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.
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.
01. Seasons (22:14)
- Winter Song
- Spring Poem
- Spring Song
- Summer Poem
- Summer Song
- Autumn Song
- Winter Song (reprise)
02. Going my Way (2:55)
03. Elizabethan (2:38)
04. Give me no Goodbye (3:10)
05. Ring of Stones (3:49)
06. Scarecrow (2:17)
07. Airport Song (3:41)