High Tide – Precious Cargo – Review

High Tide

Precious Cargo (Akarma)
by Craig Regala

OK, these guys are a “roots” band for stoner rock. Well, maybe not an actual band that bands listened to; possibly more of an antecedent/historical artifact more or less written out of the official “rock history.” Really, I checked my print copies of The All Music Guide and The Rolling Stone Album Guide – not a listing in either. Fuckers. High Tide had a couple recs out in the beginning of the dirty urban hippies vs. progressive rock fan schism. A time when Hawkwind booted Lemmy, the Pink Fairies (first a drinking club, then a band) trashed a King Crimsom gig “for being elitist capitalist tools” (i.e. they could play good, washed, and didn’t sing about “offing the pigs” or anything thusly concerned). A time when Pink Floyd first stumbled (into a huge pile of money) with their mediocre Dark Side of the Moon and Rolling Stone was doing its best to bury any actual rock music by anyone younger than them. At least AM radio was still pretty good, and the newish FM format still had a few freeform shows left.

These recs occupy a point between Hawkwind’s drone/riff rabble-rousing, The Who’s hard rock, and the prog rock of early King Crimson’s rockier moment(s). Yeah, “21st Century Schitzoid Man.” You need to hear Entombed’s cover of it, if not April Wine’s. High Tide’s songs are generally long, they have a violinist who’s in on the action as much as the rest of the guys, the singer’s a melodicist with a clear baritone, and thank god the guitar attack is clear and hard. I’d say the bass/drums team kept them anchored as Budgie, Bloodrock, or any good garage band who made it past ’67 without becoming flower power simps or dull blues rock scale jugglers. The beauty of this stuff is that they’re a rock band with grit and chops unafraid to go wandering off into the night with some space and occasional delicacy in their music without rock-sapping pompous pastoral nanciness. They’re an English acid rock band in post-Hendrix mode and would’ve been a fine addition to the Hendrix/Soft Machine tour that rambled around the States in ’68 had they the decency to exist at the time.

This disc is live in the studio stuff, subtitled “Live Jam 1970.” The sound is as described, demo/or indie rock 1993 quality. A-OK by me, you can hear all the instruments and the singer is well-miked. None of the tunes, ‘er compositions, are on the CDR I have of Sea Shanties and High Tide. Those are developed and paced better, if not shorter. Kinda what you’d expect. As Precious Cargo isn’t a live run through of previously released stuff, it’s worth owning if you’re so inclined to spend your tax refund on something outside the usual servings at the buffet. Kudo’s to All That’s Heavy (http://www.stonerrock.com/store/ath.asp) for carrying it.

Personally, I really like a well-sawed violin. It’s one of the reasons I like Skyclad’s Folkemon so much and own the first dozen Tull recs. If you’re adverse to the beauty of Paganini’s tool, wise up. As the saying goes, the first guy on the beach don’t get to run the military government, such are the trials of groundbreakers. The one flaw these guys had was they didn’t have that one archtypical tune that occasionally gets covered, say, like Focus with “Hocus Focus,” to break’m into recognition. So what? If it’s rock your after, it’s rock they served.