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Beggars Opera

Symphonic Prog

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Beggars Opera Waters Of Change album cover
3.64 | 231 ratings | 25 reviews | 22% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Time Machine (8:00)
2. Lament (1:51)
3. I've no Idea (7:42)
4. Nimbus (3:43)
5. Festival (6:00)
6. Silver Peacock (Intro)(0:22)
7. Silver Peacock (6:33)
8. Impromptu (1:14)
9. The Fox (6:52)

Total Time: 42:03

Line-up / Musicians

- Martin Griffiths / lead vocals, cow bell
- Ricky Gardiner / lead & acoustic guitars, vocals
- Alan Park / organ, piano
- Virginia Scott / Mellotron, vocals
- Gordon Sellar / bass, acoustic guitar, vocals
- Raymond Wilson / drums, percussion

- Marshall Erskine / bass & flute (5)

Releases information

LP Vertigo ‎- 6360 054 (1971, UK)
LP Tapestry Records ‎- TPT 287 (2017, Europe)

CD Line Records ‎- LICD 9.00724 O (1989, Germany)
CD Repertoire Records ‎- REP 5056 (2006, UK)

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BEGGARS OPERA Waters Of Change ratings distribution

(231 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(22%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(48%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

BEGGARS OPERA Waters Of Change reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Nothing to write home about - this is pleasant but no great undiscovered treasure . With their first 2 albums , Beggar was a correct band with a bit of all the ingredients we are all looking for , but even if they had gotten a better exposition , they would have remained in the second league, as they simply not had the genius to break it big (a little like Argent but those guys could write a good single).

The music here is actually much more mature than the one developped on their debut which was too derivative of Mk I Purple and The Nice . On Water Of Change, they have definitely bettered in the vocal dept and the songwriting. Athough , every time I listen to this album, I cannot help thinking of Cressida, Barclay James Harvest and to a lesser extent The Moody Blues, they manage to sound personal enough that my unease towards that came with the debut is absent with this one.

This is still worth a spin but put an ear on it before buying it. Start with this one or Act 1 and try the next one (Pathfinder), which I found (IMHO) particularly uninspired but still prog. All later albums are to be avoided.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Swimming in mellotron

"Waters of change" was Beggar's opera's best album in my opinion, full of strong melodies and well constructed songs. Having introduced themselves with the innovative, classically driven "Act one", the band invested in a mellotron, which instantly became the dominant instrument in their sound. The band moved away from the intricate symphonic prog of their first album, towards the art rock of the Moody Blues and Barclay James Harvest.

The stately "Time machine" opens the album the mellotron sound instantly swirling behind the rich distinctive vocals of Martin Griffiths. The best track for me is "Silver peacock", a deceptively straight forward song, with more excellent keyboard work, a superb melody, and atmospheric vocals. There is a coherence and continuity to the tracks which allows the album a flow well.

A few more albums like this, and Beggar's Opera could have been as big as their art rock peers. Unfortunately after one more quality album, they were to quickly run out of steam.

Review by erik neuteboom
3 stars This second album from Beggar's Opera is more refined than the exciting but not very original and elaborated first LP. Most compositions are build upon pleasant organ and Mellotron, warm, distinctive vocals and flowing, a bit fiery electric guitarwork. They sound accesible and melodic but the arrangements are very tasteful delivering beautiful and varied climates, from dreamy to up-tempo. It makes the second album from Beggar's Opera to a great progrock experience. The best had yet to come with their third but THIS IS WARM AND TASTEFUL, EARLY SEVENTIES PROGROCK!!
Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Waters Of Change is one of those lovely efforts that is worthy of the "little-known masterpiece" tag that is so freely applied to the literally hundreds of obscure recordings in progressive rock circles. Not having heard either the debut album Act One or the lauded successor Pathfinder (aside from the delectable cover of MacArthur Park) I can't comment on how this album matches up to the rest of this Scottish sextet's output, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if this was the finest Beggar's Opera album.

At the heart of the group is an understated but effective dual keyboard attack of mellotronist Virginia Scott, whose sounds paint crucial colours that help the other musicians shine, and organist/pianist Alan Park, who gets the lion's share of the many fine solos that puntuacte this recording at regular intervals. If pushed I'd say that Park's organ solo in I've No Idea is very narrowly his finest moment, but as overall songs, it is Time Machine and Silver Peacock that really clinched the deal for me. Here the vocals of Martin Griffiths (which don't always work) and the subtle guitar work of Ricky Gardiner come into play.

Although there are 9 tracks listed here, the album's core is 5 strong pieces. There's the scintillating, beautifully paced Time Machine (with a guitar hook that just sticks in your head) and the throbbing I've No Idea (with surprisingly poppy lyrics). There's Festival (which redeems itself after a poor start and contains some flute playing by original bassist Marshall Erskine who had been replaced by Gordon Sellar for this album) and the lovely Silver Peacock, which starts off with some baroque organ (Bach surely?) and then rides on a beautiful melody before concluding with some more majestic melodic solo work from Park. The fifth "main" song is the thrill a minute jazz-rock conclusion The Fox, which like Festival seems to have to overcome some weak passages to sit comfortably alongside the other excellent tracks on the album ... some spacey guitar lead work from Gardiner eventually does the trick!

