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PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Principal Edwards Magic Theatre biography
PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE were an artistic cooperative formed by a group of student musicians and artists at Exeter University in 1968. The group's original plan to establish a magazine for artistic expression was abandoned in favor of a touring troupe usually numbering fourteen artists and featuring music, light shows, dancing and poetry. The group was quickly adopted by DJ John Peel, who appeared with the band along with Alexis Korner, T.Rex, Free, Fairport Convention, Pete Brown and King Ida's Watch Chain at something known as "Dance of Words" at the Guildhall in Portsmouth in the spring of 1968. While most of the band's member left Exeter that fall, the troupe remained intact and resettled in a communal local farmhouse to pursue their music, sponsored by John Peel who contributed to the cost of a traveling van and some instruments.

The band recorded their debut 'Soundtrack' at Trident Studios in 1969 (co-produced by Peel) and released it under his Dandelion label with CBS distribution. The group managed only one additional studio release ('The Asmoto Running Band' in 1971, produced by Nick Mason) before disbanding. In the meantime they managed to amass an impressive series of live appearances opening for such luminary acts as PINK FLOYD, ELTON JOHN, JOHN & YOKO ONO, VAN DER GRAF GENERATOR, CARAVAN, FLEETWOOD MAC, YES, KING CRIMSON, LED ZEPPELIN, EGG, THE WHO, DAVID BOWIE, MANFRED MANN, DEEP PURPLE, and THE STRAWBS among many others.

While tensions and business difficulties led to the breakup of the group in December 1971, members Root Cartwright and Belinda Bourquin formed a follow-on project known simply as PRINCIPAL EDWARDS. That band would remain active for another three years under management by future POLICE manager Miles Copeland, and included future CLIMAX BLUES BAND bassist Richard Jones. PRINCIPAL EDWARDS would release an additional album and record another ('The Devon Tapes') which would remain unreleased until rediscovered and targeted for release in November 2007.

The band's varied acoustic and electric instrumentation, theatrical stage shows, extemporaneous poetry readings and colorful lighting predated the Glam movement and have similarities to such acts as BEGGARS OPERA and maybe even a little bit of THE NICE; and their eclectic and inspired live performances could even be compared to any number of seventies Canterbury acts.

Principal Edwards Magic Theatre official website

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Round OneRound One
Import · Limited Edition
Universal Japan 2005
Audio CD$27.35
$13.04 (used)
Principal Edwards Magic TheatrePrincipal Edwards Magic Theatre
Import
Cherry Red UK 2006
Audio CD$16.78 (used)
PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE [LP VINYL]PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE [LP VINYL]
Dandelion
Vinyl$24.99
$29.99 (used)
soundtrack LPsoundtrack LP
DANDELION
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PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE discography


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PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.39 | 7 ratings
Soundtrack
1969
2.73 | 7 ratings
The Asmoto Running Band
1971
4.00 | 3 ratings
Round One
1974

PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 2 ratings
Soundtrack/The Asmoto Running Band
1995
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Devon Tapes
2008

PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Ballad (Of The Big Girl Now And A Mere Boy)
1969
0.00 | 0 ratings
Dandelion
1971

PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Asmoto Running Band by PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.73 | 7 ratings

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The Asmoto Running Band
Principal Edwards Magic Theatre Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars PEMT's second album was released some two years after their debut album, but the 14- human project was in its final death throes and wouldn't survive the Asmoto release by long, therefore the album sank without a trace. But let's not anticipate and look at this weirdly-titled second opus, produced by Floyd's Nick Mason (apparently interested in the beautiful Vivienne McAuliffe), and Alexis Korner. Indeed, ARB suffers from a much better production, but apparently Floyd and PEMT also shared their light show on tour. Another Floyd link would be the Hypgnosis artwork, featuring a strange light bulb picture.

The album starts outstandingly enough on a couple of fairly-lengthy McAlpine tracks (both making together roughly 12 minutes), which tends to show the band's enhanced musical capacities, but the effort is cut after Asmoto wins over McAlpine. Indeed the songs get much shorter, but also sometimes much weirder (the cringe-inducing Kettering Song or the Further Celebrations), and the strange Asmato feud with McAlpine is quite incomprehensible, unless being initiated by the Edwardian gods.

