The Forbidden City

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Stackridge embarked on their long and winding road back in 1969, when guitarist James Warren joined forces with fellow axeman Andy Davis and bassist Crun Walter. Swiftly expanding to a sextet, the band released its eponymous debut album in 1971. Friendliness arrived the following year, and their masterpiece, the George Martin-produced The Man in the Bowler Hat, appeared in 1973 -- at which point Stackridge underwent the first of the many upheavals that would inflict the band and its members over the decades. There would be considerable ups and down, and a kaleidoscope of lineups as members left and returned, but fans remained loyal. That's evident from Forbidden City, a live recording of the band's April 2007 sold-out show at Bath's Rondo Theatre. It was a triumphant performance, which also finally saw the return of bandmember Mutter Slater to the stage. Sprawling across two discs, Stackridge cheerfully trawl through their back catalog, revisiting the band's many high points. They even meander into members' other projects, such as Warren and Davis' the Korgis, performing a pair of the duo's British chart-busters. Although Stackridge are now nearly 40 years old, the bandmembers feel no need to reinvent their songs for modern times. The arrangements, while obviously not note-for-note renditions, mostly remain close to the "feel" of the originals. But why mess with success? This decidedly English band always had a sound very much its own, and was stylistically diverse to begin with. Their music still quivers with creativity -- no need to remodel them in more modern guises. Stackridge had the distinction of performing at the very first Glastonbury Festival, and all these decades on, they sound just as enthralling and unique as back then. A must-have set for all fans, young and old alike.

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