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Khan - Space Shanty CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

4.27 | 635 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Make the time investment and this one pays dividends

The opening few minutes would have you believe that "Space Shanty" is, in fact, a Deep Purple tribute album: The opening crashing chord echoing, in a small way, the beginning of "In Rock" (U.K. Release), and the slightly cheesey riff that follows, topped off with cheesey lyrics makes you wonder if you're about to suffer a somewhat sub- par Purple outing.

But there's something happening in the percussion dept; the drum licks twist and turn around the riff. Then, at 1:20 or so, we are told that we can "Stop feeling confused", as the vocal melody takes an unexpected turn, and the music steps down in what we can now recognise as a Hillage trademark - this motif appears later on Fish Rising, L and Green.

Now the music enters into a more unique proggy atmosphere, and more Hillage trademarks ease themselves out of the background, the bass and keyboards winding around creating an organically developing sonic soundscape. Around 3:00, the bass presents a riff with some urgency, building up nicely into a development from some other world! A minute later, there is an unexpected twist and we enter some kind of bizarre fairground before soaring off into a sublime HIllage solo. The music snakes and twists through more moods than it should really be possible to twist through, showcasing Hillage's inventiveness to the max. When the vocals are reprised, however, it feels a bit of a let-down.

I'm put in mind of Gentle Giant in the sheer inventiveness of it all, the "soft" harmonies and the consistently strong and tight musicianship. There are almost too many ideas in this track - anyone looking for simple, repetitive riffs will not find anything to latch on to and may feel somewhat lost.

"Stranded" begins gently, and again, Hillage's style is stamped all over the music, and his vocals shine well, without being ambitious. Dave Stewarts keyboards are sublime, although I'd really like to hear more. Nick Greenwood's bass ambles around, keeping everything moving. Around 3:00, my prayers are kind of answered, with a complete change and all-too-brief keyboard solo, but it's the jazzy double guitar solo around 4:00 that really captivates... then Hillage picks up the acoustic... I wonder how this was carried off live.

At 6:00, I am assuming that we are hearing "Effervescent Psycho Novelty No. 5" - a most sublime and spacey little afterthought to the piece.

"Mixed Up Man of the Mountains" picks up from the sublime spacey feel, kicking into a rather basic riff - it is apparent that vocal sections are not really a strength of this band, although there's nothing desparately wrong with them, they're not particularly progressive as a rule. It's the instrumental textures and sonic soundscapes that really stand out here.

Around 2:40 we get a great instrumental section - I am reminded of Camel quite strongly (a year or so before the release of the debut by the latter). However, Dave Stewart's style is very different to Bardens, and we soon move into more "way out" and experimental territory.

The vocal harmony section at 4:30 is quite brilliant, and the guitar solo section that follows is amazing, not just for the solo, but also for the instrumental backing, and the impressive way that it is woven into a single complex texture. Around 6:20 we are treated to a really hard-rockin' driving section that I would have liked to have heard MUCH more of.

The truly amazing thing about all of this is that, like Gentle Giant, it all feels improvised, but is quite clearly not just a jam. Real prog, ladies and gentlemen!

There is so much happening in the music that I really don't want to spoil any more surprises. "Driving to Amsterdam" is more of the same, "Stargazers" has a phenomenal intro, and a wonderful jazz-flavoured instrumental section, and "Hollow Stone" has the fantastic "Escape of the Space Pilots" burn-out.

The main thing that drags this album down from masterpiece status is that despite the myriad ideas, the perfection in execution the masterful developments and wonderful sudden changes, somehow it ends up sounding rather samey, overall, as the exploration is within a fairly narrow musical field, and a single style is stamped all over the music.

That is not necessarily a bad thing, as more of the same of this kind of stuff is exactly what I want from this album, and it is a masterpiece in itself. However, in the broader field of Prog Rock, it is not, as it does end up a little predictable (for prog!) - and the vocal sections, on the whole, let the whole thing down. Blemishes too big to go unnoticed, sadly.

The instrumental sections are so good that it's worth sitting through the vocal sections for them, and lead me to recommend this album to ANYONE exploring progressive music - despite the fact that I can't bring myself to call it a masterpiece of the genre. A purchase that you will not regret.

Prog Rating (Is it progressive): 9.5/10

Rock Rating (Does it rock?): 9/10

Creativity Rating (Are the artists pushing their style to the limits?): 7/10 (10/10 for Steve Hillage).

Musicianship Rating (Do the artists execute the music well?): 8/10 (10/10 for Steve!)

Enjoyment Rating (Do I like it?): 9/10

Total : 42.5/50 = 85%. Technically 5 stars, but dragged down by the vocal sections.

Certif1ed | 4/5 |


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