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BEGGARS OPERA

Symphonic Prog • United Kingdom


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Beggars Opera picture
Beggars Opera biography
Founded in Glasgow, UK in 1969 - Disbanded in 1975 - Reformed briefly in 1980 and again in 2007

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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Beggars Can't Be ChoosersBeggars Can't Be Choosers
Repertoire 2007
$15.20
$8.88 (used)
Nimbus: Vertigo Years AnthologyNimbus: Vertigo Years Anthology
Remastered
Esoteric 2012
$13.27
$19.70 (used)
Waters of ChangeWaters of Change
Remastered
Repertoire 2008
$73.74
$46.27 (used)
Act OneAct One
Repertoire 2005
$17.99
$7.50 (used)
Pathfinder/Get Your Dog Off Me /  Beggars OperaPathfinder/Get Your Dog Off Me / Beggars Opera
Beat Goes on 2015
$10.86
$13.24 (used)
Pahtfinder Beggars OperaPahtfinder Beggars Opera
Limited Edition
Repertoire 2005
$17.99
$15.33 (used)
Lose a LifeLose a Life
Repertoire 2011
$10.65
$18.67 (used)
Get Your Dog Off MeGet Your Dog Off Me
Repertoire 2008
$64.95
$15.99 (used)

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BEGGARS OPERA discography


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

3.67 | 199 ratings
Act One
1971
3.63 | 193 ratings
Waters Of Change
1971
3.35 | 139 ratings
Pathfinder
1972
2.44 | 60 ratings
Get Your Dog Off Me !
1973
2.76 | 30 ratings
Sagittary
1974
2.39 | 22 ratings
Beggars Can't Be Choosers
1975
2.80 | 16 ratings
Lifeline
1980
3.73 | 17 ratings
Close To My Heart
2007
4.15 | 16 ratings
Touching The Edge
2009
3.43 | 8 ratings
Suddenly Ahead Ahead
2010
3.07 | 8 ratings
All Tomorrows Thinking
2010
3.76 | 10 ratings
Promise In Motion
2011
3.80 | 23 ratings
Lose A Life
2011
3.71 | 16 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)

1.55 | 25 ratings
The Final Curtain
1996
4.09 | 3 ratings
Nimbus - The Vertigo Years Anthology
2012

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

3.09 | 3 ratings
Sarabande / Think
1971
4.00 | 1 ratings
Something to Lose / Sagittary
1974
4.00 | 1 ratings
Freedom Song
1975
4.00 | 1 ratings
I'm a Roadie / Bar Room Pearl
1976
4.00 | 1 ratings
Doris
2012
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Passenger
2012
5.00 | 1 ratings
If We Couldn't Speak
2013

BEGGARS OPERA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Act One by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.67 | 199 ratings

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Act One
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by Psychedelic Paul

5 stars BEGGARS OPERA are a Scottish Symphonic Prog band who've been around seemingly forever, or at least since the beginning of the prog era anyway. They formed in Glasgow in 1969 and released their first aptly-titled "Act One" album in 1970. They followed it up with five more albums in the proggy 1970's years:- "Waters of Change" (1971); "Pathfinder" (1972); "Get Your Dog Off Me" (1973); "Sagittary" (1974); & "Beggars Can't Be Choosers" (1975). They made a brief comeback in 1980 with the "Lifeline" album and then took a VERY long hiatus before returning with the "Close To My Heart" album in 2007. Their most recent album "Mrs. Caligari's Daughter" was released in 2012. Altogether, Beggars Opera have recorded fourteen studio albums throughout their long lifetime, although they've never quite made it to the "big league" despite their undoubted musical talent. The "Act One" album, reviewed here, was reissued on CD in 1997 with two bonus tracks added to the original five songs on the album. Let's have a listen to the album now and find out if beggars really CAN be choosers.

