“Tony Hill’s experiments in six-string overload go to places even Hendrix feared to tread… Simon House’s sonic attack is equal to anything he did with Hawkwind”: High Tide’s Sea Shanties reissue

Remastered vinyl edition retains the apocalyptic heavy psych and proto-prog first delivered in 1969

High Tide - Sea Shanties
(Image: © Esoteric)

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Released at the end of 1969, the title of High Tide’s debut, Sea Shanties, might suggest a pleasant collection of yo-ho-hoing sailor’s songs – but instead, it’s an apocalyptic blast of heavy psych, proto-prog and classical folk that encapsulates the darkness and weirdness of the decade to come.

Formed by guitarist Tony Hill, formerly of garage rock mavericks The Misunderstood, one of the defining aspects of High Tide’s unique sound was the gibbering banshee wail of Simon House’s electric violin. House would go on to play with Hawkwind – one of the reasons Sea Shanties subsequently became highly collectable – but the sonic attack he creates here is equal to anything he did with the space rock overlords.

Futilist’s Lament is an astonishing opening track. It begins with a riff that’s so heavy, it sounds like Hill’s guitar is grinding rocks, before House piles on an additional layer of distortion – the only band that even approached this level of evil noise at the time were the Stooges.

The song itself is swooning and mysterious, buffeted on all sides by aural mayhem, but kept on course by Hill’s elegant baritone, Ladbroke Grove’s very own Jim Morrison. It’s a vision of the Altamont/Manson generation, the 60s ‘vomiting her lies of truth,’ a punk bonfire of hippie vanities.

The instrumental Death Warmed Up features another brain-pummelling riff full of gothic dread – House has pitched up in 18th-century Germany with a Marshall stack, while Hill’s experiments in six-string overload go to places even Hendrix feared to tread.

Pushed, But Not Forgotten is a gentle lullaby that anticipates King Crimson at their mellowest, punctuated by outbursts of rampaging psych; Walking Down Their Outlook is a disquieting mix of melodic folk rock and baroque riffage; Missing Out is a fast, howling blues.

The remastered sound is crisp, with improved separation between the instruments, but retains the album’s gloomy charm. And the restored artwork, by a pre-VdGG/Genesis Paul Whitehead, looks wonderful.

Sea Shanties is on sale now via Esoteric.

Joe Banks

Joe is a regular contributor to Prog. He also writes for Electronic Sound, The Quietus, and Shindig!, specialising in leftfield psych/prog/rock, retro futurism, and the underground sounds of the 1970s. His work has also appeared in The Guardian, MOJO, and Rock & Folk. Joe is the author of the acclaimed Hawkwind biographyDays Of The Underground (2020). He’s on Twitter and Facebook, and his website is https://www.daysoftheunderground.com/