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(64 min CD + 180 min DVD, ‘Tigermoth’)
TRACK LIST: CD: 1. The Lizard King 12:01 2. Ladyland Blues 10:45 3. Pearl 8:17 4. Stoned 11:24 5. The Gift 6:59 6. The Devil at the Crossroads 14:46 DVD: 1. Complete Album 5.1-surround mix audio 2. “Making of “The 27 Club” documentary 3. ‘The Lizard King’ promo video LINEUP: Rob Reed – keyboards; bass, guitars; vocals Christina Booth – lead vocals Chris Fry – guitars; vocals With: Andy Edwards (of IQ) – drums
Prolusion. As is well-known to the majority of progressive rock lovers, MAGENTA is a contemporary British band led by multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Rob Reed, who is also the main man behind the Kompendium project. “The Twenty Seven Club”, their brand new album, has been five years in the making. Issued a few months ago, this six-track outing is a concept creation dedicated to six musicians (Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain and Robert Johnson), all of whom died at the age of 27 – hence its title. The limited edition of the album includes a bonus DVD, whose contents are listed above.
Analysis. According to Mr. Reed, on “The Twenty Seven Club” the band has returned to their progressive roots, and the album is indeed way more sophisticated than either of their two previous releases. The musicianship and the composition are first rate throughout here, no matter that only the first two of the tracks, The Lizard King and Ladyland Blues (running for almost 23 minutes), are highly complex. On both of these masterpieces the band has blended vintage Yes with their own vision, and it works. The music is daring, often unpredictable, featuring many structural and dynamic contrasts. It’s done in the best traditions of Art-Rock of the Seventies, additionally incorporating some heavier arrangements, ones that evoke symphonic Prog-Metal (absent on all of the other tracks), as well as a few soft acoustic and semi-acoustic interludes. The Yes factor is apparent in the guitar work of Chris Fry, who uses lots of that wonderful Steve Howe sound, in quite a few of Rob Reed’s bass phrasings (while his passages on acoustic guitar are closer to Steve Hackett’s in construction), and also when all the band members sing in choir, i.e. in harmony vocals, though there are also moments where the lead vocalist Christina Booth’s solo singing is similar to Jon Anderson’s, at least in delivery. I like her voice a lot; she’s got more range than many current singers have. Reed shines as a keyboardist as well. His keyboard work often lays the foundation; the Rick Wakeman sounds appear here and there, but Rob is a strong player, and his distinct style inevitably emerges. Andy Edwards definitely rises above any label of neo-prog drumming; his playing is crisp and tight. Occasionally the influence exhibits near-plagiarism, such as on the latter composition (the band almost quoting the main move of ‘A Tower Struck Down’ from Steve Hackett’s “Voyage of the Acolyte” at one point), while mostly it is a springboard for a bit more modern style, one that is sure to find wide appeal among stylists. Featuring somewhat simpler yet still very effectual arrangements, Stoned and The Devil at the Crossroads are influenced by both classic and the Trevor Rabin-era Yes, and also (to a lesser degree) by Pink Floyd circa 1973. The lead as well as harmony vocals are often the focal point of these, but the men – as instrumentalists – chew scenery with abandon as well. In all, these are very good compositions, also featuring textural and dynamic contrasts, performed with the finesse, delicacy and tightness of technical filigree. The remaining two pieces, Pearl and The Gift (the shortest tracks here), are both ballads, but have their own merits too. The first of them is emotionally dramatic, more often deploying acoustic and orchestral arrangements than those of a full-band sound. While simple, this is a highly original composition, not devoid of what we used to call a musical magic in addition. On the latter piece the overall mood is more serene and romantic. Here the band almost everywhere operates in Pink Floyd’s shadow, the music much in the style of the ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ and suchlike ballad-like tunes from “Dark Side of the Moon”. In contrast to the bombastic compositions, Christina sings mostly alone on these two, and her lead vocals here seem to work better than harmony ones, largely due to the gentle flow of the music. As for the DVD, its first item represents the 5.1-surround-mix version of the album, sheer heaven for audiophiles. In the next section Rob Reed and his fellow bandmates speak about the creation of the album, touching on each and every song, the monologs alternating with shots of them playing in the studio. Finally, there is a video of The Lizard King, depicting the band performing the epic onstage. I find the DVD to be an excellent addition to the CD version of the album.
Conclusion. In all, Magenta has released a very good effort with excellent playing as well as lyrics, familiar enough to immediately like, but with enough originality to keep you listening. Although not completely original, “The Twenty Seven Club” appears as one of the best sympho-prog albums to come out from England this year.
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