The treasure ‘behind the curtain’

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Jul 2013 The treasure ‘behind the curtain’

The treasures that grew

CD: Various artists  – 

Canterburied Sounds

Floating World Records


This four-disc box set is awash with excavated treasures for fans of the so-called “Canterbury scene”, in which the flagship names included Caravan, Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers.


Largely derived from tapes and acetates retrieved from sundry lofts and cupboards by Brian Hopper – he and his brother Hugh were among the “Canterbury” musicians – there’s an abundance of home tapings of rehearsals and amateur recordings of live performances.


Each of the discs runs for well over an hour, and the collection comprises material dating from 1962 into the early 70s – carrying early flowerings of the eccentricities and characteristics of a very English sound where the blended ingredients involve prog-rock, psychedelia, abstract jazz, the avant-garde, and even some classical influences.


A few live performances by a fully-established Caravan share the spotlight with endeavours by the Wilde Flowers and other preliminary manifestations of the Canterbury scene.


With the original recordings having been enhanced by a salvage and restoration project, the compilation is a veritable feast of songs and instrumentals that’s rich in works-in-progress and fragmentary uncompleted pieces – a snatched glimpse behind the curtain.


In several cases, standards such as ‘Summertime’ are used as the basis for an experimental foray – what might in other musical circles be called jamming. Sometimes there are ‘unusual’ combinations of musicians – and people playing instruments other than their normal ones. There’s even a Robert Wyatt cut that features Jimi Hendrix playing bass (and a Soft Machine run-through where you can hear Ken Dodd on a TV that’s playing nearby).


A 24-page illustrated booklet gives background context and individual track information.


By Russell Newmark