Opening the curtain on "Act One" comes "Poet and Peasant", a fast and furious fugue of supersonic Emersonian organ virtuosity. This booming and bombastic Baroque piece is very loosely based on the music of the obscure Austrian composer of light operas, Franz von Suppe. Light opera has NEVER sounded quite like this though. This is a wild and dynamic organ jamboree where traditional Classical music is thrown completely on its head and given a healthy burst of pompous and powerful Prog-Rock, in true "Roll Over Beethoven" fashion. The wonderfully expressive singer sounds like he's having a great time too with some magnificently over-the-top operatic vocals, in the style of David Byron of Uriah Heep. Hold on tight now because entering stage right is "Passaglia". Can you handle it as this is George Frideric Handel played as you've never heard him played before. Again, the keyboard player is going hell for leather on the Hammond organ with no let-up in the incredible pace. There's also a flambuoyant flourish of funky guitar in an exhilarating extended solo in the middle section. This powerfully percussive piece has all the unstoppable power and explosive energy of an Exocet missile, with you the listener as the target. The next song "Memory" is another rapid-fire machine gun delivery of sound with the dynamic duo of Hammond organist and wild guitar player battling it out together while the drummer pounds away relentlessly on percussion. Apparently, when Beggars Opera acted as the support band for the Tremeloes way back in 1970, they blew the Tremeloes off the stage, and it's easy to see why when you listen to this energetic high-voltage album. This explosive music has all the flash and thunder brilliance of a boxful of fireworks that's been accidentally set alight.

Side Two is occupied by two 12-minute-long suites. There's more manic musical mayhem with "Raymond's Road". It's a soaring and symphonic sonic blast of incredible intensity with the amplifiers turned all the way up to eleven. Is it Bach or is it Mozart? One thing's for sure, you've never heard Classical music played quite like this before. You may not have heard Symphonic Prog played quite like this before either. This is no Moonlight Sonata. This is more like Widor's Toccata on anabolic steroids. It's an adrenalin rush of rip-roaring organ-powered Rock and there's even a riotous rendition of the William Tell Overture thrown in for good measure too. Rossini would be rocking and rolling in his grave to this music. The breathtaking speed of the high-energy Hammond organist on this album is just phenomenal. You really have to hear it to believe it. We're charging ahead next with "Light Cavalry" and this cavalry aren't stopping for anyone. The band of musical brothers are charging ahead with all guns blazing in a storming symphony of sound. The music gallops along relentlessly at incredible pace in this canorous cavalcade. It's time to dismount now though as we've finally reached the end of the album. Phew! That was a blast!

It's Bach to the Future for this dynamic, classically-inspired blast of powerful Symphonic Prog. It's an album to put on your Chopin Liszt the next time you head Orff into town on Debussy, although you may have to Handel disappointment and come Bach empty-handed, as it's a case of Haydn seek with finding this rare album treasure in the record stores these days.

 Nimbus - The Vertigo Years Anthology by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2012
4.09 | 3 ratings

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Nimbus - The Vertigo Years Anthology
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars - The first review -

Beggars Opera is among those early British prog bands that never received commercial success (at least partly due to the unstable line-up) but made a couple of classic albums containg fairly good, organ / Mellotron centred symphonic prog rock. This 2-disc compilation from the trusted Esoteric recordings covers their releases on the now-legendary Vertigo label, ie. their best era in the 70's plus the sudden nosedive into notably weaker and less proggy material of the disappointing fourth album Get Your Dog Off Me! (1973) which is here wisely represented by a smaller percentage -- four tracks only -- than the three other albums. The non-album single 'Sarabande / Think' (1971) is contained too.

The debut Act One (1970) operates mostly in The Nice reminding, organ dominating proto prog circulating some light classical compositions (e.g. Suppé) among their own pieces. The band matured considerably on their second album Waters of Change (1971), with the Mellotron player and skillful arranger Virginia Scott joining the line-up. Not only sonically but also in the song-writing this album is a big improvement from the debut. The third album Pathfinder ( 1972) is perhaps more song-oriented, but it's pretty diverse in style and yet it feels very coherent and strong all the way, although unfortunately it lacks Virginia's Mellotron. The prog rock version of the gorgeous Jimmy Webb composition 'MacArthur Park' (made famous by actor Richard Harris) works extremely well.

