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Beggars Opera - Time Machine (1971)

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Uploaded on Dec 1, 2008

Beggars Opera - Time Machine; from album Waters Of Change (1971)

This band was from Scotland, their name is derived from a novel by the poet John Gray in 1728. The musicians of BEGGARS OPERA were Martin Griffiths (vocals), Rick Gardiner (guitar and vocals), Alan Park (keyboards), Gordon Sellar (bass, acoustic guitar and vocals), Virginia Scott (Mellotron and vocals) and Raymond Wilson (drums and percussion). BEGGARS OPERA made a lot of records but remained acting in the shade of most progressive rock bands.

Their debut-album "Act one" (70) contains fluent and tasteful organ driven progrock with powerful "Sixties" sounding guitarwork. The long track "Raymonds Road" is a splendid tribute to the "classics" featuring Mozarts A la Turka, Bachs Toaccata in d-fuga en Griegs Peer Gynt Suite on the Hammond organ. The second album "Waters of Change" (71) is build around the dual keyboardplay of Alan Park and newcomer Virginia Scott and the distinctive, a bit cynical vocals of Gardiner. The nine tracks are beautiful symphonic landscapes with many organ solos, some swelling and glorious Mellotron waves (like The MOODY BLUES and early KING CRIMSON) and fine electric guitarwork. On the third LP "Pathfinder" BEGGARS OPERA seems to have reached its pinnacle: strong and alternating compositions with lush keyboards (Mellotron, organ, piano and harpsichord), powerful electric guitarplay and many shifting moods (even Scottish folk with bagpipes). The band released three more albums but, in my opinion, they sounded far less captivating: "Get your dog off me" (73), "Saggittary" (76) and "Beggar's cant be choosers" (79).
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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 (ProgArchives)

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