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STACKRIDGE

Stackridge

 

Prog Folk

3.79 | 34 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Stackridge's debut album is one of those weird and unclassifiable oeuvre that defies easy categorization. Although the group enjoyed some chart success back in their prime days, they are largely forgotten nowadays even though they have reformed in the previous decade and are still active now. This first album came in a charming gatefold depicting a flock of seagulls, some of them showing some skyscapes on their body. The inside gatefold was quite frustrating because the lyrics and track listing are barely readable because of the choice of colours. Recorded in the spring of 71 and released that same year on the MCA label (home of The Who, Wishbone Ash and Elton John), the music on the album ranges from folk rock to Beatles-like pop to symphonic rock to almost country rock (which was still in the nascent days back then) and a quintessential feeling of Britishness. But overall, the folk roots are predominant even if it is hard to call this a full-blown folk prog album.

The least we can say is that Stackridge's debut is an original affair, provoking a flurry of mood from the charming to the irritating, but the very classical arrangements over the album is mostly due to Mike Evans' violin, Mutter Slater's flutes but also three cellos and three oboes sprinkled throughout the album. This album is a concept album bringing a bunch of comic character together in a loose bunch of adventures all sung by Davis or Warren with Mutter helping out on choruses.

From the late-Beatles-influenced opening track Grande Piano to full folky jig of Dora The Female Explorer (their first single) and the almost full symphonic twists of the instrumental Essence Of Porphyry (the highlight of the first side), the soundscapes are vast and wide-ranging. The Simon & Garfunkel-like folk (with a very classical music instrumentation, violins, flute and cellos) first section of Percy The Penguin (who has cucumber wings) gets transformed into a surprising brassy rock, crossover from Lennon (circa Let it Be) and Chicago Transit Authority on The Three-Legged Table.

The second side starts off with a countrier version of The Beatles in Marigold Conjunction and its successor 32 West Mall. Marzo Plod (the "strangest man alive") is another Beatles-laced track. The real highlight of the album is the amazing 14-min Slark with its extended instrumental second section and it is quite a tour de force. Weirdly enough, the groups saved their best tracks to end each side of the vinyl.

One of the tougher things to cope with on this album is the lack of real focus (or too wide a musical scope/spectrum), but this will become a sort of trademark throughout their discography. Definitely one of their best album, and still much worthy a spin, this album should be discovered in second or third after the more seminal Friendliness and tied with the Extavangaza album.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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