Thursday, September 28, 2006


"Friendliness" 1972

Although The Man in the Bowler Hat is without question the most fully realized and lavishly produced (by George Martin) Stackridge album, most fans of the band would probably gravitate toward Friendliness as their favorite. Here can be found every quality that endeared the West Country five-piece to a loyal -- but never quite large enough -- following. There's Beatlesque melody, gently surreal humor, and considerable instrumental dexterity that ranged freely between the worlds of pop, folk, jazz, classical, and prog rock. The rollicking instrumental "Lummy Days" is a perfect scene-setter, with Mike Evans' violin and Mutter Slater's flute lyrical one moment and bucolic the next as the melody sweeps between hoedown, bolero, and Vaughn Williams -- all in less than four minutes. Next comes the weightless beauty of the title track, with James Warren's choirboy vocals multi-tracked to bewitching effect. That's followed, even more improbably, by the '30-style foppery of "Anyone for Tennis," and not long after by the Eastern-tinged "Syracuse the Elephant," at over eight minutes long and with Mellotron aplenty, clear evidence that Stackridge could have staked their share of the prog market if they could have kept a straight face long enough. But they couldn't, and to prove it, the next track is a piece of cod-reggae about a cow, called "Amazingly Agnes." In truth this and the heads-down, no-nonsense boogie "Keep on Clucking" (a whimsical diatribe against battery farming) always did sound like grudging concessions to commercialism, and decades later they still do. But the album finishes in triumph with the haunting "Teatime," arguably one of the most convincing fusions of folk, jazz, and classical music in the entire prog rock canon, with none of the ego-fuelled blowing that so discredited the genre. [The CD reissue contains three extra tracks, including the instrumental stage favorite "Purple Spaceships Over Yatton."] ~ Christopher Evans, All Music Guide

"Mr. Mick" 1976

Still riven by internal disputes that would even scupper the band's second coming 20 years later, Stackridge were at least boosted in 1976 by the return to the ranks of flutist and vocalist Mutter Slater and bassist Crun Walter -- though the talents of James Warren were still sorely missed. In fact it was Slater who dominated Mr. Mick, which took Stackridge away from the Zappa-ish tendencies of Extravaganza and back toward their Beatlesque roots. Unfortunately, 1976 was no time to be releasing a concept album, even one that had been chopped up and rendered meaningless by the record company, and Mr. Mick represented the point at which Stackridge finally succumbed to the allied forces of public indifference and punk. It's far from being their best album, but Mr. Mick still has considerable charm, once you get past the somewhat pointless cod-reggae version of the Beatles' "Hold Me Tight." This was ditched, however, when the band issued a revised edition of the album in 2000, complete with all the tracks that were excised first time around at the expense of Slater's story. Since several of these include long stretches of narration that quickly pall on repeated listening, this is one of those rare occasions when you feel a degree of sympathy for the record company. As for the story itself -- a "modern fairytale" about an old codger who visits a magic rubbish dump where all the discarded articles have a tale to tell -- as career advancement went, it was up there with Brian Wilson's Mount Vernon and Fairway. Nevertheless, "Fish in a Glass," "Steam Radio Song," and "The Slater's Waltz" all boast the kind of sumptuous pop melodies that first convinced George Martin to helm The Man in the Bowler Hat. ~ Christopher Evans, All Music Guide

"BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert" 1972-75

Recorded 21 July 1972 (2,3,5,6,7), 15 February 1973 (4 and 8) and 7 January 1975 (1, 9-13) at the Paris Theatre in London. Tracks 2-8: The 'original' lineup of Andy, James, Mutter, Mike, Billy & Crun. Track 1, 9-13: Andy, Mutter, Rod Bowkett, Keith Gemmell, Paul Karas, & Roy Morgan.

01. God Speed the Plough
02. Lummy Days
03. Teatime
04. Anyone for Tennis
05. Amazing Agnes
06. She Taught Me How to Yodel
07. 32 West Mall 1.56
08. Syracuse the Elephant
09. The Volunteer
10. Who's That up There with Bill Stokes
11. No One's More Important Than the Earthworm
12. The Galloping Gaucho
13. Dora the Female Explora


Blogger Wiganova said...

Excellent - thank you so much.

All the best.

28 September, 2006 17:23  
Blogger newelectricmuse said...

You'll probably love them or hate them! In other words - a cult band!

They are not really like anyone else, with styles varying from track to track from prog to pop to novelty - their diversity could be seen as a strength, but it's also a weakness as it's often hard to know where each album is heading. You're never far from a "humorous" song with a sing-along chorus.

I think I've got all of their albums on vinyl: my favourite is the first self-titled one (especially the epic track "Slark"), with The Man in the Bowler Hat close behind (although my version finishes with the instrumental God Speed the Plough which is not on the one you have here, which has a slightly different tracklist from the UK version). I would suggest you listen to these two first.

If you enjoyed the two albums mentioned above you might like "Friendliness" - but whether you like "Mr. Mick" (or rather, whether you keep going back to it) will depend on whether you can get past the narration.

The two album sleeves on show here don't look designed to sell, do they? They wouldn't exactly jump out of the racks! However I love the cover of Mr. Mick - the contrast between the two faces staring out at you...

(P.S. I've also got the "BBC in Concert" CD, but with a different picture (a cherub) on the front. Row of dead fish or cherub - it's the same album!)


28 September, 2006 18:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alright, thanks for the Stackridge!!! Have been very curious about this for ages... When I think "mid-70s", "Beatlesesque", and "concept", I think Klaatu. Now to me, that's not a bad thing at all, so the Stackridge descriptions have me drooling... thanks again!!

29 September, 2006 13:34  
Blogger Witchseason said...

Excellent stuff - although I have to say that I prefer the 'original' Mr Mick, voice-overs and all.

You might be interested to know that I've just posted Extravaganza (my vinyl rip) over at Enjoy!

30 September, 2006 02:32  
Anonymous Scorpio said...

I just want to say a big thank you for posting these albums. I am a Stackridge lover ever since buying Stackridge back in the 70's. It's such a shame, they had so much potential, so much going for them, they could have been up with the greats, but it wasn't to be. But somehow, in a way, I'm glad they didn't make it. It adds to their mystic. Thank you again!

02 October, 2006 00:17  
Anonymous Robert said...

Brilliant blog ..

Very big Stackridge fan ..

I've only just discovered your blog ..

Would it be possible to re post "BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert" 1972-75 ?

If not thata's cool, but if you could that would be fantastic


21 October, 2006 23:00  
Anonymous Robert said...

Thank you

Very much appreciated

22 October, 2006 08:23  
Anonymous Young Math said...

Fantastic blog, if you have time could you repost stackridge, Bowler hat and Friendliness at some point. Great job and thanks again

09 February, 2007 23:14  
Blogger bobbysu said...

thank you so much

05 May, 2009 09:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would love to get these, I saw Stackridge live in their heyday but don't currently own any of their albums...the vinyl copies I had were borrowed and never returned! Now who did I lend these to in the 70's?!

13 December, 2009 09:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any chance you can re-upload these two Stackridge albums? I would love to hear them!! Thanks in advance! Your blog is GREAT!!

19 September, 2011 06:50  

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