At some point I hope to write a lengthier piece for the website, but initially here is a track-by-track musing on "The Man In The Bowler Hat".
FUNDAMENTALLY YOURS – One of the most overtly pop efforts in the Stackridge canon,don't you think? But not to its discredit. Pleasantly logical chord progressions,quirky but not completely incomprehensible words,satisfyingly structured – an optimistic opening.
The harpsichord's a nice touch and the bass and drums sound great.
As they do throughout the album.
The vocals? Not bad.The three-part harmony in the final verse provides a joyous epiphanic uplift that deliciously anticipates the leaping portamento of the Moog coda.
MUGS AND BUTTERCUPS – Is this the actual title?
I don't have the album to hand and I'm having one of my frequent incipient-senility memory lapses.You know the one I mean though...
Lovely woodwind,thoughtful English lyric,delightfully playful tune,characterful vocalising.
"The dancing crinoline" seems to capture the 1954-June-afternoon-in Grantchester-meadows essence of the piece.
THE LAST PLIMSOLL – One of the best.Enigmatic organ intro rudely disrupted by the insistent anxiety-laden electric guitar figure.The slippery walking bass locomotively propels the ‘pink rat cul-de-sac'verse into the creaking-door-in-the-tenement-block percussion of the pre-chorus bridge.And when the chorus arrives we are not disappointed."Bad business,chief witness left behind" – Smegmakovich is in his element with this one.
Eventually after the tricky extended instrumental diversion we reach the ominous ostinato syncopations of the middle 8. An agonized shriek then takes us into the surreal revelations of the "I had the strangest feeling" playout.
All- in –all a tensely atmospheric piece with good vocals and excellent dynamics.
TO THE SUN AND MOON – I love all Mutter's compositions except this one.Forgive my candour.I'm sure it's a matter of individual taste as opposed to a question of musical merit.But there we are.What I like least about it is my singing.
I should have realized it needed a lower pitch; my choral histrionics seem so out of place in a rock-group setting.Maybe that's it. A more adult vocal approach,not so precious,and the song would have a wholly different complexion.Gorgeous orchestration though.
THE ROAD TO VENEZUELA – As some of you probably know,at one time this was to be the album title.Rodney Matthews even designed a sleeve.I think it would have been a better choice.
Another standout track.
Excellent lyric,amorously lilting verse, ascending gleefully into the strongest chorus of the CD.
Finest features:evocative,nostalgia-laced melody;the orgasmic brazilian exuberance of the violin solo and the sensual,shimmering dissonance of the 3-part vocal harmony coda.
THE GALLOPING GAUCHO – So many terrific titles,and here's another.
Mutter,s voice is perfect for this one.My favourite George Martin arrangement of the album.
Jaunty,exuberant,bursting with colour and vitality – simply brilliant.
HUMILIATION – I was still seriously into my Krishnamurti phase at this time,and like "There Is No Refuge", the whole lyric is basically an exposition of his philosophy.
The singing certainly fragile,perhaps a little too self-conscious,but I still think it's an affectingly mellifluous little vignette,subtly underscored by George Martin's restrained and unimposing string quartet.
DANGEROUS BACON – As with so many of the songs in this collection,Crun's lyrical ideas were inspired.
In hindsight the derivativeness of the musical styling detracts from one's overall appreciation of this curiosity,and despite the unexpected appearance of Andy McKay of Roxy Music fame on tenor sax,both his solo and the subsequent guitar excursions cover already over-familiar terrain.
Also the vocals are evidently forced and uncomfortable, with chorister mode being unfortunately engaged once again on the ‘well I ask you...twisting at the holocaust' refrain.
One of those tracks that seemed good at the time.
THE INDIFFENT HEDGEHOG – Perhaps not one of the better titles,but a delightful finger-style acoustic meditation.A minor piece in the context of the CD,but sensitively sung in a wistful, melancholic setting.Nice.
GOD SPEED THE PLOUGH – Epic,magisterial,the perfect grand ,if rather sombre finale.
Very –well written and expertly conceived with extraordinary dynamic range.
The George Martin score as ever simply what's required – never over-reaching.
There we are.Have I missed any out?
It's now 10.55 p.m.,Tuesday,April 22nd,2003.
It must be time for bed.