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Khan - Space Shanty CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

4.27 | 637 ratings

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4 stars This is perhaps the one Canterbury album that's is most strictly progressive rock, without the fusion elements or the whimsical nature many of their brethren (HATFIELD & THE NORTH, CARAVAN). Certainly there are some jazz elements in some of the passages, but not fusion. Dave Stewart (not of the Eurythmics fame) had already been a member of EGG, and Steve HILLAGE was in an early version of that band when they were known as URIEL and ARZACHEL. This early lineup did record as ARZACHEL (with the famous contractual difficulties that forced the band to record under pseudonymns). HIKKAGE left and then came EGG as we know them with two albums under their belt. HILLAGE went to study at Kent University. EGG broke up by 1971 following the release of "The Polite Force", and came KHAN. HILLAGE intended to form the band with bassist Nick Greenwood (ex-CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN), drummer Eric Peachy and keyboardist Dick Henningham, but then Dave Stewart came around and Henningham was out of the picture, which established KHAN as we know them.

"Space Shanty" was released in 1972 on Deram, which was the same label Egg was recording for. It was their only album. And even if you're not fond of bands like GONG or HATFIELD & THE NORTH, no problem here as the music is straight-up progressive rock, dominated by the organ of Dave Stewart and guitar of Steve HILLAGE. HILLAGE at this point had yet to develop his trademark lead guitar like you hear on the GONG albums (or his solo albums, of course), although there is a guitar solo on the title track that points to the style he would perfect with GONG. The album starts off with the title track, which goes through several changes. I especially like the guitar solo that I already mentioned. There are some jazzy passages as well, not of the HATFILD & THE NORTH or NATIONAL HEATH variety of fusion. "Stranded" features some use of electric piano, it's more or less a ballad, but then there's a heavy guitar and organ solo in the middle. It segues in to "Effervescent Psychonovelty No. 5" which is some bizarre messing about with Stewart's Wurlitzer electric piano, which then segues in the the next actual piece, "Mixed Up Man of the Mountains". This piece is quite '70s sounding, especially the vocals and organ. The band gets in to a jazzy passage in the middle. The rest of the album more or less is the same, you're not exactly sure what to expect. While the whole album is pretty much early '70s progressive rock, there is still that Canterbury element of fuzz organ (of the David Sinclair and Mike Ratledge variety), that Dave Stewart uses throughout the album, although there's some occasional use of the heavy fuzz organ that's more typical of a DEEP PURPLE or ATOMIC ROOSTER album. Plus he also uses the normal Hammond organ sound as well. Unlike HATFIELD & THE NORTH, he pretty much kept the electric piano to only one cut, letting his organ dominate the rest of the album.

We all know what happened to KHAN after this: they broke up, HILLAGE teamed up briefly with Kevin Ayers, before joining GONG (then leaving by 1975 to pursue a solo career), and Dave Stewart forming HATFIELD & THE NORTH with two albums under their belt, a brief Egg reunion in 1974 (with the album "The Polite Force"), then playing on HILLAGE's own "Fish Rising", playing with Bill BRUFORD's band (no one could have ever imagined Bill BRUFORD being associated with the Canterbury scene when he was still a member of YES and then KING CRIMSON, but he did when he formed his own band that had Dave Stewart in it) and with NATIONAL HEATH (which BRUFORD was in briefly, before PIP PYLE stepped in).

By the way, while the original version of "Space Shanty" was released on Deram in 1972, in 1978 it received an American release on the PVC label (which was related to Passport Records, some Passport titles ended up on PVC, like the later version of Anthony PHILLIPS' "The Geese & the Ghost"). This American version describes the history of the band on the back cover, and the front cover now said "Featuring Steve HILLAGE and Dave Stewart" (but still with the original artwork intact), which the original did not have. They did that to advertise who was in this band probably to sell a few copies to the American audience (since HILLAGE had by this point been an established solo artist, his album "Green" being his then-latest effort).

Regardless how you feel of the Canterbury scene, this is the one Canterbury album I most highly recommend for the more traditionally prog-minded out there. And of course, those who are fans of GONG, EGG, and HATFIELD & THE NORTH, because of the musicians involved.

Proghead | 4/5 |


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