Sunday, July 16, 2006

Magna Carta ''Seasons'' (UK Folk 1970)

Magna Carta's second LP was dominated by the 22-minute, nine-part suite "Seasons," which took up all of side one. "Seasons" was indeed a grand conceptual work inspired by the changing of the seasons. Its laudable ambition apart, it's pretty ordinary, mild pop-influenced early-'70s British folk-rock. There's a dated preciousness as it varies the pace slightly from jolly full-band good-time folk-rock and pastoral harmonizing to twee fairytale-like narration and almost pop-like orchestration. The six standard-length songs on side two can strike an almost too-cheerful pop-folk bounce, with soft rock orchestration and harmonies that make it vaguely reminiscent of American sunshine pop at points. Simon & Garfunkel are an obvious influence, too, on songs like "Give Me No Goodbye" (overlaid with slight sitar licks), "Scarecrow," and "Elizabethan," though Magna Carta could make Simon & Garfunkel sound almost heavy in comparison. The closing "Airport Song," which was plucked from the LP as a shot for a hit single, goes furthest into pop with its bossa nova beat and easy listening arrangement, though the Simon & Garfunkel influence in the vocal harmonies is nearly overwhelming. This pretty undistinguished pop-folk-rock effort was paired with their third album, Songs From Wasties Orchard, on a 1999 single-disc CD reissue that also included historical liner notes. ~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide


Magna Carta ''Songs From Wasties Orchard'' (UK Folk 1971)

Magna Carta's third album was the first with guitarist Davey Johnstone on board, one reason for its subsequent immortality in collecting circles. Another is the extravagant packaging that accompanied the original Vertigo release -- the gatefold sleeve was designed to open up like a box, with a layer of apples (from Wasties Orchard, of course) within. Add a crystalline Gus Dudgeon production and, of course, the popularity among collectors of the original swirly Vertigo label design, and Songs from Wasties Orchard emerges a seldom seen but much sought-after gem. For anybody familiar with the group's first two albums, Magna Carta's own style remained constant, a collection of beautifully stylized folk ballads sung and gently strummed with a warmth and versatility that saw the group endure (and, presumably, enjoy) constant comparisons to mid-period Simon & Garfunkel. The addition of Johnstone to the original duo does little to derail those remarks -- indeed, his own musical versatility puts one firmly in mind of the Americans' more ambitious moments, as mandolins, sitars, and harpsichords dance behind Glen Stewart and Chris Simpson's magically melded vocal harmonies. Highlights of the album are manifold -- Songs from Wasties Orchard is one of those rare records where every song contributes something massive to the overall mood. But the (by comparison) rocking "Wayfaring," Johnstone's virtuoso "Down Along Up," and the evocatively reflective "Isle of Skye" are genuine milestones, while the curiously titled "Home Groan" closes the album with a shockingly electrified country-rocker that is hard to shake out of your head. Songs from Wasties Orchard has rightfully been proclaimed Magna Carta's finest hour -- certainly neither of their subsequent studio albums can touch it, while its two predecessors sound positively tentative in comparison to the confidence that carries the dozen songs here. All are worth checking out, but this is where your journey should begin. ~ Dave Thompson, All Music Guide

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

great group with many souvenirs! thanks!pat

16 July, 2006 20:57  
Blogger pyrata said...

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17 July, 2006 08:04  
Blogger Ronan Jimson said...

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17 July, 2006 21:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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20 July, 2006 09:17  
Anonymous arbor said...

any chance on putting a direct link to "Seasons"? That blog is invite only =( thanks again

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