Sadly the bigger domestic success still went past them. After the release of Pathfinder the original vocalist Martin Griffiths departed. Occasionally he had used his vibrato a bit too heavily, but nevertheless his strong voice had been an essential part of the band's distinctive sound. His replacement, former Savoy Brown member Pete Scott left during the session for the fourth album and was in turn replaced by Linnie Paterson who sings in a rough hard rock style. Undoubtedly two vocal songs from the miserable bulldog covered album is enough. Ricky Gardiner's instrumental 'Requiem' is carried by his wailing guitar in a lazy tempo. The best track of the Get Your Dog album is saved for last in this compilation: 'Classical Gas' composed by Mason Williams is a wonderful prog instrumental showcasing various keyboards from harpsichord to Moog.

Malcolm Dome has written the liner notes, and the 16-page cover booklet is lavish with colour/b&w photos and album information (with the harmful exception of track lengths). All in all the Vertigo years of Beggars Opera offer a very fruitful theme for a compilation. Without a doubt a one-disc set could have been an excellent "best of the best" selection but it surely takes two discs to represent the era in a more comprehensive depth. Worth purchasing especially if you don't already have the best albums Waters of Change and Pathfinder.

 Sarabande / Think by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1971
3.09 | 3 ratings

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Sarabande / Think
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The Scottish prog band Beggars Opera released their debut album Act One in 1970, and from the same sessions came also this single with two non-album tracks. Like The Nice before them, they used to make rock versions of classical music pieces, with Alan Park's organ in the fore. But 'Sarabande', unlike the title would suggest, is an original composition by the band. It's a hard-rocking song reminiscent of the early Deep Purple. Near the ending comes a brief organ solo, otherwise the organ and Ricky Gardiner's guitar are in an equal position in the sound.

In my opinion 'Think' is slightly better song of the two. Again it's proto hard rock of guitar / organ interplay, but the composition has a bit more progressive or psychedelic twist. Though not so extraordinary musically, this single is a noteworthy addition to the the band's output as it contains decent songs outside of albums. And in fact, if either of them, or both, had been included in Act One, with some editing of its classically inspired tracks to give the needed space, perhaps the album would have been more interesting and would have had a bigger appeal especially among those who enjoyed early hard rock scene.

 Get Your Dog Off Me ! by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1973
2.44 | 60 ratings

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Get Your Dog Off Me !
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

3 stars Big changes arrived with Scottish band Beggars Opera's fourth album, the absurdly titled `Get Your Dog Off Me!' in 1973! Bass player and flautist Marshall Erskine had departed before the recording of the previous album `Pathfinder', but more crucially, distinctive and charismatic singer Martin Griffiths was gone this time around too, robbing the band of one of their most defining features. In came new vocalist Linnie Paterson, and now their music was mostly stripped of many of the more interesting prog-rock qualities for something definitely aimed at American audiences. It's not quite the total disaster it's often made out to be, but it will certainly be a disappointment for many of those who enjoyed their previous albums.

The opening title track is a fiery pop-rocker that holds some of the playful cheekiness of those breezier Caravan tracks like `Behind You', although Linnie's gutsy vocals are a world away from Martin Griffith's pomp and it really alters the identity of the group, despite the playing from many of the same musicians clearly still being up to scratch. `Freestyle Ladies' is book- ended as a fairly throwaway piano-pounding retro rock n'roller, but it delivers an ambitious chorus and a rip-roaring brief Hammond solo burst in the middle, while `Open Letter' is an angry tirade against critics and reviewers (uh oh!) that boasts a proud and defiant lead vocal, shambling guitars and thick murmuring bass. `Morning Day' is buoyant country-lite pop, but at least teasing instrumental `Requiem' offers searing electric guitars that have just a little taste of early Seventies Pink Floyd to them, although it sounds underdeveloped and like a fragment of something larger cut down to the scant two minute interlude here.

