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Progressive Rock CD Reviews


The Man In The Bowler Hat, 2CD Expanded Edition

Review by Gary Hill

As the title might suggest, this band is a very definitively British act. This was their third album, released in 1974. It combines folk prog, more standard progressive rock, Beatles-like pop rock, traditional British sounds and more. This set includes a bonus CD of BBC Recordings of the band. It's quite a cool collection of music.

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Track by Track Review
CD One:
"The Man in the Bowler Hat"
Fundamentally Yours

Keyboards get us underway here. The introduction gives way to a bouncy, pop rock oriented arrangement. This gets some classical meets prog angles over the top, but overall is more of a mainstream pop rocker of the era.

Pinafore Days
Another that is distinctly bouncy, this has some world music and something akin to carnival sounds. It's definitely psychedelic and classical. It's also distinctly art music.
The Last Plimsoll

While there is still a pop rock element at play, this is more guitar based and pure progressive rock oriented. As good as the previous tunes were, this ups the ante. There are some intriguing twists and turns here including an extensive instrumental section. A cool flute solo section emerges later, too.

To the Sun and the Moon
Piano and jazzy, artsy vocals get this underway. This works through a number of varying modes and sections. There are parts that feel more pop oriented, while others get quite classical. Symphonic instrumentation is part of the mix, and gets a little over the top at points, but overall this is another effective piece. An evocative and intricate acoustic guitar section at the time is a great touch.
The Road to Venezuela

Acoustic guitar based sounds are on the menu here. This feels very much along the lines of folk prog, with an emphasis on the folk side. Classical instrumentation takes command later in the track with a lot of more proggy stuff going on. The full mellow progressive rock treatment takes over after that part of the song.

The Galloping Gaucho
This old-timey sounding cut is fun. It's also silly. It is bouncy and entertaining.
Keyboards and vocals get thing underway on this number. This remains on the mellow side with symphonic instrumentation added to the mix.
Dangerous Bacon

This has some killer pop rock vibes at play. Bouncy pop rocking sounds are at the heart of it, and it really feels a lot like The Beatles.

The Indifferent Hedgehog
Piano starts this. The vocals join as does acoustic guitar. This is slow moving and very sedate, feeling like folk prog.
God Speed the Plough

This instrumental definitely showcases acoustic, symphonic progressive rock angles.

CD Two:
BBC Radio One “In Concert” 18th January 1973
Anyone for Tennis

Piano starts things here. Eventually this turns to a bouncy old-time music jam. It's the kind of thing Queen did a lot of times. It turns to a different, but equally old-fashioned, style for the outro.

Do the Stanley
This has some definite old-time English pub angles at play. It is something that feels like a half-drunken sing-along. It's fun, but not very proggy.
Syracuse the Elephant
More folk prog concepts are in the driver's seat here. This has some soaring moments and really gets into some intriguing territory. There is a delicate piano and violin section that takes it later with a lot of style and charm.
Purple Spaceships Over Yatton
This starts with more of the type of folk prog we heard on the previous piece. It drops to mellower stuff for a time. Then this instrumental rises up with some decidedly space rock like sounds that are still based on the same folk prog instrumentation. Parts of this really does sound like science fiction depictions of flying saucers. This is quite an intriguing progressive rock exploration. It has a great balance between mellower and more rocking stuff. This gets into some real symphonic stuff further down the road, too.
Twist and Shout
Here they put in a pretty standard, but energetic, version of the Beatles tune.
Dora the Female Explorer
I have to wonder if this title was copied for the cartoon series. This is a bouncy number that works well. Harmonica brings a blues angle, and it's more of a folk rocker than anything else.
BBC Radio One Bob Harris session 7th February 1973
The Lyder Loo

Playful old-time music is on the menu here.

God Speed the Plough
This instrumental piece starts with a measured classical style. It grows outward from there, feeling a lot like chamber music. It has some soaring moments and great instrumental exploration. This gets into more rocking zones, but still tempered by the symphonic instrumentation. It's decidedly symphonic prog rock.
The Road to Venezuela
This comes in rather jazzy, but also makes me think of early Hawkwind just a little as it gets going. The track builds out from there to a psychedelically-folk prog arrangement. It's a bouncy and fun romp.
The Galloping Gaucho

Here we get a fun version of the earlier track. It feels a little more contemporary here than on the studio recording.

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