Three of the other tracks function as brief introductions to some of the main fare (although the string/guitar exchange between Scott and Gardiner is quite special), while the fourth Nimbus is a pretty, but unremarkable instrumental (although for some reason the string attack of the Britpop phenomenon Verve's Bittersweet Symphony comes to mind).

Beggar's Opera is not one of those slick "audiophile" prog groups ... indeed there are rough edges to this album. I don't think it needs any smoothing out though. ... 73% on the MPV scale

Review by Heptade
4 stars One of the more interesting proto-prog albums, this one has instant appeal for the mellotron and Hammond lover, as there are lashings of both all over it. Beggar's Opera's style is hard to define. Though there are many symphonic moments and an occasional Scottish folk influence, Martin Griffiths' vocals are the defining aspect of the band's sound, and they are definitely an acquired taste (his vocals on their cover of MacArthur Park on Pathfinder are WAAY over the top). His ultra-melodramatic style actually nudges the band over towards the pomp rock of Queen at times...perhaps BO were a proto prog pomp band. At any rate, they sound more original than other bands like Fantasy, Gracious! and Cressida from the same period. The compositions are generally strong, as is the electric guitar soloing of Ricky Gardiner. The highlight of the album for me is an atmospheric instrumental, Nimbus, featuring some beautiful mellotron and almost E-bowish sustained guitar notes. Fortunately, the Nice-ish classical aspirations of the first album, Act One, are mostly absent here, with more emphasis on songwriting. Hence, this is the band's strongest album, just edging out Pathfinder, and I can easily recommend it to anyone looking for some quality early British prog...just watch out for those vocals.
Review by kenethlevine
3 stars This is one of the better "proto-prog" efforts IMO. Unlike the tentative sounding works by some of the other bands like Fantasy and Cressida, Waters of Change really makes a stylistic statement, seemingly unaware that it operates in a gray area between psych and prog, and the result is quite satisfying if a bit uneven.

Beggars Opera mixes plenty of organs and some mellotrons with oratorial and dignified vocals and some good guitar work. When you consider that the original works of Procol Harum, BJH and Moody Blues Mach II all came several years before, this is far from groundbreaking work, but is confident and well played.

Particular favourites are "Festival", with its livelier interludes recalling English folk but also its jam session feel, the monumentally reverential "Silver Peacock", and the pensive instrumental "Nimbus".

Waters of Change might take a few listens to seep in, but by and large it is worth the effort.

Review by Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars There's something in the Water...

A promising swirl of synths gives way to a slightly better than mediochre Prog Rock album from somewhere midway in the 2nd division, with lyrics guaranteed to make your toenails curl.

"Time Machine" is a catchy song, whose style reminds me somewhat of "In The Court", a lead organ line somewhat reminiscent of Eric Burdon's killer hook in "Misunderstood", and an overal flavour of Wishbone Ash meet the Moody Blues. Then there's that Tufnell special of a guitar solo, wending its way dextrously around the pentatonic scale, with a couple of choice modes thrown in to keep things interesting.

A hard rock style groove propels this song through verses, choruses and solos - the organ solo is very reminiscent of Lord's style; tastefully done, and with a satisfying build-up that's sadly cut across by the guitar producing a redundant echoing solo spinning out the end of the song unnecessarily. However, bearing in mind we're back in 1971, a very tasteful piece that could have been improved with proper lyrics.

"Lament", even at a shade under 3 minutes, is a more progressive track, with a distinctive Scottish flavour from the solo melody line over a drone and military snare, then we're into a track that, I suppose, they had issues coming with a title for...

"I've No Idea" is a kind of love song with a tasteful organ arrangement and some nice shifts in the riffs that stop it sounding over repetitive - between the rather unimaginative verses, that is. The most interesting feature of this piece is the instrumental bridge, which features some very tasty organ playing, sporting a lot of scale practice, but also some really neat touches that are groovetastic. One might think it's a pity that the band largely sit in the groove in a way - but then the fills show you exactly why they decided on the groove approach. There are some reasonable fill ideas, but these are largely sloppily executed.

Although the return to the song might have you, like me, reaching for the skip button, there is more of that groove to come - and a nice little piano fill, in between bursts of song, that are worth sticking around for. You can press skip when the guitar solo starts, though - nothing you haven't heard before, and plenty of water-treading. ;o)

"Nimbus" is another Scottish-flavoured instrumental - it's clear that the band had plenty of good musical ideas. The big problem they faced, as a potential Prog Rock band, is that they, as a band, had no idea whatsoever on how to develop, or progress, these ideas. Like "Lament", at 2:24 or so, the piece completely runs out of steam - although this time, they keep going, adding whiny screeches on the guitar in case this helps.

