Monday, November 11, 2013

A musical road less traveled

I'm not sure how many of my American readers have heard of the British progressive rock group Magna Carta.  If I had to try to pigeonhole them, I'd describe them as a blend of Simon and Garfunkel, Pentangle, and Fairport Convention.  They originally played a great deal of medieval- and Renaissance-inspired music, with some English folk tunes and modern rock adaptations of them thrown in.

Their first album came out in 1969.  They've been through turbulent times over the decades, but an abbreviated version of the band appears to be still in existence.  Most of their long-term fans (including myself) still regard their first four studio albums as their finest body of work.  I'd like to introduce you to them, if you don't already know them;  so I've selected one song from each of those first four albums as a 'taster', plus their most popular single from the last album.

First, from their 1969 eponymous album 'Magna Carta', here's a strangely dark and plaintive song, the 'Ballad of Francis Alabadelejo'.

Next, from their second album 'Seasons', here's a lovely lilting madrigal, 'Elizabethan'.

From their third album, 'Songs From Wasties Orchard', here's 'The Bridge At Knaresborough Town'.  (Compare this to Simon and Garfunkel's rendition of another English folk song in similar vein, 'Scarborough Fair'.)

Finally, from their 1973 fourth studio album (and fifth overall) 'Lord Of The Ages', here are two songs.  First is the opening track, 'Wish It Was'.

And here's the title track from that album. It was their most popular hit. There are unmistakeable echoes of various religious faiths and end-of-the-world myths in it, which helped to popularize it in the "spiritual '70's", as some have called the era. I can remember the opening chord progression being used to introduce many Christian 'folk hymns' over the next decade.

I've been enjoying renewing my acquaintance with all four albums recently.  I highly recommend them.  If you follow the album links provided above, you can listen to excerpts from more of their songs.



Anonymous said...

My budget director respectfully requests that you quit posting about neat music groups that I hadn't found yet. ;)


Anonymous said...

I still think the British Folk/progressive rock genre is terribly under-rated.
I hadn't run across Magna Carta before, thanks!

Stretch said...

Holy Flashback!
I hadn't heard or thought of this group since a DJ at college station WCRC back in mid-70s.
While Pentangle, Fairport Convention, and Steeleye Span (love you Maddy!) are all in my collection Magna Carta is a void I will fill ASAP.
Thanks for tweaking those long dormant grey cells.

BobF said...

They could do a very good "Prince's Panties" (Jethro Tull), I'll bet.

Able said...

Oh thank you so much! Yet more to download (shame faced Brit who hadn't even heard of them).

In exchange (revenge?) I'll point you towards Kate Rusby, a Lancashire lass with the voice of an angel who sings more traditional folk. Check out her '10' or '20' albums for a taster.

James Macheath said...

Eponymous? like you think there was somebody called Magna Carta?