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Album Review

Recorded in April and May 1981, this album contains some of Alan Gowen's last sessions (he died in 1982). Different in many ways than the core corpus of the Canterbury progressive rock movement (Soft Machine, Caravan, National Health), this quartet album moves deeper into jazz — jazz by rock musicians, yet not blatantly jazz-rock. Jazz has always been part of the Canterbury essence, in Richard Sinclair's melodic basslines and in Phil Miller's blues guitar background. Gowen continues to explore the dreamy mood exposed in Two Rainbows Daily, his collaboration with Hugh Hopper dominated by sad, subtle Moog melodies. Drummer Trevor Tomkin adds a light free jazz touch, his playing moving outside the beat in the quietest passages to provide textures rather than pulses. Writing credits are split between Miller, Gowen, and Sinclair. The guitarist's tunes are jazzy and more upbeat. "Nowadays a Silhouette" stands out; it began its life as part of National Health's repertoire. Sinclair's only contribution, "Umbrellas," features his evanescent wordless vocals. A soft number, it prefigures his solo material of the '80s. Gowen brought the darkest, most melancholy pieces. The title track is a lesson in understatement, its slow theme floating over sparse arrangements, yet it delivers the most memorable music of the set. This album takes fans of the Canterbury scene elsewhere, on a ride between parentheses, and will be of interest mostly to aficionados and collectors, but it is a fine session. Just not quite the thing you expect. ~ François Couture, Rovi

Biography

Born: 19 August 1947 in North Hampstead, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

In his all-too-brief professional music career, jazz-rock keyboardist and composer Alan Gowen garnered respect from his peers and a small cult audience but little more than that, although he arguably deserved much more. He made his initial mark within what is now referred to as the Canterbury scene of British prog rock, which received a fair amount of critical acclaim but usually only moderately sized audiences, and he also arrived on the scene after the late-'60s and early-'70s Canterbury heyday,...
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Before a Word Is Said, Alan Gowen
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