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Beggars Opera - Waters of Change  CD (album) cover

WATERS OF CHANGE

Beggars Opera

 

Symphonic Prog

3.59 | 123 ratings

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4 stars There's something in the Water...

A promising swirl of synths gives way to a slightly better than mediochre Prog Rock album from somewhere midway in the 2nd division, with lyrics guaranteed to make your toenails curl.

"Time Machine" is a catchy song, whose style reminds me somewhat of "In The Court", a lead organ line somewhat reminiscent of Eric Burdon's killer hook in "Misunderstood", and an overal flavour of Wishbone Ash meet the Moody Blues. Then there's that Tufnell special of a guitar solo, wending its way dextrously around the pentatonic scale, with a couple of choice modes thrown in to keep things interesting.

A hard rock style groove propels this song through verses, choruses and solos - the organ solo is very reminiscent of Lord's style; tastefully done, and with a satisfying build-up that's sadly cut across by the guitar producing a redundant echoing solo spinning out the end of the song unnecessarily. However, bearing in mind we're back in 1971, a very tasteful piece that could have been improved with proper lyrics.

"Lament", even at a shade under 3 minutes, is a more progressive track, with a distinctive Scottish flavour from the solo melody line over a drone and military snare, then we're into a track that, I suppose, they had issues coming with a title for...

"I've No Idea" is a kind of love song with a tasteful organ arrangement and some nice shifts in the riffs that stop it sounding over repetitive - between the rather unimaginative verses, that is. The most interesting feature of this piece is the instrumental bridge, which features some very tasty organ playing, sporting a lot of scale practice, but also some really neat touches that are groovetastic. One might think it's a pity that the band largely sit in the groove in a way - but then the fills show you exactly why they decided on the groove approach. There are some reasonable fill ideas, but these are largely sloppily executed.

Although the return to the song might have you, like me, reaching for the skip button, there is more of that groove to come - and a nice little piano fill, in between bursts of song, that are worth sticking around for. You can press skip when the guitar solo starts, though - nothing you haven't heard before, and plenty of water-treading. ;o)

"Nimbus" is another Scottish-flavoured instrumental - it's clear that the band had plenty of good musical ideas. The big problem they faced, as a potential Prog Rock band, is that they, as a band, had no idea whatsoever on how to develop, or progress, these ideas. Like "Lament", at 2:24 or so, the piece completely runs out of steam - although this time, they keep going, adding whiny screeches on the guitar in case this helps.

"Festival" shows that some thought was put into the overall album shape - an uptempo rocker, spoiled utterly by the inclusion of vocals and the nastiest lyrics so far, not to mention little interjections of Keith Emerson's masterly interpretation of Bernstein's "America". Again, the best bits are generally where there are no vocals - and there are some tasty little grooves packed in here - but behind the vocal line, the band sneak in some wicked piano licks. With the guitar and organ duet, Wishbone Ash are conjoured up again, and then a little overblown flute suggests Jethro Tull influence on the sound, and the grooves fly thick and fast, giving this piece a few additional points on the Prog scale.

I nearly choked on my coffee when I heard the Silver Peacock intro - "Stonehenge" anyone?

Then the piece itself starts with a rippling organ motif that sounds rather Bach influenced, and is rather gorgeous. This segues into a fairly original sounding groove, and this time, tongue firmly in cheek, I can take the vocals - although I may need some more tissues to wipe the coffee from my desk. I think it's the serious, quasi-operatic tone of the vocalist that does it - but in this piece, he's come up with a superb melody line, and the backing is fantastic - especially when it all drops away, around 3 minutes in, to plinky guitars, drifting mellotrons, swishing cymbals and thumping bass - fantastic textures, dodgy fills, but great grooves.

The kitchen sink is thrown in a bit, as the piece progresses - but that only adds to it, the whole ridiculous overblown spectacle of it - pure musical comedy gold - and in all fairness, great music too, if somewhat Procol Harum in more than one place.

Next up, a little Impromptu - the 'Cello appears to be uncredited, but the texture is a nice surprise, and works well against the nylon-strung guitar, which appears to be playing a piece I learned for my grade 2 so many years ago. Very nice.

Finally, another uptempo rocker, "The Fox", apparently based on the Joe 90 theme music - the vocals are spat out in a style drawn from any one of a large number of Broadway musicals, such as Oaklahoma! or Carousel, and there's some fun with time signatures here. This feeds into the best groove so far on an album not short on great grooves. The bass and half-time drums are completely compulsive, and the accellerando a real tease, when it's dropped back to the first groove and verse.

The Hammond really growls in this one - you can feel the Leslie rotating around your headphones, the Mellotron weaves a tangled web that drifts smokily, the vocal harmonies create another mysterious veil above the tribal drums, and then a monster groove... spoiled a bit by a return to the vocals - but we've hit the climax of the album, in just the right place - a couple of minutes from the end. Now we've hit it, the band aren't too sure how to take it to the end, with a rather jaunty organ solo that feels very out of place. A dodgy speeding up fill later, and we're into the banging ending that fizzles out a bit of a damp squib.

The Summary

An album that shows promise from the start, but doesn't initially capture the imagination too well, sticking as it does in Groove Rock territory - let down by awful lyrics. However, stick with it, and it does repay the investment of time - even if the ending does leave you feeling a little short-changed. It's better to travel than to arrive, they say - and in this album, there's plenty of proggy entertainment on the journey, albeit mainly in the latter half.

There are also a whole lot of great grooves, Mellotrons, and Prog textural goodness a-plenty for those moments when you've heard the Classics a few times too many, don't fancy the way-out stuff or plain hard rock, but something in between with a bit of Proggy flair.

3 stars isn't quite right for this album - I think it's essential listening.

Find a friend who's got it, and get them to play it to you - or buy it, then pass it around. I doubt you'd want to hear it too many times, but by gum, you'll be glad of the one or two times you do!

Certif1ed | 4/5 |

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