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Sean Trane
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.

Report this review (#97768)
Posted Thursday, November 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Stackridge, from Bristol in England's West Country, recorded 3 masterpieces and several less interesting albums. Their 3 masterpieces are this debut album, Pinafore Days (Euro/UK title Man In The Bowler Hat), and Extravaganza. A band who fall into the category of "eclectic Beatles esque folkrock/prog" they wore the Beatles/60s influence in full regalia and in hindsight could have led to a band like Klaatu, without falling as low as they would after a flying start (you've GOTTA HAVE the first two Klaatu albums!). This album remains my favourite along with Extravaganza. The songs are full of lunacy and unexpected twists and turns. Take for example the album's longest track "Slark-" the tale of a boy swept off in a dream by a medieaval dragon. "Slark" is a real epic of dreamy vocals, lots of wild flute, and strange very English atmospherics. The rest of the album ranges from the mini tragedy "Percy The Penguin" which will remind you of The Beatles to more songs that will remind you of the Beatles, Bee Gees, et all!!! This is not to say Stackridge were unoriginal, they actually were VERY original, but loved 60s British pop and it left a stamp on their music. Country rock (think of a quirkier CSNY) influences creep into this magical brew too on "Dora The Female Explorer." If you want an album that turns into loud outbursts of wild guitar solos this will not be the one to do it, if you are looking for music to put you in a pleasant and joyous mood then you should pick this up without further adieu! Aside from the 3 songs I've mentioned, my favourite tracks along with "Slark" would have to be "Marigold Conjunction," "The 3 Legged Table," and "Grand Piano" all of which remind of the Beatles meets Genesis (the sophisticated melodic structures) only done in a more almost demo style dry rustic folkrock pop/rock way. I've been to Bristol many times and it's a delightful place, full of character, wit and charm. I would describe Stackridge as just that- character, wit, and charm. Aside from "Percy" and the trippy "Slark" this is feel good music- it makes you smile and it's nice to listen to it when you're feeling down. You'll find no ominous Satanic messages or Messianic vocals here, and the cover should make that obvious now shouldn't it. Stackridge never pretended to be heavy. An album doesn't have to be heavy to be a masterpiece. Stackridge's debut, with every song beautiful and glistening with post Beatles magic is a total masterpiece with no filler at all. It's also not the easiest to find of their albums, but should be obtainable if you look hard enough and you will be very rewarded.
Report this review (#101332)
Posted Friday, December 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Stackridge debut album is a very pleasant surprise. This is not my preferred style, but I think there are beautiful moments on the album.

The style is folky prog rock with beautiful vocals and vocal harmonies and some nice instrumental work underneath. I prefer Stackridge when they play the more sombre and mellow parts. A song like Percy the Penguin and the first part of Three Legged Table are beyond beautiful in my opinion. Those parts remind me of Genesis subtle acoustic parts. There are two other standout tracks here. The intriguing instrumental Essence of Porphyry and the folky epic Slark which is 14+ minutes long. The many folky parts does drag this down a bit for me as this is not my prefered style. I think Stackridge have a lot of great ideas though, some of them pretty progressive. Just listen to Three Legged Table which starts out with mellow subtle acoustic playing and ends with a rocking folky part.

The musicians are very good and the vocals are also very good.

The sound quality is very good for the time, but I´m not to fond of it personally. This is my personal opinion though and I´m sure others wont have the same problems. The drums just irritate me somehow.

This is an album full of great ideas and some really great parts. Everything on the album is not to my liking though and therefore I´ll rate it 3 stars. Good but not excellent.

Report this review (#163166)
Posted Tuesday, March 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Songs about dustbin lids and rhubarb!

Stackridge is a quintessential English band whose music is very hard to categorize. Their 1971 debut album is a variegated and highly inventive blend of folk, rock and Classical music, and is full of absurdity and quirky humour. This is a fun album. Instrumentally, it is dominated by flute, violin and acoustic guitar. Lyrically, it is filled with colourful characters and fantastical narratives; the band's two lyricists, Andy Creswell-Davis and James Warren, had intended to write a children's book around 6 of the album's songs though this idea never saw the light of day. However at least Stackridge's albums are now widely available on cd, so we can be thankful as these are truly charming works.

