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BEGGARS OPERA

Symphonic Prog • United Kingdom


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Beggars Opera biography
This band was from Scotland, their name is derived from a novel by the poet John Gray in 1728. The musicians of BEGGARS OPERA were Martin Griffiths (vocals), Rick Gardiner (guitar and vocals), Alan Park (keyboards), Gordon Sellar (bass, acoustic guitar and vocals), Virginia Scott (Mellotron and vocals) and Raymond Wilson (drums and percussion). BEGGARS OPERA made a lot of records but remained acting in the shade of most progressive rock bands.

Their debut-album "Act one" ('70) contains fluent and tasteful organ driven progrock with powerful "Sixties" sounding guitarwork. The long track "Raymond's Road" is a splendid tribute to the "classics" featuring Mozart's A la Turka, Bach's Toaccata in d-fuga en Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite on the Hammond organ. The second album "Waters of Change" ('71) is build around the dual keyboardplay of Alan Park and newcomer Virginia Scott and the distinctive, a bit cynical vocals of Gardiner. The nine tracks are beautiful symphonic landscapes with many organ solos, some swelling and glorious Mellotron waves (like The MOODY BLUES and early KING CRIMSON) and fine electric guitarwork. On the third LP "Pathfinder" BEGGARS OPERA seems to have reached its pinnacle: strong and alternating compositions with lush keyboards (Mellotron, organ, piano and harpsichord), powerful electric guitarplay and many shifting moods (even Scottish folk with bagpipes). The band released three more albums but, in my opinion, they sounded far less captivating: "Get your dog off me" ('73), "Saggittary" ('76) and "Beggar's can't be choosers" ('79).

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Pahtfinder Beggars OperaPahtfinder Beggars Opera
Import · Limited Edition
Repertoire 2005
Audio CD$9.52
$5.71 (used)
Nimbus: Vertigo Years AnthologyNimbus: Vertigo Years Anthology
Remastered · Import
Esoteric 2012
Audio CD$13.60
$11.99 (used)
Act OneAct One
Import
Repertoire 2005
Audio CD$9.23
$18.07 (used)
LifelineLifeline
Import · Remastered
Repertoire 2008
Audio CD$8.00
$8.61 (used)
Beggars Can't Be ChoosersBeggars Can't Be Choosers
Import
Repertoire 2007
Audio CD$8.89
$8.87 (used)
Waters of ChangeWaters of Change
Import · Limited Edition · Remastered
Repertoire 2006
Audio CD$12.00
$9.00 (used)
SagittarySagittary
Import
Repertoire 2007
Audio CD$8.72
$7.44 (used)
Close to My HeartClose to My Heart
Import
Repertoire 2011
Audio CD$7.55
$6.39 (used)
Lose a LifeLose a Life
Import
Repertoire 2011
Audio CD$6.65
$5.58 (used)
Get Your Dog Off MeGet Your Dog Off Me
Import
Repertoire 2008
Audio CD$9.34
$6.99 (used)
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BEGGARS OPERA discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

BEGGARS OPERA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.62 | 137 ratings
Act One: Beggars Opera
1971
3.59 | 128 ratings
Waters of Change
1971
3.31 | 100 ratings
Pathfinder
1972
2.23 | 44 ratings
Get Your Dog Off Me!
1973
2.58 | 19 ratings
Sagittary
1974
2.10 | 12 ratings
Beggars Can't Be Choosers
1979
2.72 | 9 ratings
Lifeline
1980
1.38 | 17 ratings
The Final Curtain
1996
3.81 | 9 ratings
Close to My Heart
2007
4.45 | 4 ratings
Touching the Edge
2009
3.50 | 2 ratings
Suddenly Ahead Ahead
2010
3.00 | 3 ratings
All Tomorrows Thinking
2010
3.90 | 12 ratings
Lose a Life
2010
4.00 | 3 ratings
Promise In Motion
2011
3.86 | 9 ratings
Mrs. Caligari's Lighter
2012

BEGGARS OPERA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

BEGGARS OPERA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

BEGGARS OPERA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

BEGGARS OPERA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Doris
2012
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Passenger
2012
0.00 | 0 ratings
If We Couldn't Speak
2013

BEGGARS OPERA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Waters of Change  by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.59 | 128 ratings

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Waters of Change
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer

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.]

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 Promise In Motion by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Promise In Motion
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Scottish band BEGGARS OPERA is a band that remains most famous for their first three albums, released at the start of the 1970's. The following years saw their releases steadily decline in interest from the buying public and arguably decline in quality too, until they called it a day with the aptly named "The Final Curtain" in 1986. Just over 20 years later they reappeared however, and since then Beggars Opera has been a highly productive unit. With the release of "Promise in Motion" in 2011 and "Mrs. Caligari's Lighter" in 2012 their later day albums now make up almost half of their total discography.

Atmospheric laden symphonic progressive rock with some distinct similarities to late 70's Pink Floyd is what Beggars Opera has to offer on "Promise in Motion". Carefully assembled compositions, all sporting layered keyboard arrangements and Virginia's lead vocals as dominating features. An album that merits a check by those who tend to find accessible symphonic progressive rock to be of interest.

