Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Phil Miller - 1987 - Cutting Both Ways

Phil Miller 
Cutting Both Ways

01. Green & Purple Extract / Hic Haec Hoc / A Simple Man (15:59)
02. Eastern Region (5:58)
03. Second Sight (5:02) *
04. Hard Shoulder (4:32)
05. Figures Of Speech (9:06)
06. Green & Purple (9:32)

* CD bonus track

- Phil Miller/ guit.,guit.-syn [4-5]
- Elton Dean [1-3/6] /as,saxello
- Peter Lemer [1-3/6] / synth
- Hugh Hopper [1-3/6] /bass
- Pip Pyle [1-3/6] /dr.


- Dave Stewart [4-5] / kb,pgm
- Barbara Gaskin [4-5] /voc)

Phil Miller is a pilar of the Canterbury sound community. Influenced by the great blues guitarists he developped a style of his own, a mixture of Blues, Rock and Jazz with a personal melodic approach.

Bands :
'Delivery' (1966-71), 'DC & The MB's' (1971), 'Matching Mole' (1971-72), 'Hatfield and the North' (1972-75), 'National Health' (1975-80, 1981, 1983), 'Gowen Miller Sinclair Tomkins' (1981), 'Phil Miller/Phil Lee Duo' (1980-81), 'In Cahoots' (1982-.), 'Oddjob' (1985), 'Hugh Hopper Band', 'Short Wave' (1991-96), 'Phil Miller/Fred Baker Duo' (1992-), 'Phil Miller/Steve Miller/Mark Hewins Trio' (1996-98)

Miller's first band 'Delivery' was formed in 1966 including his brother Steve (piano & vocals), Pip Pyle (drums), Jack Monk (bass) and later on Lol Coxhill, (sax). Monk was replaced by Roy Babbington in 1969, and with singer Carol Grimes, 'Delivery' recorded the album 'Fool's Meeting' (1970) including five Miller compositions. In late 1970 'Delivery' split and Phil and Steve joined Lol Coxhill in a new project called 'DC & The MB's', but the project ended when Steve Miller left to join 'Caravan' and Phil was asked by Robert Wyatt to join 'Matching Mole'. After the split of 'Matching Mole' he joined 'Hatfield & The North' and played then for five years with 'National Health'. After the break-up of 'National Health' in 1980 he was involved in different projects including a duo with ex-'National Health' guitarist Phil Lee and a trio with Lol Coxhill and his brother Steve.

In 1982 Miller formed his own band 'In Cahoots' as vehicle for his compositions, with Richard Sinclair, Pip Pyle and Elton Dean. In February 1985, Richard Sinclair was replaced by Hugh Hopper and the resulting line-up recorded most of the tracks of 'Cutting Both Ways' (1987) released as a solo record, followed by a tour of Europe. Fred Baker replaced Hopper and the band recorded Miller's second album, 'Split Seconds'. In 1991 Miller' recorded his first solo album, 'Digging In' (1991), followed by a duo record with Fred Baker 'Double Up' (1992) and, a 'In Cahhoots' live recording 'Live In Japan' (1993). In 1991 Miller played also together with Didier Malherbe, Pip Pyle, and Hugh Hopper in 'Short Wave' and in 1993 'In Cahoots' recorded 'Recent Discoveries' (1994) a record with a more pronounced jazz influence. In 1996 'In Cahoots' undertook a British tour , recorded 'Parallel' and went on tour with 'Caravan'. For the rest of the 90's Miller toured with 'In Cahoots' in England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands and played on Pip Pyle's solo album '7 Year Itch' (1998).

In May 1998 his brother Steve was diagnosed as suffering from terminal cancer and in June Phil played a reformed 'Delivery' benefit concert for Steve with Pip Pyle, Lol Coxhill and Carol Grimes. Steve died in December that year.'Out Of The Blue' (2001), recorded by 'In Cahoots' and written during the period when Steve was ill, is a tribute to Steve and dedicated to his memory. In 2004 'In Cahoots' recorded a new studio album, 'All That', followed by the departures of Elton Dean and Jim Dvorak. The same year Miller reunited with Richard Sinclair as part of the latter's live band and both played in the reformed 'Hatfield and the North' with the late Pip Pyle, and Alex Maguire. In 2006 'In Cahoots' released 'Conspiracy Theories' a studio record including participations of Richard Sinclair, Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin.

Robert Wyatt : "Phil Miller would rather play a wrong note than a note that somebody else had ever played".

'Cutting Both Ways' is one of those amazing collaborations that appeared long after the 'glory days', when the wonderful 'Canterbury Scene' had made its mark - perhaps it just continued to make its mark... This sub-genre of Prog is the one I find closest to my heart. The musicians involved always seem to deliver, album after album, therefore, I am probably not the right person to comment, but, I can only speak in utmost respect about the musicians performing here. Keyboardist Pete Lemer is a long- lost player of the genre. Canterbury afficianados are well familiar with bassist Hugh Hopper, sax player Elton Dean (bless him), drummer Pip Pyle (bless him, too - I'm shedding a tear by now..) and Phil Miller on guitars. This recording basically show-cases a 'who's who' of Canterbury-Prog, a 'Supergroup' of sorts, and is composed and played with that magical Canterbury touch.
Opening with a lengthy suite, 'Green and Purple Extract/Hic Haec Hoc/A Simple Man' wastes no time in grabbing our attention - fantastic production, epic sounding progression as an intro, and great main riff. This riff features a fantastic, extended Synth solo (possibly mini-moog, Lemer's main soloing instrument) followed by Elton's sax solo. This section is played in a kind of 'laid-back' fusion mode, followed by a very reflective section where E.D. gets in some expressive Saxello playing, and Miller's guitar solo is spot-on. This then merges into some more manic soloing from Elton on sax. To read my rambling may sound tedious, but the music on this album is an amazing and breath-taking journey for sure. Difficult to discern the composed parts from improvisation, indeed if there is any - the compositions are quite rigid, however, the first 2 pieces and the last suite on the album are, according to the sleeve notes, recorded as a result of the 'live-in-the-studio' approach. When speaking of Canterbury, 'mellow, wistful, gentle, complex, quirky...' are some of the adjectives used to describe this genre, and that is what's applicable here. 'Eastern Region' is quite nice, with more synth soloing from Lemer and some lightly flanged Bass from Hopper. 'Second Sight' is a track not featured on the vinyl edition of the album, therefore I can't speak of it.

'Hard Shoulder' and 'Figures of Speech' feature Miller and the wonderful Dave Stewart on synths and programming, with some backing vocals from the lovely Barbara Gaskin on the former. These display a different approach to recording, with focus on multi- tracking and utilising the (then) latest developments in music technology, thus confirming the album's title of 'cutting both ways'. These sound a little more synthetic, but still maintain a degree of complexity, and, particularly with the lengthy 'Figures of Speech', faithful to the genre. In some ways, 'Figures of Speech' is the highlight, granted Stewart's somewhat dubious direction he decided to take with partner Gaskin (some decent material on offer there, but far from prog) it actually shows that he has not lost any of the skill and tastefulness that made him such a renowned keyboardist during the 70's. Final suite, 'Green and Purple' features more jamming, with show-offy chops from Lemer and Miller again. Being a release from such a 'sterile' year (musically speaking), 1987. Fantastic album !!!

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