Highlights here include the upbeat Beatles pastiche of GRANDE PIANO, the whimsical WEST MALL that recalls The Bonzos, and the band's first single DORA THE FEMALE EXPLORER, which sounds like a West Country version of Lindisfarne complete with fiddle and harmonica. Brilliant! The entire album is good but it's the album's longer tracks that are probably of most interest to prog fans. THREE LEGGED TABLE is a multi-part song that sounds like Trespass- era Genesis with some rock'n'roll tagged on at the end, while the 8-minute instrumental, ESSENCE OF PORPHYRY, is an ambitious chamber music patchwork. However the undoubted centrepiece of the album is the epic SLARK, a 14-minute fairytale about a lad being carried off by the dragon of the title.

Stackridge is an eccentric, eclectic, slightly camp musical extravaganza. It's very English and it's very good.

Report this review (#283280)
Posted Monday, May 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Among the most legendary names of the British folk rock movement,this Bristol-based band were formed in 1969 by Andy Creswell-Davis and James Warren as Stackridge Lemon,soon to be named simply Stackridge.1970 finds the band having an intense live activity,playing also at the first Glastonbury Festival and the next year thing get even better with Stackridge supporting Wishbone Ash on their UK tour and signing with the famous MCA Records.Their debut was a fact,recorded at De Lane Lea Studios in London.

And what a great debut this is.''Stackridge'' is actually a mixed bag of short BEATLES-esque pop tunes and longer arrangements played in some sort of symphonic/folk style.Well,even these short accesible tunes are well-played with rich instrumentation and good multi- vocals,blended nicely with folsky violins,tracks which even THE BEATLES would be proud of creating.But it is these long arrangements which make this album so special like the great ''The Three Legged Table'',starting off like Phillips-era GENESIS,pastoral acoustic-driven musicianship later to become a catchy brass/violin-rock heaven with perfect vocal lines.''Essence of Porphyry'' is another (instrumental) highlight with complex instrumentation featuring violin and cello in a Medieval style and excellent acoustic passages with fantastic flute work,always under a classical nature,like a cross between GENESIS and GENTLE GIANT...or the 14-min. long ''Slark'',which closes the album,and this one is a beautiful composition split between Folk ballad,Medieval Music and Symphonic Rock with again some superb vocals.A real treasure.

Stackridge's debut is more than simply a great album.Even the easy-listening side of the band contains an unbielevable professionalism and an unmet personality,not to refer the absolutely fantastic performance of their progressive nature,marking this effort one of the most significant and impressive debut's in UK's prog history.Highly recommended,whether you are a fan of British Folk Music or not.

Report this review (#461373)
Posted Tuesday, June 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars The cover art work really says a lot about what's awaiting on the inside. Either on the LP or the CD. Or the cassette for that matter. The seagulls and the colours describe this album pretty well.

Released in 1971 and in a very strong folk rock scene which counted a lot of the best bands this genre has ever seen. Fairport Convention for example. But the music on this album also has a lot of the new pop sound in it. Some songs here reminds me a lot about what Sir Paul McCartney did back in those days. His first solo album, in particular. But the symphonic prog scene was also strong back then and a band like Renaissance was really moving the goalposts a lot. On the other side of the scene, Led Zeppelin was making a huge racket.

In the middle of all this, Stackridge soaked it up and released this album. For some reason and as my reference point, a lot of this album reminds me about their fellow mates Magna Carta. That's probably because I have all their albums though. Stackridge is more noisy and more energetic than Magna Carta.

The songs on this album is good without knocking me over in joy. The fourteen minutes long Slark tells about a lot of ambitions from this band without really pulling it off. The best two songs here are Dora the Female Explorer and Essence of Porphyry. But this is by no means a bad album from a band which anno 2011 is still touring and having fun.

This is a good debut album and recommended.

3 stars

Report this review (#559901)
Posted Sunday, October 30, 2011 | Review Permalink

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