Off-Ramp

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Peter Stenshoel reviews Hatfield and the North

James Kim/KPCC

In the mid-1970s, pop music lovers not contented with soft rock and disco faced what looked like a lapse in the highly creative period that began roughly with 1965 and bottomed out around '71. Were it not for the poorly named genre, "progressive rock," enlightened listening choices would have been hampered by the vagaries of commerce. Among the progressives, those bands which made up what we now call the Canterbury Scene were among the most rewarding. Hatfield and the North, in my humble estimation, are Canterbury Scene royalty.

Unlike prog-rockers Genesis or Pink Floyd, Hatfield and the North's cleverness never bordered on the grandiose--in fact, quite the opposite: their self-effacing lyrics and lowbrow-to-mildly scatological titles guaranteed that. And unlike prog-rockers Yes or Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, the band's effortless instrumental artistry shares equal space with wry British wit. 

Richard Sinclair's "man next door" voice is accompanied by his bass guitar. The late much-loved Pip Pyle is on drum kit. David Stewart, more supple than Rick Wakeman, is keyboardist. And accused by some of never playing a solo straight on the beat, Phil Miller completes the group with his quite original electric guitar style. Extra musicians include Soft Machine's Robert Wyatt, wind instrumentalists, and an angelic three-woman choir.

Hasten thee to Canterbury, good sir and madam. Take a listen to our sample wares.

 

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