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Beggars Opera - Nimbus - The Vertigo Years Anthology CD (album) cover


Beggars Opera


Symphonic Prog

4.05 | 3 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars - The first review -

Beggars Opera is among those early British prog bands that never received commercial success (at least partly due to the unstable line-up) but made a couple of classic albums containg fairly good, organ / Mellotron centred symphonic prog rock. This 2-disc compilation from the trusted Esoteric recordings covers their releases on the now-legendary Vertigo label, ie. their best era in the 70's plus the sudden nosedive into notably weaker and less proggy material of the disappointing fourth album Get Your Dog Off Me! (1973) which is here wisely represented by a smaller percentage -- four tracks only -- than the three other albums. The non-album single 'Sarabande / Think' (1971) is contained too.

The debut Act One (1970) operates mostly in The Nice reminding, organ dominating proto prog circulating some light classical compositions (e.g. Suppé) among their own pieces. The band matured considerably on their second album Waters of Change (1971), with the Mellotron player and skillful arranger Virginia Scott joining the line-up. Not only sonically but also in the song-writing this album is a big improvement from the debut. The third album Pathfinder ( 1972) is perhaps more song-oriented, but it's pretty diverse in style and yet it feels very coherent and strong all the way, although unfortunately it lacks Virginia's Mellotron. The prog rock version of the gorgeous Jimmy Webb composition 'MacArthur Park' (made famous by actor Richard Harris) works extremely well.

Sadly the bigger domestic success still went past them. After the release of Pathfinder the original vocalist Martin Griffiths departed. Occasionally he had used his vibrato a bit too heavily, but nevertheless his strong voice had been an essential part of the band's distinctive sound. His replacement, former Savoy Brown member Pete Scott left during the session for the fourth album and was in turn replaced by Linnie Paterson who sings in a rough hard rock style. Undoubtedly two vocal songs from the miserable bulldog covered album is enough. Ricky Gardiner's instrumental 'Requiem' is carried by his wailing guitar in a lazy tempo. The best track of the Get Your Dog album is saved for last in this compilation: 'Classical Gas' composed by Mason Williams is a wonderful prog instrumental showcasing various keyboards from harpsichord to Moog.

Malcolm Dome has written the liner notes, and the 16-page cover booklet is lavish with colour/b&w photos and album information (with the harmful exception of track lengths). All in all the Vertigo years of Beggars Opera offer a very fruitful theme for a compilation. Without a doubt a one-disc set could have been an excellent "best of the best" selection but it surely takes two discs to represent the era in a more comprehensive depth. Worth purchasing especially if you don't already have the best albums Waters of Change and Pathfinder.

Matti | 4/5 |


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