Saturday, 26 May 2018

Beggar’s Opera “Beggars Opera Act One"1970 + "Waters Of Change” 1971 + ‎"Pathfinder"1972 UK Prog Rock

Beggar’s Opera “Beggars Opera Act One"1970 + "Waters Of Change” 1971 + ‎"Pathfinder"1972 UK Prog Rock
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Glasgow, Scotland, progressive rock band Beggars Opera was formed in the late 60s by Marshall Erskine (bass/flute), Ricky Gardener (guitar/vocals), Martin Griffiths (vocals/percussion), Alan Park (keyboards) and Raymond Wilson (drums). The group’s grandiose ambition was to fuse classical and progressive rock elements, an accommodation they achieved but only to moderate critical and commercial interest. The dominant Hammond organ sound drew comparison with the Nice, who were the leading organ-led prog band at that time. Signed to Vertigo Records, they made their debut in 1970 with Act One, released concurrently with ‘Sarabande’. The single was the most successful of the two releases, charting in several mainland European countries. The album included a preposterous rendition of ‘Classical Gas’, which was eventually released as a single in its own right four years later. The group then expanded to a quintet with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Gordon Sellar (bass, guitar, vocals) for the follow-up collection, Waters Of Change. Abandoning some of the progressive rock elements of earlier recordings, the group pursued a more melodious rock direction on this album, heavily indebted to musical developments on America’s west coast. Erskine had left the group by the time they recorded 1972’s Pathfinder, which included a cover version of Richard Harris’ ‘MacArthur Park’. Their final effort, 1973’s Get Your Dog Off Me, was completed as a trio, with Sellar joined by founder members Gardener and Park. Unfortunately, this again proved unsuccessful, and with Vertigo wary of further investment in the group, they broke up in 1974. Sellar attempted a re-formation in the mid-70s when two further albums were issued in Germany - still the group’s most receptive market. Gardener enjoyed greater success as a member of David Bowie’s touring band and played on Low…..allmusic….~ 

Beggar's Opera at The Marquee club, 1973.

Ricky Gardiner (guitar, vocals, 1969-76, ?-present), Raymond Wilson (drums, percussion, 1969-74), Alan Park (keyboards, 1969-73, 1980), Martin Griffiths (lead vocals, percussion, 1969-72), Marshall Erskine (bass, flute, 1969-71), Virginia Scott [aka Virginia Gardiner] (keyboards, 1970-74, 1975-76, ?-present), Gordon Sellar (bass, guitar, vocals, 1971-74, 1975-?), Pete Scott (vocals, 1972-73, 1975-76), Linnie Paterson (vocals, 1973-74, 1980-90), Colin Fairley (drums, 1974), Colin Pattenden (bass, 1980-?), John Hollywood (drums, 1980-?), Lyndsay Bridgewater (keyboards), Gordon Neville (vocals), Tom Gardiner (drums) 

Beggar’s Opera  " Beggars Opera Act One" 1970

3.5 stars really!!! This debut album is a better example of what is called proto-prog but its main flaw is also to be one of the earliest examples of derivative albums of better known groups. When putting an ear on this vintl , on e cannot help to think of two groups : The Nice and Deep Purple Mk I. This is not to say that the organ dominates that much the music but there are many moments where the Jon Lord/Keith Emerson influences are over-bearing and the guitarist is much in Line with Ritchie Blackmore and David O'list’s great contributions on The Nice’s Toughts album. Also the drumming is a little too derivative of Purple’s Ian Paice’s very original style. 
Side I is more reminiscent of Mk I Purple’s more prog moments and it is quite an enjoyment to get all of those greats solos and superb interplays. Side 2 is made up of two 11 min+ tracks which delve more into The Nice’s early stuff. Beggar’s Opera even make a reference to Blue Rondo A La Turque in the first track while the second track is IMO the highlight of the album. The Repertoire re-issue comes with two bonus tracks and they appear to come from a non-Lp single : Sarabande (3:32) and Think (4:25) are two great tracks that really add value to this promising debut. 

However enjoyable this album may be , I cannot award more stars because of its tooo evident influences. Still worth a spin and Progheads are advised to check out the second album, which shows that those guys matured quickly and well… Sean Trane …..~

This is a less pompous version of such “organ-drive progressive rock”, in the vein of the late NICE and QUATERMASS that I don’t like very much, but resembling also the band ELP as well, in a lighter vein (these latter in some circumstances only). They have got a stronger orientation to the hard rock stuff by DEEP PURPLE, unlike ELP and NICE, by adding however some sweltering guitar/organ interplays, whose long length, in a few songs fortunately, is quite bearable. 
Interesting, but totally out of a “progressive rock contest”….by lor68 ….~

