Dick’s Picks: For this week’s pick Dick has chosen Egg’s 1971 Brit prog rarity ‘The Polite Force’…..why? ‘Cos it’s a cracking slice of early prog and it’s Easter stoopid…
Egg, who? A criminally overlooked rock trio whose tendrils were all over the burgeoning British prog (always called progressive at the time, never prog btw) scene. Formed around keyboard player Dave Stewart (not to be confused with he of twirly moustache and round/coloured glasses Eurythmics fame), bassist/vocalist Mont Campbell and drummer Clive Brooks. The band initially emerged after previous bands Uriel and Arzachel folded when Steve Hillage left to study philosophy (how very progressive).
Signing to Deram, Decca’s ‘hip and happening’ imprint, the band recorded their self-titled debut in 1970, whilst still featuring elements of the ‘Canterbury Sound’, their debut had one eye on the future, mixing jazz and rock sensibilities, all rounded off with deft keyboard flourishes from Mr Stewart.
The Polite Force
Just one year later the band’s second album the ‘Polite Force’ was released, it’s not a quantum leap stylistically (they’d already established their sound), but it’s much sharper and generally reigns in the worst of their excesses whilst highlighting their best, check the opening track ‘A Visit To Newport Hospital’ which tells the tale of how the band came together ‘There used to be a time when we lived in the van, We used to loon about with Janice, Liz and Ann’ indeed! – It’s all over-driven organ and general air of impending doom for the first minute before Stewart’s delicate transition, suddenly fluttering keyboard trills emerge through the ether and….ladies & gentlemen we are floating in space!
Side two of the LP establishes what would become not one, but two progressive mainstays – namely, a side-long suite of songs, here playfully entitled: ‘Long Piece No. 3 Parts 1-4’ coupled with the influence of classical composers, Stravinsky and Bartok, employing their modernist, discordant sound (with tricky time signatures natch) throughout. Check, Dave Stewart’s classical chops on the third part of the suite, virtuoso ain’t the word!
So what happened?
After the release of the Polite Force (February 1971), the general lack of interest from Deram saw the band increase their touring commitments, sign with the Groundhogs management company and get around the country – sadly all to no avail. Although they were still recording, a third album was recorded but no record deal was forthcoming. In July 1972 the band split, Dave Stewart would return as a member of highly acclaimed progsters ‘Hatfield & The North’ (he also had a couple of freak eletro pop hits in the early ’80s ‘It’s My Party’ anyone?), Clive Brooks joined blues-rockers ‘The Groundhogs’ and, as for Mont Campbell, after a 1-year stint in the original line-up of National Health (1975-76), he stayed out of the public eye for two decades, and only returned in 1996 with his first solo album, “Music From A Round Tower”.
Any more Egg albums I should know about?