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Magna Carta - Seasons CD (album) cover

SEASONS

Magna Carta

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Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars It was a very good year

Magna Carta present something of a quandary when attempting to pin them down to a sub-genre. Their roots are very much in the same folk rock territory as bands such as FAIRPORT CONVENTION and THE STRAWBS, perhaps even extending as far west as SIMON AND GARFUNKEL at times (Glen Stuart's voice is similar to Art's). In their early days however, they signed to the Vertigo (swirl) label for this their second album, finding themselves alongside such bands as BEGGAR'S OPERA, BLACK SABBATH, and COLLOSEUM.

It is a chicken and egg question as to how much the label influenced their direction, and to what extent their already planned direction led to their signing for Vertigo, but the results are a unique blend of folk and progressive elements. The first track we are presented with here is a 22 minute suite based on the four seasons of the year. After a spoken prologue, the gentle acoustic "Winter song" introduces us to the wonderful vocal harmonies of the band, seductively accompanied by acoustic guitar. Various themes are explored as the suite moves quickly along. For this album, the band is a trio, but various guest musicians such as Rick Wakeman, Dave Johnstone and Tim Renwick, plus the London Symphony Orchestra create sympathetic but never intrusive sound-scapes on which the band build their supremely melodic pictures. The suite is primarily based around vocals and occasional spoken word, any instrumental breaks being brief and usually in the form of segues. This is though a magical work, spellbinding in its unique beauty.

Side two consists of six short, unconnected songs. Tracks such as "Going my way" and "Give me no goodbye" are light Simon and Garfunkel like pieces, harmonic, infectious and perfectly performed but not the sort of thing visitors to this site are seeking. Special mention should be made of "Elizabethan", one of the most beautiful songs I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. "Ring of stones" is a mini-suite in four minutes, with mysterious lyrics and a wonderful, if all too brief, organ solo by Wakeman.

The album closes with the band's minor hit single "Airport song". This is "Homeward bound" part two, with pleasant orchestration. The lyrics and light melody make a fog bound delay sound positively desirable.

Bearing in mind this album was released in 1970, well before many of its contemporaries, it shows Magna Carta to be a band of great imagination and ambition, unafraid to make the type of highly melodic music they came to develop over the coming years.

A wonderful album of deceptive simplicity. Nice sleeve too.

Report this review (#107698)
Posted Wednesday, January 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars Debut album from this Folk rock group that will always be on the fringe of prog rock, but never really be part of it in terms of music. Their blend of folk rock was sometimes close to epic and reached some dramatic heights, even writing multi-movement suite (like the title track of this album), but their music was never complicated.

In terms of influences, one can say that vocally, they were often very comparable to what Simon And Garfunkel did. So they sounded more often like a US folk rock, rather than a more British/Celtic folk band, although they delved on both sides on the border. Their sidelong title suite is the main attraction for proigheads, but somehow (if beautiful) the track really fails to convince us. Never does the music get wild or even involved with itself. It is almost like it was afraid of its potential passion, so no matter how much space it was given, it would never allow itself to expand musically even ifd Mr Wakeman and the London Symphonu Orchestra help out. However, I find that the string arrangement only add a coat of sugar on top of the music and is suffocating it rather than spicing it up

But nowhere did their music really get off on the shorter tracks of side 2 as well, and I guess that this pretty well gives you an idea of the group's real potential seen from poroghead's eyes. Plenty of pleasant moments, but the album lacks depth , grits and tripes.

Report this review (#113101)
Posted Thursday, February 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Seasons represents one of Magna Carta's top three albums.If only for side one with the " Season Suite' taking up the whole of the vinyl side in one event. Two key factors to Magna Carta's brand of folkish prog music are Chris Simpson, the creative force behind the group and also Glen Stuart whose blend of vocals with Chris Simpson helped create that trademark sound and harmonized vocal sounds. Compared to Simon and Garfunkel they are,I think the main reason being Chris Simpson's wispy sounding voice being similar to that of Art Garfunkel more than Paul Simon.They are quite similar sounding to an american duo from the 70's called Aztec Two Step.

The "Season suite" has a great pastoral feel starting off with the Winter Song, with poetic narration from Chris Simpson through to the Autumn song with the combined vocals of Simpson and Stuart throughout. Light folk in parts two but undeniably a concept piece with some great guitar, mainly accoustic. The second side seems to be more of a haphazard affair with a few shiningg songs like ' Give Me No Goodbye' and the closer ' Airport Song'. It is great to see that Tim Fenwick of Pink Floyd fame played recorder not to mention contributions from Davey Johnstone, the infamous Tony Visconti and last but not least a Mr. Rick Wakeman. Recommended to those people who like Steelye Span, Fairport Convention, Aztec two Step and Simon and Garfunkel.

