Friday, April 12, 2013

Beggars Opera - Waters Of Change (1971 uk, essential heavy progressive rock, 2006 Repertoire digi pack edition)

 Beggars Opera are one of the most intriguing of all the bands to emerge from the Progressive Rock era of the 1970s. Hailing from Scotland the group was and still remains built around the talents of guitarist Ricky Gardiner and his wife Virginia Scott, who sings, plays keyboards and composes lyrics.

Still active today, but now based in Wales, the pair have released such albums as ‘Close To My Heart’ (2007), a richly varied and dynamic set of performances that took ten years to bring to fruition. This was mainly due to the effects of a medical condition known as ‘electro sensitivity’ that has affected Ricky Gardner for many years. This is brought about by exposure to radiation from mobile phones and computers. Ricky and Virginia have based their latest album ‘Lose A Life’ (2011) on the theme. Sub-titled a ‘Nano Opera’ it is based on the story of his battle against ‘E.S.’

Roderick ‘Ricky’ Gardiner’ was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1948. He has enjoyed a busy career, including working with David Bowie and Iggy Pop. But his first brush with fame came when Beggars Opera was formed in 1969. The original group was based in Glasgow and took its name from the ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ a play by the poet John Gay. Ricky began playing guitar in bands at the age of 14. Among his earliest groups were the Kingbees, Vostoks and the System. Beggars Opera first comprised Gardiner (guitar, vocals), Martin Griffiths (lead vocals), Alan Park (organ, piano), Gordon Sellar (bass, acoustic guitar, vocals) and Raymond Wilson (drums). Virginia Scott (Mellotron and vocals) joined later.

The group signed to Vertigo, alongside Black Sabbath, Colosseum and Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three. They released four albums over the next few years, ‘Waters Of Change’ (1971) was their second , the band had now added a female mellotron-player named Virginia Wolf who also wrote some material for the group too. Openoing track "Time Machine" has a relaxed and dreamy feeling to it, while "I've No Idea" and the folky "Festival" were both more energetic and excellent progressive rock tracks. "The Fox" was probably the most complex song the group ever recorded. "Silver Peacock" has a very beautiful mellotron arrangement, and especially the intro sounds cool. There are also some short and very nice instrumentals between the longer tracks. The best of these is probably "Nimbus". An essential album from the early 70's progressive scene of England.
1. Time Machine (Park, Gardiner, Griffiths) - 8:08
2. Lament (Park, Wilson) - 1:50
3. I've No Idea (Park, Griffiths) - 7:42
4. Nimbus (Griffiths, Gardiner, Sellar) - 3:35
5. Festival (Park, Erskine, Griffiths) - 5:59
6. Silver Peacock (Intro) (Scott, Park, Griffiths) - 0:23
7. Silver Peacock (Scott, Park, Griffiths) - 6:32
8. Impromptu (Scott, Gardiner) - 1:18
9. The Fox (Scott, Gardiner, Griffiths) - 6:47

Beggars Opera
*Ricky Gardiner - Lead Guitar, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Martin Griffiths - Lead Vocals, Cow Bell
*Alan Park - Organ, Piano
*Gordon Sellar - Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Virginia Scott - Mellotron, Vocals
*Raymond Wilson - Percussion

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  1. It’s fun to find music from an old era. Beggar’s Opera takes me back to a past era,album occupies space on my shelf from many years...The inspiration for the creation of the name of the formation was 'loud' a play written in 1728 by John Gay - "Beggar's Opera". Fate of groups however did not go the same manner as the original scenic.

    In 1970 the band signed with Vertigo, whose profile was set just for ambitious and innovative performers. And it's hard to disagree that this had Beggar's Opera No doubt, along with Genesis, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Jethro Tull and, expanded the boundaries of rock. But even the in those times, the boom years for music remarkable, not every musical hero had the opportunity to sign a contract. And even if he did it was not clear to success. And it was not that they were inferior artists. Often it was simply a matter happy - greater or lesser .

    'Act One',Beggar's Opera debut was brave and crazy trip through the areas of classical music, progressive rock-oriented klawiszowo with a little psychedelii, and above all with a powerful dose of madness and humor. May annoy some quotes from classical music as if woven into force, creating a sense of chaos or patched structure, this arrangement works Franz Von Suppe'go - Poet And Peasant (in the original Poet And Peasant Overure) and Light Calvary. Creativity comes to mind Emerson, Lake and Palmer mixed with the master Zappa. However, it gets much more interesting during longer instrumental passages based on their own conceptions of musicians. Distributed here throughout their rich 'artistry' music and fantastic workshop of musicians

    Their electrifying and unforgettable live performances at home and abroad, earned them major success in Germany, with the super hit 'Time Machine' from their 'Waters of Change' album of 1971. One of the more interesting proto-prog albums,at this time,this has instant appeal for lover mellotron and Hammond,at any rate, they sound more original than other bands like Fantasy, Gracious! and Cressida from the same period.

  2. On the second plate 'Water of Change' can be heard to move away from the keyboard sound a la ELP towards playing style reminiscent of my Indian Summer, however is not abandoning the climate Zappa madness. It got a little more room for guitars. The melodies are pretty much universally addictive and enjoyable throughout, from the semi-melancholy "Time Machine" to the humorous faux medieval jig of "Festival" to the grandiosity of "Silver Peacock". Indeed, for a song based, light hearted and melodic early progressive rock album, one would be hard pressed to come up with a better example than 'Waters of Change'.

    The compositions are generally strong, as is the electric guitar soloing of Ricky Gardiner. A mellotron is added to many of the tracks, thickening the texture of Beggar’s Opera’s music. But one of the highlights of this album is a short piece, “Lament,” with an organ and distant drum offering a droning chant-like feel, like a bagpiper standing alone on a hill in the early morning mist, plaintively calling for attention. “Festival” is another highlight of the “Waters of Change” album, calling to mind Jethro Tull, along with other progressive rock influences. Flute riffs permeate the background of parts of “Festival.”

    The music throbs through wonderful chord migrations with the cadence on the lyrics “festival is here to stay” that surprises in a really satisfying way. “Festival” paces through development and shifts as we expect from a good progressive rock song. In fact, this is my favorite cut from the first four Beggar’s Opera albums. The quotes of classical music are reduced in this album, but have certainly not disappeared. “Silver Peacock” starts out with the C minor prelude from Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier (I) played flawlessly at break-neck speed on the organ. However, climax of the album for me is an atmospheric instrumental track 'Nimbus', featuring some beautiful mellotron and almost E-bowish sustained guitar notes. Fortunately, the Nice-ish classical aspirations of the first album, Act One, are mostly absent here, with more emphasis on songwriting. Warm and endearing to the last, this is one of the finest albums from this particular era and sub genre

    In my humble opinion, fortunately, for others, unfortunately, so anyway on the next album "Beggars" freed from the direct classical inspiration. The album appeared mellotron, which somewhat changed the style of the group. He gave the music more dignities, which, combined with the resignation of the lively, but not matching the rest of the pieces gave a consistent album, which well illustrates the artistic 'direction' of the group. Direction, which was the culmination their consecutive great album 'Pathfinder'

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