Okay … enough is enough. I’ve been waiting patiently for the better part of my 60 years on earth for scientists to finally make H.G. Wells vision a reality. I’m not getting any younger – and scientists don’t appear to be getting any closer. So it’s time for those educated eggheads to buckle down and quit wasting time reinventing cell phone technology every 6 months and get to the important stuff … like building a functional “Time Machine.
That’s right – a Time Machine!
We’ve all wished we could travel back in time to witness first-hand some great historic event, gaze in wonder as a herd of migrating dinosaurs roam across a primordial landscape, wallow naked in the mud at Woodstock as Jimi takes the stage, or simply revisit a specific era in our lifetime.
And that’s what I’m wishing at this exact moment as I prepare to write my review of the 1969 debut album “Sea Shanties” from the pioneering space rock group HIGH TIDE.
“Sea Shanties” is something that would have been better appreciated had I experienced the album as a pimple-faced youngster back in the 60s’ when first released, not at this late date. Unfortunately since this is the first time I’ve heard the album, my initial reaction is that it has not aged well. Even as psychedelic music goes the album comes across as terribly dated; the musical equivalent to a Nehru Jacket. And what was probably considered adventurous and experimental in 1969 now comes across as a bit chaotic and raucous as Tony Hill’s guitar and Simon House’s violin leads often overlap and notes clash.
HIGH TIDE and HAWKWIND both hit the music scene at around the same time (as a matter of fact Simon House later went on to become a member of HAWKWIND), and both bands played the same brand of hard driving space rock music; yet even the early HAWKWIND albums like “Hawkwind”, “In Search Of Space”, and “Doremi Fasol Latido” have aged better than “Sea Shanties”.
But that’s not to say the material on the album is not without merit. After all HIGH TIDE is considered one of the pioneering underground space rock bands. And “Sea Shanties” received universal acclaim in the British Press when first released. But that was in 1969 and this is 2010, and since I have no nostalgic tie to the album I can only judge the music by how it affects me in the here and now.
Much of the problem lies in the way the original recording sessions were captured on tape, as explained in detail by guitarist Tony Hill: “For the sessions for our first album I remember us having a live set-up in the studio (with a drum kit and three full stacks of amplifiers as if we were on stage), miked up with an added high central microphone to create that pulsing surge sound for the recording of “Death Warmed Up”, it being an example of recording methods that lent flexibility to our approach in general”.
That may be well and good to capture the pure savage fury of their live performances – but the overall effect on the disc is primitive and muddled. The muffled drums lacked dynamics, and this live in the studio approach was probably instrumental in the inability to isolate and correct flaws and clinkers that cropped up time and again throughout the recording.
The line-up for HIGH TIDE consists of Tony Hill (guitar), Simon House (violin), Peter Pavli (bass) and Roger Hadden (drums).
The original recordings were produced by Denver Gerrard and engineered by George Chklantz at Olympic Studios, Barnes London on June 2nd, 18th and 29th June and 8th July 1969. The re-issue and additional bonus tracks were mixed for Esoteric Recordings from the original 8 track master tapes by Mark Powell and Paschal Byrne in 2006, with additional mastering by Ben Wiseman at The Audio Archiving Company in London .
“Sea Shanties” is a nostalgic piece of space rock history and once again Esoteric Recording has done a marvelous job of archiving and polishing up a diamond in the rough for your listening pleasure.
Reviewed by Jospeh Shingler on September 16th, 2010