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Khan - Space Shanty CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

4.28 | 656 ratings

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4 stars Khan was a remarkable coming together of talent that topped-off a period in English rock never to be recaptured again, a pinnacle of Canterbury sounds, tough Sabbatic hard rock, and fugue organ flash-- no surprise with Dave Stewart and Steve Hillage working together, supported by the more than capable rhythm section of Nick Greenwood and Eric Peachey.

The band was an offspring of the Stewart-Hillage relationship going back to Uriel in 1968 (an outfit that mainly played Cream, Nice, and Hendrix covers) which re-emerged as Egg in '69 and the short-lived Arzachel that same year. In Khan we hear one of a handfull of keystone groups that filled-in the gaps in Prog's evolutionary history, taking from psychedelic blues but adding a more musically educated sensibility. Though a winning combination, these elements would soon disappear from popular music and 'Space Shanty' remains an axial link in the bubbling but doomed progressive/psych milieu. Hillage had formed the original band in 1971 with bassist Greenwood, keyboardist Dick Henningham (both with Arthur Brown), and Pip Pyle drumming. But it was the second line up - a product of the small and incestuous art scene - of Greenwood and Peachey with Dave Stewart's helping hands (while still with Egg) that birthed this album. The set is a complete spectrum of British rock, Canterbury, psych, post-modern classical and hippie-dippy hints of patchouli, risen to the surface and affixed in time, a bit too late for its own good but compelling just the same. There may have been superior bands; Caravan, and Stewart's own Egg and National Health, but this session has a singular, unified quality and is less pretentious than others of its ilk. A graveyard vocal opens the 9-minute title but quickly becomes prog as we know it with winding organ-guitar harmonies, jazzy motifs and Stewart's circus tent play. 'Stranded' starts pastoral and drags a bit with whiney sentiment but picks up by the middle, building nicely, and 'Mixed Up Man of the Mountains' is a pretty reflection with Hillage's searing axe and an organ/guitar/voice scat. And nine minutes of 'Driving to Amsterdam' peaks this album out in classic English jazz-rock form. 'Stargazers' is angled and adventurous with a bit of theater and many tempo shifts, a great piece, and the soft and sundrenched 'Hollowstone' concludes. The Eclectic Discs reissue has two bonus tracks; the Caravan-esque 'Break the Chains' and a preliminary version of 'Mixed Up Man of the Mountains'. A vital if tiny amuse-bouche in the progressive first course, not to be missed.

Atavachron | 4/5 |


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