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LOSE A LIFE

Beggars Opera

Symphonic Prog


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Windhawk
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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Scottish band BEGGARS OPERA had its heyday in the early 70's, back then issuing a trio of albums that are generally well regarded. Their recording career went into decline after that, however, and after 1980's "Lifeline" they went on a hiatus. A partial reformation by some members resulted in the less than thrilling effort "The Final Curtain" in 1996 as something of a last whimper. Then in 2007 original guitarist Ricky Gardiner and vocalist Virginia Scott returned with the album "Close to My Heart", and in 2009 this was followed by "Touching the Edge". And these days this reformed version of Beggars Opera seems to have reached some sort of creative peak, issuing no less than 3 full albums in 2010. "Lose a Life" is the last item of this trio.

Late 70's-sounding art rock dominated by two epic creations is what we're served on "Lose My Life", with orientations towards symphonic rock and space rock respectively, all wrapped up inside a concept album dealing with a topic the artist has a strong emotional attachment to. If this sounds intriguing, and in particular if you tend to enjoy bands exploring musical universes not too far away from Pink Floyd in overall style, Beggars Opera and "Lose a Life" might just warrant your attention. As long as you're not looking for a clone band that is: Despite many similarities, Beggars Opera has its own musical and compositional details that create a distinct musical identity.

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Send comments to Windhawk (BETA) | Report this review (#378859)
Posted Wednesday, January 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Electric Light Opera

"Lose a life" was the third of three albums released in 2010 by the current Beggar's Opera line up; the family trio of Gardiner, Gardiner and Scott remaining firmly in situ. This though is something of a different beast to the albums which precede it. Built around a concept, the album (subtitled "A Nano Opera based on a true story") is intended to "raise the profile of the world problem of Electrical Sensitivity" (ES), a condition from which Ricky Gardiner of the band suffers. The condition is essentially a vulnerability to particular sources of electricity, leading to a range of symptoms such as fatigue and headaches. ES is not a recognised medical condition, but that is not to say that those who suffer from it do not believe they have a genuine condition.

The lyrics to tracks here were all written by band member Virginia Aurora Scott, Ricky's wife. They are noticeably longer than the tracks on the previous releases by this line up of the band, the opening "Electrofire Invasion" running to over 11 minutes. It is also fair to say that these tracks have much more pertinence in terms of prog, with long guitar and keyboard phases being the order of the day. "Electrofire Invasion" is very much in the Pink Floyd mould, with carefully considered lead guitar riffs creating incisive but majestic soundscapes. Scott's lyrics are brief and focused as she attempts to describe the symptoms which the sufferer faces.

"Electro Half Light" inverts the arrangement of "Electrofire invasion" Scott's vocals coming up front then giving way to one of Gardiner's finest lead guitar solos. "Masts on my Roof" is the second of the 11+ minute tracks. The song is vocally intensive, giving greater details of the symptoms and the challenges faced by the sufferers. The lyrics also touch on the medical world's cynicism towards the existence of the condition. "Cosmic Tango" describes a panic attack endured by someone who feels trapped by an environment awash with potential threats (such as strip lights, mobile phone masts, etc.). It is very much a continuation of "Masts on my roof", both musically and lyrically.

"Dr Carlo" is named after someone who has carried out extensive research into ES, and has offered explanations of the causes. Scott's words on behalf of her husband, such as "Suddenly I see what is happening to me" reflect Ricky's moment of realisation. The album closes with the instrumental "Tango for the End of Time", a keyboards and guitar piece which picks the pace up a bit, while retaining the overall mood of the album.

As indicated up front, this album has little in common with the others by the Beggar's Opera of the 2000's. Indeed, "Lose a life" actually harks back more to the band's incarnation of the early 70's. While there was a certain element of fun there though, this is a thoroughly serious affair. The stated intention of drawing attention to the condition is addressed successfully, if slightly clumsily through the unambiguous lyrics, which tend to labour the point as they describe the challenges faced by those who believe they suffer from ES. Musically though, this is the most exciting of the albums the band have put out in recent years, the tracks being permitted to develop fully through well conceived instrumental arrangements. While overall the album is a bit too verbose, "Lose a life" is a fine addition to the Beggar's Opera discography.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#414466)
Posted Friday, March 11, 2011 | Review Permalink

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