The Canterbury Scene is without a doubt an incestuous one with virtually every representative band having members engaging in the ole switcheroonie with one another throughout the style’s heyday in the 1970s. While many bands came and went, none would be able to exemplify this particular type of whimsical jazz-rock-fusion more than the supergroup HATFIELD AND THE NORTH. This band meant business and was in effect a culmination of all the Canterbury styles that came before. A sifted, refined and filtrated jazz-rock-fusion enigma that still sends shockwaves into the first-time listener by impregnating the casual progressive rock lover’s ears with music so flirtatious and sublime that if one is not addicted to this particular brand of music yet, the gravitational forces of such magnanimous music will surely be the boon or bane to one’s finances, for this particular album in general is one of my utmost gateway drugs into the extremities of the progressive rock archives and beyond the comfort zone from the more familiar and accessible sounds of Yes, Pink Floyd and Genesis. My bank account has never been the same since :P
This is one of those albums that really demands multiple listens for the magic to unfold. Upon first listen i was only dumbfounded. I was not at all accustomed to music like this. This takes the most adventurous of both the jazz and rock worlds and melds them together seamlessly which is a testament to the top notch musicians involved in this rarest of projects, one that is so daring and oblivious to contemporary trends that it actually succeeds in transmogrifying the listener’s consciousness into a state of sonic bliss that feels as if it is taking place in a dream state or in an alien setting far away from the mundaneness of the every day world. While i would have never even dreamt of this existing in my top tier of musical pleasures upon first listen, this eponymous debut album with the equally magnanimous followup “The Rotter’s Club” have only recently gained enough mojo to blossom into new musical arenas in my world, one where musical genres blur in a sonic firestorm that only tintinnabulates the most pleasant of musical expressions.
Let me speak a bit about this unbelievable music. This is music for the gods and of the gods, for this is truly a prog supergroup of the highest level. This eponymous album comprises the absolute best in the Canterbury jazz-fusion scene and although the music itself focuses more on intricate instrumental prowess, there is more than enough comedic lyrical whimsy to suck the ego out of the transpositional chromaticisms and instead create a beautiful universal sound of surrender where the musical deities take the rei(g)ns and lead to one splendid sounding piece of work. The main players in this game are Phil Miller (Delivery, Caravan, Matching Mole), Dave Stewart (Arzachel, Delivery, Egg, Khan), Richard Sinclair (Wilde Flowers, Caravan) and Pip Pyle (Delivery, Gong) but the subordinate cast is JUST as essential for this brilliant soundscape which is deviously melodic with occasional touches of pure surrealism.
These subordinate entities include Robert Wyatt on vocals, Geoff Leigh (sax, flute), Didier Malherbe (sax), Jeremy Baines (pixiephone, flute), Same Ellidge and Cyrille Ayers (vocals) and the beautiful enchantresses called the Northettes: Amanda Parsons, Barbara Gaskin and Ann Rosenthal. All the tracks connect like an early Soft Machine album and elements of all the contributing players unfold here into a frenzy of some of the most sophisticated music ever to exist in the rock world. HATFIELD AND THE NORTH just nails it. I have to emphasize that this is an acquired taste but just like triple IPA beer or certain stinky varieties of cheese, one that is well worth the effort. This kind of music is truly unparalleled at this point of time and still to this very day remains some of the most demanding yet satisfying music that exists. A veritable masterpiece of the ages that just hasn’t been discovered by everyone yet. Inaccessible like the tombs of a long lost undiscovered Pharaoh but beckoning the progressive rock love to explore the nooks and crannies of some of the most sophisticated music ever. Can you tell? I love this one :O