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Beggars Opera - Act One CD (album) cover


Beggars Opera


Symphonic Prog

3.67 | 199 ratings

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Psychedelic Paul
5 stars BEGGARS OPERA are a Scottish Symphonic Prog band who've been around seemingly forever, or at least since the beginning of the prog era anyway. They formed in Glasgow in 1969 and released their first aptly-titled "Act One" album in 1970. They followed it up with five more albums in the proggy 1970's years:- "Waters of Change" (1971); "Pathfinder" (1972); "Get Your Dog Off Me" (1973); "Sagittary" (1974); & "Beggars Can't Be Choosers" (1975). They made a brief comeback in 1980 with the "Lifeline" album and then took a VERY long hiatus before returning with the "Close To My Heart" album in 2007. Their most recent album "Mrs. Caligari's Daughter" was released in 2012. Altogether, Beggars Opera have recorded fourteen studio albums throughout their long lifetime, although they've never quite made it to the "big league" despite their undoubted musical talent. The "Act One" album, reviewed here, was reissued on CD in 1997 with two bonus tracks added to the original five songs on the album. Let's have a listen to the album now and find out if beggars really CAN be choosers.

Opening the curtain on "Act One" comes "Poet and Peasant", a fast and furious fugue of supersonic Emersonian organ virtuosity. This booming and bombastic Baroque piece is very loosely based on the music of the obscure Austrian composer of light operas, Franz von Suppe. Light opera has NEVER sounded quite like this though. This is a wild and dynamic organ jamboree where traditional Classical music is thrown completely on its head and given a healthy burst of pompous and powerful Prog-Rock, in true "Roll Over Beethoven" fashion. The wonderfully expressive singer sounds like he's having a great time too with some magnificently over-the-top operatic vocals, in the style of David Byron of Uriah Heep. Hold on tight now because entering stage right is "Passaglia". Can you handle it as this is George Frideric Handel played as you've never heard him played before. Again, the keyboard player is going hell for leather on the Hammond organ with no let-up in the incredible pace. There's also a flambuoyant flourish of funky guitar in an exhilarating extended solo in the middle section. This powerfully percussive piece has all the unstoppable power and explosive energy of an Exocet missile, with you the listener as the target. The next song "Memory" is another rapid-fire machine gun delivery of sound with the dynamic duo of Hammond organist and wild guitar player battling it out together while the drummer pounds away relentlessly on percussion. Apparently, when Beggars Opera acted as the support band for the Tremeloes way back in 1970, they blew the Tremeloes off the stage, and it's easy to see why when you listen to this energetic high-voltage album. This explosive music has all the flash and thunder brilliance of a boxful of fireworks that's been accidentally set alight.

Side Two is occupied by two 12-minute-long suites. There's more manic musical mayhem with "Raymond's Road". It's a soaring and symphonic sonic blast of incredible intensity with the amplifiers turned all the way up to eleven. Is it Bach or is it Mozart? One thing's for sure, you've never heard Classical music played quite like this before. You may not have heard Symphonic Prog played quite like this before either. This is no Moonlight Sonata. This is more like Widor's Toccata on anabolic steroids. It's an adrenalin rush of rip-roaring organ-powered Rock and there's even a riotous rendition of the William Tell Overture thrown in for good measure too. Rossini would be rocking and rolling in his grave to this music. The breathtaking speed of the high-energy Hammond organist on this album is just phenomenal. You really have to hear it to believe it. We're charging ahead next with "Light Cavalry" and this cavalry aren't stopping for anyone. The band of musical brothers are charging ahead with all guns blazing in a storming symphony of sound. The music gallops along relentlessly at incredible pace in this canorous cavalcade. It's time to dismount now though as we've finally reached the end of the album. Phew! That was a blast!

It's Bach to the Future for this dynamic, classically-inspired blast of powerful Symphonic Prog. It's an album to put on your Chopin Liszt the next time you head Orff into town on Debussy, although you may have to Handel disappointment and come Bach empty-handed, as it's a case of Haydn seek with finding this rare album treasure in the record stores these days.

Psychedelic Paul | 5/5 |


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