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Stackridge - Friendliness CD (album) cover

FRIENDLINESS

Stackridge

 

Prog Folk

3.72 | 42 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Includes tales of a lovesick mule, and a homesick elephant

Released in 1972, it has to be said right away that Stackridge's second album should never be held up as a masterpiece of prog. For one thing, the band were way too jovial to ever be prog heavyweights. Do not let this fool you though, Stackridge took their music seriously, and created some wonderful albums.

Having searched in vain for a producer for the album, Dave Cousins was reputedly one of those who was asked, the band decided to take on those duties themselves.

After a spirited instrumental opener "Lummy days", which introduces the band's talents in that field, we are presented with the heavily Beatles influenced title track. The strong melody and overt pop flavour can mislead you into thinking this is a throwaway song, but such an assumption would be misinformed. "Anyone for tennis", James Warren's second successive composition, finds the band in full jaunt, the upbeat tune creating a feeling of retro aristocracy. Warren also writes the following "There is no refuge", a simple piano and vocal ballad with some seductive violin playing by Mike Evans.

The feature track of the first side though is the almost 9 minute "Syracuse the elephant". Co-written by new boy bassist Jim Walter with keyboard player Andy Davis, the song offers early confirmation that the addition of Walter was an inspired move. The track opens with a symphonic explosion introducing a further Beatles like harmonised vocal. The song is indeed about an elephant, one kept in captivity in Bristol zoo. Despite his fame and popularity, he "wants to go home". The track develops instrumentally including a passage which would appear to imply that we are talking about an Indian elephant. For obvious reasons, this is the progressive core of the album.

"Amazing Agnes" which opens side two has a reggae type rhythm and the most peculiar lyrics, which appear to be an ode from a mule to a cow.

"Agnes you're the nicest cow this side of Timbuktu"

"Father Frankenstein is behind your pillow" continues James Warren's bent for obscure, almost deranged lyrics, once again with strong Beatles influences melodically.

"Keep on clucking" is not a pheasant plucking style play on words, but a straight encouragement to a thousand chickens to avoid the "Factory line". The song has an unusually rock beat to it, with and an infectious rhythm. Warren and Walter swap guitar for the song, so that Walter can play lead on his composition. Walter, or Crunberry as he was christened by the band, was originally intended to play lead guitar with Stackridge, but found his lack of practice prevented him from doing so. Mutter Slater takes centre stage for his sole composition the brief melancholy piano recital "Story of my heart". The album closes with a reprise of the title track introducing "Tea time". This gently repetitive melody is transformed via Mutter's flute into a frantic violin workout with a mellotron adding symphonic overtones. The marching beat of the percussion helps to give a Celtic flavour.

"Friendliness" is a great introduction to Stackridge. It features the many facets of the band with a liberal helping of their satirical lyricism too. If you are one of those who sometimes wishes prog would not be quite so serious, this is worth seeking out.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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