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Magenta - Chameleon CD (album) cover

CHAMELEON

Magenta

 

Neo-Prog

3.62 | 104 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars To me a true example of `crossover prog', `Chameleon' is Magenta's most straightforward release to date, but with plenty to still interest the more forgiving prog-rock fan. The majority of the tracks are quite commercial and accessible, very melodic and easy to get into, without being shallow and dumbed down to radio-friendly lengths, and while much of the album still sticks to typical verse- chorus structures, it's packed with atmospheric keyboards, epic guitar solos and evocative vocals. There's punchy and catchy pop-prog like the opening track `Glitterball', heartfelt ballads with `Turn The Tide', tougher pop-rock in `Raw' and a truly grand finale with `Red'.

Magenta has easily the best of the bunch of female prog lead singers with Christina Booth. Her voice is equally powerful, frail and wistful. She has a real character in her voice, and never feels the need to over-sing and drain any of the tracks with needless strangled and drawn out empty showboating. It's always been her subtlety and restraint that lifts her above others. Her voice often conveys such beautiful and sad weariness. She's also very confident on the rockier parts of tracks like `Guernica' and `Breathe', with a commanding presence. Her forceful reading of the lyrics in the second half of `Turn The Tide' floored me, as does her warm tones throughout all of album finale `Red'. Listen to her in that repeated chorus!

As usual much of the album is directed by Rob Reed, Magenta's jack-of-all-trades, who's keyboards, guitar and bass playing are all first rate throughout. He's also made sure that this album offers something a little different for the band, which will be appreciated in the long run. As expected from a Magenta release, his mixing and production is superb as always, crisp and clear.

The lyrics on `Chameleon', as on many Magenta albums, are frequently very relatable, and I think this is one of the great strengths of this band. We all know plenty of progressive artists that write very cryptic and wordy lyrics, so to be able to really get into what this band writes is very appreciated. Magenta often tell wonderful and vivid stories, filled with human feeling and experience.

One of the highlights of the album that comes out of nowhere is Chris Fry's superb acoustic instrumental solo piece appropriately called `Reflections'. Short but sweet at a little over two minutes, it's a touching and heartfelt piece that wouldn't have sounded out of place on an Anthony Phillip's album. Chris has numerous beautiful guitar passages throughout the album, but I'm not always sure which parts are played by him and which by Rob, also credited to guitars. Anyway, I'm now very curious to look into Fry's recent solo album!

I also draw particular attention to the stunning orchestrated and ambient intro to `Guernica', before Christina's treated vocals add a very eerie presence! Simply perfect!

`Chameleon' covers all the sort of music that Magenta always does so well, with much variety, possibly influenced by Christina's own solo album from a little while back. Sometimes the album is a little too simplistic, and a few sections border in being a little dull, but I believe prog artists like this really enjoy once in a while easing up on complex arrangements, long running times and bloated concepts! In some ways, this album is a good `easy listening' prog album, one you put on every now and then as a background album without having to pay too much attention to it. Perhaps it works better in this way, being distracted by all the surface gloss and great sounds, than really dwelling on it to find that it's a little overly-simplistic and sometimes...whisper it, just a little bland.

In the end, not a very important progressive rock album, nor the band's best album - that would probably be `Seven' or personally to my ears the `Live at Real World' double album - OK, I'm kind of cheating, because I'm really thinking of the DVD concert version of that one! But `Chameleon' is very listenable, and Magenta are a terrific modern prog band, with great musicians fronted by a wondrous and sublime female vocalist. Onwards and ever upwards for this group!

Really 3 and a half stars!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |

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