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Egg - Egg CD (album) cover

EGG

Egg

 

Canterbury Scene

3.83 | 296 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars The oddly named prog band EGG actually started out as the other oddly named psychedelic rock band Uriel which was founded in 1967 by guitarist Steve Hillage, organist Dave Stewart, bassist / vocalist Mont Campbell and drummer Clive Brooks. It gets even stranger that Uriel released their only album under the Arzachel moniker in 1969 but after that album's release, Hillage left the band in order to focus on his new project Khan. The other three members of Arzachel decided to continue together but instead of keeping the name Arzachel or even Uriel which was often confused with "urinal," the band hatched up to the monosyllabic EGG and carried on as a trio. Already having a history in the music biz and playing the club circuits, the trio went into the studio and caught the bug of the current progressive rock scene that was taking England by storm in 1969 and by early 1970 released this first eponymously titled album on the Dream label.

EGG was one of the early pioneers of complex music in a rock paradigm. While bands like The Nice, The Moody Blues and Deep Purple were creating new exciting sounds by mixing 60s psychedelic rock with symphonic classical music, EGG took those early aspirations into a much more demanding field and into the arenas of the big boy's club with early bands like King Crimson, East of Eden and Marsupilami. EGG's debut was built around Baroque classical chops inspired by J.S. Bach as well as the overarching prowess of Igor Stravinsky but accompanied those classical workouts with a heavy groovy bass and a sophisticated jazzy drumming style that took EGG into its own world from the very start. The band's quirky whimsy as evidenced by the hilarious track titles such as "The Song Of McGuillicudie The Pusillanimous (or Don't Worry James, Your Socks Are Hanging In The Coal Cellar With Thomas)" along with a healthy love of avant-jazz interpolations earned them a coveted seat in the Canterbury Scene due to Hillage's connection but this debut album at least comes off more as some fo the earliest symphonic prog.

With a trippy series of noises leading the way, the album then kicks off with Stewart's distinct organ talents as he riffs a rather accessible and hook filled run while Campbell adds a groovy bass line and lower register vocal style. The first two tracks set the groove of the organ led rock sounds (no guitar here whatsoever) but tracks like "Fugue In D Minor" and the sprawling 22 minute plus "Symphony No. 2" showcase Stewart's mastery of the classical musical universe however while dominate in those two still lingers beneath the surface throughout the album. Also adding some bizarre variations to the album are short little filler numbers such as the piano dominated "They Laughed When I Sat Down At The Piano," "Boilk" and the opening "Bulb" which offer some of the earliest industrial sounds that i've heard. While these short avant-garde snippets may have been added for an interesting contrast, it seems likely that many of the later Nurse With Wound type projects were possibly influenced by them. For the most part the album is based on organ fueled melodies with an accompanying lyrical vocal delivery. At least until "Symphony No. 2" where the big guns are drawn.

After the freaky industrial bleakness of "Boilk," which implements a concentrated delivery of avant-garde progressiveness, the final "Symphony No. 2" sprawls out for over 22 minutes with five individual suites that in reality are all separate tracks but are connected thematically. While "Movement 1" is a continuation of the Western classical interpretations with parts of Grieg's "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" and in all honesty wouldn't have sound out of place on one of The Nice's albums with the Emerson styled keyboards, by the books rock backing in the vocal free zone, "Movement 2" lets the experimentation begin. While Stewart focuses on classical organ runs to keep the melodic drive going, Clive Brooks delivers some stellar drumming styles that take jazzy rolls and rock standards and juxtaposes them into a mishmash of wizardry. The track works its way into a very strange atmospheric frenzy which paves the way for the next track "Blane" which deviates completely from the classical rock formula.

Unlike anything else on the album, "Blane" delves into the bizarre freaky world of electronic manipulation and bizarre experimentation. The track babbles and bloops and bleeps on for over 5 minutes and yet provides enough moments of melody to keep the listener grounded despite the intense industrial bleakness that ends it. "Movement 3" was removed from the original album released in 1970 most likely due to time limitations but is back in its original intended spot on the new remastered CD versions fo the album. Rightfully nixed due to the fact that borrowed too heavily from the Stravinsky classic (and had legal issues because of it) but still provides a decent series of organ runs, a stomping decent drum and bass delivery and sounds like something right out of Gustav Holst's playbook from his orchestral suites in "The Planets." "Movement 4" continues with a more rock based mix of drum and bass with the organs punctuated to add a bit of melodic delivery from time to time but this is the spot where Brooks shows off his drumming skills and he rock the house! The newer CDs have two bonus tracks "Seven Is A Jolly Good Time" and "You Are All Princes" which are well worth the inclusion as they include a wealth of off-kilter time signatures and fit into the original album's flow perfectly.

EGG is a phenomenal album considering all three of its members were only in their teens. Despite the youthful energy on board, this debut is surprisingly mature as if it was created by a band of seasoned professionals. The album finds the perfect balance between symphonic prog bombast, traditional classical interpretations, 60s psychedelic rock vibes and touches of otherworldly avant-garde mind freakery. While excellently performed the album does sound like a product of its time with those instantly identifiable sounds of the organ, mellotron and tone generators that pinpoint it to the 1970 timeline. If there is any weakness in EGG's debut, it would have to be the vocals. Mont Campbell gets the job done and in all fairness allows the lyrics to be focused upon that may not be so easily done had he been an operatically trained singer but nevertheless the dynamics of the music far exceeds those in the vocal department but in the end is quite ignorable due to the most phenomenal parts of the album being swallowed up by the instrumental technical workouts led by Stewart's amazing keyboard prowess. Despite EGG's debut being overshadowed by the admittedly better sophomore release "The Polite Force," this first chapter is by no means one to be missed. This is quite an interesting slab of early prog that offers lots of exciting twists and turns. One of 1970's finest moments for sure.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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