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The Church Magician Among The Spirits album cover
3.68 | 30 ratings | 6 reviews | 13% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1996

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Welcome (5:56)
2. Comedown (4:35)
3. Ritz (7:54)
4. Grandiose (5:20)
5. Ladyboy (5:55)
6. It Could Be Anyone (8:45)
7. The Further Adventures Of The Time Being (6:01)
8. Romany Caravan (4:05)
9. Magician Among The Spirits (14:09)
10. Afterimage (4:15)

Total Time: 76:50

Bonus tracks on 1998 & 2004 reissues:
10. Man (5:22)
11. Won't Let You Sleep (5:15)
12. Sads (4:07)
13. Why Don't You Love Me (5:51)

Line-up / Musicians

- Steve Kilbey / lead vocals, bass,
- Marty Willson-Piper / guitar, vocals

- Sandy Chick / backing vocals
- Peter Koppes / guitar
- Chris Abrahams / piano
- Linda Neil / violin
- Tim Powles/ drums
- The Utungun Percussionists

Releases information

Artwork: Priscilla Jones with Maikka Trupp (photo)

CD White ‎- D31562 (1996, Australia)
CD Cooking Vinyl ‎- COOK CD 168 (1998, UK) 4 new tracks (omits track #3), sub-titled "Plus Some"
CD Cooking Vinyl - COOK CD168 (2004, Australia) As above

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy THE CHURCH Magician Among The Spirits Music

THE CHURCH Magician Among The Spirits ratings distribution

(30 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(13%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (37%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (7%)

THE CHURCH Magician Among The Spirits reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by maani
3 stars [Tenth in a series] Re "Magician Among the Spirits," many Church fans have asked, "What happened?" This refers to the fact that this album, while not exactly a step backwards, certainly seems remarkably incongruous given their last two albums. Most obvious is the minimal use of the types of textured atmospheres that the band had mastered, and used to phenomenal effect on their two previous albums; the sound here is far more "stripped down," though not entirely devoid of atmosphere. My guess is that all of this had something to do with the feud between the band and its label, in which the label claimed that the band still owed them an album - a charge the band refuted. If so, it may be that the band simply wanted to get an album out quickly (to get out of their contract), and therefore didn't spend the time necessary to make it "great." (In fact, given that no copyright dates are given for the songs, it may well be that the band used some songs from earlier sessions.) That said, there is still lots of good, sometimes great, music here. / In "Welcome," Kilbey provides a smile-inducing rhyming list of celebrities from all walks of life, underpinned by a simple arrangement with a subtle texture. "Comedown" is a light rocker that sounds like it might have come from the "Heyday," "Starfish" or "Gold Afternoon Fix" sessions. "Ritz" calls to mind "Fly Home" (from "Sometime Anywhere") in that it goes from softer, almost dreamy violin-laced sections to more aggressive chorus sections, and includes a mildly hypnotic instrumental middle section. "Grandiose" is an "Atom Heart Mother"-ish instrumental with heavily textured guitars and atmosphere, and a chorus singing slightly dissonant vocals. "Ladyboy" sounds like it's from the "Starfish" sessions - a light rocker with minimalist guitar and textured atmosphere. "It Could Be Anyone" starts with a neat "horror film" organ figure, quickly giving way to an extended, truly paranoia-inducing Crimso-Floydian arrangement of simple drums, drone guitar, simple keyboard figure, and textured voice and atmosphere (toward the end they even "channel" Gregor Lygeti, who wrote the bizarre choral vocal that emanates from the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey). "The Further Adventures of The Time Being" is a strange tale supported by a very simple arrangement, with a nicely handled end section full of sound and texture. "Romany Caravan" is another wonderful Church instrumental, this one using a quasi-Basque/Gypsy rhythm, acoustic and electric guitars, and violin. "Magician Among the Spirits," the title track, is one of the band's most haunting, hypnotic extended compositions (and among its most-requested live). Sounding like a cross between Traffic and The Grateful Dead, it does bear a strange resemblance to the quieter section of one of the latter's acid-induced "space jams" - though as filtered through The Church's unique sensibilities. "Afterimage" is a mildly hypnotic Eno-esque instrumental using only echo-reverb piano, acoustic guitar, and subtle string synth. / Although it clearly does not measure up to the magnificence of the two previous albums - especially texture-wise - "Magician Among the Spirits" is nevertheless a very listenable album. Still, it definitely did not prepare any of us for what was to come...
Review by Heptade
4 stars The Church has taken a little heat for being on this site...I can agree that their early work is not really progressive in any sense, but from the nineties onward, this is no longer true. The members of the group are big prog fans of musicians like Genesis, Floyd and Kevin Ayers, but it wasn't really until the middle of their decade that it began to show up in their work. This album is probably their most stereotypically progressive in the traditional sense, and it is an excellent record.

There aren't key changes and time signature changes, but then there aren't really on Porcupine Tree albums either, and lots of prog-people love that band. This album features a 14-minute jammy epic with surrealistic lyrics and reverb-drenched guitar solos (title track), a gypsy violin spotlight ("Romany Caravan"), a cheeky rip-off of "The Great Gig in the Sky" ("Grandiose") and a dark, experimental mini-epic about the end of the world through the eyes of Hindu cosmology ("Could be Anyone"). At least, that's what I think it's about.

Each track brings something different and unexpected, which to me is very progressive indeed. And, considering the veteran status of the band, it is not surprising that everything is pulled off with panache. The Church has always been renowned for their creative use of guitar effects, and that is really highlighted on this album. I'd recommend anything from '92 onwards, but I really think that many prog- fans, even 70s freaks, would find much to like about this album in particular. And if you love P-Tree, Radiohead or Anekdoten's "Gravity" album, get a hold of some Church right now!

