Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Stackridge - The Man in the Bowler Hat [Aka: Pinafore Days] CD (album) cover



Prog Folk

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!!

Third album from this strange and quirky combo with the sextet line-up unchanged. Generally regarded as their best by connoisseurs (most likely due to Sir George Martin's production and he played piano on two tracks), the album comes in a gatefold sleeve, but I must say that they could've made so much better with a little better judgment. Again, Stackridge pulls an incredibly English mood, and while I would not call it as typically folk (as in the folk rock of Fairport, Pentangle or even Comus), the group does have the traditional songs as the main influences and these guys entertained a bit of music hall tradition as they use Rhubarb leaves and garbage cans as stage props.

Starting again on the Beatlesque Fundamentally Yours, and continuing on the similar Pinafore Days, the album is full of strings and other arrangements (which I find are cluttering and choking the songs) and most of the album's lyrics are attributed to Smegmakovitch (bless you ;-), whomever he might be. The longer Last Plimsoul does pull the proghead's interest by finally giving us a bit more of musical interplay and the also longer Road To Venezuela but this is about it for interest on the first side. Both are separated by a very cheesy and overly symphonic Sun And Moon track.

The second side opens on the silly Galloping Gaucho (much too much a music hall track) the first one sung by flutist Mutter Slater and beautifully pastoral, slightly cheesy (but ultimately boring) Humiliation. More boredom awaits the proghead with Dangerous Bacon and Indifferent Hedgehog. Only the bright God Speed The Plough shows the group's real capacities at excellent and inventive songwriting, but even then, it is brought down by heavy Martin orchestrations. Ultimately I would prefer groups like Klaatu that managed a more credible and entertaining Beatles impersonation than this mistake of an album.

Not really agreeing on TMWTBH being their best album, I was always very taken aback from the overall Beatles-pop influences (always present in Stackridge's oeuvre), but this was a mistake to call on Sir George Martin. I would rather guide you with the preceding Friendliness or Extravanganza or even the rock opera of Mr. Mick.

Report this review (#97770)
Posted Thursday, November 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "The galloping Gaucho comes to town riding like a demon vaquero, bought his horse for half a crown and called him Scar Faced Jock"

For reasons which have become forgotten with the passing of time, I have the US version of this album which was released under the title "Pinafore days". The track listing is essentially the same, except that two tracks "To the Sun and Moon" and "The Indifferent Hedgehog" are replaced by "Spin round the room" and "One rainy July morning" from the following "Extravaganza" album (The latter was titled "Highbury incident (rainy July morning)" on "Extravaganza".

The album is very much a continuation of the previous "Friendliness", with perhaps an even lighter atmosphere. Right from the opening "Fundamentally yours", there are suggestions of the Korgis (a future pop focused band for Andy Davis). Once again though, the melodic pop sounds disguise some fine instrumentation and inspired compositions. This time, Beatles producer George Martin is brought in, emphasising further the band's aspirations to be a West country Beatles. Martin orchestrates three of the tracks, and plays piano on one ("Humiliation"). On tracks such as "The last plimsoll", the sound is so Beatlesque, it could be almost taken from one of their albums.

Only occasionally do we find a more reflective song, such as "The road to Venezuela", but even here the castanets and violin merely play a supporting role to what is essentially a very vocal album.

For me, side two is noticeably the superior. "The Galloping Gaucho" which opens the side will never win any prog awards, but it is a magnificently irreverent bit of fun. The lyrics are simultaneously amusing and totally impenetrable. When combined with the grand arrangement which harks back to the music hall days, this one of the album's highlights. The song contrasts wonderfully with the soft "Humiliation" which sounds like one of 10CCs most tasteful moments. "Dangerous bacon" also has 10CC similarities, but this time in an upbeat pop way.

The album closes with "God speed the plough". To describe this as an instrumental would seem inappropriate, as it is a wonderful symphony in 5˝ minutes. The track, which builds from solo piano to full string and mellotron orchestration is the high point of the album, sweeping along majestically while painting a wonderful picture of rural Britain.

Whether the substitute tracks on the US version are an improvement on those they replace is a matter of opinion. "Spin round the room" is however a rather ordinary melodic pop song. "One rainy July morning" is a fun Beatles parody. Interestingly, despite all but two of the tracks on "Pinafore days" also being on "The man in the bowler hat", the sleeve of the album has photos of the "Extravaganza" line up, thus ignoring, among others, James Warren's significant contribution.

In all, those who enjoy the "Rubber soul" era Beatles will find much to their liking here. The pop basis of many of the tracks is undeniable, but there are notable exceptions which make overall for a nicely balanced presentation.

Report this review (#131931)
Posted Sunday, August 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, the Beatels connection is obvious since Sir George Martin produce this album. But do not get fooled. Stackridge has enough to offer to make any pointless comparasing meaningful. They already made two exellent and eclectic albums, so what next?

