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Stackridge - The Man in the Bowler Hat (AKA Pinafore days) CD (album) cover

THE MAN IN THE BOWLER HAT (AKA PINAFORE DAYS)

Stackridge

 

Prog Folk

3.24 | 35 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "The galloping Gaucho comes to town riding like a demon vaquero, bought his horse for half a crown and called him Scar Faced Jock"

For reasons which have become forgotten with the passing of time, I have the US version of this album which was released under the title "Pinafore days". The track listing is essentially the same, except that two tracks "To the Sun and Moon" and "The Indifferent Hedgehog" are replaced by "Spin round the room" and "One rainy July morning" from the following "Extravaganza" album (The latter was titled "Highbury incident (rainy July morning)" on "Extravaganza".

The album is very much a continuation of the previous "Friendliness", with perhaps an even lighter atmosphere. Right from the opening "Fundamentally yours", there are suggestions of the Korgis (a future pop focused band for Andy Davis). Once again though, the melodic pop sounds disguise some fine instrumentation and inspired compositions. This time, Beatles producer George Martin is brought in, emphasising further the band's aspirations to be a West country Beatles. Martin orchestrates three of the tracks, and plays piano on one ("Humiliation"). On tracks such as "The last plimsoll", the sound is so Beatlesque, it could be almost taken from one of their albums.

Only occasionally do we find a more reflective song, such as "The road to Venezuela", but even here the castanets and violin merely play a supporting role to what is essentially a very vocal album.

For me, side two is noticeably the superior. "The Galloping Gaucho" which opens the side will never win any prog awards, but it is a magnificently irreverent bit of fun. The lyrics are simultaneously amusing and totally impenetrable. When combined with the grand arrangement which harks back to the music hall days, this one of the album's highlights. The song contrasts wonderfully with the soft "Humiliation" which sounds like one of 10CCs most tasteful moments. "Dangerous bacon" also has 10CC similarities, but this time in an upbeat pop way.

The album closes with "God speed the plough". To describe this as an instrumental would seem inappropriate, as it is a wonderful symphony in 5 minutes. The track, which builds from solo piano to full string and mellotron orchestration is the high point of the album, sweeping along majestically while painting a wonderful picture of rural Britain.

Whether the substitute tracks on the US version are an improvement on those they replace is a matter of opinion. "Spin round the room" is however a rather ordinary melodic pop song. "One rainy July morning" is a fun Beatles parody. Interestingly, despite all but two of the tracks on "Pinafore days" also being on "The man in the bowler hat", the sleeve of the album has photos of the "Extravaganza" line up, thus ignoring, among others, James Warren's significant contribution.

In all, those who enjoy the "Rubber soul" era Beatles will find much to their liking here. The pop basis of many of the tracks is undeniable, but there are notable exceptions which make overall for a nicely balanced presentation.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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