HIGH TIDE — Sea Shanties

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HIGH TIDE - Sea Shanties cover
3.87 | 12 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 1969

Filed under Heavy Psych


1. Futilist's Lament (5:17)
2. Death Warmed Up (9:08)
3. Pushed, But Not Forgotten (4:43)
4. Walkin Down Their Outlook (4:58)
5. Missing Out (9:38)
6. Nowhere (5:54)


- Tony Hill / vocals, guitars
- Simon House / violin, keyboards
- Peter Pavli / bass
- Roger Haden / drums

About this release

1969 - Liberty(UK)(US): gatefold
1993 - EMI(Japan) CD: remastered
1994 - Repertoire(Germany) CD
2006 - Eclectic(UK) CD: bonus tracks, remastered
2009 - Sundazed(US) LP: reissue, 180 gram, gatefold, remastered, limited edition
2010 - Esoteric(UK) CD: bonus tracks, remastered
2010 - Psycho(UK) LP

Thanks to Time Signature for the addition and cannon, 666sharon666, adg211288 for the updates


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About as heavy as an album could get in 1969 without being full-on proto-metal, High Tide's secret weapon on Sea Shanties are the nuanced violin performances by Simon House, who prog fans might have heard on albums by Third Ear Band or Hawkwind. This touch of gentle class amid the band's Atomic Rooster-meets-Hendrix whirlwind of acid-drenched fuzz creates an intoxicating mixture, like House is a lone violinist on the deck of a ship in the middle of a violent storm. The album structure might be simple - two comparatively shorter songs sandwiching a longer epic on each side - but the songs are engaging and vibrant and the longer pieces (Death Warmed Up and Missing Out) are incredible proto-prog offerings.

The album's been rather overlooked by prog historians, which is a shame because it's an intriguing point where the hardest of hard rock, the heaviest of heavy psych and the proggiest of proto-prog met up and created a truly unique sound.
siLLy puPPy
Music history is fickle as there is no rhyme or reason as to why one band will become the hugest thing since sliced bread and another of equal talent is left to fester in the dusty obscurity bins. HIGH TIDE is the perfect example with their debut album SEA SHANTIES which was released the very same month as the extraordinary and hugely popular “In The Court Of The Crimson King” by none other than the legendary King Crimson. HIGH TIDE was pretty much a contemporary to the great KC in not only musical ambitiousness and stylistic extremities but also hails from the very same London scene that was seeing the clock run out on the 60s and ushering in the sobering new reality of the idealisms of peace and free love ceding into pure darkened disillusionment. While the band has received some kudos from the critics over the ensuing decades, HIGH TIDE has unfortunately remained off the radar of the average heavy rock meets prog rock world.

This band was put together by one of the most creatively energetic guitarists of the entire 60s, Tony Hill. After he saw a bit of cult status success with the psychedelic USAmerican rock band The Misunderstood which formed in California in 1963 he moved back to London in 66 (along with his USAmerican bandmates). They would hang around for another three years (although there was a deportation episode for the USAmerican members) and despite well deserved attention from John Peel never really took off into the psychedelic limelight. Square away in early1969 after The Misunderstood ceased to be, Hill formed HIGH TIDE and managed to release the first release SEA SHANTIES out on Liberty Records in October mostly due to a connection with Apple Records that got them noticed fairly quickly. After a few gigs with the Groundhogs, Edgar Broughton Band and Sweet Slag, the band quickly gained attention for their unique amalgamation of psychedelic folk, heavy driving hard rock guitar riffs and most of all the totally sizzling hot violin abuse of Simon House who sounded as if Paganini time traveled to join a psychedelic porto-metal band in the 20th century. He would become better known after he joined Hawkwind as well as albums with David Bowie, Thomas Dolby and countless others.

