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High Tide - High Tide CD (album) cover


High Tide


Heavy Prog

3.76 | 170 ratings

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3 stars A Split Personality

This incarnation of High Tide has two distinct characters: on one side we have some classic melodic Prog songs; while on the other are largely free-form instrumentals. Each is enjoyable in its own way but the marriage is not entirely successful. This disparity of styles suggests they were a band in search of direction. Had they persevered with the symphonic Prog of the core songs I feel they could have become major players to rival Genesis or Yes, but they needed to focus on that and reduce or refine the improvisational elements.

The songs central to these three tracks are very good, excellently arranged and performed albeit in a somewhat rough-and-ready manner, worthy additions to a song-based Prog collection. Tony Hill's multi-tracked singing voice is an essential ingredient as it adds a delicious sense of melancholy, though the sparser treatment in The Joke is less successful, not helped by his struggle to reach some notes. Lyrics about the inner self, search for enlightenment etc, are suitably enigmatic and obtuse though at least they sound 'right'.

The remainder is instrumental, mostly centreing on improvised solos/duets from violin and guitar during free-form jam sessions. Inevitably, some works better than others. To my ears, Simon House's violin runs are far more enjoyable than Hill's guitar, mainly because Hill often takes little notice of what is happening around him whereas House performs sympathetically with drums and bass. Generally, I find Hill's guitar work is best when working within an arranged structure either as a harmony pair with House, or as a foundation for House's solos. But, each to his own!

These two elements - song and instrumental - are crudely stitched together into tracks. For example, the instrumental part of Blankman Cries Again starts very abruptly, while in Saneonymous each part reaches an end before the next part begins. In other words, there is no attempt to flow one section into another, to make us believe they belong together [like, for example, Supper's Ready]. This is perhaps a symptom of the band's relative innocence.

The two part Blankman Cries Again opens the album in fine style. The first part is a lovely perky sub-three minute song infused with pathos by Hill's multi-tracked vocals. The longer [perhaps too long!] second part is a hypnotic space jam based on a simple two-chord riff overlaid by violin and guitar improvisations.

The Joke is in three parts. Part one is a cluttered mixture of instrumental bits-and-pieces: some scales; some jazz-inflected twiddly-dee; changes of tempo; and nice melodies. Pretty good going for barely over two minutes! Part two is an excellent song with big majestic organ chords in a nice flowing verse, slow and stately yet slightly psychedelic in places before developing into a superior jam session. Part three is a cute but irrelevant unplugged folky tune led by violin on a bedrock of acoustic guitar.

Saneonymous is in four parts but constructed so that in reality it is two parts which repeat. Part one is an instrumental workout, beginning with a structure from which the soloists progressively deviate before returning to the theme. Finally a change of key heralds a rather stuttery bridge before it comes to a halt. Part two is another excellent mid-paced song, with spacey organ, acoustic guitars, pounding drums and more of those rich multi-tracked vocals and omni-present violin. This is perhaps the most accomplished song of the three on this album. Part three repeats part one, while part four repeats part two with different vocals and some effective wah-wah guitar soloing on an extended intrumental coda.

Overall this is a good Prog album, a product of its time yet in some ways ahead of its time, with echoes (or pre-echoes) of Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Cream and Hawkwind all wrapped up in an endearingly loose late '60s production. It has its merits, but for me, there is not enough substance and too many flaws for an unqualified recommendation, especially considering a short running time.

Joolz | 3/5 |


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