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Egg - The Polite Force CD (album) cover

THE POLITE FORCE

Egg

 

Canterbury Scene

4.16 | 382 ratings

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FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
3 stars My progressive rock education has finally brought me around to the Canterbury scene this year. It began with hearing Dave Stewart on Bill Bruford's "One of a Kind" album and then led to the purchase of Hatfield and the North's "The Rotter's Club", also featuring Dave Stewart. And now I have come to Egg. Also featuring Dave Stewart. It was a tough choice deciding which of the three Egg albums to buy. Reviews here are favourable to all three, and listening to a few samples on YouTube had me thinking pretty much any album would be good. However, upon hearing the intro to "A Visit to Newport Hospital" I felt there would surely be something here for me to dig. That slow heavy music with a fuzz-toned organ is just too much like proto-doom metal for me to resist.

I feel the music on this album can be divided into three categories. One category is the lighter jazz feel that can be heard in the main song sequence of "A Visit to Newport Hospital" or "Long Piece No. 3 - Part 2". This music is very accessible with easy-on-the-ears sounds and smooth, light music. Expect some pretty organ and lovely piano.

The second category would be the more aggressive sounds of the intro to "A Visit to Newport Hospital" with the fuzz-toned organ or the intentional dissonance of "Long Piece No. 3" Parts 1, 3, and 4. The drums are more intense with deliberate enforcement of odd meters, and the bass rolls and grooves behind an array of keyboard sounds. This is where I feel the music deserves its progressive moniker. It's bold and gutsy, adventurous. It stays on the track while leaning far over. It's fun without being too crazy.

The third category must then be the experimental one. This is mostly to be found in "Boilk". My running commentary on this piece is:

"Running water for 39 seconds before a solitary organ note fades in and the water fades out. Some tubular bells. Very mellow like a cold winter evening on a desolate street when the snow is just starting to fall. Backwards cymbals? Starts getting weird like Pink Floyd's "Ummagumma". Our winter street is all misshapen and turning into a psychotic vision from the Outer Limits. Not my thing. Too avant guard. No proper song. Backwards music and voices. Just studio experimentation. Well, good for them. Now let's get back to something easier that sounds more like music. Wow! A stream of distortion static. Someone's playing with the oscillator. Ah, saved by a cheerless church organ."

"Long Piece No. 3" Parts 1 and 2 also include some of this stranger music. From my notes: "Now an intentionally mind-numbing performance on piano, organ and drums. Sounds mechanical, like a machine at work on the drums. I picture a bunch of black suited-musos with short cropped hair and thick, black-framed glasses stroking their goatees and subtlety nodding their approval." That's Part 1. Part 2 also includes some playing with oscillator knobs but that is situated between more enjoyable music.

A nod must go to the limited lyrics, which appear only in the first two tracks. The singing style is very Canterbury: English accent, not so talented vocals, and lyrics containing dry humour. From "Newport Hospital", a song about their early days as a four-piece in a band called Uriel: "We spent our time avoiding skinheads and the law / It was a freedom that we'd never felt before / And now we're doing this instead". "Contrasong", a fun song based on an interesting time signature and featuring trumpet and sax, includes a remark about pictures of horrible atrocities which were published in order to increase the paper's circulation.

I personally do not take to the weird experimentation parts but the rest of the album I rather like. I doubt I will be buying any more Egg albums. This one is enough for me. Glad I bought it, though. "A Visit to Newport Hospital" is my favourite track. Not an album to be enjoyed by all but a good example of a trio that were mixing jazz with rock and who were trying to branch out into new territory. The spirit of progressive music indeed. Almost four stars, but rounded down.

FragileKings | 3/5 |

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