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MAGNA CARTA

Prog Related • United Kingdom


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Magna Carta biography
Founded in London, UK in 1969 - Still active as of 2019

MAGNA CARTA is an English 'folk' band, formed in 1969 in London by Chris Simpson, Lyell Tranter, and Glen Stuart. They were part of the early progressive wave, but without really fully stepping into the progressive realm. Magna Carta's music is largely inspired and influenced by the folk of Simon & Garfunkel, focussing on soft and gentle acoustic music, often with a traditional feel, augmented with orchestral arangements and good vocal harmonies. Influences and similar artist include the already mentioned Simon & garfunkel, Fairport Convention, Kevin Ayers, Moody Blues, Amazing Blondel, Caravan, Al Stewart, the softer folk/singer songwriter genre and Canterbury genre.

MAGNA CARTA has gone through numerous personel changes over the years, with the only constant factor being Chris Simpson. Most notable members include Glen Stuart, an amazing vocalist with a great range, Lyell Tranter, who soon departed for Australia to be replaced by Davey johnstone on guitars (left Magna Carta to join Elton John as long time band member), and Linda Taylor who would later merry Chris Simpson.

Between 1969 and 1975 MAGNA CARTA made some wonderfull albums, with the beautifull "Seasons' and 'Lord Of The Ages' as absolute highlights. Also the live album "In Concert" recorded in 1971 in Amsterdam is not to be missed. With the leaving of Glen Stuart the magical beauty was lost, and for a while the band seemed to fall apart. Chris Simpson however managed to keep the band alive and MAGNA CARTA continoud making nice highly enjoyable music.

In 1983 Chris met Linda Taylor and they continued mostly as a duo keeping the MAGNA CARTA name alive. Studio albums became rare, but rereleases of studio albums, and new live recordings kept them performing throughout Europe until today (2006).

Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
How does Magna Carta relate to progressive rock is not an easy question to answer. The music is in itself not progressive as such, but albums like "Seasons" and "Lord Of The Ages" have a certain progressive leaning, including epic songs ("Seasons" has a side long epic, Lord Of The Ages, features an epic song of the same name that is slightly progressive). The mythic and medieval themes and lyrics sets them apart from regular folk. It's prog-lite, but highly enjoyable, and for prog fans, certainly in the acoustic folk and Canterbury scene there is somethi...
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MAGNA CARTA discography


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MAGNA CARTA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.13 | 14 ratings
Magna Carta [Aka: Times Of Change]
1969
3.41 | 35 ratings
Seasons
1970
2.59 | 27 ratings
Songs From Wasties Orchard
1971
3.53 | 51 ratings
Lord Of The Ages
1973
2.11 | 8 ratings
Took A Long Time [Aka: Putting It Back Together]
1976
1.55 | 12 ratings
Martin's Cafe
1977
3.04 | 9 ratings
Prisoners On The Line
1978
2.33 | 3 ratings
Midnight Blue
1982
2.00 | 2 ratings
One To One [Aka: Rings Around The Moon]
1988
3.14 | 7 ratings
The Fields Of Eden
2015

MAGNA CARTA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.83 | 7 ratings
In Concert
1972
1.91 | 2 ratings
Live in Bergen
1978
3.00 | 1 ratings
State of the Art
1993
2.00 | 1 ratings
Live in Grassington
1999
1.00 | 1 ratings
Evergreen: Live in Grassington 2
2000
2.00 | 1 ratings
Live: Time For The Leaving
2005

MAGNA CARTA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

MAGNA CARTA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
Lord Of The Ages + Martin's Café
1999
4.05 | 2 ratings
Seasons + Songs From Wasties Orchard
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
A Touch of Class
2002
3.02 | 3 ratings
Ages And Seasons
2003
4.00 | 1 ratings
Ticket To The Moon
2005
0.00 | 0 ratings
Deserted Highways of the Heart
2007
4.05 | 3 ratings
Tomorrow Never Comes - The Anthology 1969-2006
2007

MAGNA CARTA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

MAGNA CARTA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Lord Of The Ages by MAGNA CARTA album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.53 | 51 ratings

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Lord Of The Ages
Magna Carta Prog Related

