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Magic Carpet - Magic Carpet CD (album) cover

MAGIC CARPET

Magic Carpet

 

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

3.45 | 36 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars The 60s were a magical time of cross-pollinating potential of then exotic new sounds merging with Western rock music with Indian music topping the list for that mystical flare of inspiration. With artists like Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan paving the way into the hearts of occidental record shops, it wouldn't take long for The Beatles to experiment with the sitar and give the green light for a wave of Indo-raga bands to emerge in the latter half of the 60s. In 1970 three friends got together to create some of the first authentic fusion of Western and Eastern music instead of the usual sitar providing an exotic backdrop to mostly rock music. Sitarist Clem Alford, guitarist Jim Moyes and tabla player Keshav Sathe began playing together under the name Sargam, a name taken from of a note in an Indian scale.

The band signed with the Windmill Record label who bungled the affair to high heaven. Firstly they spelled the band's name wrong and erroneously misconstrued it as Sagram (which the band has been known as ever since) and then they unapologetically released the band's material under the lame ass album title "Pop Explosion Sitar Style!" with a rather Hugh Hefner with his Playboy bunny harem album cover, all without the band's permission. Needless to say, this didn't go over too well and the band split ways with their unscrupulous label in pursuit of better offers. Soon thereafter signed with Mushroom Records and changed their name to MAGIC CARPET and added a fourth member in the form of Alisha Sufit who added her feminine vocal charm as well as additional guitar parts.

While Sagram was more of a traditional take on Hindustani classical raga music with only some Western approaches added, MAGIC CARPET sounded more like what Jefferson Airplane would've cranked out had they gone down the same mystical roads to the Orient. The music on MAGIC CARPET's one and only eponymously titled album is centered mainly around Clem Alford's virtuosic sitar performances with the guitars and tablas basically providing backup support with the extra touch of Sufit adding her best "White Rabbit" type of vocal style enshrouded in mystical lyricism. The quartet stayed together for a year and played quite a few prestigious gig ranging from the 100 Club in London to Sounds Of The Seventies on BBC Radio but never really caught on since their music emulated a rather dated 60s vibe that had been long surpassed with bands like the Mahavishnu Orchestra setting the bar to virtuosic levels.

While released in 1972, the music on MAGIC CARPET's sole release sounds more like something that should've been heard in 1967, perhaps on the streets of the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. It sounds like the proto-makings of the Indo-raga experience and not the expected more accomplished sounds that should've emerged by the year 1972 when progressive music was at its peak. The album was a failure and the band members moved on to other things without giving the MAGIC CARPET ride a second thought, but as all things have cycles, so too did the Indo-raga revival and interest in their music has caught on more as a cult hit after the fact. The CD reissue contains a 20 minute bonus track called "Raga" which fits in with the overall sound perfectly and could've possibly created a double album if released initially.

While some bands added more rock elements to their Indo-raga, MAGIC CARPET was a slow nonchalant detour into mellow psychedelic folk with clean guitar sounds strumming behind sitar, tabla and Sufit's rather Grace Slick vocal style. This album does succeed in taking the listener to a meditative state as it is set on simmer and never really deviates from its cosmic flow through the universe. Having been one of the more authentic mixes of Indian and Western influences, it is a true accomplishment that blends well, however nothing on this one is mind-blowing either. The tracks tend to have a samey feel and never take the listener somewhere that hasn't already been accomplished. This album is basically a hippie jam type of album and although pleasant doesn't conjure up the cream of the crop of this particular ethnic offshoot of the rock universe either.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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