Beggar’s Opera’s first album has, with the passage of time, gradually gained belated (but justified) recognition as a truly superb piece of work. The band, which hails from my native homeland (and in fact played at my High school around the time this album was released!), hit the ground running in terms of originality and imagination. 
“Act one” precedes the Mellotron driven symphonic prog which featured on its immediate successors (“Waters of change” and “Pathfinder”), but is nonetheless heavily influenced by the classics. Consisting of just five tracks, it needs to be remembered that this album was released in the same year as Pink Floyd were moving from psych into prog with “Atom heart Mother”, Genesis were only just getting beyond their Jonathan King phase with their first proper album “Trespass”, and ELP had just come together and released their first album. With that in mind, it is difficult to explain why those albums have gained legendary status, while “Act one” is all but forgotten. 
The album opens with “Poet and peasant”, which borrows heavily from Franz von Suppe’s overture of that name. The track features dominant Hammond organ, and the highly distinctive vocals of Martin Griffiths. The music has something of an early 70’s Italian prog feel to it. “Passacaglia” continues in a similar vein, with some Keith Emerson like (The Nice era) organ work, incessant time changes, and vocals through an old radio mike some 30 years before Arena used the same effect on “Contagion”. If you listen carefully, you can here the introductory theme to “Sarabande” within the track. “Sarabande” was an excellent non-album single released at the time, which is now included as a bonus track on the CD version. “Memory”, the final track on the first side of the LP is the shortest, and weakest track on the album, but it still features some nice lead guitar to close. 
The second side consist of just two long tracks. “Raymond’s Road” is a lengthy instrumental collage of classical pieces played at breakneck speed. Hammond organ once again dominates the track, but the screaming lead guitars and galloping drums make the track reminiscent of Love Sculpture’s (Dave Edmunds) mesmerising interpretation of Katchaturian’s “Sabre dance”. While “Sabre dance” does not actually appear, other classical pieces which do include “Toccata”, “Peer gynt”, and “William Tell”. Tellingly, there’s also a brief rendition of “Karelia Suite” which sounds very similar to the Nice’s “Five bridges” interpretation. The album closes with another Suppe based piece, “Light cavalry”. This is similar in structure to the opening track, with vocals and classical variations. 
While the band take full credit for the compositions throughout, no attempt is made to disguise the classic pieces which have been borrowed when making the album. Generally, they do not appear to be taking themselves as seriously as say ELP, giving the album a definite air of fun. Heard for the first time today, “Act one” will undoubtedly sound dated. Given it’s place in the timeline of prog however, it is a genuine landmark album, full of originality and fine musicianship. It might even be appropriate to classify the album as, dare I say, seminal. 
A couple of interesting footnotes. The album was produced by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter who wrote many hits songs including Eurovision song contest winner “Puppet on a string” for Sandi Shaw, and runner up “Congratulations” for Sir Clifford of Richard (but don’t let that put you off!). It was originally release in 1970 on the Vertigo “swirl” label. First edition LPs in pristine condition with untarnished sleeves are now very collectable, and change hands for exorbitant prices…. by Easy Livin ….~

Somehow I love this band still nowadays maybe because it’s a very early love for me. I liked their music very much as a teenager and when I put it today every now and then into my player I still like it. 

Okay let’s come to their first work which is heavily influenced by classical music, but unlike with many other bands by the serious and heavy one more by the lighter operetta music, namely by the compositions of Austrian Franz von Suppé in the tracks “Poet And Peasant” and “The Light Cavalry”. Their whole music is centred by Alan park’s awesome organ play with a solid rhythmic basement. Both tracks are surely not very complex, well it’s light classical music arranged for rock, but nevertheless they’re offering plenty of variability. Rest of the songs are no classical arrangements but still sounding very much influenced by classical music. On “Passacaglia” there’s a nice contrast between the organ dominated first and last parts and the relatively heavy guitar-driven middle one. 

Beggars Opera’s music might sound dated nowadays to some (especially younger) ears. I’d like to express it in a positive way, it possesses some nostalgic charming and moreover it lacks the usual bombastic and pathetic features of some other kind of classical inspired music. For me worth 4 ½ stars!… by hdfisch …~

Scottish 70’s proggers Beggar’s Opera signed to Vertigo label in the early 70’s and carried that expressive yet highly progressively exploratory prowess found in many of the Vertigo bands. “Act One” was their debut album and featured some pretty amazing musicianship and song writing including an ode to composer Suppe’s popular “Poet and Peasant” overture which opens up this album. Essentially this album is organ led with full support by the bass, guitar and drum. This album in many ways is my personal favourite of all their albums and I love the exploratory and unique space they explored on recording this gem. There are a couple of longer 11 min tracks as well which gives the band a bit more space to open up with musically. The Repertoire CD version also contains 2 bonus tracks that are circa 1970 and are nice to have as well…by loserboy …~

Named after the eponymous poem of John Gay (from 1728),BEGGAR’S OPERA were found in late 60’s in Glascow,Scotland and were signed by Vertigo Label.They debuted in 1970 with an excellent first LP “Act one”.At a time when GENESIS or YES were trying to find their own identity,BEGGAR’S OPERA clearly mixed classical music with heavy rock,resulting a spectacular work.Comparisons with THE NICE are undenieable,but BEGGAR’S OPERA had a heavier and more polished sound.Sometimes they borrow classical pieces from famous composers transforming them into superb classical rock dynamites,other times they focus on playing original material with tasteful Hammond organ to the front and light beautiful piano passages.This is one of the best connections between classical music and heavy progrressive rock,which make this album an absolutely essential addition in your collection!….by apps79 ….~

