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High Tide - Sea Shanties CD (album) cover

SEA SHANTIES

High Tide

 

Heavy Prog

3.80 | 154 ratings

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SpecialKindOfHell
4 stars Into Deliciously Dirty Waters

If only every band's first album were as good as this. Coming off of a short stint playing with David Bowie and Bowie's gal Hermione in the avant-garde "cabaret" act / folk band Turquoise (later Feathers), guitarist and singer Tony Hill started High Tide, a very heavy UK band that created two great LPs over a short few years together, Sea Shanties being their first. Hill was previously of the highly-regarded Misunderstood from 1963 to 1968, a band who set a new standard for the light show in rock shows in the UK. He recruited Peter Pavli on bass guitar, Roger Hadden on drums, and Simon House on violin. The band was among the early practitioners of the violin-in-a-rock-band novelty, It's A Beautiful Day doing it in the Bay Area in the US around the same time. For High Tide though it fits in quite perfectly and doesn't feel forced. They were most likely quite inspired by The Velvet Underground's electric viola, and Eric Burden's electric violin in his 1967-era band as there are some sonic similarities.

Hill's guitar is deliciously dirty and powerfully messy, and is the absolute highlight of the record. He has a grand sense of timing, interpolating wah-wah guitar fills and repeated melody lines played in unison with House's violin in between huge amp-melting power chords. In some sections the electric violin sounds like Jimmy Page's bowed, distorted guitar in "Dazed and Confused" issued the same year. High Tide shares Led Zeppelin's and Uriah Heep's heaviness, but is not blues-rooted. Instead they forge ahead in a raw garage rock fashion where prog-like lines of melody exist with just enough intricacy to show you they can play their instruments well, and just enough dirtiness to make sure you know they aren't taking that proficiency too seriously.

In some passages one thinks of them as a slightly heavier incarnation of genius LA rockers Spirit. The entire first side is packed with a heavy punch, with "Futilist's Lament" and "Death Warmed Up" being standouts. "Missing Out" on the second side gets a bit monotonous in its pounding, but that's being picky. Violinist House, aged 20 at the time he joined the band, described it as "?quite complicated structures but there was a lot of jamming going on." The album's artwork is by Paul Whitehead, the noted British artist who worked with Charisma Records and Genesis among others. The appropriately deviant mass of creatures on the outer sleeve's mostly black and white design leads into a colorful gatefold where a sailing ship labeled "Peace" rides a wave into orbit.

Although not too much has been written about the band, it has been referred to as very Doors-like, as Hill's vocals do sound quite a bit like Morrison, deep and murky with a meloncholic appeal (Listen to Peel's favorite "Walking Down Their Outlook" and also "Pushed, But Not Forgotten"). The surreal and dark lyrics will appeal to Doors fans as well. However, the record never becomes a mere sound-alike and High Tide establishes itself quite convincingly as their own unique noisy selves on this LP. The title may at first seem to be off putting, but you'll find this music has little to do with actual sea shanties, or folk music (In fact the AllMusic.com description of the LP is dead wrong in labeling it as "pop-rock-folk"). They emerged just shortly before Black Sabbath, and contribute a good deal to the establishment of heavy metal to come, and the stoner rock later of Dead Meadow and Comets On Fire.

A second record was issued in 1970, but as a third was being created drummer Hadden's mental state among other things precipitated the end for them. "Basically, it was money. A bit of untogetherness getting gigs and the record company wasn't too helpful", as House described it in a 1974 Melody Maker interview, "Plus there were some very strange people in the band. It was?a very strange scene. They were all brilliant musicians, but a bit unstable." House went on to play with The Third Ear Band, and then space-rock masters Hawkwind. Tony Hill founded power trio Fiction in the oughts, continuing the sonic legacy.

SpecialKindOfHell | 4/5 |

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