Beggars Opera


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Beggars Opera's third album offered up another dramatic change in pace and style from a band that had already demonstrated its musical schizophrenia well enough. Considerably more song-oriented than either of its predecessors, Pathfinder set out its stall with the pounding pop of "Hobo" before delving deep into period preoccupations with a truly visionary assault on "MacArthur Park" -- imagine Vanilla Fudge if Brian Auger had created their arrangements. Eight minutes seem too short a time in which to layer all of the group's ideas, but they succeed with room to spare, and deliver what is probably the definitive reading of the song. The pulsating "The Witch," the fusion and folk-inflected "From Shark to Haggis," and the closing menace of "Madame Doubtfire," with its glance back at the soundscapes of Act One, are the album's other highlights -- particularly if you catch them on headphones. From beginning to end, though, Pathfinder is a powerful record, dramatically produced and deliriously delivered, a wild smorgasbord of musical innovation and staggeringly brilliant ideas.

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