This is another good heavy rock album, fully keyboards driven and so typical of an era. 
The band never played in the premier league, but the music available on this debut album is frankly very good. Coming out at the same time of some seminal rock albums (prog or not), this release definitely deserves more interest on PA. 
The psychedelic years surely had an influence on the band (Passacaglia, Memory); but they added some heavier textures which made them somewhat original. 
The second part of the album mixes some classical themes with the wildest beats you can think of. This is particularly true during the AWESOME Raymonds Road. It features an orgy of frenetic drumming (from . Raymond Wilson) and powerful keys. It is by far the best piece of music available and there is not a second of relief during these almost twelve minutes. It is great track in the tradition of their contemporary ELP, on the heavier side. It is my highlight from this very good album. 
The other long track is not so performing IMO. It is yet another very pleasant psychedelic/heavy prog song but inspiration is not at its eight. It features a great guitar break (which is not quite usual on this album) and some frenetic parts as well. Light Cavalry is another excellent track which is another showcase for the excellent Raymond Wilson on the drums. And believe me: there is nothing light in here. 
The bonus Sarabande is fully psychedelic and even Hendrix oriented while Think is very much like an old Purple Mark I song (but it is the only track I can related to one of my most beloved bands). 
Four stars for this very good debut album. An ocean of great bands and creativity probably brought Beggars Opera behind the scene. It is a pity though… ZowieZiggy …~

An underrated gem 
Call it destiny, bad luck or whatever, BEGGARS OPERA is a band, formed in the precise moment, being that they still have a strong Psyche influence, very appropriate for 1970 but had also advanced the extra step towards Symphonic Prog, you can say they played the right music, in the right moment, with great skills, but never got the place in history of Prog they deserved. 

“Act One” is a superb debut with reminiscences of THE NICE, but IMO with better vocals, and despite not having a guy like Keith Emerson, the sound of the organ is simply fantastic, but against the odds, they are practically unknown by younger Progressive Rock listeners. 

The album opens with the frantic “Poet and Peasant” based in the homonymous Overture by Franz von Suppé, a well known musical peace played even in cartoons of that time. The track starts with a short intro and then directly pass to the central section with a tremendous bass and drums work, the keyboards by Alan Park still show that classic sound of the late 60’s but also a Baroque touch more consistent with the 70’s. The voice of Martin Griffiths is just perfect for the music. Radical changes, excellent instrumental breaks, keyboard solos, this song has absolutely everything. 

In “Passacaglia” we’re not talking about a new version of “Bach’s” work of the same name, but something like a tribute to the great musician and in general reminiscent of Baroque music, even when much faster 

It’s impressive to listen the vocals in second plane, perfectly distorted to sound as a radio transmission, create a great effect with the organ as the lead instrument, again the bass - drums interplay between Erskine and Wilson is simply outstanding. Around the middle of the song an incredibly radical change transports us to USA scenario, with a heavy Rock that could had easily been played by GRAND FUNK RAILROAD, just to mutate again returning us to the XVIII Century with the amazing organ. 

“Memory” is the shorter track of side “A” (LP format), shorter and much more violent than the two previous, now we’re talking about pure rock with great keyboards, the use of Mellotron is not so obvious as in other bands but still evident enough, the instrumental sections change from frenetic to soft in a matter of seconds, maybe a couple of hints of “Witches Promises” by JETHRO TULL, but must be coincidence, because both songs were released with only some months of difference. Some people find this song weaker than the rest of the album, I find it different and a necessary change. Special mention to Ricky Gardiner, who plays a killer guitar. 

“Raymond’s Road” opens side “B” (of the old vinyl format), a track in the vein of “Rondo” by THE NICE, featuring sections of Bach’s Toccata & Fugue·, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from “Peer Gynt” by Grieg, William tell Overture by Rossini, of course Mozart’s “Turkish March”“, etc. Not original due to THE NICE previous song, but still very nice to listen this sort of classical collages. Again the drumming by Raymond Wilson is simply breathtaking, not sure if the name is a reference to his name. 

The original version is closed by "Light Cavalry”, another version of Von Suppé’s musical piece, this time much closer to the original, but still with time enough to enjoy the audience with the interplay between Park’s keyboard and Wilson drums with very good vocals. Radical changes, Psyche jamming sections, this track has everything, good closer 

My CD version has two bonus tracks, the excellent “Sarabande” and “Think”, but as always will limit my review to the original release, because that’s the way the author made it to be listened. 
Not a masterpiece, but close to the status, 4 solid stars…….by Ivan_Melgar_M ….~

