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Beggars Opera - Pathfinder CD (album) cover


Beggars Opera


Symphonic Prog

3.36 | 151 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This was the third album by this Scottish act that was recording for Vertigo. The original LP to "Pathfinder" comes with a gimmick cover that folds in to a giant poster, revealing the astronaut riding the horse is on a planet that hardly looks like Earth.

The Mellotron, as found on "Waters of Change" had all but vanished. Virginia Scott (just about the only female keyboardist I know who played Mellotron) had sat this one out, so all keyboard duties were by Alan Parker. The rest of the band at this time consisted of guitarist/vocalist Ricky Gardner, bassist Gordon Sellar, vocalist Martin Griffiths (not to be confused with Martin Griffin, the on and off again drummer for HAWKWIND from the late '70s to early '80s who was often wrongly named Martin Griffiths), and drummer Ray Wilson (absolutely nothing to do with the Ray Wilson who replaced Phil Collins in GENESIS). The music here is pretty much early '70s song-based prog typical of the British scene of the time, dominated by the Hammond organ. You won't be mistaking this for GENTLE GIANT, to say the least, so this is quite an accessible album.

There are just times you don't want your prog to go through a million meter changes in five minutes with as little melody as possible, there's time you want your prog to at least have some catchy and solid melodies, and this album delivers. A great example would be the opening song, "Hobo", with lyrics referring to an aging homeless man. They also do a cover of Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park" (a million versions of this song exists, don't ask me why, the most famous being the hit version from actor Richard Harris back in 1968, and "Weird" Al Yankovic doing a parody of that song in 1993 called "Jurassic Park" in honor of the Spielberg movie that came out that year). Harpsichord dominates this piece, but there is a little Mellotron, and unfortunately the only cut on this album that uses it. There's a couple of sinister, occult-themed songs too, with "The Witch" and "Madame Doubtfire" that could remind you of the CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN (without Arthur Brown's distinct vocals) or BLACK WIDOW. The title track has vocal harmonies that remind me a bit of the BYRDS, but still unmistakably progressive and '70s, especially the use of guitar and Hammond organ. "From Shark to Haggis" is an odd piece. It starts off rather jazzy, then the band goes exploring their Scottish roots, turning it in to a Celtic folk jig (let's not forget "Haggis" in the song title, which is a food unique to Scotland, and most commonly served during Robert Burns Day, and I wonder if the "From Shark" bit was inspired by Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife", which was a jazzy song with lyrics referring to sharks). "Stretcher" is the album's only instrumental cut, and unfortunately, for me, is rather unremarkable, mainly dominated by Ricky Gardiner's guitar playing. The album closes with "Madame Doubtfire", which, as mentioned before, has a strong occult theme, and the song really gets wild at the end with all the screaming.

It's to my understanding that "Pathfinder" was BEGGARS OPERA's last fully progressive album, although they did continue on and off again releasing albums until the beginning of the 1980s. This is a nice album to have for those who enjoy early British prog.

Proghead | 4/5 |


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