Canterbury Glass

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Of the many psychedelic groups who recorded unreleased material in the 1960s that didn't get issued until decades later, Canterbury Glass was one of the more unusual and interesting. The tracks they recorded…
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Of the many psychedelic groups who recorded unreleased material in the 1960s that didn't get issued until decades later, Canterbury Glass was one of the more unusual and interesting. The tracks they recorded for a prospective album in 1968 mixed classical religious music and psychedelic-progressive rock not as a gimmick, but with reasonable dignity and creativity. While only four of the six tracks from these sessions could be retrieved when Canterbury Glass material was finally released on CD in 2007, these added up to 40 minutes of well-recorded music, providing a reasonable facsimile of what might have appeared had the band landed a recording contract.

Canterbury Glass' origins lay in the mid-'60s London folk-blues duo of Malcolm Ironton and Michael Wimbleton, who as Mick & Malcolm recorded a couple of singles for Pye. Forming a band after their Pye days ended with drummer Dave Dowle and bassist Tony Proto, Ironton eventually turned to a more psychedelic direction under the influence of bands like Pink Floyd and the Moody Blues. Ironton and Proto began writing material, sometimes sung in Latin, that drew on the classical-flavored music sung and played in cathedrals. Adding keyboardist/guitarist Mike Hall (whose organ would give the group's material much of its classical/religious flavor) and singer Valeri Watson (who also played flute), Canterbury Glass played in London venues like Middle Earth and Eel Pie Island.

London arranger Harry Roberts heard a two-song demo, and with his partner, Olympic Studios owner Cliff Adams, arranged for the group to record an album's worth of material at Olympic. The six tracks, which fused guitar-based psychedelia with choral harmony vocals and heavily classical-influenced melodies and keyboards, were designed to draw a deal from bigger labels, but Polydor and CBS both passed on the band after showing some interest. The band broke up soon afterward, though not before future Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, who'd played on one track on the sessions, joined as guitarist for a short time. Drummer Dave Dowle joined Brian Auger's Trinity in 1969, and quite a while later, he turned up in Whitesnake. Four of the six tracks from the sessions comprise the bulk of the 2007 CD Sacred Scenes and Characters, with one of the two previous demos added as a bonus cut.