Pass me a valium, I need to calm down. Scottish Proggers Beggars Opera never repeated themselves from album to album. They started out strong, but gradually lessened their impact as the 70’s rolled on. This debut release of theirs, ‘Act One’, features a fine blend of hard- rocking, psychedelic and classically inspired music. Fans of the Rod Evans line-up of DEEP PURPLE as well as THE NICE (featuring Keith Emerson) should look into this album. Heavy with keyboardist Alan Park’s virtuosic Hammond organ chops and a Blackmore-esque flavour with Ricky Gardiner’s searing lead-guitar runs, this is a sure treat for many prog-heads. The rhythm section of Ray Wilson and Marshall Erskine (drums and bass respectively) are quite able and energetic too. Lead vocalist Martin Griffiths has a fine voice and delivery but it hasn’t aged very well, actually, this album hasn’t aged very well but it still delivers some superb musical arrangements ; only 1 song clocks in under 4 minutes, 2 tracks around the 7 minute mark, and 2 tracks on side two almost 12 minutes long each. Right from the get-go this is clearly a proto-prog adventure, and one of the finest. 'Poet and the Peasant’ sets the album off in a big way with those classical organ lines and Griffiths’ vocals - the instrumental passage is reminiscent of Deep Purple’s Mandrake Root (live versions anyway, to draw a similar comparison). 'Passacaglia’ offers some great melodies and a cool guitar work-out in the middle. The organ and bass work really well together, creating fugue- like complexities. One of my personal faves from this band. 'Memory’ is the shorter tune here and very catchy with an 'underground’ vibe and bluesy riff - the wah-wah organ is quite psychey. It does tackle some intricate territories to make it a bit more substantial. Finishing off side one is me staring into the Vertigo swirl label which looks like some sort of void with a cone in the middle……. Emersonian organ crashing and pitch-bending kicks off 'Raymonds Road’, an extended, jammy instrumental featuring many classical licks from Bach to Sibelius, Rossini to Greig, along with some abrasive guitar soloing. The bass-line is reminiscent of The Nice’s 'Rondo’. And on it goes. 'Light Cavalry’ leans towards the psychedelic with a colourful wah-wah organ section. More classical riffs along the way. So, nothing too revolutionary nor original, but definately a near-masterpiece in my ears. 4 stars….by Tom Ozric …..~

Beggar’s Opera was an obscure Scottish prog rock act, that managed to stay under most’s radar back in the day. Their debut album shows strong classical aspirations in conjunction with heavy psychedelic rock and a bit of jazz influences, all sounding very intelectual. Alan Park, the classically-trained keyboardist is on fire here! His playing can closely be compared to that of Keith Emerson, Jon Lord or Dave Stewart on Egg’s debut album. Ricky Gardiner’s playing is something rare in progressive rock. It can vary from wild, Hendrix-esque riffs to something we can imagine as a guitarist treating his instrument like a philharmonic musician treating his violin or cello. All in all, a very versatile solo section. All supported by an incredible rhythm section that can go from pumping to light jazzy touches. In Beggar’s Opera every instrument works like a Swiss watch - very accurate and rather pleasing. The key track and a highlight of this album is “Raymond’s Road” - a compilation of well-known classical compositions like “Turkish March”, “Karelia Suite”, “Fugue in D-minor” and some more. All this based on a fast rhythm, reminiscent of “Sabre Dance” by Khachaturian. This best showcases fantastic musicianship of Beggar’s Opera. Other tracks are also very classical-based, perhaps with more jazz influence and phenomenal British sense of humor. 
Beggar’s Opera “Act One” will make a great album for all fans of old progressive rock and classical music. This is an especially important album, which shows the face of early prog. A true gem!….by ALotOfBottle …..~

Bass – Marshall Erskine 
Drums – Raymond Wilson 
Guitar – Ricky Gardener* 
Organ – Alan Park 
Vocals – Martin Griffiths

Poet And Peasant
Raymond’s Road
Light Cavalry

Beggars Opera ‎"Waters Of Change" 1971

Nothing to write home about - this is pleasant but no great undiscovered treasure . With their first 2 albums , Beggar was a correct band with a bit of all the ingredients we are all looking for , but even if they had gotten a better exposition , they would have remained in the second league, as they simply not had the genius to break it big (a little like Argent but those guys could write a good single). 
The music here is actually much more mature than the one developped on their debut which was too derivative of Mk I Purple and The Nice . On Water Of Change, they have definitely bettered in the vocal dept and the songwriting. Athough , every time I listen to this album, I cannot help thinking of Cressida, Barclay James Harvest and to a lesser extent The Moody Blues, they manage to sound personal enough that my unease towards that came with the debut is absent with this one. 

This is still worth a spin but put an ear on it before buying it. Start with this one or Act 1 and try the next one (Pathfinder), which I found (IMHO) particularly uninspired but still prog. All later albums are to be avoided….. by Sean Trane ….~

“Waters of change” was Beggar’s opera’s best album in my opinion, full of strong melodies and well constructed songs. Having introduced themselves with the innovative, classically driven “Act one”, the band invested in a mellotron, which instantly became the dominant instrument in their sound. The band moved away from the intricate symphonic prog of their first album, towards the art rock of the Moody Blues and Barclay James Harvest. 

