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Progressive Rock CD Reviews


Extravaganza 2CD Edition

Review by Gary Hill

One of three double CD sets of Stackridge reissues I'm reviewing in this issue, I think this is more pure prog rock than the others. It has some hints of the things Genesis was doing on their first few albums. Some of the instrumental music here calls to mind Frank Zappa. However you slice it, this is a cool release.

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Track by Track Review
Released in January 1975
Spin ‘Round the Room

This is a bouncy romp that's a lot of fun. It has plenty of classic rock in the mix along with ragtime music and more.

Grease Paint Smiles
In some ways this reminds me of The Strawbs. This has some of the bouncy elements of the last song, but it's much more fully on the serious side. This is a rather melancholy piece in some ways. Yet, it's still energetic and entertaining. It's built on a vaguely proggy classic rock motif, but it has jazz and even some hints of circus music in the mix.
The Volunteer
Now, this cut is decidedly proggy. It has some elements to it that make think of early Genesis. There is also a healthy helping of psychedelic Beatles. Yet, we get some old-time music, too. They even bring some country-styled guitar soloing to bear at points. This is one of the most intriguing and effective songs on the album for me.
Highbury Incident
Prog and bouncy pop rock merge on this effective number. That Beatles thing is at play here, too. This is another winner.
Benjamin’s Giant Onion
I can make out both early Genesis and Beatles in the mix on this. It's another strong tune. It gets twisted into some strange jazz meets psychedelia and experimental music at the end.
Happy in the Lord
Another bouncy and fun tune, this has hints of the kind of old-fashioned music Queen liked to do. The little spoken thing at the end of this is very weird.
Rufus T. Firefly
More purely prog, this has a real Frank Zappa sort of vibe to it. This instrumental has some definite jazz elements at times. It's another standout here.
No One’s More Important Than the Earthworm
While in some ways this is more along the lines of a bluesy arena rock sound, this is packed full of prog elements. A saxophone solo brings some jazz to the table, and there are definitely hints of Pink Floyd on the instrumental movement. The vocal performance on this is among the best here. The whole tune stands very tall. It's definitely one of the highlights of the set.
Pocket Billiards
Here we get another classy instrumental that makes me think of Zappa. This is a lot of fun and has plenty of jazz and tasty weirdness built into it. There are some killer twists and turns at play.
Who’s That Up There With Bill Stokes?
Another instrumental, this is decidedly progressive rock. That said, there are very healthy helpings of jazz built into the tune. It has some unique twists and turns in it.
BBC Radio One “In Concert” 17th January 1975
The Volunteer

Coming in mellow and quite classical in nature, this is more of a mellow proggy ballad type piece early. It works out to bouncy Beatles-like stuff further down the road.

Who’s That Up There With Bill Stokes?
This instrumental works really well in this performance, but I think I prefer the studio version.
No One’s More Important Than the Earthworm
The bluesy elements seem to be less prevalent here. This is more space rock or purely prog related. I think I prefer this to the studio version. Given how good that take on it was, this is so much better.
The Galloping Gaucho
This bouncy romp works better here than on other versions I've heard. It's still not one of my favorites, but it is effective. The silly, old-time concepts are captured well.
Pocket Billiards
This live performance of the instrumental from the studio disc is great. I don't know if I prefer one version over the other. Both are fun.
Spin ‘Round the Room
I definitely like this more than the studio take. It's jazzy and a lot of fun.
God Speed the Plough
Built on world music with definite symphonic angles, the flute on this really soars. This is folk-prog based and so cool. This instrumental really gets dramatic and powerful at times.
Dora the Female Explorer
This fun folk rocking tune works pretty well here. Again, it's not one of my favorites, but it is entertaining.
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