While Bourquin's multi-instrumentalist virtues (Kb, flute, violin) were already a strength on the previous Soundtrack release, his violin playing is much more prominent on Asmato (sometimes taking on unwanted fiddle sonorities, like in Glycerol Esther), also reminiscent of Curved Air's Daryl Way. Another difference is the replacement of Edwards' percussions with swallow's drumming, giving the band a generally heavier sound. McAuliffe's vocal presence is also reduced and often embedded in the production. Of the second half of the album, only the gentle Freefall is bringing you back to the band's earlier folk, and thankfully, it's the longer track (by a margin) of the flipside - well I haven't heard the missing Autumn Lady Dancing Song, which ios absent on the 2on1 reissue from the See For Miles label.

The group would then implode soon afterwards (their University sabbatical was over), although three members would go on for a couple years and a third album (on the Deram label) under the reduced Principal Edwards moniker. Only the superb Vivienne McAuliffe would pursue with a long studio session career, even singing with Patrick Moraz. ARB is a fairly different album than the debut, and dare I say it, much less successful, despite an even greater musical madness.

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 Soundtrack by PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.39 | 7 ratings

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Soundtrack
Principal Edwards Magic Theatre Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars University of Exeter (near-extreme South-West England) hippie students group that built a total musical show, complete with lights and dancers that was popular on the college circuit, Principal Edwards Magic Theatre is one of those all-too forgotten progressive folk bands that couldn't manage a record deal until BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel discovered them and signed them to his Dandelion label and appeared on a few TV shows on the presenter's impulse. This 13-humans band came with dancers, singers, light & sound men, and of course the core quartet of musicians, centred on main songwriter guitarist Root Cartwright and violin, keyboards and flute player Bindy Bourquin, while the lyrics came from three members, including the two lead singers, a typical folk male/female duo. The group's amusing name was rumoured to be about their Exeter University's principal, but more likely the said Edwards was percussionist's ancestor and Welsh preacher's name. The debut album has nothing to do with a film, but it was co-produced by Peel and the group, released in 69 in a gatefold group-photo shot artwork filled with 14 hippies.

The group's soundscapes are indeed very folk, but a demented psych prog folk one, one that can stretch from Incredible String Band to early Floyd (they toured with both and many more) and many other difficult to discern influences in between, but they have their own sound. Indeed the band's singing duet comprises of the astounding Vivienne McAuliffe (who would be around for a long time afterwards) and the more restrained but haunting Martin Stellman, but there is so much more than the singing to this band, including theatrical songwriting that has to do much with their stage act.

The opening Enigmatic Insomnia Machine (with a psych-rock second half) and its follow-up Sacrifice (reminiscent of ISB, despite some demented power chords opening it) are both setting the boundaries and yet blowing apart the rules set inside the psych-folk genre, but things go even madder (while staying very folk) with the epic ISB-esque 13-mins Death Of Don Quixote. One would fear this long track overstays its welcome but, surprisingly, it is relatively quickly over. One of the group's main asset is the multi-instrumentalist Bindy Bourquin, who plays flutes, keyboards and violin, and therefore brings on much colour in the band's soundscapes.

On the flipside, the opening Third Sonnet starts out much like the first part of the opus, but a sudden surge of guitar slides the album, giving it a heavy blues tinge, before returning to semi-medieval liturgics chants and both the blues and the folk will alternate some more. Cool stuff and an epic electric ending. The only short track (by far) To Be A Broken Guitar is rather self-explanatory and sung by Stellman alone. The album closes on the 10-mins Pinky, an excellent psych-folk as if early Floyd had fooled around with Fairport Convention. Definitely the album's highlight, the madness seems to approach Jan Dukes De Grey with some outstanding guitar picking and terminating on a great soliloquy, punctuated by a final guitar bravado.

Maybe not as outstanding as First Utterances, Asylum for The Musically Insane, St Radiguns, Rats &And Mice In The Loft, but Soundtrack s certainly another gem n that genre; but then again it might have been interesting to have witnessed the full dimension of their craft, including the visual aspects, which are absent on the albums. While some will classify PEMT as ISB-esque, I tend to think of this Exeter combo as quite superior, because it doesn't have the weird sonic particularities of the Scot duo/quartet.