"Festival" shows that some thought was put into the overall album shape - an uptempo rocker, spoiled utterly by the inclusion of vocals and the nastiest lyrics so far, not to mention little interjections of Keith Emerson's masterly interpretation of Bernstein's "America". Again, the best bits are generally where there are no vocals - and there are some tasty little grooves packed in here - but behind the vocal line, the band sneak in some wicked piano licks. With the guitar and organ duet, Wishbone Ash are conjoured up again, and then a little overblown flute suggests Jethro Tull influence on the sound, and the grooves fly thick and fast, giving this piece a few additional points on the Prog scale.

I nearly choked on my coffee when I heard the Silver Peacock intro - "Stonehenge" anyone?

Then the piece itself starts with a rippling organ motif that sounds rather Bach influenced, and is rather gorgeous. This segues into a fairly original sounding groove, and this time, tongue firmly in cheek, I can take the vocals - although I may need some more tissues to wipe the coffee from my desk. I think it's the serious, quasi-operatic tone of the vocalist that does it - but in this piece, he's come up with a superb melody line, and the backing is fantastic - especially when it all drops away, around 3 minutes in, to plinky guitars, drifting mellotrons, swishing cymbals and thumping bass - fantastic textures, dodgy fills, but great grooves.

The kitchen sink is thrown in a bit, as the piece progresses - but that only adds to it, the whole ridiculous overblown spectacle of it - pure musical comedy gold - and in all fairness, great music too, if somewhat Procol Harum in more than one place.

Next up, a little Impromptu - the 'Cello appears to be uncredited, but the texture is a nice surprise, and works well against the nylon-strung guitar, which appears to be playing a piece I learned for my grade 2 so many years ago. Very nice.

Finally, another uptempo rocker, "The Fox", apparently based on the Joe 90 theme music - the vocals are spat out in a style drawn from any one of a large number of Broadway musicals, such as Oaklahoma! or Carousel, and there's some fun with time signatures here. This feeds into the best groove so far on an album not short on great grooves. The bass and half-time drums are completely compulsive, and the accellerando a real tease, when it's dropped back to the first groove and verse.

The Hammond really growls in this one - you can feel the Leslie rotating around your headphones, the Mellotron weaves a tangled web that drifts smokily, the vocal harmonies create another mysterious veil above the tribal drums, and then a monster groove... spoiled a bit by a return to the vocals - but we've hit the climax of the album, in just the right place - a couple of minutes from the end. Now we've hit it, the band aren't too sure how to take it to the end, with a rather jaunty organ solo that feels very out of place. A dodgy speeding up fill later, and we're into the banging ending that fizzles out a bit of a damp squib.

The Summary

An album that shows promise from the start, but doesn't initially capture the imagination too well, sticking as it does in Groove Rock territory - let down by awful lyrics. However, stick with it, and it does repay the investment of time - even if the ending does leave you feeling a little short-changed. It's better to travel than to arrive, they say - and in this album, there's plenty of proggy entertainment on the journey, albeit mainly in the latter half.

There are also a whole lot of great grooves, Mellotrons, and Prog textural goodness a-plenty for those moments when you've heard the Classics a few times too many, don't fancy the way-out stuff or plain hard rock, but something in between with a bit of Proggy flair.

3 stars isn't quite right for this album - I think it's essential listening.

Find a friend who's got it, and get them to play it to you - or buy it, then pass it around. I doubt you'd want to hear it too many times, but by gum, you'll be glad of the one or two times you do!

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This has been such an enjoyable listen this past week. Very melodic with the mellotron and organ usually dominating the sound. These guys just knew how to make great songs, which sound even better because of the hammond and mellotron. I wonder if Virginia Scott(mellotron) was any kind of an influence on Sofi Dahlberg from ANEKDOTEN.

"Time Machine" opens ominously before the organ and mellotron arrive. I love the guitar throughout this tune that recalls some of the great Krautrock guitar players. Everytime the vocals come in the guitar stops. It's an absolute mellotron storm during this track. Check out the organ 6 1/2 minutes in,and the guitar solo to follow. Initially this was my favourite, but "I've No Idea" may have surpassed it. "Lament" is a short organ piece with marching-like drums coming in part way through. This one seems to be a nod to their Scottish heritage. "I've No Idea" is just too darn catchy. The lyrics are on the poppy side but the music just sweeps me away. The piano, organ and drum melody is too pleasing. Some great organ before 3 minutes. Mellotron 4 1/2 minutes in as the vocals become soft. Great section ! Oh, and check out the guitar during the final minute. "Nimbus" is an instrumental of acoustic guitar, drums and synths? With mellotron and organ eventually joining in making it even better. This one is kind of atmospheric and spacey.

