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Magma Concert Bobino 1981 album cover
3.47 | 58 ratings | 4 reviews | 19% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Live, released in 1995

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1
1. Zan (7:39)
2. Hha (12:52)
3. rgon Gorgo (6:04)
4. Retrovision (19:48)

CD 2
1. Who's My Love (7:07)
2. Otis (12:48)
3. Zss (30:19)
4. You (10:10)

Total Time: 106:37

Line-up / Musicians

- Christian Vander / drums, vocal
- Stella Vander / vocal
- Lisa Deluxe / vocal
- Benoit Widemann / keyboards
- Guy Khalifa / keyboards
- Dominique Bertram / bass
- Jean-Luc Chevalier / guitar
- Doudou Weiss / drums
- Alain Guillard / Winds, horns
- Yvon Guillard / horns

Releases information

2CD AKT V (1995, France)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to NotAProghead for the last updates
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MAGMA Concert Bobino 1981 ratings distribution

(58 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(19%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (36%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

MAGMA Concert Bobino 1981 reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars I'll be speaking of the DVD in this review. 3.5 stars really.

To my knowledge and until recently, this was the only live video recording widely available from our Kobaian friends. While this dates from 81 and the fact that Magma had not really added new studio album since the relatively poorer Attahk album in 78, clearly on stage, they were still hitting full stride even if on Thaud Zaia (Stella Vander) and her hubby are the only remaining members from the early incarnation of the group.

One of the few snide remarks made in a sneering manner towards the group was the way they were all dressed-up in black and you will see that this is hardly true with most of them in either red or white although some had strange spacesuits made out of bizarre football pads. The group was strong of ten members with two drummers, two KB players (one also singing), two singers and two wind players, with only the bassist and the guitarist not having an alter ego! As for the tracks played that night most of them are from the latter part of the 70's (not my favourite era, but they play them so enthusiastically that it does not matter one bit) and the concert gets a little lost in the second part with a soul-ish funk track (complete with brass section and back-up singers) so crazy that even Funkadelic's George Clinton would be impressed and then a weird tribute to Otis Redding sung by Vander himself. The concert gets back on track with a superb extract from Zess (where Vander gives a superb vocal effort with triple angel wings on his back) but ends on a down note with You tather uncharacteristic for them.

The image quality of the DVD is not what I would call great as it appears that it got transferred from a VHS tape (I can only judge this by the relatively poor quality but something tells me that this was shot on 16mm film before abd the tape screws up for a few seconds around the mark), but even if not perfect, this DVD worth it if you are a Magma unconditional fan, but the fact that the concert does lose focus will make it less essential to casual fans.

Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
3 stars A fairly solid live album from a band on decline.

I think most people would agree that 1981 wasn't the best year for Magma musically. Many years have passed since the release of their classic albums and many of the main players from those days had departed. Also, more and more of a funk/streamlining influence pervaded the music, at least the newer stuff. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, this Magma is definitely a different beast. Especially with the addition of a second drummer. Unfortunately in a realm where rhythmic complexity could shine, it is rarely so. Though there are multiple sections where you can distinctly hear the two drummers playing different parts which is nice. Also, the addition of horns and brass in the band is great to hear, perhaps harking back to early Magma days, although they are used in a completely different context.

Disc one is where this concert shines. For the most part this is classic Magma (for the time period at least). Zain starts things off well with plenty of instrumental delights and a couple of fun twists. Hhai continues this with a fantastic instrumental jam section after the main vocal part. It must be said though, that I don't find these "new" vocalists to be particular appealing. While they aren't bad, they can't really hold a candle to the power and prowess of the powerhouse vocalists Magma had used in the past. This is particular evident on Retrovision. Musically, I enjoy it much more than the version on Retrospektiw III, however vocally I do believe it suffers slightly. Urgon Gorgo is a fun funky track with some excellent drumming, easily my favorite for the entire concert.

Disc two takes a bit of a nosedive in the sense that this disc fully shows 80s Magma (Merci) is all about. All of the tracks are fairly similar. A very steady rhythm section lays down a beat and essentially keeps it the same throughout the song while the vocals (some of them in English!) take the lead, which is a bit indicative of a pop influence in their music. Musically both Who's My Love and Otis are fairly uninteresting, however there is a bit of perhaps perverse interest in both of them in the sense that they are almost fun to listen to, as so far as I can listen to them both and not lost interest, even though they are fairly long and static. Zess is fairly similar, however vocally much more impressive, no doubt thanks to Vander's singing and some instrumental soloing. You is a strange song with a damn catchy opening section, which then unfortunately falls into the same trap the other songs on disc two do. Though there is a strange bit tagged on to the end, which in a way sounds like band introductions, but with alot of screaming and various instrument sounds.