The stately “Time machine” opens the album the mellotron sound instantly swirling behind the rich distinctive vocals of Martin Griffiths. The best track for me is “Silver peacock”, a deceptively straight forward song, with more excellent keyboard work, a superb melody, and atmospheric vocals. There is a coherence and continuity to the tracks which allows the album a flow well. 
A few more albums like this, and Beggar’s Opera could have been as big as their art rock peers. Unfortunately after one more quality album, they were to quickly run out of steam… Easy Livin …..~

Waters Of Change is one of those lovely efforts that is worthy of the “little-known masterpiece” tag that is so freely applied to the literally hundreds of obscure recordings in progressive rock circles. Not having heard either the debut album Act One or the lauded successor Pathfinder (aside from the delectable cover of MacArthur Park) I can’t comment on how this album matches up to the rest of this Scottish sextet’s output, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this was the finest Beggar’s Opera album. 
At the heart of the group is an understated but effective dual keyboard attack of mellotronist Virginia Scott, whose sounds paint crucial colours that help the other musicians shine, and organist/pianist Alan Park, who gets the lion’s share of the many fine solos that puntuacte this recording at regular intervals. If pushed I’d say that Park’s organ solo in I’ve No Idea is very narrowly his finest moment, but as overall songs, it is Time Machine and Silver Peacock that really clinched the deal for me. Here the vocals of Martin Griffiths (which don’t always work) and the subtle guitar work of Ricky Gardiner come into play. 

Although there are 9 tracks listed here, the album’s core is 5 strong pieces. There’s the scintillating, beautifully paced Time Machine (with a guitar hook that just sticks in your head) and the throbbing I’ve No Idea (with surprisingly poppy lyrics). There’s Festival (which redeems itself after a poor start and contains some flute playing by original bassist Marshall Erskine who had been replaced by Gordon Sellar for this album) and the lovely Silver Peacock, which starts off with some baroque organ (Bach surely?) and then rides on a beautiful melody before concluding with some more majestic melodic solo work from Park. The fifth “main” song is the thrill a minute jazz-rock conclusion The Fox, which like Festival seems to have to overcome some weak passages to sit comfortably alongside the other excellent tracks on the album … some spacey guitar lead work from Gardiner eventually does the trick! 

Three of the other tracks function as brief introductions to some of the main fare (although the string/guitar exchange between Scott and Gardiner is quite special), while the fourth Nimbus is a pretty, but unremarkable instrumental (although for some reason the string attack of the Britpop phenomenon Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony comes to mind). 

Beggar’s Opera is not one of those slick “audiophile” prog groups … indeed there are rough edges to this album. I don’t think it needs any smoothing out though. … 73% on the MPV scale…. by Trotsky ….~

One of the more interesting proto-prog albums, this one has instant appeal for the mellotron and Hammond lover, as there are lashings of both all over it. Beggar’s Opera’s style is hard to define. Though there are many symphonic moments and an occasional Scottish folk influence, Martin Griffiths’ vocals are the defining aspect of the band’s sound, and they are definitely an acquired taste (his vocals on their cover of MacArthur Park on Pathfinder are WAAY over the top). His ultra-melodramatic style actually nudges the band over towards the pomp rock of Queen at times…perhaps BO were a proto prog pomp band. At any rate, they sound more original than other bands like Fantasy, Gracious! and Cressida from the same period. The compositions are generally strong, as is the electric guitar soloing of Ricky Gardiner. The highlight of the album for me is an atmospheric instrumental, 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. Hence, this is the band’s strongest album, just edging out Pathfinder, and I can easily recommend it to anyone looking for some quality early British prog…just watch out for those vocals… Heptade ….~

This has been such an enjoyable listen this past week. Very melodic with the mellotron and organ usually dominating the sound. These guys just knew how to make great songs, which sound even better because of the hammond and mellotron. I wonder if Virginia Scott(mellotron) was any kind of an influence on Sofi Dahlberg from ANEKDOTEN. 
“Time Machine” opens ominously before the organ and mellotron arrive. I love the guitar throughout this tune that recalls some of the great Krautrock guitar players. Everytime the vocals come in the guitar stops. It’s an absolute mellotron storm during this track. Check out the organ 6 ½ minutes in,and the guitar solo to follow. Initially this was my favourite, but “I’ve No Idea” may have surpassed it. “Lament” is a short organ piece with marching-like drums coming in part way through. This one seems to be a nod to their Scottish heritage. “I’ve No Idea” is just too darn catchy. The lyrics are on the poppy side but the music just sweeps me away. The piano, organ and drum melody is too pleasing. Some great organ before 3 minutes. Mellotron 4 ½ minutes in as the vocals become soft. Great section ! Oh, and check out the guitar during the final minute. “Nimbus” is an instrumental of acoustic guitar, drums and synths? With mellotron and organ eventually joining in making it even better. This one is kind of atmospheric and spacey. 