The second side's opener delivers an unexpected highlight with `Classical Gas', but rather than a tired acoustic remake, the band deliver a pimped-out, progged-up version! Throwing in everything from ravishing piano, sparkling harpsichord, spiralling Moog, frantic drumming, red-hot guitar wailing and searing Mellotron veils, it would have been a complete standout on any of the earlier defining Beggars Opera albums. `Sweet Blossom Woman' is an easy-to-enjoy but throwaway country-flecked rocker (lifted by some breakneck Moog and electric piano soloing in the finale), and confident rocker `Turn your Money Green' slides into ballad-like moments of dreamy chiming guitars and ruminative bass. `La-di-da' is a romantic sing-along with a Joe Cocker-like quality with the warmest of humming Hammond organ, and `Working Man' is a final husky R n'B bluesy rocker that may not be a particularly memorable closer, but it at least allows for nice soloing moments from the players.

Recent CD reissues include two bonus tracks of both sides of an exclusive 1973 single - `Two Timing Woman' is a roaring horn- powered grooving scorcher, and `Lady of Hell-Fire' opens as a baffling screeching AC/DC-ish belter before carrying on as an Atomic Rooster-like heavy metal rocker! These two pieces would have probably jarred with the sound of the proper album, but they might actually be stronger than several of the tracks on it!

Despite the arrangements mostly becoming less intricate and the singing being entirely different to what came before, careful listening to the instrumentation means `Get Your Dog Off Me!' is still recognisable as coming from the musicians who delivered those first three classic Beggars Opera discs. Prog purists will want to stick to those first few, but repeated listens of `Dog' at least reveals an undemanding and enjoyable rock album with very strong melodic qualities and great playing, which is more than enough to gently recommend it.

Two stars as a prog album, but three for a perfectly decent rock album.

 Act One by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.67 | 199 ratings

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Act One
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

Review by ALotOfBottle
Collaborator Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Beggar's Opera was an obscure Scottish prog rock act, that managed to stay under most's radar back in the day. Their debut album shows strong classical aspirations in conjunction with heavy psychedelic rock and a bit of jazz influences, all sounding very intelectual. Alan Park, the classically-trained keyboardist is on fire here! His playing can closely be compared to that of Keith Emerson, Jon Lord or Dave Stewart on Egg's debut album. Ricky Gardiner's playing is something rare in progressive rock. It can vary from wild, Hendrix-esque riffs to something we can imagine as a guitarist treating his instrument like a philharmonic musician treating his violin or cello. All in all, a very versatile solo section. All supported by an incredible rhythm section that can go from pumping to light jazzy touches. In Beggar's Opera every instrument works like a Swiss watch - very accurate and rather pleasing. The key track and a highlight of this album is "Raymond's Road" - a compilation of well-known classical compositions like "Turkish March", "Karelia Suite", "Fugue in D-minor" and some more. All this based on a fast rhythm, reminiscent of "Sabre Dance" by Khachaturian. This best showcases fantastic musicianship of Beggar's Opera. Other tracks are also very classical-based, perhaps with more jazz influence and phenomenal British sense of humor.

Beggar's Opera "Act One" will make a great album for all fans of old progressive rock and classical music. This is an especially important album, which shows the face of early prog. A true gem!

 Waters Of Change by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.63 | 193 ratings

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Waters Of Change
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

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.

 Waters Of Change by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.63 | 193 ratings

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Waters Of Change
Beggars Opera Symphonic Prog

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.

 Waters Of Change by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.63 | 193 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.]

 Promise In Motion by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.76 | 10 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.

 Mrs. Caligari's Lighter by BEGGARS OPERA album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.71 | 16 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.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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