'Festival ' is an uptempo, fun track to start with. I like it better when it calms down 1 1/2 minutes in though. It takes off again 3 minutes in with flute joining in this time. Some nice guitar a minute later. "Silver Peacock(Intro)" is just that, a short intro featuring some spoken words introducing us to the next track, with organ helping out. "Silver Peacock" opens with a very classical sound of uptempo organ and light drums.The song changes and kicks off a minute in. Vocals,mellotron, organ and drums lead the way. I like this one. "Impromptu" is a short instrumental of gently played guitar and cello. "The Fox" has a lot of tempo changes and fairly fast paced vocals to begin with, although they change a lot too. I like the organ and guitar melody 3 minutes in. The vocals speed up again followed by a nice organ solo. Some beautiful mellotron followed by a heavy section where the lyrics make fun of the now caught fox. A very proggy tune.

I highly recommend this album.To fans of mellotron and organ this is a must have.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Waters of Change is the second studio album from symphonic Prog rock band Beggars Opera. I found the debut album from Beggars Opera pretty enjoyable even though it is not my favorite album. Waters of Change is a bit different compared to the debut but still has most of the characteristics of Beggars Opera.

The biggest difference between the two albums is that Waters of Change seems a bit more focused and coherent. The longer jamming sections with organ solos are not present on Waters of Change. There is lots of organ playing from Alan Park but it seems a bit more structured than was the case on the debut. Since the debut the band has purchased a mellotron which is now also a big part of their sound. I still think this album is mostly organ driven prog rock.

The music is generally very organ driven rock with a distinct, skilled and at times theatrical singer in Martin Griffiths. There are definite classical influences and Iīm of course reminded of bands like ELP and Egg. The album starts with the heavy Time Machine and weīre also treated with the good Iīve No Idea on side one of the original LP. Silver Peacock is the highlight of the album for me with itīs beautiful melody.

The musicianship is good but Alan Park and Martin Griffiths are the two most prominant characters in the band. The others are at times reduced to a backing band which is a bit of a shame really. Beggars Opera does lack some better intrumental sections which involves something else that organ soloing.

The production is good for the time and much better than on the debut.

Waters of Change is a good symphonic prog rock album but I donīt think itīs excellent. This is and album organ enthusiasts will probably enjoy more than I do. Iīll rate Waters of Change 3 stars and like in my review of the debut I must admit that Beggars Opera just isnīt something for me.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars Their debut album was an excellent heavy-rock album combined with fine psychedelia and this album was released just a few months after.

This is exactly what we get with the opener Time Machine: solid organ, psyche mood, heavy beat. It is an excellent way to start and it is on par with some of the best Act One songs. The organ play is particularly impressive. Probably the best song from this album.

Some short and useless parts should have been avoided (Lament, Impromptu), but most full songs are quite pleasant even if time left its mark on this recording.

The major attraction is the very good organ breaks which are featured throughout this album (but I admit that I am quite biased upon this). They usually turn a good song into a very good one like I've No Idea. A fine mellotron will add another great slice of keys and the combination with very smooth vocals provides such a nice feeling: it is a melodic yet powerful song which is another highlight.

Festival is a complex track which mixes different sources. It takes a while to kick off, but the second half is just amazing: a fantastic beat and strong fluting is reminding me of the mighty Tull. It is just a pity that the whole track wasn't of that calibre.

Another asset of this album is the generally good vocals featured. When you combined this with great tron lines (Silver Peacock), it is obvious that I can only be charmed by such aspects.

The music developed in this album is more symphonic than their debut and should really please all the lovers form this genre. Some Emerson-like keys come out The Fox as well. As usual, they are combined with these great mellotron and sweet vocals. A Beggar's Opera trademark really.

Each of the longest song from this album are really worth a listen. Fans of Hammond organ and mellotron should be delighted. Some shorter tracks prevent me to rate Waters O change with four stars though.

Review by loserboy
3 stars Beggars Opera came onto the music scene as Progressive Rock was starting and had taken grasp worldwide. "Waters Of Change" was the second album they released and featured the intorduction of the mellotron into this bands music (and Virginia Scott for that matter). Beggars Opera were from Scotland and musically took their leads from some of the classic bands Led Zep, Jethro Tull and Deep Purple. Musically this album sounds like a cross of Ireland's FRUUPP (aka Martin Griffiths lead vocals) and Collesseum. Originally this album was released on Vertigo records so this should give you some insight into the character if the band and their music alone ! An excellent album from head to tail.....
Review by b_olariu
4 stars -Beggars Operais one of the most underrated progressive rock bands from early '70 from UK, more specific from Scotland. They begun their carrer in 1969 , thaken their name from a novel of John Gray from 1728. Even they share same period with the giants like Genesis, Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, Yes, Pink Floyd or King Crimson, Beggars Opera never made it in first league, strange because at least first 3 albums are a worthy aquisition to anyones collection. Water of change is their second album from 1971, release at famous Vertigo label , after the moderate succes Act one previous year. The sound on this second offer is more elaborated, more confident, established and instristing in same time then on first album. The music is somthing between Barclay James Harves, the eclectic moments with a touch of symphonic arrangements not far from Genesis, Yes, with catchy mellotron elements and great guitar chops all over. The keyboards arrangements, here included mellotron, piano and organ are made in a great diversivity, some duels between female Virginia Scott with excellent musician Alan Park. Above all I like a lot the voice of Martin Griffith, very powerful range and a catchy as hell tone of voice, even for some reviewers the voice is the weakest part of the album, for me is quite contrary, excellent job. All the pieces are winners here, not a weak moment, I'de liked to hear more vein in some parts and more bursting moments to give a certain esthablished atmosphere from their music, but anyway good album for sure. The pieces are well developed with great passages , like on the title traks , a classic of early prog music, but my fav track is The Fox, with stunning bass lines and solid rythmic arrangements all over and with some very intrsting key passages who interluded like glove with the guitar. With such great second album, Beggars Opera was a truly a band to follow in the future with good potential, but with all that positive reviews from fans and critics , the band after 3 great albums, took a wrong path in progressive rock and almost fall into oblivion in mid to late '70's, and for good reason, the music was weak and almost lost everything magic like on this album and third one from 1972. Maybe that 's why they never made it in first league of progressive rock movement like the masters. I will give easy for Waters of change 4 stars, a great album, quite unnoticed in comparation with other albums from that period and for sure has great moments to offer. Great additon to anyones collection and one of the good aquisition if you like to discover a little less known acts from progressive rock treasure chest.
Review by Menswear
2 stars Par.

