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THE POLITE FORCE

Egg

 

Canterbury Scene

4.10 | 268 ratings

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Gerinski
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Some 5 stars music diluted by some weaker when not totally dispensable stuff, leaving the total package around 3 to 3.5 stars worth.

The Polite Force is one of those classics "from level 2", somehow obscure compared to the big albums of the early 70's but still a cult album when we talk about the pioneers of prog. Although released in 1971 it was actually recorded in 1970 (one track Boilk in 1969) but put on hold by the record company as Dave Stewart emotionally explained in an interview:

"After recording The Polite Force Decca told us they didn't want to release it. Why the - had they let us record it? Because someone in the Sales/Marketing department had failed to tell someone in the Contracts department, presumably; but attempt to understand the workings of record companies' employees' minds and you'll end up as mad as they are. This is the worst thing you can do to a band, though - let them sweat blood over recording an album they're proud of, with all its false starts, nerves, anxiety, eventual triumphant completion of good backing tracks, hours of overdubbing, problems with headphones, more nerves, the occasional brilliant bit of playing, arguing about the mix, persuading the drummer the snare's loud enough, getting through the mix without fucking up, making sure all the mixes are the right level, sorting out the running order - and then say, "Oh, by the way - we're not putting it out."

The album starts wonderfully with the two 5-star tracks "A Visit to Newport Hospital" and "Contrasong", both highly complex, original and inspired, displaying all what we love in vintage prog. Even if tagged as Canterbury, this music will delight all fans of classic prog such as ELP, Gentle Giant, King Crimson or VDGG. Amazing how Dave Stewart could make his organ scream like a guitar.

Unfortunately the best stops here. "Boilk" is just 9 minutes of noise experimentation which the last minute of soft Bachian organ can not save. Not for me, sorry, this is one of those times when CD players are so handy with their "next track" button.

The 20 min "Long Piece No.3" starts very well and has some amazing sections but it's inconsistent. Frequently it focusses too much on the rythmic aspect neglecting the melodical or chromatic, resulting in lack of enough musicality, it's more like a collage of technical fragments rather than a satisfying flowing piece of music.

Being a trio album with Stewart's keyboards being the only non-rythmic instrument, the whole album also suffers a bit from insufficient variation in timbres, too much of the same organ sound everywhere (even if we have some winds in "Contrasong" and the occasional guitar-like sounds of the keyboards).

Due to the wonderful first 2 tracks and to its historical significance I still round the 3.5 stars to 4.

Gerinski | 4/5 |

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