Review by Psychedelic Paul

4 stars MAGNA CARTA's long and illustrious career spans six decades, from the release of their first self-titled album in 1969 through to their most recent album "The Fields of Eden" in 2015. Chris Simpson is the principal songwriter and the main driving force behind the band. There have been many line-up changes over the years with Chris Simpson always there at the helm as the mainstay of the group. Guitarist Davey Johnson featured in an early line-up of the band, who later went on to achieve great success with Elton John. Linda Taylor joined the line-up in the mid-1980's and she later went on to marry Chris Simpson in 1990. MAGNA CARTA's best-known song is "Highway To Spain", released as a single from their "Midnight Blue" album in 1982. Three albums preceded the release of "Lord of the Ages" (1973). These were:- Magna Carta (Aka Times of Change) (1969); Seasons (1970): & Songs from Wasties Orchard (1971). "Lord of the Ages" is the "proggiest" of all of MAGNA CARTA's albums and represented a pinnacle of their career. The stunning 10-minute-long title track with the spoken voice introduction is the real highlight of the album. The principal three-piece line-up for the "Lord of the Ages" album consisted of:- Chris Simpson (guitar, vocals); Glenn Stuart (vocals, spoken word); & Stan Gordon (guitar, vocals), with a number of session musicians providing back-up. The only thing missing from the album is a sweet-voiced female vocalist, which would have given the album five-star masterpiece status. The fantasy artwork on the album cover was designed by Roger Dean, who famously produced album covers for YES, ASIA & URIAH HEEP, amongst others.

This charming album is as English as a game of croquet with strawberries and cream on an English summer's day. The opening song "Wish It Was" sets the scene where the wistful singer paints a picture of an old man longing plaintively for lost love in these heartfelt lyrics:- "I'll find an old man lonely, In the autumn of his years, I'll find a young girl hoping, To lose herself in love, And to both I'd give a rainbow, For neither side can make it on their own, Young and old come together." Beautiful! The second song "Two Old Friends" is a sad refrain that wears its English heart on its sleeve and opens with these words:- "Two old friends of mine, I saw them only yesterday, They where there, But I got the feeling, They had gone away, And I was alone, Killing time, A stranger in the silence of their company." It's a gentle yet emotional song that really tugs at the heartstrings. Now comes the piece-de-resistance of the album, the title track "Lord of the Ages". This epic 10-minute-song opens beautifully in a long spoken word introduction in a charming cut-glass English accent. This magnificent song conjures up crystal-clear images of fantasy castles filled with goblins, elves, unicorns, and other such mythical beings. The songs opens in magical style with these words:- Lord of the ages rode one night, Out through the gateways of time, Astride a great charger, In a cloak of white samite, He flew on the air, Like a storm, Dark was the night, For he gathered the stars in his hand, To light a path through the sky, While the hooves of his charger, Made comets of fire, Bewitching all eyes, Beheld them, Lord of the ages, Nobody knows, Whether he goes." It's a bewitching song of phantasmagorical splendour, designed to transport you to a magical place during 10 minutes of sublime delight, including a wild acid guitar break. The album continues with the quaintly titled "Isn't It Funny (And a Little Bit Strange)", which ambles along nicely and features these silly and whimsical lyrics:- "I asked a coalman just for a laugh, How many times did he take a bath, As many times said he, as the bath takes me, Isn't it funny, and not a little bit strange, Like a biscuit on a plane, going south to the sun." It's a silly little song that delights in its English frivolity. We now come to Song No. 5 on the album, "Song of Evening" a very pleasant ballad with a countrified slide guitar sound, which opens with these lovely lyrics in the chorus:- "Then the song of the evening comes in, gentle harmony and lingers 'til the closing of the day, Just a song of evening flows on, Like some tumbling river, and like a river, flows away." It's another lyrical song guaranteed to charm and delight the listener in equal measure. The next song "Father John" is a heartfelt plea to a parish priest, which opens with a beautiful rare female vocal lead. The only pity is that the unknown female vocalist wasn't featured more on this superb album, which could have elevated the album to a five-star classic. The penultimate song "That Was Yesterday" features the nostalgic vocalist imploringly wishing for times gone by with these appealing words:- "Hopes and schemes, Like old men's dreams, Some have gone astray, The world could never change you said, But that was yesterday." A song with a powerful message that times don't always change for the better, which will resonate with many listeners. The final song "Falkland Grene" is a traditional acoustic Folk ballad, which was recorded way back when people still thought the Falkland Islands were somewhere just off the coast of Scotland, long before they were put on the world map in 1982.

This is timeless English Folk music with charming lyrics that wouldn't have sounded out of place at the signing of the original Magna Carta treaty in 1215. This marvellous album is truly the "Lord of the Ages" that will linger in the memory for a long time to come and is sure to garner new fans of classic Prog-Folk in the decades ahead.