All in all, this is a decent album. There are definitely faults, but considering the time period its not as bad as it could have been. Disc one is easily a four stars album, where disc two is a sufficient showing of the "new" direction Magma wanted to go (with Merci coming three years later). Newcomers to Magma should avoid this until later in their adventure of the Kobian universe. For the initiated there is some interesting material that should at least be heard. 3 stars.

Review by HolyMoly
3 stars Who's My Love indeed?

Before I start, you should probably know that Magma is my favorite progressive rock band, so read this with that perspective in mind. The bottom line here is that it is an excellent live document featuring some less-than-excellent material. Yet, I probably listen to it as much as or more than any other of the various archival live releases by this band. One of the main reasons for this is the superb sound quality -- the band really pops out of the speakers, and the performance's dynamics and power come through beautifully on this 2 CD set. Another reason has to be the only complete rendition of the epic "Zess" (32 minutes) currently available. A stripped down vocal +piano version is available on the "Les Voix de Magma" release, but this is the only full band version out there. And lastly, you know what? I quite like Magma in its pop-soul mode, which is where Magma's concurrent new material was headed at the time of this release (i.e. the critically derided "Merci" album). These songs' straight 4/4 rhythms with little hint of Magma's trademark rhythmic workouts are pretty off-putting at first, but listen closely and you'll hear some hot horn accents and Vander throwing in a wicked fill here and there.

"Zain" opens the show in dramatic "overture" mode, a high energy Zeuhl rocker with spirited horn parts and group vocals, leading without pause into one of Magma's most beloved older pieces, "Hhai", which receives the rendition of a lifetime here - the definitive version of this song. The superb sound quality really brings out the tension and passion that are central to this song. Next up is "Urgon Gorgo", one of Magma's less compelling pieces. I thought it was just an excerpt from an improvised jam, until I started seeing it on other set lists as well. Kind of a bass feature, it has some really cool moments, but overall nothing to write home about. Disc one closes with a fine rendition of "Retrovision", another of Magma's epics, this one dating from the "Attakh" period, where American soul music was just starting to creep into their sound. This is a wonderful piece, full of rhythmic drive and hot syncopations, using repetition and gradual development of musical themes like any good Magma epic. (And am I the only one who sings "Meet George Jetson!" when the first melody comes in?)

Disc Two opens with "Who's My Love". Just look at that title. Hateful, isn't it? Well, turn that frown upside down, because this is a fun little piece. Some guy in the band other than Vander (Guy Khalifa maybe?) sings this one solo (with the female backing vox providing "answers" to his pleading lines, hitting a real bad bum note at one point in the beginning - ouch!), and he doesn't have a fantastic voice, but I find it charming enough. Nice harmonies on the horns, too. The pop-soul mode continues with "Otis", here extended to an endurance-testing length as Vander scat-sings to rile up the audience (the audience is fairly inaudible throughout this CD by the way, as I believe it's a soundboard recording). I usually skip this track, though I do like it when Vander hits his falsetto range (he can control his voice like few I've ever heard).

On to "Zess".... this epic differs greatly from other long-form pieces like "Kohntarkosz" and even "Retrovision", in that the rhythm section pretty much plays the same two-chord vamp throughout the whole piece. There is a long (close to 5 minutes), legato intro with synthesizer, horns, and choral vocals, singing one of Vander's most beautiful melodies. Then the vamp begins, and Vander delivers a LONNNGGG recitation in French that will most certainly lose most listeners. Then he sings the main melody of the piece (great melody btw), and then performs an elaborate falsetto vocal scat-sung solo over the vamp that just might make your jaw drop, and then WHAM! the first real musical riff of the piece erupts out of nowhere, a good 10+ minutes in. The impact of this after such a long intro is just... breathtaking. Talk about tension/release! This brash riff comes back every now and then throughout the piece, following another Vander vocal solo, a very quick and fluid guitar solo (sounds like a Holdsworth fan on the axe there), and the full choir joins in singing the main melody, as the piece continues to build, leaving me exhausted by the end. Classic use of Magma repetition and tension/release on this number.

The concert ends with "You", stylistically similar to "Retrovision" but leaning a bit more towards the "Merci" sound. The last 6 minutes of the track are hilarious. The song has ended, but Vander keeps talking again and again to the audience, possibly introducing the band, but I don't understand French so I'm not sure. He sounds more hyper and maniacal than usual, even hitting his trademark falsetto as he screams "MERCIIIII!!!" to the crowd. Love it.

