric guitar notes and, later, faraway female vocalise. I actually really like this. (9.5/10)

6. "V" (6:37) using Andy Tillison as the time holder! Again, The Muffins and Manna/Mirage come to mind. Great bass and some really awesome Dave Newhouse-like melody lines. (8.75/10)

7. "Being And Time" (4:33) more regal and pretentious, like Black Sabbath or Deep Purple, but then turns into more melodic stuff á la Manna/Mirage. (8.67/10)

8. "Zero" (4:52) again, the individual layers of the tapestry are surprisingly simple, but the whole impresses as if some kind of Dave Stewart, Mike Rutledge, Dave Sinclair or even Alan Gowen composition--though, again, I hear Dave Newhouse melodies. (8.75/10)

9. "The Noble Shirker" (9:19) The most full and sophisticated song on the album, done in a style like AMOEBA SPLIT's 2016 album, Second Split.The sax is fun. (17.75/20)

Total time: 44:53

87.81 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music exploring the jazzier Canterbury veins.

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