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Stackridge - Extravaganza CD (album) cover

EXTRAVAGANZA

Stackridge

 

Prog Folk

3.50 | 24 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Released the same year as TMWTBH, this version of the group is completely different: gone are two thirds of the band and incoming are the noteworthy wind player Keith Gemmell (ex-Audience) and keyboardist Rod Bowkett (who will write a good deal of the album's tracks), but am not sure Stackridge is better in this form. Gone are Evans' violin and Warren's guitars, although these last ones were never a major feature of Stackridge and Davis switching from keys to guitars. Produced by Tony Ashton and graced with a weird gatefold displaying a bunch of strange-circus-like characters, the album appears to have two distinct faces, one per side.

The first side is loaded with short tracks again somehow in the Beatles' style (Volunteers sounds a bit like Yellow Submarine complete with Ringo-type singing and is a holdover from the previous album and played with the line-up of that album) with only Highbury Incident and Benjamin Giant Onion managing any kind of notice to this writer. Not bad and well-played, but simply lacking much interest.

The second side of the vinyl holds much more promises to the proghead with three instrumentals and a Gordon Haskell cover (yes the Ex-Crimson singer/bassist). Starting out with a dazzling Ruphus T Firefly, which is highlighting the talents of new bassist Paul Karas and features excellent interplay between Gemmell and Slater. Next up is one hell of a superb track that Mr Haskell should've kept for his Crimson days (it sounds like it was written during that era anyway as the obscure title and intricate arrangements indicates) and sonically it sounds a bit like Journey's superb debut album with Crimson influences. The last two tracks are again high-flying instrumentals somewhere between Maneige and Zappa (if you can picture this) and are tremendously enthralling, joyous and constantly evolving.

While not perfect, Stackridge, after a strong line-up shuffle, did manage to rebound from a listless Bowler hat album and produced a rather excellent effort. Had they managed to have two side B, it might have gotten a fifth star. But it did not and the side A is all too average. A good introduction to the band along with Friendliness

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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