My hopes were not very high, but still I got disappointed. This is the kind of band that makes you realize that little league prog bands like Eloy or Camel were really, really good. If I ever started my prog collection with this band, this would be different.

My main complaint is the lack of complexity in their songs. They offer more psychedelic factor than progressive. For example, their pattern seems to repeat the same lines (with LSD vocal effects) with few instrumental demonstration (''Time machine....Time machine....Silver Peacock...Silver Peacock..'' enough already!!).

The vocals are a bit overboard, giving more (cheese) than the song needs. Phew, I'm sorry but besides the good interludes between the songs, I'm pressing skip more than I want to.

If not satisfied, try Eloy.

Review by friso
3 stars Beggars Opera - Waters of Change (1971)

This Scottish symphonic/crossover prog band isn't often mentioned, though Beggars Opera does have something to offer for fans of the symphonic genre. The band recorded under the Vertigo flag and thus had a good recording, way better then that of Geneses and Yes in the same years. The keyboards, drum, bass and guitars sound thick and the vocal sound full and close in the room.

Beggars Opera sounds as if playing prog from after '76, but this is actually a very early album. The band sounds as if most of the material is written by the guitar-player and the keyboardist, showcasing some nice interplay there. The vocals are bright, high-pitched and a bit glamorous, but somehow I can really enjoy them. The material of Beggars Opera never get's too intelligent, but there is extended song-writing with many themes, mainly on side one.

The only problem with this 'Water of Change' release is the inconsistency of the record. I could easily give side one the four star rating. 'Time machine' is just a great opening track with a very classy main theme and great vocals during the couplet. At times the track get's very exciting, but the strength lies in the continuity of the strong rhythms. The other long track of side one 'I've No Idea' also has some very catchy melodic parts and some more strong vocals, but the lyrics are a bit of letdown (love, love, love..). The symphonic land-scape of 'Nibus' is a strong ending of the first side. 'Festival', the opener for side two, is a happy track about a festival that makes everybody happy. It's funny how the Italian PFM would kind of semi-cover this track of Beggars Opera. Their 'E' Festa' has the same form, the same rhythms (just listen to those bass-lines) and an extrovert happy style. The 'Silver Peacock' intro uses the mellotron to recreate the medieval court trumpet style, which is quite a funny take on the instrument. The 'Silver Peacock' track itself lacks the direct sound of the that of other songs before-mentioned. The refrain has however a catchy theme. The final track 'The Fox' fails to amaze me, but it also has some good instrumental passages.

Conclusion. This is a strong early symphonic progressive rock album that should be regarded as such. It's too bad the band couldn't keep up the energy and vibe of side one for the material of side two, which somehow sounds less interesting and direct. Still recommended to fans of the symphonic genre, who will find a well recorded obscurity (which is quite rare in itself). Three and a halve stars.

Review by Warthur
4 stars The followup to Act One is no lost masterpiece, but it's enough of a step up from its predecessor to merit an extra star and the full attention of anyone keen on the Vertigo label's early prog bands. The songwriting approach moves away here from the Keith Emerson- inspired approach of the previous album - gone are the super-fast songs dominated by Alan Park's organ tossing out classical quotations like anything - and in its place are more balanced songs on which the other instrumentalists get a more equal share of the spotlight, and the pace is a bit more varied than on Act One (which was more or less stuck in "fast" gear with regular excursions to "extra fast").

Part of this is due to the increased role of Virginia Scott in the group - she'd been brought in for the previous album as a songwriter to compose original material for the group, and with the sharp reduction in covers of baroque classical pieces (in fact, I think all the music here is original) her contributions have more room to breathe. (As, indeed, do the musical ideas of the other band members, most of whom step up to contribute to the songwriting on this album.) On top of that, Scott became a performing member of the band at this point in time too, joining as the group's dedicated mellotron player, her playing adding new layers of texture to the songs and helping to make them less of a purely organ-dominated affair.