"The man in the bowler hat" is, if not, an improvment concenering previous efforrts. Gone is the charming ditties and instead we are served a delicate menu of well crafted tunes. For me, a lost nothern hobo from one of the land of the rising sun (norrsken), this is an amalgam of joyus playing and well crafted arrangements. Hard to pick any favorites. the hole album is on the the menu. Take it or leave it!

Report this review (#250326)
Posted Friday, November 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Stackridge's popularity increased with each release and in February the band made its television debut on a BBC programm, followed by a two-month tour.It was something like a tradition for them to be supported by future Prog Rock giants, this time the supporting act meant to be the legendary Camel.Later on ex-Audience Keith Gemmell joined the band on saxophone and during the summer they recorded their third work ''The man in the bowler hat'' at the Air Studios in London, supervised by The Beatles' producer George Martin, who also appeared in a few tracks as a pianist.The album was the last one on MCA, launched in 1974 and released in a different version in USA and Canada under the title ''Pinafore days''.

At this point Stackridge appear to lose contact with their progressive beginnings, the presence of George Martin on the production stool surfaced an even more evident THE BEATLES' relation both on vocal and instrumental parts and the complex themes have been pretty much reduced to zero.On the other hand this was not your average Pop/Folk Rock album, it maintained a highly sophisticated profile with demanding orchestrations and instrumental richness among the sweet mono- and polyphonic harmonies and the charming melodies with the discreet GENESIS influences being still around in the guitar and organ parts, this is basically an Art Pop album with glimpses of British Prog Rock, heavily relying on the instrumental variety, lots of flute, strings and keyboards pop out in the process next to the standard electroacoustic sound of the band.The long tracks are sorely missed here and actually their length has been decreased to an average of 3 minutes each, but the inspiration of the British veterans remains always at a high level, even if THE MOODY BLUES, THE BEATLES or STEELEYE SPAN seem like more appropriate comparisons than to say Genesis or Strawbs.Veteran producer George Martin helped the band to complete some great orchestral moves, doubled with Britrish Folk and Pop sensibilities, the result was a pretty fascinating work with lovely harmonies and a pretty accesible sound.

Not among the priorities of a Classic Prog fan.This sounds mostly like The Beatles at their most complicated attempts, orchestral and melodic music with minor proggy vibes, quite tasteful and fairly entertaining.Recommended.

Report this review (#1384775)
Posted Thursday, March 19, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars STACKRIDGE are blessed with the kind of solid well-established name that has the same enduring appeal as the legendary place names: Woodstock, Glastonbury, Stonehenge... and Milton Keynes. The evergreen music of Stackridge has withstood the test of time too. The band formed over half a century ago from the remnants of Grytpype Thynne (a band with an instantly forgettable name) in the Cheddar Gorge area of Somerset, although there's nothing cheesy about the gorgeous music of Stackridge, other than their fine blend of Prog-Folk-Pop having matured nicely over the years. Stackridge produced an impressive string of five back-to-back albums during the early to mid-1970's:- "Stackridge" (1971); "Friendliness" (1972); "The Man in the Bowler Hat" (1974); "Extravaganza" (1975); and "Mr Mick" (1976). Sadly, the band broke up shortly after the release of "Mr Mick" due to album sales being as disappointingly sluggish as a snail at a snail's funeral. Two former members of Stackridge went on to form The Korgis in the late 1970's, a Pop group best-remembered for their hit single and Soft Rock favourite, "Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime." They say you can't keep a good band down, and Stackridge returned with a vengeance, a new line-up and a new recording contract over twenty years later with two more albums:- "Something for the Weekend" (1999) and "A Victory for Common Sense" (2009). It's the third Stackridge album "The Man in the Bowler Hat" that we're focusing on here, recorded at a time when city business gents really DID wear bowler hats in the financial district of London. The album was famously produced by George Martin, the former Beatles' producer, and became the band's biggest chart success, reaching #23 in the U.K albums chart. The 1996 CD re-issue includes the bonus track "Do the Stanley", a gloriously silly marching song that delights in its cockney "Cor Blimey Guv'nor" Englishness.

