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High Tide - High Tide CD (album) cover

HIGH TIDE

High Tide

 

Heavy Prog

3.76 | 163 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars The TIDE comes in, the TIDE goes out. Such is the lesson of the UK's most promising prog rock band of 1969 with the phenomenal "Sea Shanties" where the heavy prog band HIGH TIDE that consisted of Tony Hill (electric & acoustic guitars, organ, vocals), Simon House (electric violin, organ, piano), Peter Pavli (bass) and Roger Hadden (drums, piano, pipe organ) lived up to their moniker and delivered a stunning display of musical fusion that delivered an intense interplay of early heavy metal, progressive rock and psychedelia with jazzy chords that focused on the folky of Simon House's violin screeches that traded off with Tony Hill's hard rock bombast and weirdly designed guitar solos. Debuting in the year 1969, HIGH TIDE was one of the premier prog rock bands that developed a unique style from the getgo that sounded utterly like no other, mostly due to the ample use of violin as a primary instrument in the context of a rock band.

However, all TIDEs must recede and that's exactly what happened with the sophomore release which was unexcitingly simply titled HIGH TIDE. The quartet tamped down the guitar heft of the debut and instead replaced it with an artier mix that included more piano, organ and acoustic guitar however the main combo pack punch of the guitar and violin were still in firm command of the musical processions. HIGH TIDE's second eponymous album originally consisted of a mere three tracks that was just shy of the 33 minute mark with each drifting past the 8 minute mark. While "Sea Shanties" delivered scorching proto-metal performances wrapped in progressive rock compositions, this self-titled debut takes a few cues from Tony Hill's previous psychedelic rock band The Misunderstood and lightens things up on this one in which the organ added the proper psych atmospheres to give this second coming a much spacier feel but make no mistake about it, Tony Hill still delivers some stellar guitar workouts as does Simon Hill on the violin. Overall the album focuses less on hairpin turns and progressive time signature frenzies and engages in long sprawling jam sessions most evident on the opening "Blankman Cries Again."

The opening track signifies an immediate stylistic shift from the debut as the compositions are more accessible. The violin has more of a folky sound and at the jazzier times evokes a sense of the future sounds of Jean-Luc Ponty in the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The album is primarily string based with the guitar, bass and violin all sharing more less equal turf as Hill's guitar dominion of the debut had clearly waned. While it could be argued that the three string sections along with the drums and organ touches deliver a more balanced approach to HIGH TIDE's unique sound, in the end it sounds a little lightweight in the shadow of the debut's sheer perfection. "The Joke" while exhibiting the classic HIGH TIDE touches also presents verses that sound a lot like early King Crimson which finds the band incorporating influences from the great KC that dropped their debut bombshell on the world and not so subtly announced that progressive rock was in town and was taking over the music scene for a while. Tony Hill's vocals are quite distinct but at times he's a dead ringer for Greg Lake's slower singing style.

I find the third and longest track "Saneonimous" to be the most interesting and the one closest to the debut's decked out progressive rock freneticism. While the track engages in the jamming sessions of the previous tracks, it's allowed a bit more freedom in changing up the dynamics as well as tempo changes and more time signature shifts and at nearly 15 minutes long manages to remain engaging helped greatly by the instantly addictive melody and Tony Hill's vocal style that fits perfectly in between the squealing violin runs and guitar and bass. Roger Hadden also deserves plaudits for a stellar percussive performance that manages to punctuate the busy polyrhythmic counterpoints of the strings. The atmospheric contributions often take a back seat but do add an artier mood during quieter passages.

As with "Sea Shanties," the second HIGH TIDE album also has a much better remastered release than the original album. Not only is the production sharply improved but it includes a monstrous essential bonus track in the form of the near 16 minute "The Great Universal Protection Racket" which equals anything else on this album and while the remaining three bonus tracks that include two alt versions of "The Joke" and "Blankman" along with the short "Ice Age" are of lesser value, they are not throwaway tracks either. While the TIDE was HIGH on "Sea Shanties," the sad truth was that all TIDEs must recede and therefore the second coming of this unique band was more like a LOW TIDE in comparison to the startling brilliant debut. While this second album may not be as immediate in its presentation and initially disappointing, many subsequent listens have substantially raised my opinion of it. It delivers an excellent mix of intricately designed prog rock only with the guitar heft of the debut tamped down. Unfortunately this marked the end of HIGH TIDE as Tony Hill, Peter Pavli and Roger Hadden moved on to work with Rustic Hinge as well as other acts. The band would reform in 1990 and release more albums but would never catch the magic of the early years. While the debut is superior, this is still an excellent release.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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