Report this review (#113343)
Posted Friday, February 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Almost as good as Lord Of The Ages, Seasons is a very pleasant & sane progressive folk album. The progressive folk songs are quite catchy and easy to enjoy. The lead & backing vocals are excellent, being among the strongest points of the record. It globally sounds a bit like Simon & Garfunkel in a more progressive & refined manner. It is definitely an major album for 1970. One can recognize Rick Wakeman's organ solo on "Ring of Stones". There is a narration on some traks. There are some excellent orchestral arrangements on a few tracks, courtesy of the "London Symphony Orchestra". The warm acoustic bass and the omnipresent acoustic guitars contribute to enhance the overall value of this record. Usually, I'm not very fond of country music but I must admit that the such part on the "Seasons" track is very good. The delightful last song "Airport Song" reminds me the excellent Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "San Jose".
Report this review (#123594)
Posted Monday, May 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Labelling Magna Carta as prog related is rather questionable. They may not have any great instrumental virtuosity or complex rhytms, but their un-orthodox songstructures and chordpassages nicely influenced by classical music make them pretty clear prog folk. Title-track is epic, with great lyrics and rest of the songs are nice proggy folksongs also. Recommended.
Report this review (#159425)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars MAGNA CARTA's "Seasons" is a pleasant and almost entirely acoustic "concept" album replete with gorgeous vocal harmonies, a side long suite, and a back to nature vibe that permeated so much music of its day.

Apart from the unavoidable and justified SIMON & GARFUNKEL references, comparisons can also be made to AMAZING BLONDEL, but Magna Carta's sound is even less edgy and progressive, and only occasionally ventures into that group's Elizabethan strongholds. Even if the "Seasons" suite is a mere seasonal song cycle, it does flow clear and free, with nothing to interrupt the sweet sentiments for better or worse. The band are clearly accomplished singers and instrumentalists, but rarely if ever bust out in either category.

The shorter tunes actually uncover several gems of succinct pastoral folk rock, particularly the cello-led "Elizabethan" reminiscent of STRAWBS circa "Dragonfly"; and the surprisingly moody "Ring of Stones" including Rick Wakeman on organ. "Airport Song" was apparently a hit in some European ports of call, and is a ringer for Boxer-era S&G.

I have been known to give high ratings even to albums with such a low prog content simply because of their high quality and a willingness to take risks. The quality of this minor delight is not in question, and this is certainly a solid 3 star + effort, but it doesn't brave the elements enough to make me spring for a fourth star.

Report this review (#257861)
Posted Saturday, December 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Too much sugar for my liking.......

But it still works.

This album consists of one long suite (twenty two minutes long) and some shorter songs. The music is a blend of pop backed up with sugar sweet orchestral production and some good vocals in the vein of Art Garfunkel. Yes, the Simon & Garfunkel references are strong here. So is the references to the stuff Elvis Presley did after he left Las Vegas. I have an album full of his post-Las Vegas stuff (my first ever bought album......... when I was six years old) and Seasons gives me the same vibes. Even some The Beatles stuff anno their Indian music period has crept in here. The Beatles is therefore a good reference point too.

The problem with Magna Carta is that they have a very charming, disarming sound which pretty much remove the venom I normally have for bands like this. Their vocal harmonies is absolute excellent and in the same class as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Their music is not in the same class as CSN&Y, but it is still good. The twenty two minutes long suite Seasons has a good dynamic and is more than leaning on Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Which is good in my books. The shorter songs is not that good. But this is still a good, charming album from one of the best acoustic bands out there. I am not fond of this type of music. But Seasons is one of the better albums in this genre. A major plus for the cover artwork too.

3 stars

Report this review (#290599)
Posted Saturday, July 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is just perfect.

Nicely crafted progfolk with lots of beautiful melodies and harmonies. The lower of voice Chris Simpson and the higher voice of Glen Stuart fit so perfectly. Sometimes it's so beautiful it makes me cry.

The comparison to The Moody Blues is also a valid one. Especially when the band rocks a bit. In the end it's all really safe and sugarsweet. But not all music should be doomy gloomy, in my opinion. The suite Seasons is really great. It features songs and poems, wich is also a bit Moody Blue-ish. But there's also more folky even americana stuff, wich adds to the overall colour of the album.

This album feels like a hippie-record. In that context it's excellent. For people who love the Mamas and the Papas, Simon & Garfunkel and Moody Blues, this is a must-have.

Report this review (#1890658)
Posted Sunday, March 4, 2018 | Review Permalink

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