None of these improvements - or the higher standard of production - are quite enough to propel Beggars Opera into the stratosphere, but the album still stands head and shoulders over its predecessor, and should probably be your first port of call if you plan to explore the band's work.

Review by stefro
3 stars Although this curious Scottish outfit would arguably reach their creative peak on 1972's excellent 'Pathfinder' album, both their previous efforts - 1970's classically-influenced 'Act One' and this 1971 release - are well worth investigating.

Eschewing the classical motifs of their debut for a more rock-based sound and made-up of shorter individual compositions, 'Waters Of Change' proves to be a surprisingly eclectic effort featuring a broad palette of style's, the album's nine tracks truly running the stylistic gamut and moving gracefully from celestial psychedelia('Time Machine'') to straight-ahead symphonic rock('Nimbus') and back again via the theatrical strains baroque pop('Silver Peacock').

Six-strong, Beggar's Opera were one of the many groups who operated on the margins of the progressive rock genre, never fully attaining true commercial-or-critical success yet making enough of a splash to be taken seriously. With each album deliberately different from the next, this was a very much a group with lots of ideas but just a tad unsure of how to actually use them all. And 'Waters Of Change' is a prime example. Never dull, it offers up some great moments - opening track 'Time Machine' is suitably atmospheric - yet showcases a slightly absurdist streak that sometimes detracts from the music. That said, you'll do well to find anyone quite like Beggars Opera, with the nearest touchstone probably being the similarly- eclectic sounds of Howard Werth's Audience. Hardly essential stuff then, but not without it's merits.


Review by Einsetumadur
3 stars 10.25/15P. Exploring the Celtic roots served as a perfect means to define an original sound. This is one of the rare albums which are kept together by its shortest songs - nonetheless, some generic R&B/soul elements and silly moments belittle the overall impression.

First of all I'd like to say that I don't like Beggars Opera's debut album Act One at all, that album being marred by derivative arrangements, a lack of good compositions and vocals which are powerful, but which don't suit the thinnish sound of the rest of the band. All of the moments which promise at least some atmosphere are (sooner or later) overrun by the omnipresent wish to sound like The Nice, especially the attempts to copy the Davison/Jackson rhythm section and their simultaneously swinging and stoic metre.

The first piece off Waters Of Change which I listened to was the huge symphonic masterpiece Time Machine. 'Same style as Act One, but better songwriting and great Mellotron', I initially thought, but after finally getting hold of an original vinyl pressing of Waters Of Change I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the brief songs which most people don't care a lot about. After all I came to the conclusion that these little pieces give the album a very different and unique style, a style which the band sadly didn't pursue any further on later albums.

The majestic opener Time Machine features gorgeous Mellotron strings, a solemn and catchy vocal melody and a really fat organ background. Interestingly, the guitar and organ solos have a firm place in the structure of the piece and are often separated by verses or reprises of the song's great leitmotif which also begins the track. It's obvious that Beggars Opera listened a lot to King Crimson between recording Act One and Waters Of Change, but Martin Griffiths' operatic vocals and the gruff Scottish hard rock leanings successfully keep my mind from comparing the music to any other band while listening to this record. Okay, Ricky Gardiner sometimes peers at Ritchie Blackmore quite intensely, but overall I daresay that by 1971 the band had really found a sonic niche of their own.

Then, out of nowhere, fades in Lament, which is in fact a kind of Scottish dirge which is not played on the bagpipes, but on a Hammond organ, accompanied by some lonesome snare rolls. It's brief and it's simple, but it's utterly atmospheric as well and touches the Celtic soul which seemingly slumbers somewhere deep inside of me. The instrumental track Nimbus, the last piece on Side A of the album, expands on the atmospheres already set by Lament. It's a slow contemplative two-chord drone which is easily my favorite track on the record, predating the feel of Brian Eno's ambient miniatures on Another Green World by a few years. Lead guitarist Ricky Gardiner employs a volume pedal and manages to create a haunting and massively sustained guitar tone - not quite unlike Steve Hackett's trademark sound - whilst Mellotron, organ, acoustic guitar and some really deep timpani set an amazingly sophisticated background. Other tracks on Waters Of Change might be more exciting or more powerful, but Nimbus really transcends the time in which it was created. It could also be a medieval elegy, a romantic piano piece or a modern post rock track, or it could be a Breton farewell song - in fact, Alan Stivell's Kimiad is the song which reminds me most of the mood conveyed by Nimbus. Impromptu, a moment of quietness which is placed immediately before the last piece of the album, widens the Nimbus sound in yet another direction. This time there are merely one delicately picked acoustic guitar and one mournful cello which intone a quiet lament similar to the instrumental part of Fleetwood Mac's Oh Well. Taken together these three tracks only clock at circa six minutes, but I'd never have thought that Beggars Opera released such a noble and plain set of sad sonic miniatures which do not bear any signs of pomp and exuberance. Great stuff, and probably the reason why I'd call this album a fairly essential addition to a progressive rock music collection.