Review by Fishy
4 stars Little albums of the extensive back catalogue of the Australian band The Church can really please me but this one does ! Like so many albums of the Church the voice of Steve Kilby is sounding rather dry. Usually the band plays rather standard eighties guitar rock/wave but here there's a more challenging musical approach. "Magic among the spirit" has a darker, more laid back and mysterious atmosphere which includes exotic elements. As always, you can enjoy the gorgeous guitar licks of Marty Wilson Piper . His distinctive way of handling the guitar is a trademark of this band and a reason to check out some of their material.

On the strong opening track "welcome" the psychedelic guitar licks remind me of the sounds that whales produce to communicate with one another. This sober song has a strange, yet original, rhythmic feel. The hypnotic rhythms in "Lady boy" is very similar minus the distorted guitar and Kelby who reaches the lowest level of his vocal abilities. Just like on other Church releases the vocal melodies on this album are never spectacular yet they are able to fascinate me from start to finish. I can imagine these vocals will be too monotonous for many when hearing them first but my advice is : keep listening. In "man" the monotone melody is broadened by a psychedelic guitar line which reminds me of David Gimour. The moody keyboard and backing vocals completes the Floydian image. Truly wonderful ! "Won't let you sleep" is another track that gains power by its magnificent arrangement. The musical formula for most of the tracks is basically the same. Wilson Piper weaves a bed of delicate guitar chords and melodies and Kilby sings on top of that. Sometimes the source of difference is the mixing of the instruments. Here, the drum parts are complex, throughout the album the drum parts are astonishing. On a tracks like "Sads" the bands wave roots are present more substantially. Tru to its title, "grandiose" is a marvellous instrumental track where the lovely guitar lines are joined by a violin. This wouldn't misstand on a prog album like "Dark side of the moon". In every song you can track down more influences from other musical styles. On "Why don't you love me", the elements from folk and classical music are more apparent in the arrangements. There's definitely the impression the sound of this band is getting more enriched towards the end of the disc. The track listing must have been sorted out carefully as each next song builds upon the atmosphere of the previous one. This makes this album suitable for listening from start to finish instead of selecting separate tracks.

On "Could be anyone" you have the impression of a medicine man is performing his rites due to the hypnotic African percussion and human cries in the back. The distorted guitar chords and atmospheric keyboards adds weird mystery. Never before have I experienced a more fascinating landscape in a Church record. " Further adventures." is exploring the hypnotic atmosphere further on. Here the use of the keyboards is increasing thus focussing more on the religious issues. In "Romany Caravan" the eastern influences are more at the front.

Conclusion : Although not suited to be listened at every single day, I would like to recommend this adventurous album very much. Mostly this is no progressive rock like we know it. Basically you'll find rock songs in here that got improved by exciting arrangements. Especially if you can appreciate moody atmospheres, pop leanings and some ethnic influences, this album is worth of checking out. Though the musicianship is excellent on this album, it's provided rather in a subtle way than in virtuous outings possibly with the exception of the magnificent guitar solo's. When hearing the album for the first time some will find this rather monotonous but after repeated listens you'll soon discover the song writing is really top notch. On this album it's obvious the band explores some of their Australian roots amongst other influences. This album breaths mystery.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars This "Church" album is a slight improvement in comparison with their previous "Sometime Anywhere". One can still search for the relation to prog of their music but there are some good songs featured here ("Comedown").

The highlight from this album is the superb "Ritz". As I was closely lined with the new wave scene at the end of the seventies, this song automatically reminds me of the great "Doctors Of Madness". An incredible band who would deserve to fit on PA thanks to its admirable violin play which can be found here. The haunting vocal part from Steve is not alien to the "Kid" Strange ones, and the superb Urban Blitz finds a great counterpart here with Linda Neil.

I was quite reluctant when I heard the opening track, but the next trilogy of songs is just brilliant. When you have listened to "Grandiose"; only one word comes to mind: "Grandiose" my friends. Powerful, heavy, hypnotic: magic in one word. A superb instrumental track and another highlight.

There is of course the unavoidable Bunnymen-oriented track ("Ladyboy"); or is it some Lou Reed reminiscence? In any case, this true rock-based tune is quite effective: splendid guitar and sustained rhythmic.

Some songs though could have been avoided and would have brought the length of this album into decent territories. The long complaint of "It Could Be Anyone" is one of these. But the magic is back again with "The Further Adventures?". Same feel as I have outlined already: new wave sounds to the bones (with some added keys), andt I like it.

This album features some excellent songs, but other ones are clearly attracting it to lower territories ("Romany") and the epic and hypnotic title track is too much of the same to be fully attractive.

Three stars for this work which would have gained to be shorter and somewhat more dynamic at times.

Review by Warthur
5 stars Though many would give the accolade to Priest = Aura, which admittedly paved the way for this stylistic experiment, I'd have to say that for me the highlight of the Church's 1990s outputs is the magnificent Magician Among the Spirits, in which obsessions with occult, philosophical, sexual, and narcotic topics merge into an intoxicating aesthetic vision which sees the Church emerging from their jangle pop chrysalis entirely to deliver a neo-psychedelic masterpiece, taking them the furthest from the roots they'd ever gone up to this point and bringing the stylistic experiments of the decade to a wonderful culmination, despite the core band being essentially reduced to a duo by this point.

Latest members reviews

3 stars It is true that, as I have seen in some reviews (not only in this site), out of the albums "Priest=Aura", "Sometime Anywhere", this one and "Hologram of Baal", probably this one was the less inspired one and probably one of the most irregular ones. However it is still a good album that most fa ... (read more)

Report this review (#59392) | Posted by shyman | Wednesday, December 7, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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