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Egg - The Polite Force CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

4.15 | 373 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Complex, Uneven Feast of Canterbury Prog

I have a love-hate relationship with Canterbury scene music. The melodic and atmospheric side of jazz-fusion has always appealed to me, and Canterbury is based on that sound. However, Canterbury is also characterized by whimsy/silliness (which only occasionally works for me), avant-garde lite ventures (yuk), and usually weak vocals. As a result, my favorite bands in the genre skirt the edges of the typical sound. Egg is one of these. One of the most complex bands ever, the band pulls off some of the best odd-time signature grooves ever. Dave Stewart is perhaps my favorite keyboard player in all of prog (quite a feat) and his use of distortion matches any fuzz guitar for intensity. Egg was basically the continuation of the band Uriel after the departure of Steve Hillage. However, Uriel (and their album Arzachel)'s work didn't forshadow the complexity that would come later, and only with the phenomenal Khan album is the Hillage / Stewart combo able to blossom into a true masterpiece.

My love of the Khan album and Stewart's work is what led me further into Stewart's catalog, and THE POLITE FORCE is probably my favorite among some very impressive work that includes the Canterbury core bands National Health and Hatfield of the North. The album is a little uneven, with some blazing high moments and one long off-putting side distraction. It's worth a track-by-track.

1. A Visit to Newport Hospital - This song is the most typically Canterbury, but features a massive distorted riff that other reviewers have compared to Black Sabbath. I wouldn't go that far, but it opens the album in intense fashion before giving the listener a break with a lightly sung memoir of the band's early days. This is a solid song but what really appeals to me about this album comes later.

2. Contrasong - this piece gets mixed reviews as it is trying so hard to be complex. I think all agree that it's amazing how well the band pulls this off. It matches anything Gentle Giant ever composed in ambition. I for one love complexity for complexity's sake and so this song works for me. The vocals function as another instrument, and horns also weave in an out of the mix. Great complex prog.

3. Boilk - Canterbury avant-garde, though not quite so "lite" as some other bands. My tolerance for this kind of music is limited and frankly I rarely finish this "song." Listening a bit more carefully for this review, there are some interesting parts. But nine minutes of free form, often noisy, exploration just isn't my cup of tea. Without this piece (which is a large proportion of the album) I might have been tempted to give this disc 5 stars.

4. Long Piece # 3 - the payoff. This instrumental composition starts with Stewart's distorted organ playing odd-time lines, creating an off-kilter, dark mood. The parts are composed enough to remind one of Univers Zero styled chamber rock in places. The piece is divided in 4 parts, with the second being the most prototypically Canterbury in sound. There are some more avant elements, but they are kept in short bites, and seem relevant to the overall ebb and flow of the song. While the drumming and bass playing are dextrous and navigate the odd times with ease, it is Stewart who gets to shine most brilliantly. His varying sounds are combined brilliantly and his note choice is always simulataneously tasty and challenging. Part #3 is perhaps the best piece of composition on the album, a serpiginous romp at higher tempo. Part #4 is more of a groove / psychedelic jam, though still in odd time.

Bottom Line: Mainly instrumental, dark and complex organ driven Canterbury prog. Very good but too uneven to reach masterpiece level.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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