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11 April 2013

Egg (Deram Nova)

Egg occupy a space somewhere between power trio and prog-rock. Dave Stewart's organ is the lead, and it sounds like an organ, mostly eschewing effects and other processing in order to construct creative, intelligent rock music where the keys are the lead instrument. The vocals are actually I've always liked most about Egg - Mont Campbell signs earnestly, with a deep reverberating voice and with lyrics, printed on the sleeve, that exhibit an honest creativity. His bass playing is essential though, being sinewy enough to push against Stewart's changes without being dominant. The structures are tight, but it doesn't feel overly rigid - maybe it's the jazz influections of drummer Clive Brooks, but it's responsive. This is Canterbury in a nutshell - the thinking man's rock, and a fairy early entry, from 1970, that avoids pompousness for the most part. Somehow they manage to cover Bach's 'Fugue in D' and it comes off as charming and cute instead of stuffy classical wanking. Egg are clear to separate their vocal-based songs from their more experimental instrumental excursions. Overall, they don't get too out there - this is definitely on the safe prog, so we have no completely free sessions or white noise blankets or musique concrete or anything like that, except for one dazzling movement of side 2. 'The Song of McGillicuddie the Pusillanimous' (and that's only half the title) is the best song on the album, with slicing organ riffs recalling 60's garage and a fairly intense lyrical bend. Side two is given over to the 'Symphony No. 2', where the Bachisms come to the forefront again, as well as the more atmospheric excursions as previously mentioned; sometimes the bass is just a low gritty hum, and the noisy passage just before the last movement has a great, chunky organ that does finally step on the ring modulation. It works a cohesive piece and ends a pretty solid album, I think Egg's only one - they soon went on to do Hatfield and the North and National Health, where a more strident professionalism stagnates things slightly. But we're still a few years away from the H's, let alone the N's.

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