Roy was far more than a sophisticated beggar.
Joao Nunes | Portugal | 11/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Compared to other great albums that Roy would later release, Sophisticated Beggar has a certain naivitee and rawness that makes it unique. This is clearly a debut album, recorded in obscure conditions and mostly comprised of acoustic guitar tunes with bared to essential arrangements. And it's interesting how it already presents all the qualities that would define Roy Harper's music through the next years.
Yet the album starts off on the wrong foot. China Girl has a lot of good ideas on it but lacks focus and the result is a bit messy. As opposite, Goldfish is a nice, simple but much more effective, little folk tune.
But speaking of little acoustic gems, check out Forever or Girlie. Roy is well known for his provocative anti-establishment acerbic lyrics but he also has a truly romantic side, capable of beautiful, touching - but never corny - ballads.
October 12th is the best song of the album and the one that anticipates all the epics that Roy would write throughout his long career. With its sparse arrangement and tense performance, it's one of the most poignant he ever wrote. "Why paint pictures with the blood that I shed / Why try to copy any word of what I said /When I hated you all when I was living / I hated myself when I was living" - as nihilistic as could be.
Another of my favourite tracks is My Friend, a delicate ode with brilliant guitar work that seems to have been recorded live in the studio.
The autobiographical eponymous track is a raving blend of blues and eastern scales.
Big Fat Silver Aeroplane is a great funny dope song.
Blackpool is a Spanish tinged instrumental and another showcase of Harper peculiar guitar style. The liner notes say that guitarists John Renbourne and Ritchie Blackmore appeared on the sessions but I really can't figure out where. All the guitar playing sounds like Roy to me.
Committed features a backup band and is the craziest song that I know. Roy seems more than half-stoned and often looses his way through the song. But the band carries the song all the way with a groovy rhythm (specially the bass) and the result is nothing but memorable. "Life is such monotony without a good lobotomy - fix me, oh fix me!..." - a good testimony of the 60's madness.
For its freshness and inspired collection of songs, Sophisticated Beggar is still one of my favourite Roy Harper's albums, only surpassed by Stormcock and Flat, Baroque and Berserk.
The Return of The Sophisticated Beggar is nothing more than the Sophisticated Beggar album with a different cover art. The so-called bonus track Legend has been on the track list for a long time (even on vinyl), so that's hardly a novelty. Try to get the original cover art cd version (it is still available) which features a caricature of Harper-The-Busker climbing to his guitar and asking for money."