'Festival ’ is an uptempo, fun track to start with. I like it better when it calms down 1 ½ minutes in though. It takes off again 3 minutes in with flute joining in this time. Some nice guitar a minute later. “Silver Peacock(Intro)” is just that, a short intro featuring some spoken words introducing us to the next track, with organ helping out. “Silver Peacock” opens with a very classical sound of uptempo organ and light drums.The song changes and kicks off a minute in. Vocals,mellotron, organ and drums lead the way. I like this one. “Impromptu” is a short instrumental of gently played guitar and cello. “The Fox” has a lot of tempo changes and fairly fast paced vocals to begin with, although they change a lot too. I like the organ and guitar melody 3 minutes in. The vocals speed up again followed by a nice organ solo. Some beautiful mellotron followed by a heavy section where the lyrics make fun of the now caught fox. A very proggy tune. 
I highly recommend this album.To fans of mellotron and organ this is a must have…. by Mellotron Storm ….~

Beggars Operais one of the most underrated progressive rock bands from early '70 from UK, more specific from Scotland. They begun their carrer in 1969 , thaken their name from a novel of John Gray from 1728. Even they share same period with the giants like Genesis, Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, Yes, Pink Floyd or King Crimson, Beggars Opera never made it in first league, strange because at least first 3 albums are a worthy aquisition to anyones collection. Water of change is their second album from 1971, release at famous Vertigo label , after the moderate succes Act one previous year. The sound on this second offer is more elaborated, more confident, established and instristing in same time then on first album. The music is somthing between Barclay James Harves, the eclectic moments with a touch of symphonic arrangements not far from Genesis, Yes, with catchy mellotron elements and great guitar chops all over. The keyboards arrangements, here included mellotron, piano and organ are made in a great diversivity, some duels between female Virginia Scott with excellent musician Alan Park. Above all I like a lot the voice of Martin Griffith, very powerful range and a catchy as hell tone of voice, even for some reviewers the voice is the weakest part of the album, for me is quite contrary, excellent job. All the pieces are winners here, not a weak moment, I'de liked to hear more vein in some parts and more bursting moments to give a certain esthablished atmosphere from their music, but anyway good album for sure. The pieces are well developed with great passages , like on the title traks , a classic of early prog music, but my fav track is The Fox, with stunning bass lines and solid rythmic arrangements all over and with some very intrsting key passages who interluded like glove with the guitar. With such great second album, Beggars Opera was a truly a band to follow in the future with good potential, but with all that positive reviews from fans and critics , the band after 3 great albums, took a wrong path in progressive rock and almost fall into oblivion in mid to late '70’s, and for good reason, the music was weak and almost lost everything magic like on this album and third one from 1972. Maybe that ’s why they never made it in first league of progressive rock movement like the masters. I will give easy for Waters of change 4 stars, a great album, quite unnoticed in comparation with other albums from that period and for sure has great moments to offer. Great additon to anyones collection and one of the good aquisition if you like to discover a little less known acts from progressive rock treasure chest…. by b_olariu ….~

The followup to Act One is no lost masterpiece, but it’s enough of a step up from its predecessor to merit an extra star and the full attention of anyone keen on the Vertigo label’s early prog bands. The songwriting approach moves away here from the Keith Emerson- inspired approach of the previous album - gone are the super-fast songs dominated by Alan Park’s organ tossing out classical quotations like anything - and in its place are more balanced songs on which the other instrumentalists get a more equal share of the spotlight, and the pace is a bit more varied than on Act One (which was more or less stuck in “fast” gear with regular excursions to “extra fast”). 
Part of this is due to the increased role of Virginia Scott in the group - she’d been brought in for the previous album as a songwriter to compose original material for the group, and with the sharp reduction in covers of baroque classical pieces (in fact, I think all the music here is original) her contributions have more room to breathe. (As, indeed, do the musical ideas of the other band members, most of whom step up to contribute to the songwriting on this album.) On top of that, Scott became a performing member of the band at this point in time too, joining as the group’s dedicated mellotron player, her playing adding new layers of texture to the songs and helping to make them less of a purely organ-dominated affair. 

None of these improvements - or the higher standard of production - are quite enough to propel Beggars Opera into the stratosphere, but the album still stands head and shoulders over its predecessor, and should probably be your first port of call if you plan to explore the band’s work….by Warthur ….~

For the second Beggars Opera effort the line-up received some sort of refreshment.Virginia Scott, who had joined the band early as a composer, was urgraded to a participant on “Waters of change”, handling the Mellotron, while Alan Park was responsible for the piano and Hammond organ passages.Bassist Marshal Erskine participated in only one track of the upcoming album, leaving Beggars Opera and being replaced by Gordon Sellar.Famous engineer Martin Birch took his place behind the console and the album was recorded and released in 1971, the second of Vertigo albums for the band. 
Now, this was a pretty strange release by the Scottish group.Instead of stepping on the principles established by themselves on the Heavy/Classical Rock of “Act one” and building around this formula towards an even more personal style, they seem to take a trip back in late-60’s/early-1970, resembling more to bands like THE MOODY BLUES or a more progressive PROCOL HARUM.“Waters of change” sounds a bit directionless with the band throwing in strong psychedelic nuances in the process to go along with heavier sections and less Classical-inspired but more symphonic keyboard parts.Additionally the tracks sound less structured with a slight jamming mood of the early-70’s organ-driven British Psych Rock bands.On the other hand, this is far from uninteresting music.Beggars Opera was a very talented act and they had their own way to combine Soft Psych Rock with a lyrical atmosphere with an organ-drenched Heavy Rock, the result was a bunch of compositions, which included romantic vocals, driving rhythms, smooth electric guitars and a more pompous organ execution, often interrupted by the atmospheric Mellotron waves of Virginia Scott.They sounded like a cross between DEEP PURPLE, CRESSIDA, early CARAVAN and THE MOODY BLUES at this point, combining a sentimental lyricism with the power of Rock music.There are still some great meodies to be found and the tracks contain nice variations, but the symphonic washes are less dominant with a vocal-based Psych/Prog style prevailing. 
Kind of dissapointing work after the impressive “Act one”, but still a pretty cool album of early-70’s Prog Rock, featuring a mixture of soft psych-oriented textures, organ smashes and symphonic overtones.Recommended……by apps79 ….~

