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Stackridge - Extravaganza CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.50 | 24 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Who invited Frank?!

In 1974, Stackridge were the first band to sign for Elton John's fledgling Rocket Records label, this album bearing the catalogue number ROLA1.

"Extravaganza" may bear the name Stackridge, and may even mostly sound like Stackridge, but it was recorded by a very different band that the one which made their previous album. Only Mutter Slater and Andy Davis remain, with no less than four new members coming in. Even then, Slater's presence is tenuous, his contribution being to sing on two tracks ("The volunteer" and "Happy in the Lord"). The most significant of these changes are probably the arrival of wind instrumentalist Keith Gemmell and the departure of violinist Mike Evans, which brought with them an inevitable change in the sound of the band. That change however is not as perceptible as might be expected, and neither is the impact of almost completely changed song writing credits.

The opening "Spin round the room", written by new keyboard player Rod Bowkett with Lucy Vernon is a clear case of business as usual, with even the ubiquitous Beatles style still in strong evidence. "Grease paint smiles" appears to have inspired the colourfully artistic gatefold sleeve, but the track itself is unremarkable. "The volunteer" is Andy Davis's first compositional contribution to the album, the song having a rather folk like feel, and echoes of Ringo Starr's work in and out of The Beatles.

"Benjamin's giant onion" would have fitted in well lyrically on Genesis "Nursery cryme" album, the story of a giant onion growing recluse who goes quite mad, having distinct echoes of "Harold the barrel". Side one closes with the jaunty "Happy in the Lord", the pleasant melody disguising some cynical lyrics.

If side one of the album was reassuringly traditional, if perhaps slightly inferior Stackridge, side two must have come as a surprise to both fans and the band's new label alike. Of the four tracks here, three are instrumentals composed by Rod Bowkett (one with Andy Davis). These are Frank Zappa like jazz workouts, far removed from anything the band had recorded up until this point. They are unquestionably the band's most progressive recordings. In fairness, the band do not really indulge in improvised jazz to any great extent, the performances being tight and melodic. It is however a matter of speculation as to whether these three pieces were added as filler to disguise a shortage of material, or intended to signal an alternative direction.

The other track on side two, "No one's more important than the earth worm" was written by Gordon Haskell (once of King Crimson, and latterly sometime crooner) during his very brief time as a member of Stackridge. I don't believe Haskell actually sings on the track, but he might!

Incidentally, the US version once again had a different track listing, taking one track from the previous album and one from the next as replacements for the two which had already appeared on the "Pinafore days" album.

Irrelevant footnote, I first came across Stackridge when they were the headline act on a tour where the supporting band, and the one I had gone to see, were Camel.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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