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Magenta - The Twenty Seven Club CD (album) cover





3.84 | 225 ratings

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4 stars I had originally planned to get Magenta's "Seven" as my first Magenta CD because it's their highest rated album on PA. But the concept behind "The Twenty Seven Club" intrigued me and so I ordered this album without giving it a preliminary listen.

My first impression from the start was that the music was just like Arena until the wah-wah guitar comes in (on "The Lizard King") when I then thought it sounded like Syzygy or Anima Mundi. Vocalist Christina Booth comes in and sings well enough but I soon felt that she didn't have anything to distinguish herself from other run-of-the-mill female vocalists. The music sounded very good, an excellent example of symphonic / neo-prog with all the I's dotted and T's crossed. The ingredients had all been measured carefully for a tasty audio treat. But there was nothing that felt new, original, or particularly memorable. This left me sitting on a fence about having bought the album. It's all good but something was missing.

Some albums do need a bit of time to absorb and so I ploughed on ahead listening through the whole album, digesting my impressions, listening again, digesting... In conclusion, I think it is a very good if not great example of symphonic / neo-progressive rock. But I still feel something was left out of the recipe, something the band could have put in themselves to make it a unique dish.

The second track, "Ladyland Blues" is about Jimi Hendrix but if you didn't know that you'd be very unlikely to guess. The music style changes to sounding like Glass Hammer or Anima Mundi again. There are lots of good change ups in the music: sudden stops, abrupt shifts from fast to slow, rapid playing and slower playing. But I began to wonder if Magenta couldn't have tried to add some flavour of the artists they were writing about in the music. Maybe that was the obvious approach and they decided early on to avoid that. But after two songs about modern pop music legends, I feel like I have been listening to a female-fronted Syzygy / Glass Hammer / Anima Mundi.

By "Pearl" I feel the album is starting to improve in interest. This is a song for the sake of the song. It's emotive and Booth's singing has begun to suggest some soul and not just getting the notes out right. It feels right that a song about Janis Joplin should have this more emotional treatment rather than just a display of compositional skills and great prog playing.

On to Brian Jones' song "Stoned", we get a some late British sixties vocals that sound like they'd fit into an Austin Powers movie soundtrack along with some quick guitar playing. But soon we are back to more Glass Hammer / Syzygy music. Then the vocals come in with the lyrics and the music becomes upbeat. It's refreshing. Once the chorus vocals begin I feel the song is sounding pretty good. There's a synthesizer solo and a guitar solo that both seem to go for feeling rather than technical fireworks, and the piano and acoustic guitar with the vocals that follow the solos are rather beautiful. This has become one of my preferred songs on the album.

Kurt Cobain's song "The Gift" opens surprisingly with strings. Booth's vocals are sung a bit lower and she sounds not only better but even reminiscent of Joanne Hogg of Iona. By this point in the album I feel that Booth sounds better singing slower songs with her voice a bit lower or singing with backing vocals. The more energetic and dramatic music that appears on much of the album is a stretch for her. She can sing no doubt. But any soul behind her singing only seems to show up on moments like the beginning of this song.

"Devil at the Crossroads" is perhaps the only song to actually intentionally include some flavour alluding to the subject of the song. There are parts that include a bit of acoustic blues guitar, saluting Robert Johnson. The longest song on the album, there are lots of twists and turns in the music with faster sections suddenly changing to slower acoustic music with piano and acoustic guitar. There's some beautiful and powerful strings supporting the band in one part and a dark heavy guitar passage that comes up a couple of times. Though the music does little to break new ground, I find this song mixes things up very well and for me, it's the most enjoyable track on the album.

In summary, the music is well-crafted throughout and there are many moments approaching the sublime. I just feel that it is mostly very by-the-numbers and too similar to the bands I mentioned above. Christina Booth can sing very well but I feel her true vocal talents only creep up in certain places and for much of the album she is a singer of someone else's work and hasn't really made the songs her own. Overall an terrific album that just needed a little something more to make it stand out from a background of other similar sounding music.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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