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Egg - The Civil Surface CD (album) cover

THE CIVIL SURFACE

Egg

 

Canterbury Scene

3.79 | 198 ratings

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BrufordFreak
4 stars Mont CAMPBELL, Dave STEWART, and Clive BROOKS' final EGG album was released over a year after the the band had broken up and the trio had gone separate ways. It was the incessant insistence of a small but vocal fan base that got the band to finally record some of the as-yet unrecorded material--which had been fan favorites from their live performances--that Dave gathered Clive and Mont back into the studio with a bunch of his current band members from Hatfield and the North, as well as a few other friends with whom he had recently worked--like Steve Hillage (on "Wring Out the Ground") from their KHAN collaboration.

1. "Germ Patrol" (8:32) opens with a cute Alice and Wonderland feel to it--even as the calliope-like organ, walking bass line and beating of the toms play along in a kind of circus way. I think, from it's title, that it's supposed to sound millitaristic but it's too fun and quirky to do so. Definitely in the "tongue-in-cheek" realm of musical renderings. Even the 'conversation' of multiple keyboards in the sixth minute seem comical. The ensuing "buzz bass" solo is the song's most serious moment but it is bookended by Dave's circus-like organ and piano play. I like the horns around 6:50 and the French horn solo to fade. A very memorable if not awfully melodic song suite. (10/10)

2. "Wind Quartet 1" (2:20) is, truly, a wind quartet, complete with flute, clarinet, bassoon, and French horn (though I swear I hear an oboe, too). Nice piece with a nice, very British, more classical than jazz, arrangement. (9/10)

3. "Enneagram" (4:13) has Dave Stewart using an organ sound that is much familiar to us for its bombastic use by Keith Emerson around the same time in his early ELP concerts and recordings. A rather exciting uptempo song with wide dynamic variation. (9/10)

4. "Prelude" (4:18) has some of that classical church organ sound dating back to EGG's first album. Dave's cerebral experimentation is matched by Mont's bass play with no drum or percussion play until the 1:15 mark. The surprise entry of the odd choral section as presented by the future "Northettes" is a bit discordant and disruptive, but no weirder than the solo organ play to the song's end. I guess it all works in the scheme of the whole "prelude" thing. (8/10)

5. "Wring Out the Ground (Loosely Now)" (8:11) is a cool song that opens with some very odd lyrics being sung out by Mont and then a section of experimental sound/noises before the actual song foundations are allowed to be established--over which some nice keyboard soloing occurs before everything slows down again at the 5:50 mark for Mont's vocal to continue. This is a very strong section of the song--very solid and confident sounding. (9/10)

6. "Nearch" (3:12) is another neochamber piece with Mont's French horn, Clive's precision drum accompaniment, Lindsay Cooper's bassoon and Tom Hodgkinson's clarinet, with Dave Stewart playing bass! Interesting exercise/ étude. (8/10)

7. "Wind Quartet 2" (4:48) finds us returning to the flute-dominated winds of the third song. Some nice medieval- like melodies and moods evoked here. (9/10)

My only problem with The Civil Surface is that it feels so cerebral--as if Mont and Dave were working out very complex mathematical formulae together through their musical collaboration. This just makes the music a little colder, a little less accessible to me, the listener. No wonder Clive wanted his drums to be loud and forward in the mix! This concludes the band's last album. Egg were a short-lived Canterbury band that definitely displayed the more classical side of the Canterbury jazz experimentation--and this while the members were only in their late teens and early, early 20s! They just happened to produce, however, some of the most interesting and some of my favorite music from the Canterbury Scene.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |

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