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(44:38, ‘Ricky Gardiner Songs’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Mrs. Caligari's Lighter 4:06 2. Doris 3:14 3. The Comforter 6:29 4. Love Is Just a Torrent 4:08 5. Funny Eyes 3:31 6. You Just Don't Get It 5:25 7. It's Friday Night You Know 3:20 8. You Have to Watch You Know 4:35 9. How Long Before the Machine Rusts 3:37 10. So Long 6:13 LINEUP: Ricky Gardiner – guitars Virginia Aurora Scott – keyboards; vocals Tom Gardiner – drums
Prolusion. Please read here.
Analysis. Beggars Opera anno 2012 appears to be a band in good steam. Five years into their comeback, this family based unit is now expanding the boundaries of their repertoire, steadily seeking outwards from the core structure revolving around Virginia's vocals and keyboards as counterpoints to Ricky's guitar textures. Or perhaps it would be better to say that they expand the manner in which those contrasting features can be utilized, as well as steadily developing arrangements and compositional structures of a more sophisticated nature. In short, seeking out new shores and alternative approaches like any other band project that opts to constantly develop rather than trying to perfect a set and defined expression. The lead vocals of Virginia Scott remain a central feature on this occasion too. Her voice is undeniably of the kind that comes from a mature woman, but she's got an expertise in utilizing it that many can envy her. Just as much at ease in delivering cold and aloof vocals as she is in employing a certain coy and sensual one, her vocals create and maintain a striking nerve and tension throughout. Her skills at creating keyboard arrangements are just about as striking, creating smooth synth backdrops and more dramatic symphonic textures with the same apparent ease, and she's also a master of using the piano to add careful dramatic effects. Her brief, slow piano inserts in particular are always a joy to encounter when employed as a dramatic effect. Ricky Gardiner alternates between delivering dark toned, contrasting guitar riffs, warm and rich in delivery, with gentle, melodic guitar soloing first and foremost – as a counterpoint to keyboards and vocals for the former and as supplemental harmony and melody features for the latter, occasionally also providing subtler, subservient details of a gentler nature when the band opts for a smoother expression. Underneath it all, at least on the majority of the compositions, we find the loud and frequently quirky drum patterns of Tom Gardiner. I get the impression that he's developed his skill set a bit in the years since Beggars Opera returned, although as an aging man my impression there might just be due to lacking memory. But he complements Virginia and Ricky very well indeed, and is an important and vital contributor in his own right. The music itself is probably best described as a variety of symphonic progressive rock, or at least based on and inspired by that style. But with occasional left turns, opening piece and title track Mrs. Caligari's Lighter a spoken recital on top of a jazz-oriented instrumental backdrop and the almost ambient, atmospheric laden concluding composition So Long the ones arguably furthest removed from that description. In between we have eight fairly quirky items, revolving around the elements previously described alternating between relatively accessible creations and quirkier, eerie constructions like It's Friday Night You Know.
Conclusion. The 2012 edition of Beggars Opera comes across as a vital unit. A band seeking out new grounds and exploring the use of alternative approaches to the core elements always present in their take on what broadly can be described as symphonic progressive rock with the last two words of that description undeniable. An album well worth checking out by those with a taste for inventive progressive rock that ultimately sticks closer to accessible than challenging in scope, with fair amounts of both included.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: June 4, 2013
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