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Magna Carta - Martin's Cafe CD (album) cover


Magna Carta

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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars A bit of a burger

"Martin's Café" was recorded by Magna Carta in 1974, a year after their fine "Lord of the ages" album. Due a serious dispute between the band's management and their record company however, it was not released until 1977. There is significant uncertainty about who played on the album, de facto leader Chris Simpson apparently preferring not to recall the actual line up. We can safely assume that along with Chris, Glen Stuart was still on board. Stan Gordon is likely to have left and, since the album was recorded after "Lord of the ages", it is unlikely that Davey Johnstone appears.

The music is a rather eclectic mix of the soft folk influenced material the band had perfected on previous albums, together with some more upbeat but misguided rock numbers. "Roll on" and "Easy if you try" fall into the latter category, and sadly drag the album down significantly. The nadir is the poor "I'm gonna take you down", a wholly uninspired piece of pop rock. As a whole, the album has much more in common with "Songs from Wasties orchard" than the band's classic albums "Seasons" and "Lord of the ages". Even "Wasties" though was a good listen, if a little too safe. Here, while there are some songs which sit well beside the band's short melodic compositions of the past, there are simply too many nondescript pop rock based numbers to make this anything other than a disappointment.

The partial move towards a rock orientation pulled the band apart, with Stuart leaving soon after the album was completed, the band effectively becoming Chris Simpson alone.

Report this review (#107703)
Posted Wednesday, January 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars I was surprised to read from a fellow reviewer that this album had been made in 1974 but delayed because of various disputes. The reason I say that is that the music had declined still further from their 1976 release 'Took A Long Time'. Musically the direction on this release is pretty aimless, forgettable tracks are too numerous to mention and there are probably two or 3 tracks worth a mention ' Easy If You Try', a catchy opener and ' Mixed Up Sensations'. Magna Carta's biggest flaw was lack of consistency but without the ever present Chris Simpson, this group would have disappeared a long time ago. There was better yet to come again fortunately. For completionists only.
Report this review (#113347)
Posted Friday, February 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars When listening to MAGNA CARTA in general, I don't feel in the presence of some great well of emotion, but "Martin's Cafe" is a dispirited affair even by those standards, a weak agglomeration of light country pop that is miles away from the relative sophistication of "Lord of the Ages".

Apart from two outstanding tracks, "Tomorrow's Up for Sale", with its biting and timeless social commentary, and the surprisingly edgy acoustic blues of "I'm gonna take you down", everything here is virtually interchangeable and unappealing.

The mid 1970s were rife with this type of low rent sub FM tripe, but Martin's cafe's bill of fare brings new meaning to the concept of stodgy and bland British cuisine.

Report this review (#257908)
Posted Saturday, December 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars This is a pretty dreadful way of ending a day, listening to and reviewing one of Magna Carta's weakest albums. If not their weakest album.

The music here is pretty aimless country pop. Most of the songs seems to be made for the commercial pub-gigs market. Magna Carta's normally strongest card is their vocals and guitar harmonies which normally rivals the likes of Crosby, Stills & Nash. But even they are not present on this album. What remains is soulless pub-songs. Some of them are beefed up by some honky-tonk piano and harmonica in a probably attempts to get some airplay on the morning radio programmes. This only makes this album worse. The lyrics too is pretty dire. This album is a fully fledged turkey with all it's trimmings. Pass me the gravy, please.

1 star

Report this review (#286231)
Posted Saturday, June 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
1 stars Won't set the world on fire!

I own this largely forgettable album as part of a 2 CD collection called Ages And Seasons that also includes the albums Seasons, Songs From Wasties Orchard and Lord Of The Ages in their entirety. While these other three albums range from decent (Songs From Wasties Orchard) to good (Seasons, Lord Of The Ages), Martin's Café is a disappointment. We have here a collection of nondescript, short songs; acoustic Folk ballads, Folk Pop and a few Country and Rock 'N' Roll numbers. Whatever progressive touches that could be found on the group's previous albums, those influences had wholly evaporated by this point.

Martin's Café contains 11 tracks, all of which are between two and four minutes in length and wholly based on conventional song structures and predictable instrumentation (mostly acoustic guitar, drums and vocals with minimal use of electric guitar, piano and harmonica). It is listenable, but pretty dull. The melodies are not very memorable and I doubt I will even listen to this album again. Life is too short for that and there is so much good music! Still, this lacklustre album does not take away much from the value of the Ages And Seasons double disc set which contains at least two good albums. If you buy that collection, then Martin's Café is probably worth a listen. But do not, I repeat, do not, search out this album strictly on its own merits unless you are an utter Magna Carta fanatic (and I doubt such people exist!).

In its own right, this album is for completionists only.

Report this review (#291755)
Posted Saturday, July 24, 2010 | Review Permalink

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