We're kicking off the album with the immensely catchy Beatle-esque tune, "Fundamentally Yours", and when you hear this bright and uplifting ode to love for the first time, you'll believe in the awesome power of music to stir and reinvigorate the soul, in just the same way as a fundamental belief in Scientology will allow you to fly an F-14 Tom-Cat upside down in the morning and then make love to Kelly McGillis in the afternoon, but only if your name happens to be Tom Cruise. The second jolly tune "Pinafore Days" has a rather quaint and quirky old-fashioned music hall feel to it, which sounds as quintessentially English as The Man in the Bowler Hat travelling into work on a Red London Bus (circa 1974). This charming and delightful waltzy tune is as polite and well-mannered as Jeeves the Butler serving up English tea and toasted crumpets on a silver salver to Lord Bertie Wooster. Pop meets Prog for the third song on the album "The Last Plimsoll", a jubilant Pop song that's sailing well above the Plimsoll line on a joyous wave of hope and eternal optimism. The obscure but fun lyrics are an enigma wrapped inside a conundrum:- "Fat punk, low down skunk, remember what you told me, Mad monk, blind drunk, be a good boy and reward me, Come on, the last plimsoll on my feet, Will lead me where the squealers meet." ..... There's no reason, but there IS rhyme, and it's a great song too. This cheerful and revitalising classic tune is more Poppy than Proggy, but this is sparklingly effervescent 1970's Pop, and not some soulless, manufactured boy-band inanity from the present day. There's more Baroque Pop on the way with "To the Sun and the Moon", a heavenly song of joy that's positively bursting with more peace and love than a hippy flower-power festival in San Francisco. It's a celebration of parental love and affection and the beautifully touching lyrics deserve a brief mention here:- Sun gives us strength, Moon gives us feeling, Earth child of Heaven, Seed of the Sun and Moon. Our Father and our Mother guide our lives night and day." ..... This vibrant song is as warm and comforting as a Golden Labrador sleeping on a fluffy hearth rug in front of a blazing log fire in winter. "Hola amigos!" We're bound for distant foreign shores now on "The Road to Venezuela", a melodious and richly orchestrated tune that's bathed in warm vibrant strings and Latin American castanets. This exuberant Spanish-flavoured music is as exotic and celebratory as the Carnival in Rio. "Ole!"

The South American theme continues with the Side Two opener, "The Galloping Gaucho", although the wacky offbeat music sounds more like a crazy funfair ride at an English amusement park than a Latin American carnival. It's all the fun and frivolity of the fair with the sound of a circus pipe organ (a calliope) adding a sense of cheerful insanity to the proceedings. This Looney Tunes song is so Off the Wall, it's crazier than a helter-skelter Thriller ride at the Neverland Ranch with Michael Jackson and Bubbles the chimp for company. There's a strong environmental message contained within the lyrics of our next song, "Humiliation", a mournful bittersweet lament about the using up of the world's resources, which sounds like it could have been penned by the Rainbow Warriors of Greenpeace. It's a sad lilting refrain, but beautiful at the same time, featuring a gentle electric piano melody with lush orchestration provided by legendary Beatles' producer George Martin. This harmonious song is as smooth and sophisticated as James Bond in a white tuxedo with a dry Martini in hand (shaken not stirred), just before he coolly and calmly despatches another villain with his trusty Walther PPK and then delivers another immortal one-liner with the raising of an eyebrow and barely a hair-piece out of place. If pigs could fly, they might be considered "Dangerous Bacon", and that's the title of our next jolly little ditty. The Beatles' influences can most clearly be heard here in this bouncy high-spirited song that romps along merrily and which also features some wonderful Fab Four-style harmonisation. From a porky song to a prickly song now with "The Indifferent Hedgehog", a short and sweet hymnal tribute to cute hedgehogs everywhere - for those of us who are lucky enough to have seen a lovely live hedgehog and not one that's been squashed by a truck at the side of the road. And finally, to round off the album in suitably rousing and anthemic style, we arrive at the BIG orchestral George Martin production number, "God Speed the Plough", a grand triumphal Land of Hope and Glory epic that has all of the magnificent pomp and majestic splendour of Edward Elgar at Last Night of the Proms. This stupendous music soars higher than motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel's* death-defying leap over the fountains at Caesar's Palace, only without the inevitable bone-crushing landing.

*Incidentally, Robert "Evel" Knievel acquired his unusual nickname from a sheriff in his hometown of Butte, Montana, after being banged up in a cell overnight next door to Awful Knaufel.

Stackridge may be billed as a Prog-Folk band here at ProgArchives, but "The Man in the Bowler Hat" is neither Prog nor Folk. This is a pure Pop album in the best traditions of The Beatles, so if you're a fan of the Fab Four, then there's a very good chance you'll like this classic Pop album too. This merry bunch of minstrels have delivered a varied and entertaining high-wire circus act with Beatles' producer George Martin acting as Ringmaster General. If you were expecting to hear a Prog-Folk album, then this album may prove to be as surprising as going for a massage, and then discovering that your masseuse is actually a man named Sergei who learnt all about pressure points while serving as a Russian Spetsnaz assassin!

Report this review (#2408303)
Posted Saturday, May 30, 2020 | Review Permalink

STACKRIDGE The Man in the Bowler Hat [Aka: Pinafore Days] ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of STACKRIDGE The Man in the Bowler Hat [Aka: Pinafore Days]

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.