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 Round One by PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Round One
Principal Edwards Magic Theatre Prog Folk

Review by progshachar

4 stars Psychedelic Folk rock band. They were also called Principle Edwards Magic Theatre. The earlier albums are under the full name ? Principle Edwards Magic Theatre: "Soundtrack" from 1969 and "The Asmoto Running band" from 1971.There is a compilation that has both albums together. The second album is more progressive and powerful than the first one. The first 2 songs McAlpine's Dream and McAlpine Versus The Asmoto are very powerful. The third album is "Round on" from 1974. The line up in "Round One" is: Belinda Bourquin: violin, vocals, keyboards, recorders. David Jones: percussion, Richard Jones: lead vocals, bass, Geoff Nicholls: drums and Nick Pallett: guitar, vocals. In the previous albums they were more musicians. The album has 8 pieces: "Average Chap", a very powerful beginning for the album, "Halibut Rock", "Milk and honeyland", "Whizzmore Kid", "Juggernaut" ,The lovely- "Dear Mrs. O' Reilly"," Triplets" and the most progressive song the 10 minutes long "Rise of the glass ? white gangster". The new album format is Japanese digipack format, and it's very high quality. Nick Mason, Pink Floyd's drummer, produced this album. The music is similar to bands like: Comus, Fairport convention, Spirogyra. It's very powerful, yet very melodic. The lead singer has a lot of help from the female singer, and it's always lovely.

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 The Devon Tapes by PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2008
4.00 | 3 ratings

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The Devon Tapes
Principal Edwards Magic Theatre Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars Principal Edwards Magic Theatre were one of scores of music collectives that emerged from college campuses all over the U.S., Europe and South America during the latter sixties. While the unwashed hordes were simply ‘tuning in, turning on and dropping out’, it seems kids with at least modest means and some inkling of philosophical direction were joining together in communal settings and dedicating themselves to the lofty calling of artistic expression. Most faded away into obscurity as their members either assimilated back into society or became subjects of cautionary tales for the next generation of seekers, but on occasion some of them left behind pretty decent music to be discovered long after they and their muses had moved on to other pursuits.

Principal Edwards seemed to be a bit more talented and ambitious than most of their peers however, and while they never achieved the fame or recognition they probably deserved they did manage to leave behind a small body of work that looking back on today seems surprisingly groundbreaking. These guys are classified as progressive folk, but there’s more than a little glam as well as what was known in the seventies as ‘art rock’ in their music. When considering them in light of other acts like Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Move, the connection between psych folk of the sixties and glam rock of the seventies becomes quite clear. Principal Edwards were among the pioneers of glam even if neither they nor their fans realized it at the time.

‘The Devon Tapes’ come from the band’s last days in 1974, when they interrupted their summer tour to hole up in a Devon cottage at the direction of then-manager Miles Copeland in hopes of putting together material that could garner some commercial attention. The group (which varied at times in size from eight to more than fifteen members) had been picked up by Copeland after the band’s label Dandelion folded in 1972 and core members Root Cartwright, Belinda Bourquin and David Jones dropped the ‘Magic Theatre’ portion of their name and hit the road with a more rock-oriented focus, a smaller lineup of six members and new material, in search of a full-time music career. One album was released (‘Round One’) to virtually no acclaim, but the band remained a colorful live act with multimedia presentations, dance, theatrical displays and often grandiose costumes depicting a fanciful lineup of characters known by such names as the Whizzmore Kid, Stoneage Sam and the Beast. Copeland had picked them up in early 1974 in hopes of transforming the group into a commercially viable act, but while mostly college audiences responded to their live shows a major label contract eluded them. Hence, the Devon Tapes.

These original songs were recorded in that cottage as demos for Copeland, with the band expecting to eventually record them properly in a studio setting. This was not to be though, as Copeland rejected the final product with the band dissolving shortly after. Bassist Richard Jones would move on to another Copeland act, the Climax Blues Band, and keyboardist Peter White joined Al Stewart’s touring group before eventually establishing himself as a notable jazz artist. The rest of the members went on to other ventures, although all of them continue to play or at least teach music in some capacity even today. Copeland of course would achieve commercial success with his IRS Records label and its flagship act the Police whose drummer Stewart also happened to be Miles’ brother.

As for the music on this album, it is surprising looking back a quarter-century later that Copeland couldn’t see its commercial potential. The most striking aspect is the dominating presence of Peter White’s keyboards. Songs like the opening track ‘the Beast’ and “Assassin Senorita” are thick with dumbed-down Wakeman-like arrangements that should have appealed greatly to neophyte proggers, not to mention fans of glam rock like T. Rex, the Tubes and Gary Glitter. Guitarist Cartwright displays a penchant for catchy riffs throughout, and with a few songs (“Yes, She Said Yes”, “The Alamo” and “Helix” especially) he exudes the kind of ‘juke box hero’ power that should have propelled the group well up on the Billboard Top-100 charts. At times the band even seems to have the makings of a new wave band, particularly on the funky “Double Jointed” and closing “Over and Out”.