SEA SHANTIES truly remains the heaviest album that the 60s had to offer. HIGH TIDE took the ponderosity of the fuzzed out heaviness of Blue Cheer, Cream and Hendrix and turned everything up a few notches. “Futilist’s Lament” begins the album with a fuzzed-out heft that’s strong enough to blow the doors down as the guitar riffs are on high tempo matched with an equal fury of Peter Pavli’s bass and Roger Hadden’s drum abuse. Hill simply sounds like he has lightning up his ass with his frenetic fingers whizzing up and down the guitar scales. “Death Warmed Up” is equally heavy only sans Hill’s Jim Morrison inspired poetic prose and dead ringer as a singer vocals. This nine minute rocker is the perhaps the most frenetic rocker of all 1969 only matched by the single track “Communication Breakdown” by Led Zeppelin, only with ripping intense trade off’s between Hill’s guitar gymnastics and House’s virtuosic violin prowess that egg each other in some sort of insider’s competition or maybe just a pact with the devil. Their over-the-top jamming style exudes an atmosphere with equally compelling Eastern European scales that add ing a flair for the exotica.

Hardly a one trick pony, SEA SHANTIES dazzles with its diverse elements as it deviates from two distinctly different heavy rockers to the King Crimson sounding “Pushed, But Not Forgotten” pretty much following Crimson’s own approach of alternating heavier and lighter tracks. This one reminds a lot of KC’s “I Talk To The Wind” and sounds like something that really could have been on the Crimson album that came out the very same month only HIGH TIDE weren’t content to merely record a ballad but rather bust into heavier segments complete with the fuzzed out blues inspired solos and off-the-chart violin sweeps so sizzling hot that i’m waiting to hear a string or two break! “Walking Down Their Outlook” brings back the Jim Morrison vocal style only backed up by complex progressive rock time signature changes, alternating passages all peppered with ambitious dynamics and interesting compositional chord changes. “Missing Out” perhaps the most tied to traditional blues rock may be the least challenging but displays how HIGH TIDE can blow away the competition by taking a simple catchy blues melody and adding progressive touches along with a violin part that sounds like a soundtrack to a demented Irish jig rehearsal. “Nowhere” displays the remarkable playful interchange between Hill and House as they trade off their virtuosic string skills around a groovy bass line punctuated by jazzy drumming workouts.

It is of my humble opinion and perhaps adventurous tastes that i feel HIGH TIDE put out a veritable masterpiece equal in scope to KC’s beloved “In The Court” and in many ways upped them at their own game. Perhaps at first the Morrison vocal comparisons are a little too starkly derivative and the cacophonous nature of the restless guitar and violin vying for domination can be a little disorienting but after several spins this grower imbues an indelible charm that has me craving repeated listens as the unique approach of SEA SHANTIES has a morphinic effect that keeps the off-kilter ear worms digging deeper. Of all the woefully underlooked nuggets of gold let loose at the tail end of the 60s with a bang, none pleases me more than HIGH TIDE’s debut album that successful fits the bill of that transitory period like no other as it captures the psychedelic zeitgeist of the hippie era just a couple years removed while unapologetically looking towards the future and in the process unifying two trends simultaneously, those two being the progressive rock explosion as heard by their contemporaries King Crimson as well as prognosticating the inevitable big bang of heavy rock turned metal slightly before Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple really took off. SEA SHANTIES is a bona fide masterpiece in my book.

While the original album track list is worth the price of admission alone, i highly recommend the 2010 remastered Esoteric edition with bonus tracks. This contains three bonus tracks that were unreleased but from the same sessions as well as two demos. The demos are ok but not essential but the bonus tracks are well worth the extra effort to track this edition down. The most important of these bonus tracks is the extremely heavy and progressive behemoth “The Great Universal Protection Racket” clocking in at over 11 minutes and was a much loved highlight of their early live shows. This is a track so heavy and so complex in its style that it actually makes “21st Century Schizoid Man” seem a little tame in comparison. It is basically a sprawling composition that contains periods of heavy metal guitar riffing, schizophrenic proggy guitar licks, bluesy segments with all of the band members performing extremely tight unison between the instruments as they navigate through complex time signature workouts run amok. The track meanders through several different guitar riff styles but each one makes a reprise and even includes violin led segments as well. I actually love this track more than any of the other tracks on the album! The other two bonus tracks are also excellent but not as OMG amazing as the first one. “Dilemma” revisits territory heard on “Walking Down Their Outlook” and “Time Gauges” is another instrumental workout of complex prog laden freneticism trading off with mellow chilled out violin led melodic passages.
The first progressive metal band? I was looking for early prog metal of the 80's when High Tide's name was mentioned with such a bold reference. Well, certainly it's credible that a form of prog metal issued from 1969 as both prog and metal were coalescing in their respective forms out of the nebulous cloud of experimental music of the psych days. I was interested and after a quick sampling on YouTube I ordered "Sea Shanties" from Amazon.

