Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales used the shrine of Thomas Becket as the excuse for his band of naughty pilgrims to visit said city, but for worshippers of the quaver and minim it has long been synonymous with story telling of a somewhat more “note” worthy kind. The Canterbury Scene is a saga of inter-band musicians and depicted by a jazzy vibe from many of its protagonists.
Aptly named The Kentish Spires are a group of like minded people brought together to bring us a body of work invoking the spirit of the region with their first album, The Last Harvest.
A single whack on the snare and singer Lucie V’s folky lilt throws us head first into the battle for the Kingdom of Kent. A chronicle of Germanic marauders musically minor keying with great tracked saxophones and that flute which defines this sub-genre. Danny Chang’s guitar Barres in to the fight and provides the rock, then a change of tempo as the ancient Britons re-load. Nostalgia for the olde days of good music is further enhanced by the excellent drumming of Tim Robinson, an actual Hammond imbuing shades of Richard Wright’s finest, and then Paul Hornby’s sax does nothing to dispel the Floydian connection. We’re off to an excellent start to the album, but not so good for the bloodline of the British.
Spirit of The Skies could almost be an early Caravan song with a lady guest as Phil Warren’s precise bass matches the kick with aplomb, whilst Anchor Man flute dances with the organ and on the oak tables, Trower-esque 6-string fills the gaps, and the masterful vocalist keeps the boys in check.
TTWIG is very much a companion piece then Introception dry stone walls the rock into a solid structure – this is almost an American FM (as it used to be called in the 5th Century) playlist recipient, then we get Hengist Ridge. An alternative take on Kent’s blooded past where equestrian named Hengist and Horsa slashed and generally put the boot in (or was it leather sandalled in?) first to the invading Picts and then the host nation, more electric piano chords, extra woodwind textures, and another very expressive vocal.
The most modern lyric occurs on Clarity but there are medieval undertones to the arrangement in this song about doubt: “Sire, the fairer one from the visiting minstrels doth express hesitancy in ones advances of betrothal”, err, might be said in them days of yore, etc.
So this very fine and well recorded album may only have one track left but The Last Harvest is worth the entry price to the castle on its own. A dystopian computer file archive of what happened / will / might happen of man’s last few days plundering the planet of Earth’s resources, and a reflection of the ensuing / ensued fight it put up against the uncaring inhabitants. We have now left Kent and have journeyed to prog rock territory, there is a Van der Graaf Generator feel enhanced by Rik Loveridge’s timeless electric piano and organ sounds (plus a Palladino-ing liquid bass), but mostly that upfront nail on the head woodwind. Guitar, bass, sax, and drums jazz it up until around the seven minute mark the cadence resolves into a resignation of defeat as the major key change turns mournfulness into a glorious celebration of what has been. The coda’s guitar solo and sax will have believers of the Gaia hypothesis swaying in time, but those instruments slowly burn up as a vocal harmony, tuned percussion, and finally the last volts from the solar panels are used to keep the Leslie speaker revolving… Magnificent.
An excellent and enjoyable romp through history, personality, and musicianship. These modern troubadours have presented an audio parchment of what can be achieved if the very best ingredients of folk, jazz, and progressive rock are expertly mixed in a 21st Century cauldron and then feasted upon in the great halls of rock. Resistance is futile, bow down to the new Kings of Kent.
01. Kingdom Of Kent (11:10)
02. Spirit Of the Skies (4:22)
03. TTWIG (3:48)
04. Introception (7:17)
05. Hengist Ridge (4:30)
06. Clarity (3:58)
07. The Last Harvest (13:09)
Total Time – 48:14
Lucie V – Vocals, Violin
Danny Chang – Guitar, Production
Paul Hornsby – Reeds, Flute, Recorder
Rik Loveridge – Keys
Phil Warren – Bass
Tim Robinson – Drums
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 27th July 2018