Like entering a great and ancient abbey, the second long-player from the legendary Scots is an intriguing, sometimes haunting collection of treasures and despite (or perhaps with the help of) Martin Griffiths’ melodramatic moaning, gives us one of the most heartfelt and fully textured records in progressive rock’s early history. As though almost literally plucked from time, Waters of Change has soul, man, and porously exudes the brown, peaty atmosphere of a crumbling but vital Scottish estate complete with graveyard, thick fog, and the ghosts of the restless. It is one of a kind. 
New member Virginia Scott’s 'tron grinds open 'Time Machine’ and everything knits together like that of a group who’d been together for many years, melodic, uptempo and taking from the best of British rock, folk and Pop. Brief 'Lament’ hands us off to initially blah 'I’ve No Idea’ which holds some nice surprises from Alan Park’s keys and a delicate arrangement. A mistuned acoustic provides the base for range-striding 'Nimbus’, not a completely necessary cut but adds some extra color before romantic and quite well-done 'Festival’ with its baroque tonalities and tight group playing reminding of Jethro Tull circa 1970. Bach rocks on 'Silver Peacock’, an organ showcase for Park with plenty of delightfully strange and acid-drenched imagery from Griffiths and good development by the band. Aptly named 'Impromptu’ was probably nice in 1971, not so much now but its tailed by 'The Fox’ as it follows a reluctant participant in pursuit of wild game. 

I don’t think of this six-piece as symphonic though psychoclassical elements are abundant; they kinda invented their own category. Further, Waters of Change is forty-two minutes with only about thirty minutes of worthy stuff so I wouldn’t blame a listener for feeling flat upon hearing this one. But that thirty minutes is among the most flavorful and rich the vintage Prog era had to offer. Beggars Opera were not virtuosos. They were not geniuses or innovators or in great demand. But they yielded some of the most savory, toothsome recordings in what was an increasingly technical rock field and Waters of Change has only improved with age. At least most of it has….by Atavachron …..~

Bass Guitar, Flute – Marshall Erskine (tracks: B1) 
Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals – Gordon Sellar 
Lead Guitar, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar – Ricky Gardiner 
Lead Vocals, Cowbell – Martin Griffiths 
Mellotron, Vocals – Virginia Scott 
Organ, Piano – Alan Park 
Percussion – Raymond Wilson 

Time Machine
I’ve No Idea
Silver Peacock (Intro)
Silver Peacock
The Fox

Beggars Opera ‎"Pathfinder"1972

“Pathfinder” followed on nicely from the superb “Waters of change” album. Generally not quite up to the standard of it’s predecessor, this is nonetheless a highly creditable piece of work, with many fine tracks. 
The best offerings are probably the first three tracks, which constitute side one of the LP. “Hobo” would have fitted in well on “Waters of change”, being a keyboards driven piece. It is quite upbeat for Beggar’s Opera, but retains the distinctive vocals and melodic content. 

The band’s version of Jim Webb’s “Macarthur park” has been derided in the past, but for me it’s a worthy interpretation, which gives the song a completely different feel to the version made famous by actor Richard Harris in the 1960’s (a single which was many years ahead of its time). The remaining tracks are generally of a high standard, with dominant keyboards, and quality vocals. “From shark to haggis” is a fun instrumental which seamlessly moves from a “Jaws” type theme, to a Scottish jig! 

A further slice of quality 70’s prog from this talented band. If you enjoyed “Waters of change”, you’ll enjoy this. 

The LP had an original fold out sleeve, which became a cardboard poster 6 times the size of an LP sleeve… Easy Livin …..~

This was the third album by this Scottish act that was recording for Vertigo. The original LP to “Pathfinder” comes with a gimmick cover that folds in to a giant poster, revealing the astronaut riding the horse is on a planet that hardly looks like Earth. 
The Mellotron, as found on “Waters of Change” had all but vanished. Virginia Scott (just about the only female keyboardist I know who played Mellotron) had sat this one out, so all keyboard duties were by Alan Parker. The rest of the band at this time consisted of guitarist/vocalist Ricky Gardner, bassist Gordon Sellar, vocalist Martin Griffiths (not to be confused with Martin Griffin, the on and off again drummer for HAWKWIND from the late '70s to early '80s who was often wrongly named Martin Griffiths), and drummer Ray Wilson (absolutely nothing to do with the Ray Wilson who replaced Phil Collins in GENESIS). The music here is pretty much early '70s song-based prog typical of the British scene of the time, dominated by the Hammond organ. You won’t be mistaking this for GENTLE GIANT, to say the least, so this is quite an accessible album. 

