Magenta - Seven
Welsh outfit Magenta’s first album Revolutions (see review) got some nice reviews when it first appeared not many moons ago, and the follow-up Seven now will make Magenta a name on everyone’s lips in the ‘prog’ world. Following their great performance at Progeny back in November, we got treated to a taster from the new album, and now it is released.
The near 80 minutes just flow by, with a heavy influence of Yes and Genesis, plus a splash of Pink Floyd on the final track. The title Seven is what it is, seven pieces of music with the titles Gluttony, Envy, Lust, Greed, Anger, Pride and Sloth.
The opening epic Gluttony is in my opinion the albums stand out track, with its cha cha cha opening. Lead vocalist Christina Booth’s voice just glides along throughout the whole opus, while the keyboards from the impressive Rob Reed just shine through. There is a large amount of piano and synths on all the tracks, giving it the classic 70’s feel, and with the odd tubular bell thrown in too, will make this a fine album to be enjoyed for a few years to come.
The music has many moods, and changes, from the Yes style chants and harmonies, swirling synths and the spiralling guitars from Chris Fry, to the Genesis Trick Of The Tail style piano and bass lines from the Lamb era. There are strings too, from the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, which blend in well, and it is a summer type album.
With a show in Rotherham on the way, it will be a perfect chance to hear most of these tracks performed live, and in my opinion if it is anything better than Progeny, it could be a perfect show.
Magenta will go on to bigger things, but I hope many people will buy this on the strength of hearsay, and live shows. An early contender for best album 2004!
John Morley has also listened to Magenta’s Seven and his review follows….
Track List: Gluttony 12.04/Envy 9.42/Lust 12.22/Greed 13.49/Anger 5.11/Pride 12.09/Sloth 10.06
The long awaited new album from Magenta is finally here, and it was well worth the wait.
This is a fairly simple concept on the face of it – seven tracks based on each of the seven deadly sins. But in fact there is slightly more to it than that. Rather than simply being about sin itself, the lyrics of each song actually illustrate a particular facet of each sin in a more interesting way.
Initially, one of the things that impresses is the sound quality of the whole album. The band’s debut album Revolutions, excellent though it was, could occasionally sound a little sparse musically. The addition of the orchestra helps enormously, and thankfully it dovetails beautifully into the songs rather than sounding tacked-on. Often Orchestras are used in prog just to lay lots of strings and occasionally brass over the songs, but that is certainly not the case here.
Opener Gluttony already sounds like an old favourite, having been played live a few times, and also been available to download from the website for a couple of weeks now. Acapella vocals take us into the songs slightly off-kilter but bouncy rhythm, with Rob adding some lovely synth runs and flourishes. But the track really kicks into gear when Christina belts out those first few lines, “No life for the future”, which have been going round in my head for weeks now. The song goes through many interesting changes, and includes a slightly creepy Peter Gabriel style spoken passage, and ends with a searing slide guitar solo from Chris Fry.
Envy has a bit of a Genesis feel to it, but that’s no surprise as the band has always been very upfront about their influences. A very strong main theme here, with an Entangled-like slow paced mid section, incorporating acoustic guitar, pipe organ and slightly ethereal synthesiser, before the song is brought back to life with Rob Reed’s keyboards and Chris Fry’s guitar dancing around the main melody.
Lust begins with an orchestral opening. Thematically this is a sort of sequel to White Witch from Revolutions. A somewhat joyously perverse upbeat song, considering the subject matter - especially the jaunty, happy “Confess, and save your soul” lyric. Who’d have thought a song about witchcraft could be so jolly? Great clean guitar lines, some wonderful catchy vocal hooks and an enjoyable jazzy mid section, ending with a somewhat funky fade out. I particularly liked the subtle and imaginative use of the orchestra in the jazzier section.
Greed is the longest track on the album, similar to the epics on Revolutions. There Are lots of great melodies here that flow effortlessly into one another without sounding like they have been pieced together in the way that a lot of prog epics can. It is somewhat of an indictment on the theme of modern celebrity, with a bit of a Sunset Boulevard feel to it. For some reason, I cannot help but be reminded of Simon and Garfunkel’s America when Christina sings the “Don’t look now, I think it’s a camera” line.
Anger slows the pace down a little, opening with delicate acoustic guitar, building slowly, but developing into something very intense and powerful. Christina’s soulful, plaintive vocals are very impressive here, and the song showcases great guitar work, especially the lovely, fluid solo at the end.
Pride is another standout song. A quiet opening gives way to a typically anthemic, grandiose synth/guitar led fanfare. This has an interesting and very catchy vocal intro from Christina, before the band kick into a strident, driving Hammond organ led beat, with some nice Squire like bass runs. There is some interesting multi-tracked vocal work from Rob and Christina here, which may not be that easy to reproduce live. However, having seen them do it, I know they are more than capable of reworking the songs successfully for the live versions. Bit of a Yes feel to this one and it has a superb “Irish (or is that Scottish?) Jig” section in the middle with keyboards, violins and guitar. From here the song just slips into a joyously infectious groove that makes you want to sway along to it, and continues through to the climax, with Christina repeating “Every time the sun shines down on me”. No wonder this is proving to be a great live favourite.
Sloth is a lament for the plight of the American Indian. Another slower paced song, but I like the contrast and balance of it as opposed to the all out prog numbers. This has a heavily orchestrated opening, haunting piano notes, and Christina singing her lungs out on a very strong chorus. Good to see Martin Shellard from the first album on guitar here, and very fine he is too contributing a suitably intense and tortured guitar solo to bring the song to a satisfying conclusion.
The band has really developed the knack of working very strong hooks and melodies into the songs, with each one constantly evolving, changing. They now have a definite, recognisable style of their own, though there are the obvious influences. In fact, on occasions I find that they remind me a little of some of the great Italian prog bands, especially Le Orme.
Christina is certainly the focal point of the band. She has a superb and distinctive voice, slightly folksy, occasionally reminding me of Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks. I think Christina stretches herself more on this album, sounding delicate and fragile, soulful, jazzy and rocky - and sometimes all in the space of one song.
Mention should also be made of the bands first single, Broken. This is three-and-a-half minutes of the bands trademark style but with a nod to a slightly more modern and contemporary sound. It has a catchy and memorable chorus, a very good vocal from Christina (it was actually written by her), and is a bit of a grower. The single also contains four other bonus and previously unreleased tracks that are well worth listening to. In fact, the single and album can be ordered together at a special low price from the bands website
I think overall this is a more accessible album than Revolutions, and I urge you strongly to check it out.
Actually, I would say the band now have enough material here now for a live album. How about it, guys?
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