But this leaves us with a set of other numbers, and some inconsistencies appearing in these force me to downgrade the whole thing a wee bit.

For instance there's Silver Peacock. Musically, it might be compared with Colosseum and early symphonic Deep Purple (ca. Book Of Taliesyn), and there are really a couple of decent melodies in there, but the silly introductory speech about the silver peacock with the medieval fanfares and the pseudo-mysterious 'silver peacock' chant (which seems to be the chorus, actually), are ridiculously pretentious and spoil the pleasure. Either they took this stuff as seriously as, for instance, Eloy, or there is some ironic alienation somewhere which I don't fully get. Either way: the music is both moving and intense and deserves neither a humorous nor a pretentious treatment. Thankfully the verses are less embarrassing so that in the end there's enough to enjoy here if you're able to ignore the subject matter.

Festival is a mixed bag. On the one hand there are moments which sound like a bad syrupy musical. Especially verses like 'music fills the air, calls the people to the fair' or 'time is there for something new, festival is just for you-hoo-hoo' are so dull that I would have expected them to stem from a German band, but not from British musicians. This jolting fast rhythm itself which is played underneath that aforementioned part of the song already is a so-so affair, but as a Celtic/Medieval hint I think it's quite acceptable. In contrast there's another part which is more laid-back and which also spawns one gorgeous vocal melody which sets that beautifully languish and watery mood of Danny Kirwan's Sands Of Time off Fleetwood Mac's 1971 Future Games - surely one of the finest melodies to be found on this album. The rest of the track is mainly instrumental soloing, but the flute in the track - played by guest player Marshall Erskine - is again an interesting detail. Of course, it sounds a lot like Ian Anderson, including the overblowing and the blue notes, but Anderson himself wouldn't use the flute in that Celtic/folk/rock context until Thick As A Brick. That's possibly another (more or less insubstantial) half-rip-off/half-inventive idea on this album which predates the musical approach of later works, but it does reconcile me with the flute parts in this track (and only few things are more atrocious than Ian-Anderson-flute-isms in derivative prog music!).

I've No Idea is a bit of an outsider on this album because of its slightly dated R&B/soul influences, but I love the little pseudo-baroque flourishes which appear directly in front of the verses; and the rhythm is, at least, quite interesting because it's by far more sparse than the casual blues rock drumming. I mean - does Wilson play anything but the cowbell and the snare drum in the verses? If yes, it must be hidden somewhere very low in the mix. The overall effect is quite impressing and safely leads the track out of the waters of mediocrity. Mellotronist Virginia Scott even manages to sneak one cuddly sympho-prog part into this (otherwise up-tempo) track, and thanks to a worthwhile reprise in the very end of the track this romantic addition also works and adds to the song.

The Fox finally shows a last time how damn varied this band was at this time. Some parts of these longer songs might be a bit dull, but they don't stay for too long and are soon replaced by other little melodies. This time it's the brief 6/8 section (and the way how they enter into this part coming from that jolting tricky rhythm of the main riff) at 1:30 which deeply impresses me - and it's this good melody which is also used as the verse melody. Then they revisit the main riff, fiddle it through some different pitch intervals and - woosh -, off they go into a Mellotron-laden march and later into a powerful blues rock part.

Overall it's the huge potpourri of different melodies and ideas which makes this record so thoroughly entertaining while - at least that's how I feel it - the brief instrumental pieces create a kind of atmospheric frame. If you listen to this record, you'll get to hear a lot of prog cliches - which is mainly why I don't give this album 4 of 5 -, but nonetheless this group has a sound of its own, a number of great melodies and certain moments of deep atmospheric ambience.

[If you wish to explore the folk elements appearing on this record any further I thoroughly recommend you to listen to the 1970 On The Shore album by Trees which I have also reviewed on PA. Trees were a British folk rock band with a traditional folk repertoire, but the playing on guitars/bass/drums often enough sounds quite a lot like Beggars Opera.]

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars For the second Beggars Opera effort the line-up received some sort of refreshment.Virginia Scott, who had joined the band early as a composer, was urgraded to a participant on ''Waters of change'', handling the Mellotron, while Alan Park was responsible for the piano and Hammond organ passages.Bassist Marshal Erskine participated in only one track of the upcoming album, leaving Beggars Opera and being replaced by Gordon Sellar.Famous engineer Martin Birch took his place behind the console and the album was recorded and released in 1971, the second of Vertigo albums for the band.

