Think of the Canterbury scene of the late 60s and early 70s and many names will spring to mind. Caravan, Gong, Gilgamesh, National Health, Soft Machine, Camel, and Soft Heap may well be among them. However, no such list would be anywhere near complete without including the name Hatfield And The North.
To map out the Canterbury family tree would take several, rather convoluted pages to cover in any meaningful depth. Suffice it to say that Hatfield And The North contained several key players in the movement and quickly became a leading light in the ‘experimental’ jazz fusion genre that seemed to have the Kent cathedral city as its epicenter.
They evolved in 1972 and soon began to display musicianship of the highest quality, an instinctive understanding, and stunning live shows. Never far below the surface was a sense of humour that helped make them one of the most popular live bands around at the time.
With a sound that explored the ground between rock and jazz, this was a band with a huge character. Their collective musical invention saw them perform complex and intricate pieces above a myriad of time changes and some memorable melodies.
Their two albums, the eponymous 1974 debut, and The Rotters Club which appeared the following year, are still cornerstones of the genre and are widely regarded as classics.
Now Esoteric Recordings have re-released both albums which arrive with informative sleeve notes that also include some previously unseen photographs and lyric sheets.
An interview with Pip Pyle dating from 2005, a year before his death, also appears and provides valuable insight into the formation, the recordings, and later problems in the story of the band.
Their name was taken from a road-sign on the M1 Motorway. A photograph of the band sitting at a picnic table beneath the sign whilst the traffic races by is included.
Once named, Hatfield And The North was underpinned by the intricately weaved drum patterns created by the late Pip Pyle who formed a near instinctive understanding with bass player Richard Sinclair.