My personal favorite is the mildly psych-flavored “Shipwreck”, a slower and folk-influenced number that is not unlike a lot of Klaatu’s more memorable music but enhanced, as is most of the album, by Nick Pallett’s slightly tense but rich vocals. “The Alamo” starts off similarly, but ends up wandering off into a jaunty jam session of stilting keyboards, heavy prog bass and the occasional violin flourish (her violin work on “Over and Out” is also top- notch). This song in particular would have benefited greatly from some studio discipline, although the sound quality here is surprisingly good considering it was remastered from a cassette tape, the only surviving copy from those long-ago sessions. Cherry Red Records and Richard Jones did a masterful job of reconstructing this music for the CD release.

The more I delve into seventies music the more I’m amazed at the number of truly fascinating bands and albums there were back then that were simply overlooked, lost and forgotten. This band and this album are among the best in that category. This is a four-star affair in my book, and highly recommended to art rock, glam and even the more adventurous prog folk fans. Kudos to Jones for his great skill in bringing these demos back to life, and shame on Miles Copeland for not having a greater vision in 1974. One can only wonder what might have been had he taken a little more time to work through these delightful songs and apply himself in gilding their rough energy with a little commercial sheen so that a broader audience could have enjoyed them. I can only imagine what the group might have gone on to accomplish had that been the case.

peace

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 The Asmoto Running Band by PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.73 | 7 ratings

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The Asmoto Running Band
Principal Edwards Magic Theatre Prog Folk

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Where's the autumn dancing lady?

Principal Edward Magic Theatre (PEMT) may have been born in an uprising of love and peace, but they only actually managed to record two studio albums together. With so many fingers in the communal pie (no less than 140 assuming each band member was fully endowed) it is not perhaps surprising that they decided the project had run its course a mere 2 years after it began.

"The Asmoto Running band" is the second and final album released in the band name. Pink Floyd's Nick Mason steps in as producer, PEMT having supported the Floyd on numerous occasions. It is even suggested in the sleeve notes for the See for Miles reissue (but not substantiated), that Mason was involved with lead singer Vivienne McAuliffe at the time. The legendary Alexis Korner also appears to be around, taking credit for the overall production and as the publisher of the music. His precise roll beyond that though (if any) is less clear.

Inevitably for a band whose line up reads more like a class register, there are a few line up changes here, but most of those involved on "Soundtrack", including thankfully the gifted lead vocalist Vivienne McAuliffe, are still at their desks.

The tracks are generally a bit briefer and more focused this time, than on the "Soundtrack" debut, the superior production being immediately apparent. "McAlpine's dream", which opens the album, is a sort of blending of Pentangle, The Incredible String Band and Curved Air. As with the songs on the first album, the arrangement is complex and ambitious. From here, we merge straight into "McAlpine versus the Asmoto", the two tracks combined forming a 12+minute suite. The latter part is a pounding instrumental, at times sounding rather Genesis like, but featuring violin as the lead instrument.

The "Asmoto" theme runs through much of the album, although what that theme is actually about is not something I can shed any light on. It is likely that the accompanying live show (and bearing in mind that several group members do not actually play or sing on the album) brought the story to life, but even then this would probably have been in abstract format. As the album progresses, the tracks get noticeably shorter and more frivolous. The music remains pleasant, but the indications are that the inspiration is drying up rapidly. The final three tracks are somewhat less inspired than anything which has gone before, reaching a low point on "The Kettering song" which appears to be little more than an improvisation around that town's name.

The version I have of the album is included in a 2 on 1 single CD release by See for Miles Records (1994, SEECD412) which contains both the albums recorded by PEMT. In order to fit the albums onto a single disc, "Autumn dancing lady" is dropped altogether. We are helpfully reassured in the sleeve notes that "we are sure this will not detract from your listening enjoyment".

In all, another enjoyable album by PEMT. The group's ambitious may have been over-challenging for their combined talents, but there is a refreshing naivety here which endears us to the music.

