BEGGAR’S OPERA – Pathfinder
Scottish prog-rockers Beggar’s Opera made four albums during their career. The masterpiece was ‘Waters Of Change’, which I have owned for many years, and so when the chance came to hear their follow-up I grabbed the opportunity. ‘Pathfinder’s claim to fame, if any, is that the group covered ‘McArthur Park’ in a rock setting, and so it would be worth hearing just for that. But before that we have ‘Hobo’, which turns out to be an excellent progressive gem with a commercial edge. ‘McArthur Park’ follows, and they actually make quite a good job of it, retaining the feel of the original while beefing it up with a rock backing. ‘The Witch’ is a lengthy piece of progressive rock, with a catchy chorus and suitably atmospheric feel. Lush harmony vocals and Hammond organ to the fore make the title track a stand-out, while ‘From Shark To Haggis’ is something of a oddity, starting out in a jazzy prog way before the band go all Scottish on us for a Celtic jig to end the song. ‘Stretcher’ is an instrumental featuring the bluesy guitar of Ricky Gardiner, a little short on melody but showcasing Gardiner’s fluid guitar style. The album ends with ‘Madame Doubtfire’, another song like ‘The Witch’ with macabre, occult lyrics, and suitably spooky music. It even has a Vincent Price soundalike cackling away in the background while the Hammond organ and guitar duel for all they’re worth. An unusual way to end the album, but memorable if nothing else. I was quite impressed with this offering by the band, as I as under the impression that they only made one really good album in their time together, but if you have heard and liked ‘Waters Of Change’ then you really should give this one a try as I am sure you will as taken by it as I was.