Magma fans should pick this up, no doubt in my mind, whether or not you like Merci. It sounds fantastic, the performances are excellent, and it has a few of their finest moments. For the casual fan of Magma, or for the general prog rock fan, though, this is definitely non-essential Magma. Out of about an hour and 45 minutes of music, I'd say there's probably about 20 minutes I could easily do without. 3.5 stars.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is one of those albums that really surprised me. I guess the fact that this concert took place in 1981 should have been a heads-up that it probably won't be your typical MAGMA recording if there is such a thing. This is more of a commercial beast although listening to some of the crazed vocals featured on here reveals that this is very far away from the mainstream. Still I was left intrigued by what I was hearing. Usually an album with the focus on the vocals doesn't do a lot for me but perhaps it's my appreciation for Vander's other project called OFFERING that prepared me for this. By the way I haven't heard the 1984 MAGMA release called "Merci" that some people reference when talking about this double live album. I should also mention that Patrick Gauthier's "Bebe Godzilla" was released the same year as this concert was played and half of the MAGMA lineup here played on it including the Guillard brothers(horns) who were also part of WEIDORJE. Just a killer lineup anyway with Chevallier offering up some ripping guitar at times and Bertam who played with ZAO and solo Jochk'o Seffer adding some prominant bass. Plus we get dual keyboards from Widemann and Khalifa.

So yes a double album which starts with "Zain" and it begins innocently enough with piano before that weird and spacey atmosphere takes over with Vander speaking at times with passion. Female words too. The music kicks in before 4 minutes sounding really good. Check out the bass after Vander says "Magma!". So much going on as the horns blast. Feel-good female vocal melodies come in around 6 minutes. "Hhai" is classic MAGMA no doubt, and the crowd certainly agrees. Christian starts to sing. I really enjoy this as female vocals help out followed by a second male vocalist. There's a real urgency to this one. It's 4 minutes in when the instrumental work of the band comes to the fore. So good. Check out the guitar and drum work here, then the bass that follows. Nice. The vocals return before 8 minutes. Just a fantastic track. "Urgon Gorgo" opens with some killer drum work as Bertram jumps in with some great sounding bass lines. The tempo picks up before 3 1/2 minutes. The focus here is certainly on the bass and drums and it's a pleasure to listen to. "Retrovision" ends disc one and it's almost 20 minutes in length. The female vocals early on surprised me as she sings in a theatrical manner as we hear some intricate and complex instrumental work helping out. It all settles in around 3 minutes. Male vocals lead before 5 1/2 minutes but the female vocals do continue. A calm 2 minutes later then it builds before kicking back in. An instrumental section takes over before 9 minutes that is quite impressive. Vocals are back to the fore 12 1/2 minutes in. Intensity follows. The male and female vocals seem to compete with one another 18 minutes in.

Disc two begins with "Who's My Love" and as Phil mentions in his review this second disc really reveals the direction the band was heading and that direction would be summed up with the studio album "Merci" a few years from this concert. This is a commercial sounding tune, quite catchy although I love the intensity late to end it. And what's with the English vocals?! "Otis" takes a couple of minutes to get going after many spoken words. This is a song about Otis Redding and it's laid back for the most part. This is good. "Zess" is the over 30 minute epic and without question one of the highlights of this live recording. It's fairly dark and atmospheric to start then vocal melodies join in. The drums kick in just before 5 minutes as the tempo picks up and the vocal melodies stop. Vander comes in speaking words as the drums continue. The same melody continues and then Christian starts to sing the words, eventually getting very dramatic with his vocal style. Crazy but so good. I really like how repetitive this is. Check out the ripping guitar solo after 17 minutes. Man that rhythm section is so intense and urgent sounding. Horns continue to come and go then another fiery guitar solo sets the soundscape ablaze as he lets it rip for a very long period. Vocals kick back in including female vocal melodies. Just an amazing track that makes this worth the price of admission alone. "You" is the ten minute closer. Back to the more commercial sounds with this one. I like the vocal melodies from Christian early on. Catchy and passionate stuff. Everyone seems to be having a great time anyway. It picks up before 2 1/2 minutes.

This reminds me of when I first started doing reviews on here, I used to often struggle with my rating. Well, in my world this is a low 4 star album. The appeal is hearing MAGMA sounding different than the past but at the same time they combine the old and the new. This is a less serious MAGMA at this point but it's still the same band and i'm really glad I own this. By the way the DVD version of this is rated very high.

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