(All Album Reviews by ffroyd)
Have you ever had one of those albums that you get a delayed reaction on? I've had this one for several months now and although I enjoyed it enough, I hadn't really flipped over it until just recently. The main reason I originally picked this one up was because Simon House, of Hawkwind fame, played on it. I've always liked his playing with the Hawks and his subsequent solo and collaborative work but this album puts his style in an entirely new light for me.
The year was 1969, and the violin was not exactly a common instrument in rock music yet. Rising out of the ashes of British band The Misunderstood, High Tide consisted of Tony Hill on guitar and vocals, Simon House playing electric violin, Pete Pavli on Bass and Roger Hadden on drums. Most bands since then that have featured a violinist will also have keyboards to augment the sound but you don't miss them at all here. Simon's playing can be very frantic at times and it's often very easy to lose track of what he's doing, it sounds very much like a second guitar. There's also a nicer classical moments here that wouldn't be as evident on his later work with Hawkwind.
Although the violin plays a very big part in the music here, I can't neglect to mention the guitar playing of Tony Hill. He has a very heavily distorted sound, obviously very influenced at the time by Jimi Hendrix and Cream, but his playing is much wilder. The album's opener "Futilist's Lament" bursts out of the gate with an intense amount of energy and that intensity lasts through the whole album. About the only time the assault lets up is during some eerie moments on "Pushed, But Not Forgotten" which also mostly ends up being very heavy and chaotic. Although the rhythm section doesn't stand out as much, they are worth mentioning. Roger Hadden has a very busy untamed style that brings Keith Moon to mind. Pete Pavli's bass playing is very tasteful as he provides an excellent counterbalance to the guitar and violin parts. An interesting side note: Pete would later go on to become a studio musician and appears in Michael Moorcock's Deep Fix band on the album New World's Fair.
About the only drawback of this music for me is the vocals. This is probably why it took me so long to appreciate this album. Tony Hill sings very much like Jim Morrison, it seems most of the time that he's trying to emulate him. He doesn't have the range or the emotion of Morrison but his voice does have a frighteningly weird quality that gets very interesting. I can't really complain about the voice that much because it does work very well within the music.
I had high expectations for this CD when I first picked it up and when I listened to it a few times I was a bit disappointed but I kept playing to it and eventually developed a very positive opinion of it. Sea Shanties is one of the heaviest, if not the heaviest album to come out of the sixties and also was one of the first to introduce the violin as an important part of a progressive rock band.