by Aaron Gidney
Glaswegian Progressive Rock sextet, Big Hogg return with 2021’s ‘Pageant of Beasts’ released on Bad Elephant Music.
This is Big Hogg’s third album, but the band indicate that this is in someway their first ‘true’ album, having been written and arranged by the whole band this time.
Opener, ‘Golden Beasts’ introduces the band’s Brass capabilities in a short 30 second ditty – perhaps teasing us of things to come? How many Prog Rock bands can boast a Trombone, Trumpet, Cornet and Flugelhorn amongst their ranks?
Indeed once ‘Here Come The Moles’ kicks in, the Brass takes a prominent role on top of a hypnotically busy, groovy Bassline. There’s a distinct 70’s funk feel to song, particularly when the vocals are introduced. The drum and bass groove really carries the song, interlaced with Brass stabs and Nile Rodgers-esque choppy funky guitar rhythms. It’s nicely rounded off with a tasty guitar from Justin Lumsden.
‘Man Overboard’ sounds right out of the ’70’s with it’s flute-led motifs – ably backed up by the Brass section once again. The group vocals give it a retro vibe along with the Electric Piano – there should really be a ‘Must wear flares’ warning sticker with this album. Great stuff!
‘Smoking Again’ takes a bit of different vibe – still ’70’s but less funk and more The Faces – the husky vocals of guitarist Justin Lumsden offering a nice contrast to the female vocals scattered across the album.
‘Willow’s Song’ slows the album down nicely and introduces the Double Bass of Martin Beer. The track utilises the Flute of Sophie Sexon really subtly in between the vocal sections, whilst the Brass returns with some gentle motifs and winds the track up within a concise three and half minutes.
Album half-way point, ‘Red Rum’ introduces a 2nd Flugelhorn (Rory Clark) to the Brass Section along with a nice Trumpet solo from Phil Cardswell, with some additional call and response between the Brass and guitar.
‘All Alone Stone’ continues to utilise the Jazz influences in its intro, but then takes a slightly different direction – almost early-Floydian with its vocal and slide guitar arrangements. Ironically (or perhaps fittingly) this is attributed as ‘Space Guitar’ by guest Mike Hastings. Bizarrely, there’s a vocal chant addendum to the end of the track that increases in intensity before ‘Magistellus’ quickly shifts back to the vibe we’ve all been used to.
‘Wyverns’ slows the vibe down again, with phased/flanged guitars giving the track a Floydian ‘Breathe’ vibe, which gives it a darker texture and tone from the other tracks on the album.
‘Bouffant Tail’ is the most experimental, avant-garde piece on the album, complimented with some spoken word from Ian Sexon.
The funk quickly returns in ‘Cat Fool’ – of which the intro fools you into thinking it’ll go into an early Jamiroquai-style direction, however, it quickly does a u-turn and is a bit of slow burner instead. The Brass vibes are all over this one and very reminiscent of early ’90’s Acid Jazz. The mention of Catnip has reminded me to go and feed my own cat…thank you Big Hogg.
45 second album closer, ‘Too Much Belly Not Enough Paw’ is an all-Brass arrangement that adds a nice bookend to the album and reiterates the ’70’s sunshine vibe the album exudes.
It’s really refreshing to hear a band that’s labelled as ‘Prog Rock’, genuinely doing something so original, left-field and truly experimental. The uses of the Brass and Flutes really sets the band apart from anyone else and I hope to hear more from them in future.
1. Golden Beasts
2. Here Come The Moles
3. Man Overboard
4. Smoking Again
5. Willow’s Song
6. Red Rum
7. All Alone Stone
10. Bouffant Tail
11. Cat Fool
12. Too Much Belly Not Enough Paw
Justin Lumsden – Electric Guitar and Vocals
Sophie Sexon – Flute and Vocals
Ross McCrae – Trombone and Electric Piano
Richard Merchant – Trumpet, Cornet and Flugelhorn
Nick Gaughan – Drums, Percussion, Synthesizers and Backing Vocals; Guitars, Bass and Keybaords on ‘All Alone Stone’
Martin Beer – Electric Bass, Double Bass and Autoharp with
Lavinia Blackwall – Vocals
Mike Hastings – Acoustic Guitar, Space Guitar on All Alone Stone Phil Cardswell – Trumpet solo on ‘Red Rum’
Rory Clark – 2nd Flugelhorn on Red Rum
Georgia Seddon – Chant
Ian Sexon – Spoken Word