High Tide - Sea Shanties
Repertoire Records
Classic/Progressive Rock
6 songs (39:27)
Release year: 1969
Repertoire Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

1969. The year Nixon entered office, the first test-flights of Concorde, the Manson murders, the first time Monty Python appeared on British television. The times, they were a-changin’. In the musical world, not only did Brian Jones die mysteriously, The Beatles gave their last live performance (an impromptu performance atop the roof of Apple Records that was broken up by police) but more importantly for Rock fans, Led Zeppelin I was released. Also out that year, with much less subsequent fanfare but equally as deserving, was the debut album from a small English band that would remain active for only two years before splitting up (members later playing with Hawkwind and David Bowie) leaving two albums and a few rarities to seekers of the obscure. Sea Shanties, the first of these albums, is even considered by some to have been the first Progressive Metal album, a few years before Rush started taking a Prog direction.

Listening to it, it’s hard not to accept that; stylistically this is a mixture of Hawkwind, Hendrix and The Doors, the psychedelic elements of the first meeting the virtuosity of the second, with a vocalist who had more than a little Jim Morrison to his sombre voice. Released on the now-defunct Liberty Records (the link above takes you to the German label that released the album on CD for the first time in 2002) the album barely made a splash on release, although in recent years it’s come to be seen as a lost classic. It’s certainly one of the heaviest releases from the era; the guitar tone is big, thick, and crushing, squealing leads over some excellent musicianship from the perfectly audible bassist and near-violent drummer.

Time signatures shift, soft moments mesh with hard, keyboards squall... this is certainly not the free-love-fest that the title may suggest! What’s perhaps the most interesting element here is keyboardist Simon House’s electric violin on some tracks, not behind the sound where you’d expect but upfront, often in the lead and fighting the guitar for space, bringing King Crimson to mind in more ways than one, having that driving Avant-Garde sense and musicality, with perhaps slightly more of a Classic Rock and Folk vibe than Fripp and co. The two instruments jam along perfectly, tracks like Death Warmed Up showing them off at their best, and what’s more, all the songs are catchy too; central melodies spill over each other like waves on a beach, fighting for survival before fading and coming back in another form. Vocals, as mentioned, are distinctly Doorsy, but are very rare too, the band more concerned with musical wig-outs than any sort of commercial hooks. Having said that, of course, Pushed, But Not Forgotten especially is a gentler, more sedate song than the others – most of the time the band barely let up, resulting in crushing songs that leave you exhausted but smiling.

The 70s (it’s impossible to truly place this album stylistically with the decade before) are often overlooked in Metal history, people generally far happier to explore the more obvious links to the 80s Metal underground. It’s worth remembering that Metal was actually invented a decade earlier, however, and that there are many gems from the time that offer much to fans of Classic Rock, early Metal and Prog Rock alike. High Tide are well worth your attention if you consider yourself interested in any of the three.

MySpace (fansite)
Killing Songs :
All; favourites are Futilist’s Lament, Death Warmed Up, Walking Down Their Outlook, and Missing Out
Goat quoted 90 / 100
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