I was walking to the train station when the first chords of "Futilist's Lament" stormed into ears. Really gritty grungy distorted guitar, then the rhythm section, then a monstrously heavy second guitar? No, it was the violin! Yes, High Tide employed two lead instruments: the über-fuzzed guitar and a violin that was going to surprise me in the range of sounds it had contributed to this album. Right from the start there was this bombastic heavy guitar sound that quickly switched to Jimmy Page's violin bow on guitar to a more traditional albeit electric violin sound.

The vocals immediately left me wondering whether I would find that they work or that they were better off elsewhere. For the most part they sound like Jim Morison but at times the vocalist abruptly reaches for higher notes, which he can hit, but the transition comes off as a less than impressive karaoke performance. Nevertheless, the song thunders along with the violin making an impressive companion to the guitar. This is not King Crimson violin here but a different beast.

I rather like the guitar soloing which seems to combine and bridge leftover techniques from the late 60's with forthcoming approaches of the 70's. The solo repeats itself in places but just when you wonder if this is going to be a recycling loop of ideas, the main riff returns and the intro is repeated. After one more round of verse chorus the song comes to an abrupt close.

"Death Warmed Up" is a 9-minute plus instrumental, and you'd probably figure that with that much time there should be room to create different moods and changes of tempo. But no. This is nine minutes of heavy rock guitar and gritty violin soloing. Of course there's structure. Resembling early Deep Purple instrumentals, there's a main theme, solo section, repeat of the main theme, more soloing and a return to the main theme again. After that the number charges on with the same pounding pace and the guitar takes over mostly alternating between bursts of high notes and explosions of distortion. Though at times it's easy for my mind to wander, I come back to the music amazed that these guys just careen along like an overloaded steam train for over nine minutes without slowing down or resting.

We finally take a break from the wash of distortion with "Pushed, but not Forgotten," which sounds very Doorsy until the guitar distortion comes back on. The song's basic structure is soft-hard-soft-hard-soft. At this point I am better accepting the vocals. It's also worthy of mention the violin again as it adds some interesting sounds including what sounds like wah-wah guitar and some eerily pretty high notes.

"Walking Down Their Outlook" begins with most 60's-sounding performance of the album until the guitar and violin contribute a touch of Baroque. There are some heavy bombastic moments too but just when it seems this song is going to morph into another explosion of distortion it takes on yet another form, and then switches back to the 60's sound. The violin is given more solo room here in this song too. By the fourth listen I found myself liking this song more.

"Missing Out" sounds like a fuzzy Doors' blues number at first with violin. The vocals are more expressive here but sound like a tortured Jim Morison. At 9:41 you can guess there will be some significant song space devoted to soloing. But the vocal segments keep returning, so there's no super lengthy jam here although some of the soloing goes on a bit. Just before 8 minutes it looks like there's going to be a drum solo but the band only tease and wisely steer clear and instead add more noisome guitar and some violin that at times seems a bit at a loss for what to play.

"Nowhere" opens with an instrumental section. By now there's there's not much new here. The sound of the album has long been established. I do like some of the melody lines played played by the violin. These stand out for me. It gives the song a country feel which I normally wouldn't like but it works here.

