Thursday, 1 September 2011

***Egg - Egg (1970 uk mix of jazz, psychedelia, rock and fusion)***

Organ / piano, bass guitar, and drums. Add occasional vocals and tone generator and that's it! Obviously not much rocking expected from that ensemble - for goodness sake, just three people and no guitars?

Well like so many of their Cantebury compats, these guys didn't read the memo and they created some ground breaking stuff.

In fact the notes on the original LP read: The music on this LP is not dancing music, but basically music for listening to.

It is harmonically and rhythmically complex, designed to be as original as possible within the confines of the instrumental lineup; so it's pretty demanding on the listener's attention.

Originally released in 1970, Egg took influences from such diverse genres as jazz, psychedelia, rock and fusion, but probably most important, from classical music - and Brahms, Stravinsky and Grieg are directly and indirectly represented here.

And Egg in turn gave their own influences to a number of other Cantebury acts of the early '70s.

Egg was Dave Stewart on keys and tones, Mont Campbell on bass and understated but very competent vocals, and Clive Brooks on drums.

They were hatched from Uriel in 1969, after they'd lost their guitar player, Steve Hillage to his university studies.

Later, Stewart and Hillage would form Khan, and Stewart would move into the realms of Hatfield and Ayers and Campbell would join him in National Health.

The family tree of the Cantebury scene is a complex web, and we won't try to unravel it here. Suffice it to say that this was one of the more influential if underrated acts of prog's golden age.

The music generated by this small lineup was heavily dependent on Stewart's organ and Campbell's bass - both of which were applied with flair and imagination - but all three artists were credited with various compositions.

There's a lot of avant garde generation of weird and spacey tones, but the rest is an entertaining example of several budding progressive genres taking their first baby-steps.

The English sense of humor is present in many songs, although the lyrics tend toward the spaced out rather than the poetic. "The Song Of McGillicudie The Pusillanimous (or Don't Worry James, Your Socks Are Hanging In The Coal Cellar With Thomas)" could almost have come off an album by The Doors.

And yes, that's the song's name! "I Will Be Absorbed" comes the closest to a prog 'song' in the traditional sense of the word. Symphony No. 2 is a 5-part 22-minute early-day-avant-garde attempt at a modern-era classic, in a similar vein to many of the Keith Emerson pieces that would come later.

Honors for the all-round favorite, however, go to "Seven Is A Jolly Good Time" which is a bonus track here and wasn't on the original record. By 'good time' they're taking a stab at the fixation with odd time signatures. These excerpts from lyrics tell it all:

I used to play in four time when I was very small...
...I started writing songs in all the rhythms I could find - Like five...
...Seven is a jolly good time, seven is a jolly good time...
...I found it hard to follow, my foot became confused...
...I gathered all the notes up and jumped 'em through a hoop - As in eleven

And of course, the song's actual time signatures follow the suggestions in the lyrics - 7/4, 11/4, etc.

The CD reviewed here was wonderfully remastered from the original tapes, and the Eclectic Discs reissue includes three bonus tracks, including both sides of the band's only single and "Third Movement" has at last been restored in its rightful place as an integral part of the now fully extended "Symphony No. 2".

So - the confines of the instrumental lineup of bass, drums and keys really didn't do much to stifle Egg's creativity. Come to think of it, the same lineup was used effectively by The Nice and ELP.

Who knows, that restricted lineup may have been the very challenge that spurred them to produce the influential music that would become one of the foundation stones of modern-day prog (by Duncan Glenday from

Track List:
01."Bulb" – 0:09
02."While Growing My Hair" – 4:02
03."I Will Be Absorbed" – 5:12
04."Fugue In D Minor" (Bach) – 2:49
05."They Laughed When I Sat Down At The Piano…" – 1:21
06."The Song Of McGillicudie The Pusillanimous (or don't worry James, your socks are hanging in the coal cellar with Thomas)" – 5:10
07."Boilk" – 1:03

"Symphony No. 2"
08."First Movement" – 5:47
09."Second Movement" – 6:17
10."Blane" – 5:28
11."Third Movement" (previously unreleased) – 3:10
12."Fourth Movement" – 3:13

Bonus Tracks
13."Seven Is A Jolly Good Time" – 2:48
14."You Are All Princes" – 3:45

*Dave Stewart - organ, piano, tone generator
*Mont Campbell - bass, vocals
*Clive Brooks - drums