Magna Carta - Seasons (1970)

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 move 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. - Review by Easy Livin (Bob McBeath)

Track Listings

1. Seasons (22:14)
- Prologue
- Winter Song
- Spring Poem
- Spring Song
- Summer Poem
- Summer Song
- Autumn Song
- Epilogue
- Winter Song (reprise)
2. Going my Way (2:55)
3. Elizabethan (2:38)
4. Give me no Goodbye (3:10)
5. Ring of Stones (3:49)
6. Scarecrow (2:17)
7. Airport Song (3:41)

Total Time: 40:44

- Chris Simpson / guitar, vocals
- Lyell Tranter / guitars
- Glenn stuart / vocals

Guest musicians
- Tony Carr / drums
- Spike Heatley / bass, accoustic bass
- Derek Grossmith / Flute
- davey johnstone / guitar, vocals
- Barry Morgan / drums
- Tony Visconti / bass, percussion and recorder
- Rick Wakeman / organ, piano and keyboards
- Tim Renwick / recorder
- Peter Willison / cello
- London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gus Dudgeon
Releases information

Vertigo 6360 003
CD version: REPUK1034 (repertoire label)


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