There are just times you don’t want your prog to go through a million meter changes in five minutes with as little melody as possible, there’s time you want your prog to at least have some catchy and solid melodies, and this album delivers. A great example would be the opening song, “Hobo”, with lyrics referring to an aging homeless man. They also do a cover of Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park” (a million versions of this song exists, don’t ask me why, the most famous being the hit version from actor Richard Harris back in 1968, and “Weird” Al Yankovic doing a parody of that song in 1993 called “Jurassic Park” in honor of the Spielberg movie that came out that year). Harpsichord dominates this piece, but there is a little Mellotron, and unfortunately the only cut on this album that uses it. There’s a couple of sinister, occult-themed songs too, with “The Witch” and “Madame Doubtfire” that could remind you of the CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN (without Arthur Brown’s distinct vocals) or BLACK WIDOW. The title track has vocal harmonies that remind me a bit of the BYRDS, but still unmistakably progressive and '70s, especially the use of guitar and Hammond organ. “From Shark to Haggis” is an odd piece. It starts off rather jazzy, then the band goes exploring their Scottish roots, turning it in to a Celtic folk jig (let’s not forget “Haggis” in the song title, which is a food unique to Scotland, and most commonly served during Robert Burns Day, and I wonder if the “From Shark” bit was inspired by Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife”, which was a jazzy song with lyrics referring to sharks). “Stretcher” is the album’s only instrumental cut, and unfortunately, for me, is rather unremarkable, mainly dominated by Ricky Gardiner’s guitar playing. The album closes with “Madame Doubtfire”, which, as mentioned before, has a strong occult theme, and the song really gets wild at the end with all the screaming. 

It’s to my understanding that “Pathfinder” was BEGGARS OPERA’s last fully progressive album, although they did continue on and off again releasing albums until the beginning of the 1980s. This is a nice album to have for those who enjoy early British prog….. by Proghead …..~

Just got the CD last month during DISCUS Live Verso at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta, May 19, 2005 - from a collector, with relatively expensive price for a used CD. Never mind, as long as I get the treasure of seventies band. I first knew the band last year from their album “Water of Change” through a loan from my progmate here. “Pathfinder” delivers a classic rock music with some prog touch. Most of the structure and compositions are simple and pretty straight forward with some inventive organ work. For me, it’s good having this collection of classic band. 
“Hobo” opens the album with a simple structure. What makes this track sounds prog is the organ solo that is very nice and inventive in nature. “MacArthur Park” which is Jim Webb’s classic is performed nicely with clavinet work and excellent vocal delivery ranging from low to high register notes. “The Witch” is a rockier track with simple guitar riffs and excellent keyboard / organ work. “Pathfinder” starts off with drum solo followed with lead guitar work reminiscent of Uriah Heep’s Mick Box. The guitar style has characterized the song and made it a bit similar with Uriah Heep music. “From Shark to Haggies” starts beautifully with keyboard and operatic vocal line augmented with drum high hat sounds. The vocal travels up nicely augmented with excellent guitar work. It’s my favorite track of this album. I really love the powerful vocal here! “Stretcher” begins with a very nice piano solo work that reminds me to Refugee (of Patrick Moraz). When the music flows with a blues-based influence, the guitar solo brings the music into an uplifting mood. It’s a wonderful guitar work. It’s an instrumental track with good composition that brings you to the seventies nuance, really! “Madame Doubtfree” is an opera-like song with energetic voice line - powerful voice! Rhythm-wise this song is similar with the music of our local band in the seventies (I don’t know which one release the album first): Barongs Band… Gatot …~

Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar, Vocals – Gordon Sellar 
Drums – Raymond Wilson 
Guitar, Vocals – Ricky Gardiner 
Keyboards – Alan Park 
Lead Vocals, Liner Notes – Martin Griffiths 

A1 Hobo 4:40 
A2 MacArthur Park 8:20 
A3 The Witch 5:26 
B1 Pathfinder 3:44 
B2 From Shark To Haggis 6:38 
B3 Stretcher 4:50 
B4 Madame Doubtfire 4:15 

1970 Act One 
1971 Waters of Change 
1972 Pathfinder 
1973 Get Your Dog Off Me! 
1974 Sagittary 
1975 Beggars Can’t Be Choosers 
1980 Lifeline 
1996 The Final Curtain (compilation) 
2007 Close to My Heart 
2009 Touching the Edge 
2011 Lose a Life (EP) 
2011 Promise in Motion 
2012 Mrs. Calagari’s Lighter

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“A Revolutionary New Triumph in Tape” 1958

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