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Stackridge: ’50’ Recordings 1971-2021

Stackridge may well be the quintessential ‘English’ band. By which I mean quirky, quaint, and undeniably bonkers. Undoubtedly progressive, the very fact that they never really crop up in progressive rock conversations is possibly down to just how progressive they were. However, Stackridge’s weapon of choice, alongside phenomenal musicianship, arrangements and musical structures, was often humour, and as such maybe they were always destined to be seen as a less than serious act. The truth couldn’t have been further from that line of thought and what with the band reaching 50 years old, so we get the 3CD Stackridge ’50’ Recordings 1971-2021 to remind us that what this band should be remembered for is some incredibly exciting music.

Split across the first two discs are 35 tracks which prove exactly how exhilarating this band could be, where a mix of pop sensibilities, tangential musical meanderings and yes, some often silly lyrics, combine to form a fully realised sound that thrills and delights in equal measure. It’s worth remembering of course, that while 2021 sees this band reach the ripe old age of 50, they haven’t run continuously across all those years, with an initial foray between 1969 and 1976 providing five of the band’s eight studio albums. Reforming in 1999, they in reality hung up their instruments in 2015, but their spirit lives on until this very day. Ever present throughout those times was only Andy Cresswell-Davis on lead guitars, bass and vocals, while flanking him is James Warren, also on bass, guitar and vocals, who minus the period between ’73 and ’76 was along for all of the Stackridge ride. Many others have helped, but it would be wrong not to mention both Jim “Crum” Walter (bass) and Mike “Mutter” Slater (flute and vocals), who were integral to nearly everything this band did.

Across the first two discs all of the band’s bases are covered quite expertly, “Fish In A Glass” almost a 10CC like precursor, with pop hooks, instrumental forays, intricate arrangements, showmanship aplenty and quirks galore. However, with everything from the ‘circus music’ of “The Galloping Gaucho” to The Beatles infused, but much more multi-faceted (within one song anyway) “Syracuse The Elephant”, which really illustrates how important violin and on occasion flute is in the Stackridge sound, the breadth of what’s covered here is quite staggering. And really that’s only the tip of the iceberg, the quaint “32 West Mall” a wonderful acoustic saunter, whereas “The Steam Radio Song” puffs down the tracks with real guitar lead force and yet it possesses the most whimsical of hearts. But then “”Grooving Along On The Highway On A Monday Morning Once” is sheer 60s pop perfection, although it was recorded in 1999. Add in all manner of diversions along the way and “Keep On Clucking” becomes a rock n’ roll pastiche that you can’t resist, while the ever so smooth “Pocket Billiards” shows the band’s ability to present complex ideas in the most simple sounding of manners. Really, every song on these two discs is an absolute pleasure and whether you’re being dazzled by the way in which it all hangs so effortlessly together, singing along with some choruses, or marvelling at some tongue in cheek lyrics that actually keep a hold of some real depth, there’s not a single moment that doesn’t demand your full attention. It’s also worth mentioning that the whole shebang is introduced by “Overture”, a piece of music used to introduce the band’s live performances and only now being revealed as a studio endeavour for the first time thanks to the arranging skills of Cresswell-Davis.

Disc three on the other hand takes us to 2015 and the final performance from Stackridge as they brought their Final Bow Tour to a close on December 19th that same year. It’s a captivating show that really does the long-loved material justice and fans will revel in the atmosphere of “Over The Horizon” as it captures the imagination and runs off with it to “The Road To Venezuela” and its wonderful violin work, which sparks off some heartfelt vocals. Each and every song, from the very telling “Something About The Beatles” through to the wonderful grooves of “Boots And Shoes” sounds more like a young, hungry band rather than one calling it a day, and one or two unavoidable sound issues aside, this honest recording is of incredible quality both in terms of passion and performance. I must admit that I’ve found it to be a real joy.

Coming with an excellent essay/booklet and all housed in a rather smart looking clam-shell box, it really is excellent to see Stackridge and their music being treated with such well earned respect. Their legacy will live on for many years to come and ’50’ 1971-2021 is a rather wonderful way to help do just that.

Track Listing
CD 1

1. Overture 2. Fundamentally Yours 3. The Road to Venezuela 4. The Galloping Gaucho 5. Fish In A Glass 6. Friendliness 7. Dangerous Bacon 8. Pinafore Days 9. The Last Plimsoll 10. Humiliation 11. Hey! Good Looking 12. Syracuse The Elephant 13. The Volunteer 14. Something About the Beatles 15. Dancing On Air 16. Coniston Water 17. 32 West Mall 18. Do the Stanley

CD 2

1. Who’s That Up There with Bill Stokes? 2. Teatime 3. The Steam Radio Song 4. It’s a Fascinating World 5. Pocket Billiards 6. No-ones More Important Than The Earthworm 7. Lummy Days 8. Wonderful Day 9. Keep On Clucking 10. Big Baby 11. Percy The Penguin 12. God Speed the Plough 13. Dora The Female Explorer (Single version) 14. Beating A Path 15. Grooving Along the Highway On A Monday Morning Once 16. Purple Spaceships Over Yatton 17. It Must Be Time for Bed

CD 3

1. Fundamentally Yours 2. Over The Horizon 3. Long Dark River 4. Lost And Found 5. The Road to Venezuela 6. All I Do Is Dream Of You 7. Fish In A Glass 8. Highbury Incident 9. Red Squirrel 10. Lummy Days 11. Something About the Beatles 12. The Last Plimsoll 13. Boots And Shoes 14. Teatime 15. Slark 16. The Final Bow

Added: November 25th 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Stackridge 50 @ Angel Air
Hits: 1336
Language: english

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