After Steven Wilson and Steve Hackett, Magenta's Rob Reed has been the busiest man in prog of late. As well as running his own record company, he was also behind Kompendium 's majestic Beneath The Waves (2012, see review) which featured a stellar cast including Maestro Hackett!
Returning to his first love Magenta, his mission was to create another great prog album based on the theme of those musical legends whose lives were cut short at the tragically young age of 27. The composition of each track is designed to reflect the personalities of the chosen six.
A tricky theme perhaps but fortunately, when left to the musical skills of Reed and his lyricist brother Steve, The Twenty Seven Club is a wistful, wonderful journey into the hearts, minds and souls of the six very contrasting individuals they have chosen. Magenta regulars, singer Christina Booth and guitarist Chris Fry are joined on this album by drummer Andy Edwards (IQ and Frost*). Both Booth and Fry appeared to have completely grasped the concept as their contributions are totally flawless. Booth's voice has never sounded better - its purity and power hitting new heights of emotion and passion while Fry's virtuosity across a range of styles and moods continues to grow unabated.
The Lizard King, a 12 minute prog tribute to the Doors' mercurial Jim Morrison, is simply magnificent, taking in wah-wah guitar, waltz-like rhythms and a spine-tingling vocal display by Booth over dynamic guitars and keyboards. Above all, it captures perfectly Morrison's legendary restless soul. Ladyland Blues is shot through with echoes of Yes both musically and lyrically to present the short and dramatic life of Jimi Hendrix, multi-tracked voices being another feature of this lovely, poignant piece. Booth excels herself with the tribute to Janis Joplin, Pearl absolutely drenched in soulful melancholy with its bluesy feel to mirror the life and soul of the brilliant but troubled chanteuse. Stoned ventures into fresh territory again, it's a capella introduction launching into a dazzling array of musical treats such as a killer Fry guitar solo, a compelling rhythm and Reed's masterful synths. Kurt Cobain earns himself a string section to begin The Gift, another deliberately sad song, its fragility enhanced with piano and acoustic guitar over which Booth's voice effortlessly soars. To end is the album's longest and most complex song, the dark and dramatic The Devil At The Crossroads to honour the life of blues legend Robert Johnson, said to have made a pact with the devil. Not surprisingly, it is Fry who comes to the fore with some stunning guitar work including one particularly memorable riff and some gorgeous slide guitar work.
This is Magenta coming of age in the most sublime and peerless way, the whole album a feast for the ears and the senses. I defy anyone to reach the end without reaching for tissues. It has the power to move in the deepest of ways.
**** Alison Henderson
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