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Egg - Egg CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.78 | 253 ratings

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3 stars Egg's debut album is an astonishingly assured piece of work, especially when you realise that the three members of the band were all under 20 when it was released. They had emerged from the ashes of Uriel, a band that was formed at the City of London school. Keyboard player Dave Stewart was originally the guitarist, but switched to organ when he realised that the young Steve Hillage (for it was he) was a better player. Hillage then left for university, the remaining trio renamed themselves Egg and built up a solid reputation on the underground circuit. It's an essential piece of the Canterbury scene jigsaw and also still stands up as a strong release today, although the sound is definitely dated.

Like the early Soft Machine, Egg was an organ led trio with a particularly English sense of humour to go with the serious musical chops, although where Soft Machine's work had a jazz flavour Egg were into quoting the classics. The main composer was Mont Campbell, although the group shared the writing credits (Stewart later said that Campbell was responsible for 95% of Egg's music). This album, like their follow up, had one side of shorter pieces and a side long instrumental. The first half is a patchwork of short, eccentric songs and instrumentals. A particular highlight is a jazzy reading of JS Bach's Fugue in D minor, which is closer to Jethro Tull's Bouree than to the occasionally overblown bombast of The Nice or ELP's take on classical music. Mont Campbell's voice has a similar timbre to Richard Sinclair's and the lyrics have a similar tongue in cheek quality. That, plus Dave Stewart's distinctive keyboard work, gives songs like While Growing My Hair a kind of proto Hatfield and the North feel. The second half of the album is a rather more serious affair. The first movement features a very nifty quote from Hall of the Mountain King, while Blane moves into the kind of RIO/Avant Prog territory that Dave Stewart would explore in the Ottawa Music Company, a rock composer's group he formed with Chris Cutler. The reissued version restores the third movement (originally omitted because of copyright issues over a quote from Starvinsky) which gives the extended piece a more balanced feel. Rounding off the CD reissue are the a and b sides of Egg's debut single. Seven is a Jolly Good Time is a catchy number in 7/4 time (Caravan's Hello Hello uses the same time signature to similar effect), which in 1969 wasn't a wholly uncommercial move - Jethro Tull had a sizeable UK hit with Living in the Past, which is in 5/4. You are all Princes is a similar experiment, though far less memorable.

This is an album which has a lot of charm, but which is very much a first effort by musicians (Stewart in particular) who would go on to achieve much greater things, and which hasn't aged brilliantly. The CD reissue, with extra tracks and informative liner notes (which have been cribbed from here) is worth an extra half star.

Syzygy | 3/5 |


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