The extended CD includes three additional tracks that were recorded for the album but wouldn't fit on and were thus culled, and two demos which are not remarkable. "The Great Universal Racket" might be exactly that to some. It is a long instrumental that jumps from style to style, including heavy doomy guitar, friendly rock guitar with wah-wah effects courtesy of the violin, heavy country rock, more Baroque mixed in heavy rock, an acid rock traditional Chinese segment, and several others. It reminds of Norwegian prog rockers, Wobbler's instrumental that only just establish a groove or riff and the move on. This plays like a medley, constantly changing tempo and rhythm. Many parts repeat, so whether you think this is genius or someone's taking the mickey is up to you. I still can't decide if it's brilliant or just sonic clutter.

"Dilemma" also goes through some changes including an almost Sabbath-esque metal section with some Blue Cheer mixed in, and some pseudo prog work. The vocal parts are slower and thankfully there's more energy put into the higher register singing adding variety. Then the vocals change to southern rock and Jim Morison is all but gone. It becomes another gritty rocker for guitar and violin. Good on its own but very much like the rest of the album.

The demos are next with a slightly shorter version of "Death Warmed Up" and also "Pushed, but not Forgotten". I find the album versions are better and I usually skip these.

"Time Gauge" is the last number and again more of what we've already heard: raunchy gritty guitar, violin, paces changes, steady supporting rhythm section, doses of distortion, mixed styles, classical suggestions, and so on. As a constantly changing instrumental, this is similar to "The Great Universal Racket" but a little sloppy here and there, or so I feel. Good in places but not a highlight.

I can't say the album will be a long-time favourite but there will be songs I'll come back to. To sum the album up neatly, I quote the Allmusic review from the Wkipedia page for "Sea Shanties":

"High Tide had the muscularity of a no-nonsense proto-metal band, but they also ventured into prog territory with changing time signatures and tempos, soft-hard dynamics, multi-part arrangements, and even some ornate faux-Baroque interludes."
Light years ahead of their time, High Tide present the birth of prog metal.

The first sound that emanates from this colossal album is a grungy sludge guitar riff, very distorted and fuzzy. It almost sounds grunge and this is back in 1969! It begins with the lo-fi crunching psychedelic metal of 'Futilist's Lament'. The band announce that this is going to be a heavy psych prog experience. High Tide are Roger Hadden on drums, Tony Hill on guitar, vocals, Simon House on violin, piano, and Peter Pavli on bass. They are one of the loudest, heaviest bands of the late 60s and must have been a major influence to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath and reminds me of Blue Cheer meets Hawkwind. The metal riffs are almost like Black Sabbath in places and the wah wah guitar reminds us we are in the psychedelic 60s. This is a sensational track that must be heard over and over with the amps on 11.

'Death Warmed Up' is a 9 minute hard rocking instrumental with blazing guitars and a manic violin that assassinates the grunge vibe to make way for a progressive heavy sound. The twin guitar lead break is spacey and locks in on a repetitive riff. It is rather lengthy for a loud, proud, and endowed band, but it works in a hypnotic sense, similar to the sonic jamming attack of Hawkwind.

'Pushed, But Not Forgotten' is a slow ballad with quiet violin and guitar and a gentle vocal. But only or about a minute. It breaks out into a loud guitar solo and a heavier beat with some excellent guitar riffs. Then it settles back to a serene atmosphere with restrained music lulling you off to sleep. But now we are on edge wondering when it will break out again. Sure enough the amps get turned up again and the distorted guitar cracks the peace in half with admirable ferocity.

'Walking Down Their Outlook' begins immediately with moderate vocals and steady beat. Then there is a wonderful guitar lick using scaled notes up the frets. The spacey section follows and ascends until another screaming guitar passage. The way the song breaks and changes constantly is quite an original approach given the date this was released. The section that begins at 2:40 is one of the great instrumental breaks, howling guitars, folk violins and keyboard augmentations. The cadence escalates into a hypno-groove with folk metal motorvating along on a strong beat. Then a minimalist violin takes over to finish the track. Wonderful heavy prog.

