For fans of early underground, progressive music, like myself, this is a wonderful, previously undiscovered gem. For everyone else, including my wife, this is a terrible, tuneless racket. The sound of the album is reminiscent of Van Der Graaf Generator, The Velvet Underground and Roxy Music. High Tide only released two albums and this, their eponymous second album, was a magnificent finale, leaving newly formed converts such as myself, wishing for more.
The Misunderstood were formed in Riverside, California in 1963 and, in 1966, came to the attention of a British DJ who was in America, using his Englishness to pretend he was a Beatles expert. When the band’s early releases were unsuccessful, John Ravencroft suggested the group head to London. He said that the band could stay at his mother’s house but he forgot to tell her that. Guitarist Greg Tredway recalled, “John told us that his mom would be expecting us and that we could stay at her flat until we were settled. In fact she knew nothing about it. We stood in front of her flat for eight hours with with all our equipment whilst she called John back in the States to find out ‘what these four long hairs were doing outside’“. However, Greg Treadway’s stay in the U.K. was brief as he had been drafted into the U.S. Army and so a 22 year old guitarist from South Shields called Tony Hill was brought into replace him. After The Misunderstood split in 1966, Tony Hill returned home and didn’t play any music for over a year until he returned to London in 1968, collaborating with David Bowie in a multi-media project called Turquoise. A year later he formed High Tide.
The key ingredient on “High Tide” is the interplay between Simon House’s violin and Tony Hill’s lead guitar. (The other members of High Tide were Pete Pavli on bass and Roger Hadden on drums). Brian Eno must have listened to the instrumental break on the eight minute opening track, “Blankman Cries Again”, before composing the sounds of “Do The Strand”, “Virginia Plain” and “Editions Of You”. Brian Eno’s production credits include “Lucky Lief And The Longships”, a 1975 album by Robert Calvert, which includes violin playing by Simon House.
Robert Calvert was the lyricist and performance poet with Hawkwind and his 1981 album, “Hype”, included Peter Pavli on cello, Simon House on keyboards and violin and Michael Moorcock on 12-string guitar. Michael Moorcock, a renowned science fiction writer, released a concept album in 1975 called “New Worlds Fair” which featured Peter Pavli on cello and Simon House on violin.
After leaving High Tide, Simon House joined Third Ear Band for their fourth album, “Music From Macbeth”. He subsequently joined Hawkwind in 1974 but left to join David Bowie’s touring band in 1978, appearing on “Stage“. He rejoined Hawkwind twice and also played on later incarnations of High Tide, along with Dave Tomlin and Tony Hill.
Dave Tomlin, had initiated free-form jazz sessions at the London Free School and he began similar sessions at the UFO Club by assembling members of the audience, usually at 4 a.m., into a free-form group playing for the, by then, exhausted dancers. They became known as ‘The Giant Sun Trolley’ and transformed into the Third Ear Band, playing a mixture of Eastern raga and European folk. John Ravenscroft, having changed his name to John Peel and started a career as the foremost advocate of progressive music in the U.K., played Jew’s harp on “Alchemy”, the first album by Third Ear Band. In 1971, Roman Polanski’s film adaptation of “Macbeth” was soundtracked by Third Ear Band which, by this time, included Simon House on violin.
There are only two other songs on “High Tide”: “The Joke” is over nine minutes long and the whole of Side Two is taken up with the 14-minute “Saneonymous”. This is a classic hybrid album of psychedelic progressive underground rock. Ignore at your peril.
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The loudest band I ever saw