Now, this was a pretty strange release by the Scottish group.Instead of stepping on the principles established by themselves on the Heavy/Classical Rock of ''Act one'' and building around this formula towards an even more personal style, they seem to take a trip back in late-60's/early-1970, resembling more to bands like THE MOODY BLUES or a more progressive PROCOL HARUM.''Waters of change'' sounds a bit directionless with the band throwing in strong psychedelic nuances in the process to go along with heavier sections and less Classical-inspired but more symphonic keyboard parts.Additionally the tracks sound less structured with a slight jamming mood of the early-70's organ-driven British Psych Rock bands.On the other hand, this is far from uninteresting music.Beggars Opera was a very talented act and they had their own way to combine Soft Psych Rock with a lyrical atmosphere with an organ-drenched Heavy Rock, the result was a bunch of compositions, which included romantic vocals, driving rhythms, smooth electric guitars and a more pompous organ execution, often interrupted by the atmospheric Mellotron waves of Virginia Scott.They sounded like a cross between DEEP PURPLE, CRESSIDA, early CARAVAN and THE MOODY BLUES at this point, combining a sentimental lyricism with the power of Rock music.There are still some great meodies to be found and the tracks contain nice variations, but the symphonic washes are less dominant with a vocal-based Psych/Prog style prevailing.

Kind of dissapointing work after the impressive ''Act one'', but still a pretty cool album of early-70's Prog Rock, featuring a mixture of soft psych-oriented textures, organ smashes and symphonic overtones.Recommended.

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Like entering a great and ancient abbey, the second long-player from the legendary Scots is an intriguing, sometimes haunting collection of treasures and despite (or perhaps with the help of) Martin Griffiths' melodramatic moaning, gives us one of the most heartfelt and fully textured records in progressive rock's early history. As though almost literally plucked from time, Waters of Change has soul, man, and porously exudes the brown, peaty atmosphere of a crumbling but vital Scottish estate complete with graveyard, thick fog, and the ghosts of the restless. It is one of a kind.

New member Virginia Scott's 'tron grinds open 'Time Machine' and everything knits together like that of a group who'd been together for many years, melodic, uptempo and taking from the best of British rock, folk and Pop. Brief 'Lament' hands us off to initially blah 'I've No Idea' which holds some nice surprises from Alan Park's keys and a delicate arrangement. A mistuned acoustic provides the base for range-striding 'Nimbus', not a completely necessary cut but adds some extra color before romantic and quite well-done 'Festival' with its baroque tonalities and tight group playing reminding of Jethro Tull circa 1970. Bach rocks on 'Silver Peacock', an organ showcase for Park with plenty of delightfully strange and acid-drenched imagery from Griffiths and good development by the band. Aptly named 'Impromptu' was probably nice in 1971, not so much now but its tailed by 'The Fox' as it follows a reluctant participant in pursuit of wild game.

I don't think of this six-piece as symphonic though psychoclassical elements are abundant; they kinda invented their own category. Further, Waters of Change is forty-two minutes with only about thirty minutes of worthy stuff so I wouldn't blame a listener for feeling flat upon hearing this one. But that thirty minutes is among the most flavorful and rich the vintage Prog era had to offer. Beggars Opera were not virtuosos. They were not geniuses or innovators or in great demand. But they yielded some of the most savory, toothsome recordings in what was an increasingly technical rock field and Waters of Change has only improved with age. At least most of it has.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Realy enjoyable listen. Lots of organ and mellotron. Not very complicated arrangements, but realy good melodies. The tracks are rather solemn with some moments being more upbeat for a good measure. It seems like they are aiming for the melancholy and grandiose of the first King Crimson album (vocal ... (read more)

Report this review (#2496353) | Posted by Artik | Friday, January 22, 2021 | Review Permanlink

3 stars A good symphonic prog album this "Waters Of Change" by Scottish band Beggars Opera. Symphonic because dominated by organ (by Alan Park) and mellotron (by Virginia Scott) and with good vocalist (Martin Griffiths). The music is a melodic Rock with symphonic treatment, because present elevate orc ... (read more)

Report this review (#362551) | Posted by 1967/ 1976 | Friday, December 24, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This scottish band released several albums, but the second, "Waters of change", is imo their best effort. Every track shows a great melodic attitude, without the plain classical tunes on the debut album. Finally the band music is completely original, always keyboards led togheter a strong gu ... (read more)

Report this review (#100378) | Posted by armapo | Saturday, November 25, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Finest work of Beggars Opera I'd like all titles very well, i am dreaming when i listen to this sound. Most liked songs are Silver Peacock, The Fox, Time Machine and and ... The vocals of Martin Griffiths are putting me through and if i start listen to the sound i can't stop. ... (read more)

Report this review (#82966) | Posted by | Thursday, July 6, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The second work released in 1971 "Waters Of Change". British rock with anxiety. There is respect that looks like PROCOL HARUM and DEEP PURPLE in the style, too. There is overall melancholic atmosphere. The sense of applying pop accented is bright. The album composition is also good. Only the w ... (read more)

Report this review (#61234) | Posted by braindamage | Thursday, December 22, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "Waters of Change" is, in my opinion, far superior to their first album "Act One", which is too derivative and has an awful vocal performance by Martin Griffiths (only "Festival", on this album, reminds me of "Act One", but is actually a better song than the ones featured at their first LP, wi ... (read more)

Report this review (#41821) | Posted by M. B. Zapelini | Saturday, August 6, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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