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 Soundtrack by PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.39 | 7 ratings

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Soundtrack
Principal Edwards Magic Theatre Prog Folk

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Dandelion a-Peel

As the band name implies, Principal Edwards Magic Theatre (PEMT) were as much a live event as they were a recording outfit. The band name was taken from that of a Welsh Evangelist distantly related to one of the members. Made up of a gang of no less than 14 students, they were the very epitome of the love and peace movement of the late 1960's. Their stage shows were as much about what you saw as what you heard, something which is inevitably lost when it comes to their two audio albums released in 1969 and 1971. The line up listed here shows only about 10 band members, the remainder not being involved in the audio aspects of the band.

"Soundtrack", PEMT's first album, was released on legendary British DJ John Peel's Dandelion label. The label was specifically intended as an outlet for bands such as PEMT, who Peel felt warranted exposure, but who were having difficulty in securing a recording contract. As such, the label was not actually profitable, any bands who showed commercial potential being subsequently snapped up by more commercially orientated record companies. The band's main claim to fame is perhaps the fact that they regularly supported artists such as Pink Floyd, in the days when the Floyd were still paying their dues.

The risk with ventures such as this is that the vision is somewhat different to the reality. Regardless of the number of people involved, there still needs to be a concerted effort made by the contributors in terms of both song-writing and performance. The group undoubtedly have a head start with the vocal talents of Vivienne McAuliffe. She has the singing pedigree of the likes of Sonja Kristina, Judy Dyble and Sandy Denny, with a purity of voice which can carry even the most mediocre of songs. I am also reminded of the music of the great Judy Collins, especially from around the time of her fine "Fires of Eden" album.

There are just 6 tracks here, ranging from the brief "To a broken guitar" to the 13˝ minute "The death of Don Quixote". The opening "Enigmatic Insomniac machine" is one of the most accessible and indeed pleasant numbers here, being a Curved Air like soft folk excursion. This segues straight into the 7 minute "Sacrifice", a song which features a more complex arrangement and mixed male/female lead vocals. There are similarities with the barren landscapes of the Incredible String Band, the lead vocals of Martin Stellman being not unlike those of Robin Williamson.

The 13˝ minute "The death of Don Quixote" sits at the core of the album. This rambling story jumps about from mood to mood and theme to theme, while always remaining folky and acoustic. It has to be said the song, and indeed the album, is something of an acquired taste. I mentioned Judy Collins album "Fires of Eden" album earlier, and this track is particularly reminiscent of the wonderful "The blizzard" from that release.

"Third Sonnet to sundry notes of music" opens side two of the album in very much the same way as side one closed. While the song as a whole remains light and folky, the sudden burst of lead guitar is as surprising as it is welcome. After the brief "To a broken guitar", the album closes with the 10 minute "Pinky, a mystery cycle". There's an element of the Spinal Taps here in the Stonehenge imagery and rather clumsy sound-scapes. The vocals are however as effective as ever, and the song does benefit from an ambitious arrangement including some decent lead guitar.

To enjoy this album, the listener would really need to be already converted to the music of bands such as the Incredible String band, The Strawbs, and Fairport Convention. There is no doubt that there is prog folk in abundance here, and that the album comes off surprisingly well. It will not however appeal to all tastes by any means.

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 The Asmoto Running Band by PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.73 | 7 ratings

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The Asmoto Running Band
Principal Edwards Magic Theatre Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

2 stars The second and final album from the “Magic Theatre” version of Principal Edwards is much less ambitious and quite a bit shorter than their first release. Vivienne McAuliffe is still around on vocals, but less pronounced than before. The band was already in the last throes of their existence, and would break up completely shortly after this release. The times they were a’changing, and this sort of theatrical, pretentious and self-indulgent dinner theater sort of music was becoming pretty passé by the early seventies.

This is a sort of theme album, telling the disjointed tale of a pseudo-mythical Asmoto Running Band and some dude named McAlpine’s interactions with them – sort of a poor man’s Sgt Pepper, I suppose. Kind of hard to follow – there’s a booklet with lyrics in the CD version but they aren’t all that illuminating without some sort of herbal inspiration.

The guitar work is more prevalent here, but nothing spectacular for sure, and many of the tracks seem to be nothing more than musical props for the troupe’s live theater sketches, most notably “Asmoto Celebration” (followed immediately by “Further Asmoto Celebration”); the pompously named “Total Glycerol Esther”; and the anti-climactic finale “Weirdsong of Breaking Through at Last”.