 Seasons by MAGNA CARTA album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.41 | 35 ratings

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Seasons
Magna Carta Prog Related

Review by Kingsnake

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.

 Lord Of The Ages by MAGNA CARTA album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.53 | 51 ratings

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Lord Of The Ages
Magna Carta Prog Related

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

2 stars One of those portentous folk groups who could only have existed during the heady atmosphere of the late- sixties and/or early-seventies, British outfit Magna Carta have released a string of albums since their inception, though perhaps none have quite come close to matching the epic sound achieved on this bracing, Roger Dean-illustrated 1973 effort. Pretty much a straight folk record with occasional progressive-and-psychedelic flavours added for good measure, 'Lord Of The Ages' is notable chiefly for it's incredible title-track, a nine- minute mystical epic that starts out like a relic belonging to the 'Wicker Man' soundtrack before morphing into a truly staggering prog-rock opus complete with shrill guitar solo's and pseudo-hippie chanting. An incredible offering completely at odds with the rest of the album, it's a song that deserves multiple listens, both for it's slow, fantasy-themed intro and the blazing instrumental section which fills out the tracks surprisingly heavy middle-section. Therefore, if you do buy one Magna Carta album, make sure it's 'Lord Of The Ages'. The rest of the album alternates between twee acoustic ditties, groan-inducing celtic medleys and rather lame mystical lyricism, yet it's all worth it for what is a truly remarkable title-track and centre-piece to the album. They really don't make 'em like this any more. STEFAN TURNER, ISLINGTON, 2012
 Lord Of The Ages by MAGNA CARTA album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.53 | 51 ratings

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Lord Of The Ages
Magna Carta Prog Related

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I had heard two Magna Carta albums before this one, and I expected this to be more progressive than them. Actually it is quite similar to Seasons. (In fact, Seasons includes a side-long title suite whereas this album's longest track 'Lord Of The Ages' is 10 minutes. However, it is more progressive that the suite.) Could it be the great Roger Dean cover art that makes this album more celebrated among progheads? Probably, and that's just fine with me: it IS a lovely painting. This is a very nice folk album with slight prog tendencies, just as also Seasons and Songs From The Wasties Orchard are. Maybe this album is closer to perfection, but the difference is not big. (Their debut 1969 is clearly undeveloped especially in terms of production, and their later albums, post-Lord, are generally rated much lower than these three.)

Looking at the list of players, one notices that the band itself is a trio, all handling vocals and (acoustic) guitars while all other istruments are played by guests. Well, the music is mostly acoustic with warm vocal harmonies, not far from SIMON & GARFUNKEL at their folkiest. Definitely it sits better under folk category than prog. But that's not a fault at all. This is among the finest folk-pop albums I've heard. I agree with a previous reviewer that there is a bit of an American feel, perhaps it comes from the softness and the absence of the rougher (more down-to-earth) side of British folk tradition. The songs are all ejoyable, mostly very peaceful and mellow, and the production is excellent. If you like that kind of music, this won't disappoint you. A shame that the album is only 36 minutes long.

 Songs From Wasties Orchard by MAGNA CARTA album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.59 | 27 ratings

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Songs From Wasties Orchard
Magna Carta Prog Related

Review by toroddfuglesteg

2 stars A star studded guest list (including Rick Wakeman) should secure a good Magna Carta album.

Unfortunate, the result is a pedestrian folk rock album pretty far removed from anything Rick Wakeman has been involved in up to then. The songs here are simple, vocals based and the type of songs you do sitting around a camp fire somewhere in the forest/on the prairie/ anywhere but indoors. It is also pub folk rock which is very effective in that setting, but not particular exciting on a record. It is not effective either when the reviewer, that's me in third person, is stone cold sober either. Put me in a pub and give me ten (...5....) pints of beer and I may add a star. I think you get my drift.

The songs are not that good either. But the vocals and the instrumentations, which unfortunate is tilting towards a typical country & western set up, is not too bad. But I am not that amused by this album. Hence my lack of enthusiasm.

2 stars

 Martin's Cafe by MAGNA CARTA album cover Studio Album, 1977
1.55 | 12 ratings

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Martin's Cafe
Magna Carta Prog Related

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

1 stars Won't set the world on fire!