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 Mrs. Caligari's Lighter by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.86 | 9 ratings

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Mrs. Caligari's Lighter
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Scottish band BEGGARS OPERA is a band that remains most famous for their first three albums, released at the start of the 1970's. The following years saw their releases steadily decline in interest from the buying public and arguably decline in quality too, until they called it a day with the aptly named "The Final Curtain" in 1986. Just over 20 years later they reappeared however, and since then Beggars Opera has been a highly productive unit. With the release of "Promise in Motion" in 2011 and "Mrs. Caligari's Lighter" in 2012 their later day albums now make up almost half of their total discography.

The 2012 edition of Beggars Opera comes across as a vital unit. A band seeking out new grounds and exploring the use of alternative approaches to the core elements always present in their take on what broadly can be described as symphonic progressive rock with the last two words of that description undeniable. An album well worth checking out by those with a taste for inventive progressive rock that ultimately sticks closer to accessible than challenging in scope, with fair amounts of both included.

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 Act One: Beggars Opera by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.62 | 137 ratings

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Act One: Beggars Opera
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The debut release from Scottish outfit Beggar's Opera, 'Act One' mines a distinctly neo-classical vein, offering up a familiar brand of symphonic progressive rock that comes complete with modern baroque rock interpretations of Franz Von Suppe both opening and closing the album. Issued in 1970 on the Vertigo imprint, original copies of 'Act One' are now actually quite sought after, the album's less-than-spectacular commercial performance rendering it quite rare. Now, however, and thanks to German reissue label Repertoire Records, the colourful discography of Beggar's Opera is readily available in classy mini-vinyl replica editions, granting a pair of interesting albums from the group's early days a timely revaluation. The first of these, their debut 'Act One', is pure symphonic grandstanding, a fast-paced fusion of rock and classical ingredients taken right from the the ELP school of progressive rock. The second, however, showcased just what Beggars Opera were about. Gone was the overt classical influence; in came guitars and sharper, shorter tracks for 1972's enjoyable 'Pathfinder'. Completely different from each other, 'Act One' and 'Pathfinder' both defined and illuminated the other, exhibiting two very different sides to the same collective. 'Act One', with its strings, fast-paced instrumental sojourns and almost reckless abandon, proved the more expansive of the pair, an album coated in musical ambition. 'Pathfinder', however, was far more accessible, a genuine rock album and arguably the group's most cohesive overall effort. For anyone interested in taking a closer look, both 'Pathfinder' and 'Act one' - in that order - represent Beggar's Opera at their very best. Later albums, although still resolutely offbeat, failed to scale the same lofty heights of curiosity engendered by the continued and highly-varied work of founding member / leader Ricky Gardiner, and it should also be noted that throughout two incarnations the beggar's Opera name has continued to write, record and release music well into the 21st century. Neither album is a masterpiece, though both feature some excellent moments; 'Act One', which features Martin Griffiths(vocals), Alan Park(keyboards), Ricky Gardiner(guitar), Marshall Erskine(bass) and Ray Wilson(drums), is definitely the more ambitious of the two; fans of ELP, Refugee, The Nice etc should all find something here. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012

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 Act One: Beggars Opera by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.62 | 137 ratings

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Act One: Beggars Opera
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by JAZZSAXMAN

4 stars My Brother bought this Album for me for my Christmas in 1975 and I have loved it ever since. It is a shame they did not have more recognition in this country (Scotland). They were more succesful in Europe. I have three other Albums, Pathfinder, Get Your Dog Off Me and Waters of Change. Although the content and line up have changed as they went along I still think they deserved more success. The albums have been released on CD and they are very popular. Original Vinyls are being sold for '40+ I love them all. This Album is IMO their best and is as enjoyable today as it was 38 years ago.

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 The Final Curtain by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1996
1.38 | 17 ratings

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The Final Curtain
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by 1967/ 1976

1 stars I feel like crying! Luckily that the album of the series "Noble Price" are budget line, otherwise... Oh yes, because "The Final Curtain" is an album that I would not recommend to anyone. Reading between the songs there is something good: "Yes I Need Someone" (good rock) or "Now You're Gone" (honest power ballad), but I can only think that if between 1981 and 1991 no one has given Beggars Opera a chance to release an album (and meanwhile recorded) was a valid reason. Yet it should be noted that in the 80's was published even worse (as today).

Ps: It closes the album "Poet & Peasant" a masterpiece if it would be recorded by Rick Wakeman. But here it fails miserable.

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 Waters of Change  by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.59 | 128 ratings

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Waters of Change
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

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.

STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012

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 Pathfinder by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.31 | 100 ratings

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Pathfinder
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

4 stars This album is a proof of connection between psych Rock and a classical tendencies, while also one of the primer examples of this unholy alliance. Uriah Heep and it's organ work is one similar sounding band I can give you from scratch. True, this album sounds alike the first one, but that's not something too bad in my judgment. They slowly refined their sound, crafted new songs on a similar pattern and here we go. Unfortunately, later on, their direction will take a whole new path, whole new meaning and, from our Prog point's of view, also quite sad one. Nevermind that, we still have these three beauties.

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 Waters of Change  by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.59 | 128 ratings

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Waters of Change
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Waters of Change  by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.59 | 128 ratings

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Waters of Change
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

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.

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