on 29 June 2008
By 1970 bands such as Deep Purple, Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin to name a few, who had started out on the underground circuit, had moved on to the big city halls and regular album chart successes. Other bands like Rare Bird, Savoy Brown, Steamhammer etc would carry on playing the club and college circuit with occasional support bookings to the big boys, Beggars Opera unfortunately for them came under the latter catagory. For those of you who were not familiar with the music at the time, DON'T be fooled into thinking that their music is in any way sub-standard, in fact more often than not it is as good as or better. My only explanation for the failure of some of these bands to reach the heights revolves around their perceived position on their record company's pecking order, I suppose there must have been a limited amount of funding for promotion etc.
To give you a clue as to the high esteem in which this album was held, five of us worked together as apprentices, and ours was a collective record collection (concerts took priority), this and Tull's Stand up were the only duplications, nuff said.
As debut albums go, this is up there with the best of them. I assume that the band had been together for some time prior to getting a recording contract as their playing is so tight and accomplished. A previous reviewer linked them with E.L.P, however Emerson in his "Nice" days had started off with psychedelic music before introducing classical influences into his music, the Beggars appear to have bit the bullet and started their recording career with a 5 track album, 4 of which are classically inclined. The tracks that open and close the album "Poet and Peasant" and "Light cavalry" are both based on original Suppe compositions with additional arrangements and vocals added by the group. "Raymonds road" is a near on 12 minute medley of well known classical pieces grafted together with self penned bridges. "Passacaglia" and "Memory" were the work of bass player Marshall Erskine and I assume Virginia Scott, while both songs were predominantly of a rock format, the former has very definite classical leanings.
Subsequent albums, while good would never rate quite as high as this little masterpiece.
Bonus tracks "Sarabande" and "Think" were the A and B sides of their first single, and along with "Memory" show the direction which the band were heading.
This was one of the first CD's that I hunted down when I eventually came out of the stoneage and bought a CD player, and it is among my most played discs.
on 30 January 2008
I was given a vinyl LP copy of Act One by the bass guitarist, Marshall Erskine when it first came out, and have just ordered the CD. This album is still ahead of it's time even now, and I have great delight in listening to it regularly. You simply do not tire of the amazing harmonies together with the exceptional voice of Martin Griffiths.
I was very lucky to have been friends with them especially whilst at Eastwood High School.
on 18 January 2013
I first had this album on vinyl more than 40 years ago. (frightening, I know!) Now at last I have a digital copy I will cherish for the rest of my days.
Beggar's Opera are one of the finest bands I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Even in the early days of "rock music" they took the genre to heights that have never been bettered, and hardly even equalled. To this day, I can't understand why they didn't become one of the huge names in Rock - like Led Zeppelin, Yes, and Deep Purple. One possible explanation is lack of funding - or foresight(!)- on the part of the promotions department at Vertigo Records.
This album, their first, is certainly their finest. One of rock music's finest ever! With all respect due to other members of the band, this one really showcases the huge talent of Alan Park - who I first remember as the organ player with The Vipers, playng in the village hall at the end of my street - and his duels with Ray Wilson, surely one of rock music's greatest drummers. I reckon Ray, as I remember him, demonic and kilted, must have been the template for Animal in The Muppets. Ray was a true octopus of a drummer. I'd love to know what happenned to him after he left Beggar's Opera. What a huge talent!
The album still sounds fresh. I remember "Raymond's Road," the first time I ever saw Beggar's Opera when they "supported" the Tremeloes at Inverness Ice Rink in summer 1970. The Tremeloes were brilliant, but the "support" band blew them off stage.
For those who were around at the time, this album is a must. For those learning about the development of rock music, look at this in the the same light at the early Led Zeppelin albums, early Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, Jethro Tull and other greats of the early 70s. You will not be disappointed.
This is an album to be played with volume turned UP.
I have an issue in my head with Alan Park going on to work as Cliff Richard's musical director for the last thirty years. I know he will be, by now, a multi-millionaire on the back of that easy listening business - much more financially than he ever achieved with Beggar's Opera. However, on an artistic level, I can't get my head round it. Why is the talent that made brilliant music like "Raymond's Road," and "Poet & Peasant" making money prostituting himself with MOR trash like "Millenium Prayer?"
Just a thought!
on 27 May 2011
Very interesting comments regarding the Beggars Opera first LP. I was lucky enough to see the group 4 times in the period 71 - 73 (I lived in Scotland, near Edinburgh at the time) and I was amazed that they did not receive the recognition they deserved. They were great live and their first 3 LPs were a joy to listen to.
Their 4th LP (Get You Dog Off Me) was somewhat different in style - the singer had changed. However, I enjoyed Dog - but it was obvious that the group had changed their style in an attempt, I think, to make it "bigger" and, perhaps, to be noticed in the American market - were the big money was..
The sound of the organ and mellotron was a joy to hear - Act One containing some absolutely outstanding Hammond B 3 work from Alan Park.
Re the question Why did they not make it to the "big time"? Remember, at that time (very early 70's) there was just so much music around - new groups coming and going/members leaving to form other groups/etc. In addition the "majors" at the time (e.g. D Purple/J Tull/P Floyd/LZ/U Heep/Yes/etc) just became bigger and bigger, and attracted all the attention and sales. Thus, I think, the music of Beggars Opera was lost in mist of an exceptional period of time for great music. As mentioned above, their style changed with the 4th LP (Dog) in 1973 but it failed to attract the attention of the LP buying masses of 16-20 year olds and then they were gone. However, as an example of the standard of music produced, let us remember that Beggars Opera produced 4 great LP's during the period 1970 - 1973: an outstanding achievement.
Incidentally, my copy of Act One includes their first 45 single - Sarabande - which appears to sound like it is an extract from Passacaglia - brilliant wah-wah effects on the guitar and Hammond.
on 14 July 2007
Saw this band several times in the 70s.If you like rock with a classical touch this is the album to buy,this in my opinion is their best album.Shades of Emerson,Lake and Palmer only better.Their later albums went all poppy and lost the classical element.Had this album in vinyl,cassette,and now cd,one of my all time favourites.
on 21 November 2012
Beggars Opera started with this brilliant album that is a very 'busy' album musically, highlighted by Alan Park's supurb organ skills and sone great guitar and drumming that covers many musical styles.
I hear ELP, Deep Purple, King Crimson, Jethro Tull and Yes in this album.
Its a very well produced recording with great sound that surounds the speakers.
There isn't a dud track but I have the biggest love for the song Passacaglia with those amazing organ riffs.
This is yet another so called progressive rock album that deserves to be in your collection.
on 28 April 2012
One of my favourite albums from the 70s. It was great to track it down in CD format on Amazon. Regularly played now in car, on PC and on MP4.
on 17 September 2014
Great firs album from this progressive group. Long songs with a lot of Hammond.
on 12 October 2015
I love this one.
on 9 January 2014
Had this on vinyl years ago, great album but my old one had seen better days.great to have and listen to it again.(Brilliant)