I own this largely forgettable album as part of a 2 CD collection called Ages And Seasons that also includes the albums Seasons, Songs From Wasties Orchard and Lord Of The Ages in their entirety. While these other three albums range from decent (Songs From Wasties Orchard) to good (Seasons, Lord Of The Ages), Martin's Café is a disappointment. We have here a collection of nondescript, short songs; acoustic Folk ballads, Folk Pop and a few Country and Rock 'N' Roll numbers. Whatever progressive touches that could be found on the group's previous albums, those influences had wholly evaporated by this point.

Martin's Café contains 11 tracks, all of which are between two and four minutes in length and wholly based on conventional song structures and predictable instrumentation (mostly acoustic guitar, drums and vocals with minimal use of electric guitar, piano and harmonica). It is listenable, but pretty dull. The melodies are not very memorable and I doubt I will even listen to this album again. Life is too short for that and there is so much good music! Still, this lacklustre album does not take away much from the value of the Ages And Seasons double disc set which contains at least two good albums. If you buy that collection, then Martin's Café is probably worth a listen. But do not, I repeat, do not, search out this album strictly on its own merits unless you are an utter Magna Carta fanatic (and I doubt such people exist!).

In its own right, this album is for completionists only.

 Seasons by MAGNA CARTA album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.41 | 35 ratings

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Seasons
Magna Carta Prog Related

Review by toroddfuglesteg

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

 Martin's Cafe by MAGNA CARTA album cover Studio Album, 1977
1.55 | 12 ratings

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Martin's Cafe
Magna Carta Prog Related

Review by toroddfuglesteg

1 stars This is a pretty dreadful way of ending a day, listening to and reviewing one of Magna Carta's weakest albums. If not their weakest album.

The music here is pretty aimless country pop. Most of the songs seems to be made for the commercial pub-gigs market. Magna Carta's normally strongest card is their vocals and guitar harmonies which normally rivals the likes of Crosby, Stills & Nash. But even they are not present on this album. What remains is soulless pub-songs. Some of them are beefed up by some honky-tonk piano and harmonica in a probably attempts to get some airplay on the morning radio programmes. This only makes this album worse. The lyrics too is pretty dire. This album is a fully fledged turkey with all it's trimmings. Pass me the gravy, please.

1 star

 Took A Long Time [Aka: Putting It Back Together] by MAGNA CARTA album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.11 | 8 ratings

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Took A Long Time [Aka: Putting It Back Together]
Magna Carta Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars MAGNA CARTA had always held a fascination for American folk and country music even on earlier albums where their English origins could not be denied. After a several year layoff, they returned with a decidedly more convincing American country sound at turns reminiscent of JAMES TAYLOR, MICHAEL MURPHY, LOGGINS AND MESSINA, and other bands and artists operating in that era.

While the twee is almost banished, and the muscle of the rhythm section which includes Pick Withers later of DIRE STRAITS is impressive, this is ultimately not a very distinguished recording, even if it marks an uptick over "Martin's Cafe". "Took a Long Time" (one of their most lucid ballads), "My Dear Rose", "Wild Bird" (like Magna Carta's "Free Bird" if you will), and "Tomorrow is a Long Time" all show a comfort level with this genre that the group has rarely exhibited before, but the rest simply lack sufficient inspiration to transcend the generic.

The progressive quotient entirely absent, "Took a Long Time" didn't take a long time to assess as a 2 star effort of interest for historians only.

 Ages And Seasons by MAGNA CARTA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2003
3.02 | 3 ratings

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Ages And Seasons
Magna Carta Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars

For a group that has not released an original studio album since the late 1970s, Magna Carta has been busily churning out compilations and live testaments to their generally subdued harmonic and occasionally countrified folk. It's a tough call whether to spring for this 4 LP on 2 CD set in order to obtain 2 good Magna Carta albums and a mere couple of good tracks from the other 2, and largely depends on the costs involved and on how much of a completist you want to be. Unfortunately, the other 2 compilations produced along the bloodlines of the original LPs also divide more or less evenly along quality lines. The two albums worth owning are "Seasons" and "Lord of the Ages", both of which are contained herein. The booklet also contains a reasonable group history, but I assume that the original CD reissues would have done the same, so they might represent a more satisfying and uniform purchase.

Magna Carta's loyal fan base and not insignificant sales figures from their heyday are both somewhat surprising for such an unassuming group and sound. For my part as a fan of folk, folk rock, and prog folk especially of the British variety, I consider them to be in the second league, with the potential to have left a more distinctive legacy than that with which they may be remembered. But that's one for the ages. Just over the 2.5 star threshold.

Thanks to tuxon for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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