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High Tide - High Tide CD (album) cover


High Tide


Heavy Prog

3.76 | 170 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
3 stars (Smile When You Say 3.5)

Okay, who took the heavy away? Also, who cut the track list in half?!?

High Tide's second, eponymous, album is not quite the gut-busting, speaker-destroying treat that its predecessor was. Evidentially by 1970, Tony Hill was scared by Black Sabbath or jealous of King Crimson or something, so he decided to shift gears, trading Sea Shanties' heavy bleakness for something a little more lush...and artsy, that's for sure. There are KEYBOARDS this time around!

But the lads haven't totally lost it. "Blankman Cries Again" opens with some gorgeous, and nicely complex, violin riffage, and some depressing lyrics about dying in snow and all that. The riff replays a couple of times, and then, the whole affair turns into a lengthy jam all backed by a sturdy, if unimaginative, organ riff. I'm kind of sad that it's not so much a showdown between Hill and House as it is a "violin plays now...okay, segue into guitar...perfect!" Still, it's an enjoyable track, and the entire band plays brilliantly within and throughout, right up until the blistering end.

Unfortunately or not, that's the best song on the album; neither of the following two tracks live up to it. However, unfortunately or not, both of them contain little sparks of genius, so I can't condemn anything! Damn it... "The Joke" opens up with some "spooky atmospheric" jamming that really doesn't do too much for me. It is interesting, however, that when Hill starts singing, he once again drops his Morrison deadpan, this time singing in a much brighter voice. All in all, it just ends up with some more jamming, not terribly memorable, and would be largely lost on me...were it not for that wonderful ending! After slogging through all the evil jamming, we get this beautifully charming folksy finish, where House's violin...damn it, it reminds me Family it does.

The final track is the sidelong "Saneonymous," which has a brilliant name, and not much else. Okay, not true. For the first four minutes or so, it's just this aimless jamming exercise (seems that, along with Crimso's dark heavy guitar/violin interplay, High Tide also predicted their atonal jamming). But when it all calms down, there's a much more focused, almost gorgeous, heavy violin-led medieval folk melody, with lyrics that touch at chilling. Then, it's back to the jamming, and the medieval folk melody once more (plus a cool guitar solo tacked onto the fade) before High Tide clocks out.

You know what? I do believe that Simon House has become my favorite violinist is progressive rock. And, yes, that's including a bunch of guys: David Cross, Daryl Way, Eddie Jobson, that...that guy from Gentle Giant. Somehow, Simon's got 'em beat. He's a very skilled, adaptable musician, and it's really him that saves this album's butt.

And we have no one to thank other than Tony Hill for the album's butt being in the fire in the first place. I can only assume, as High Tide is his baby, that it's Hill who made all the conscious decisions for it. There are still plenty of choice riffs lying around, and he IS trying to diversify the sound (there is a decidedly folksy air to this one, which almost outshines the medieval/classical side of High Tide; it pretty much replaces the Gothy side though, that's for sure). Unfortunately, that's where it sort of falls. In trying to diversify the sound (read: ADD KEYBOARDS! The bastard...), Hill pretty much dropped the whole "unbearably heavy" sound of Sea Shanties.

But, by some bizarre fluke, there IS enough songwriting/atmospheric genius in this thing for it to still float. Of course, were it not for the folksy coda to "The Joke" or the slower, depressing vocal melody of "Saneonymous," I would gladly condemn them both to prog rocker hell, so it's a sometimes amusing "skin of their teeth" moment.

Musically, it IS a more solid album. Even with the lamer melodies and riffs, the band still chugs along towards the apocalypse with reckless abandon. Hill and House are certainly able to breathe impressive jams into the poor songs, if you're willing to totally let yourself go. The rhythm also seems much more...awake this time around; perhaps it's just the improved production values.

If you're looking for another "Futilist's Lament" or "Death Warmed Up," you're in the wrong place (although, do I not detect some of "Nowhere" in "Saneonymous?"). If you're just after more jamming ala Hill and House, you'll be satisfied. Hell, if you let yourself go, you might even be pleased. I know that for all my complaining, the album can still do it for me sometimes; where else am I gonna find more High Tide?

The Whistler | 3/5 |


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