A remnant of the group would reform as simply “Principal Edwards” following the breakup and would continue on as a slightly more conventional art rock act for a couple of years before their bass player would marry pianist/violinist Belinda Bourquin and leave for the Climax Blues Band along with band manager Miles Copeland. The smaller group did manage to record a set of studio tracks known as “The Devon Tapes” that has been discovered and will supposedly be released some time soon, but beyond that there’s not much to report on the band after the mid-seventies.

This is a mildly interesting curio of history, but not a very serious piece of progressive folk music. I hesitate to give it only two stars because I think it suffers mostly from having not stood the test of time all that well, but it is what it is so two stars is the right call. Not particularly recommended but might provide a bit of amusement to nostalgic prog folk fans.

peace

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 Soundtrack by PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.39 | 7 ratings

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Soundtrack
Principal Edwards Magic Theatre Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars Basically, Principal Edwards Magic Theatre were a group of somewhat talented and highly ambitious college students at the end of the sixties who decided that putting out a cultural newsletter in their Exeter University setting was a noble and worthy undertaking. Then they all got stoned, played some tunes, and quickly decided that making music was more interesting than going to school altogether. So they dropped out and formed a band (of sorts), moved into a communal farmhouse, and went on the road with a multi-disciplined stage show that consisted of poetry reading, light shows, interpretive dance, skit acting wearing gaudy and colorful costumes, and of course – music. Early on the group met with some good fortune in attracting the ear of John Peel, who proceeded to provide moral and some financial support, as well as produced their first album and appears to have been largely responsible for the band getting billing alongside a very impressive group of acts during their few years of touring, including T. Rex, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Caravan, Yes, King Crimson, John Mayall, Fleetwod Mac, Led Zeppelin, the Who, David Bowie, Manfred Mann, Supertramp and many others. A later version of the group would tour for a couple of years under management of Miles Copeland, who later performed the same role for the Police. A genuine fairy tale story.

The music on their first album has the unmistakable feel of a stage show as opposed to the more traditional sound of a modern rock band. Elaborate percussion and sound effects, spoken word passages, and sweeping woodwind passages, and the grandiloquent lyrical tales that seemed to abound in art music of this period are present throughout ‘Soundtrack’ (which is not really a soundtrack, but that’s a minor point here). The group is much bigger than it appears on the album cover – if you flip the gatefold open another eight players appear on the backside.

The band also had the distinction of debuting a young Vivienne McAuliffe on vocals. Ms. McAuliffe’s singing has been compared to a hip Julie Andrews, and I can certainly hear where this would be a valid comparison. McAuliffe would go on to a lengthy career, appearing with the art rock bands Affinty and Aviator, as well as on a couple of Patrick Moraz solo albums and on Gerry Rafferty’s seminal seventies synth-rock massive hit album ‘City to City’, along with her work as a solo jazz vocalist before passing away in 1998.

The tracks here are typical latter sixties stuff lyrically, with a combination of folk-tale and theatrical themes, unabashed pretentiousness, and a real hodge-podge of musical styles wound together without a whole lot of attention to disciplined arrangement or aural flow. And I mean that in a good way, since that sort of unrestrained creativity is sadly in short supply in today’s music business.

The highlight of the album is the thirteen-minute “Death of Don Quixote”, a decidedly folk mini-epic performed as a play of sorts, telling a bastardized version of the long Cervantes tale with a few ‘modern’ twists along with gentle piano, mandolin and recorder accompaniment.

In true sixties fashion there’s also a short ode “To a Broken Guitar”, appropriately presented in the form of a vocal/guitar arrangement where the guitar appears to be a bit out-of-tune; and the quirky “Sacrifice” which starts off with a Black Sabbath- like guitar intro but quickly morphs into a heavy psych number. The closing “Pinky - A Mistery Cycle” is another play-cum-song, but on this one there appears some of the best guitar work to be found on any of the band’s albums. This is another psych-folk number and is predominately instrumental.

The history of this band is probably more interesting in their music, which in fact is pretty dated (not surprising since this was recorded nearly forty years ago). They could be compared to bands like Beggars Opera or maybe Fairport Convention circa ‘Liege & Lief’, although Vivienne McAuliffe’s vocals do stand out as the most distinctive talent in the lineup. I can’t say this is a masterpiece or anything, but it is a very good recording for the period, and one that would likely appeal to many folk fans. So three stars are warranted, and a recommendation mostly for prog folk fans and those who like to hear lightly psych-tinged music from the late sixties.

peace

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