High Tide – ‘The Complete Liberty Recordings’ (2023)

Uncategorized December 30, 2023

High Tide – ‘The Complete Liberty Recordings’ (2023)

One of the first rock bands to combine electric guitar and electric violin as lead instruments, High Tide was formed in 1969 by Tony Hill (guitar and vocals) formerly of psychedelic rock legends The Misunderstood, Simon House (electric violin and keyboards), Peter Pavli (bass guitar) and Roger Hadden (drums).

The group, in its original incarnation, issued two albums with its unique brand of extended, heavy psychedelic rock on the Liberty label. Cherry Red Records has gathered the long players, supplemented by all available demo and studio session recordings, more than seventy minutes total, in a new three disc box set on its Esoteric Recordings imprint.

Disc one contains High Tide’s December 1969 debut LP ‘Sea Shanties’ consisting of six tracks, five written by Hill and one by House and Hadden. The album opens with ‘Futilist’s Lament,’ a five minute slab of heaviness, notable for Hill’s roaring guitar and eerie, Jim Morrisonesque vocals. The nine minute plus ‘Death Warmed Up’ is an instrumental number with Hill’s searing guitar complemented by House’s heady violin and a driving beat courtesy of Pavli and Hadden resulting in a screaming slice of heavy psychedelia. ‘Pounded, But Not Forgotten’ displays the group’s versatility with Hill displaying his prowess on acoustic as well as wah wah aided electric guitar and the tune featuring tasty tempo changes as well as a gentle violin interlude by House. ‘Walking Down Their Outlook’ has a Doors vibe with Hill’s vocals joining his haunting, fiery, feedback laden guitar coming in waves of sonic attack leading to a gentle outro of House’s violin and Hill’s fading guitar. ‘Missing Out’ is a near ten minute psychedelic rocker with Hill and House trading licks as the band settles into a comfortable groove with Pavli and Hadden contributing bass and drum solos respectively, though Hill’s roaring guitar is again front and center. The LP closes with House and Hadden’s ‘Nowhere’ another heavy psych rocker with Hill’s soaring lead guitar and Morrison influenced vocals complemented by House’s violin and Hadden’s pounding drum fills. The song features more nice tempo changes with Hill’s quivering guitar supplying the outro.

Disc two opens with the three Hill penned tunes composing the band’s self-titled 1970 release. ‘Blankman Cries Again’ is an eight and a half minute opener showcasing Hill’s guitar and eerie vocals joined by House on violin and organ. The track features a steady rhythm supplied by Pavli and Hadden as well as House’s keyboards, with House and Hill contributing violin and guitar solos. ‘The Joke’ features a gentle intro courtesy of Hill’s guitar and House’s violin complemented by the steady beat of Pavli and Hadden. The melodic nine and a half minute piece includes a drum solo by Hadden and a dreamy, screaming, yet restrained solo by Hill supported by House’s steady violin and organ. A tempo change leads to a relaxed outro with House’s violin lofting gently aided by Hill’s acoustic guitar bringing the song to a close. The LP closes with the fourteen and a half minute ‘Saneonymous’ opened spryly by Hill’s guitar and House’s violin. The song slows at the four minute mark before Hill and House fire the tempo up mid-tune, Pavli’s thunderous bass locked in with Hadden’s steady drum fills. At the ten minute point House’s organ brings Deep Purple to mind before Hill takes command again, his gently plucked guitar becoming heavier, the tune becoming increasingly psychedelic as Hill and House close out the tune and album with a wah wah aided guitar solo complemented by violin. The disc closes with a near sixteen minute take on ‘The Grand Universal Protection Racket’ which begins with a screaming wah wah driven, feedback filled Hill guitar intro aided by House’s violin and the steady groove of Pavli’s bass and Hadden’s drums. A tempo change leads to a Hendrixesque, wah wah aided Hill riff, House adding violin accents giving way to a gentle violin interlude mid-tune, before the band heads back into heaviness with Hill pulling from his seemingly endless array of solos. The tune effectively affords each member of the band a chance to display their prowess.

Disc three consists of eight tracks taken from demos and studio sessions from 1969 and 1970. Demos of ‘Pushed, Not Forgotten’ and ‘Death Warmed Up’ recorded at Apple Studios in March 1969 are showcases for Hill’s guitar work, with both tunes being re-recorded for the band’s debut album. ‘Dilemma’ taken from the same session but never revisited features more hot guitar work from Hill, with House adding violin accents and an organ solo, giving a Doors/Iron Butterfly feel to the tune. An early, shorter, eleven and a half minute recording of ‘The Great Universal Protection Racket’ from Olympic Studios in June 1969 verges on space rock with Hill’s atmospheric, menacing guitar ever present. ‘Time Gauges’ an unused song recorded at Olympic in July 1969 is a pounding hard rocker with wah wah guitar from Hill and a beautiful violin interlude by House with Hill adding guitar accents. Why this tune was not revisited is a mystery. First versions of ‘The Joke’ and ‘Blankman Cries Again’ from Olympic recording dates in May 1970 follow. The former features melodic vocals and stinging wah wah guitar by Hill, while the latter has trippy lyrics, Morrisonesque vocals and wah wah work from Hill as well as tasty violin from House, the end result being a Velvet Underground feel. The disc and box set close with a 1970 recording of ‘Ice Age,’ by far the gentlest tune included, melodic with an Eastern feel and definite commercial possibilities. It was revisited by Hill and House in the 1990s when Hill and House revived High Tide for a series of recordings, fine in their own right but quite different from the classic Liberty recordings.

‘The Complete Liberty Recordings’ comes in a clamshell box, with each of the three discs in gatefold mini-LP cardboard sleeves. The set includes a lavishly illustrated, full color 36 page booklet, with complete track listings, an extensive essay by compiler Mark Powell and thoughts on the recordings shared by Tony Hill in 2006. High Tide sounds better than ever thanks to the remastering job from the master tapes by Ben Wiseman at Broadlake Studios. The set is rounded out by a reproduction poster as a bonus. This set will appeal to fans of psychedelic rock, 1960s and 1970s rock and classic rock in general, and comes most highly recommended.

Kevin Rathert

High Tide – ‘The Complete Liberty Recordings’ (Esoteric Recordings, 2023)

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