'Missing Out' is another lengthy 9 minute track, with very complex fugue motifs emblazoned over intricate guitar notes constantly played. The violin is always present slicing back and forth and the estranged vocals of Tony Hill. What a sensational sound High Tide are able to create with these instruments, almost like a metal version of Comus. At 3:50 there is a fantastic violin and lead guitar solo with instruments trading off to the wild percussion. The lyrics are hard to decipher but a lot of it sounds improvised such as "Oh, my soul is going down, and I'm ready." This finishes with an attacking drum solo and an extended outro.

'Nowhere' closes the album with a terrific violin and guitar solo at the start. The violin and guitar battle it out for supremacy for a while, neither winning the contest, and then the lead guitar takes over with prog time changes and is joined by a descending flurry of violin notes. It slows in tempo and Hill's low vocals return; "marking time and shutting out each warming smile, what shall be the go between they laugh and cry, effigies of souls are seen to come and go, moving through the mists of fear , they come to know." The dark lyrics fit in perfectly with the moody atmospheric music.

The conclusion is that this album is one of those rare treasures unearthed from the tomb of obscurity, hardly making an impact until now, and the listener will be enthralled that "Sea Shanties" finally has seen the light of day.
High Tide's debut is a slog through two or three musical styles, and rather limited ones at that. Although this appears on many people's proto metal lists, the metal quotient is practically non-existent, and the music rather samey and limited in exploration or interest.

The opener, Futilist's Lament grabs the attention immediately, with its uber-fuzzed guitar riffing and Morrison-like vocals outlining a melody straight from The Doors.

The styling is pure heavy psych mixed with hard rock, and the metallic feel is only edgy. The drums drive and shift beat emphasis, leaving only the pulse for head banging purposes - but it works.

The solo is a weak affair, simple blues scales, then a really nice, hooky melody line, some fast and very messy bluff, back to the hook, back to the bluff - obviously there's been attention paid to the structuring, but the execution of the bluff is rather poor and unsatisfying.

There's rather too much bluff, and the song goes on about 30 seconds too long, before the swirling fuzz-fest of Death Warmed Up, a decidedly non-metallic piece, driven by a lead violin lending a really cool Celtic air to the extended, hook-laden intro. Hendrix citations abound, before another round of unnecessary guitar bluff, which makes this piece feel a lot too long.

I read somewhere that this is an example of Heavy Prog, but I have to say that there's no Prog here.

There is a monstrous Hawkwind-like riff, which tapers off too soon, but all in all, a very dull and unexciting piece. I got bored by 3:00, and it's 9 minutes long.

There is a change at 4:00, but it's to some Hendrixy style wah, and more of exactly the same quick bluff we heard at the beginning, out of key and totally unremarkable to the point of irritation.

I kept skipping, 20 seconds at a time, but the overall texture doesn't change - pointless waste of vinyl.

Pushed But Not Forgotten is a more laid back affair to begin with, Doorsy in flavour, but with the interest in the violin. The harmonies are jazzy, with plenty of 6ths, and the vocal melody swoops into interesting places - but then it's all spoilt when it suddenly gets heavy.

We return to the mellow music, and there are some interesting textures over the return to the first theme, but knowing that the heavy section will return in a horribly predictable fashion has already removed any interest for me.

The Doors flavour is maintained for the 4th song "Walking Down Their Outlook", but by now I'm tired of the formula of this hard rock album in prog clothing.

About a minute in, there's a lovely exposed moment, but generally, this is an expansion of the previous piece, with quiet sections in the melodic style, loud sections in a messy, bluffy style and that sums it up.

The metallic quotient is almost totally missing from the first song onwards, it should be noted.

The 4th song is an interesting take on heavy psych, but by now I'm too tired of the formula to enjoy it.

At 9:38, I don't feel I'm missing out if I skip it.

The album is rounded off with a song called Nowhere, which is a very apt title, as that is exactly where it seems to go.

Not impressed by this one at all, musically, and the metal content is miniscule.

So on two counts, I would not recommend it to anyone, let alone a metal fan.

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