I'm Alive EP I'm Alive EP
more Magenta:
Revolutions Review/Interview (2002) [Best of the Year]
Ynysddu Hotel, South Wales (2002-2003)
HLC, Rotherham, England (2003)
Seven and "Broken" (2004) [Best of the Year]
Interview and Spring Concert Reviews (2004)
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reviews © Russell W Elliot and Stephen Lambe 2004
images used with permission © F2 Music 2004
photographs by Chris Walkden and Stephen Lambe
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Last updated: 30 December 2004

ep and album reviews

Magenta are on a roll at the moment. Since all the activity in the spring including the release of the "Broken" EP, the Seven album and some great live concerts, they have not been idle. Plenty of studio activity has segued into another series of live dates in the autumn, not to mention two awards from The Classic Rock Society; the first for Best CRS Concert and the second for Christina as Best Female Vocalist.

With perfect timing comes some more Magenta product, including the new single "I'm Alive" and a double live album "Another Time, Another Place." It is important to remember that with Magenta there are actually two bands. First there is the album band, which is pretty much a studio project orchestrated by multi-instrumentalist Rob Reed and his lyricist brother Steve, with vocals by Christina, drums from session man Tim Robinson and some lead guitar by Chris Fry and further guitar by Martin Rosser. For concert performances and the singles, the live band takes over, with Rob relegated to keyboards but Matthew Cohen taking over on bass, Martin Rosser playing more guitar and Allan Mason-Jones taking over the drums. It is the work of the live band, therefore, that we have to consider for these two recording projects.

I'm Alive. The EP is comprised of of four audio tracks, and continues the excellent standard set by "Broken" six months earlier. The fifth track is the CD-ROM version of the "Broken" video, playable on computer. The title track is a superb slice of classic rock, with a killer chorus. It is less proggy, and more radio friendly than "Broken," but none the worse for that, with washes of guitar and Mellotron, building up into a genuinely dramatic, emotional experience. One can even hear some Trippa (review) in the mix. Having seen "I'm Alive" and the other new song "King of the Sky" live a couple of times already, plenty was expected of them, and neither disappoints. "King of the Sky" is a wonder. It is a crunching, sassy, hard rock workout with Christina spitting the song's unusual chorus with venom. The studio rendition lacks a small amount of the live versions punch, but replaces it with more keyboards. There is another of the synth / lead guitar duets that the band do so well and the delicious contrast between the main song and its gentle middle eight is handled especially well.

Sandwiched between the two entirely new tracks is "Cold", a demo that marks first collaboration between Rob and Christina ten years ago. It's an interesting piece, with Christina in fine voice and some lush vocal and instrumental arrangements, though the song itself is not quite up to Magenta's high standards. The "Director's Cut" of "Pride" is up next, extended by a Yes-like two minute opening instrumental section. It is great stuff, but it is easy to understand why it was cut. The intro seems to belong to a completely different track, hardly referencing anything in the main song at all. The video for "Broken" in Quicktime" format, very professionally edited with plenty of fast cuts, completes the CD. While the two new tracks are pretty much perfect, the two additional pieces are interesting rather than essential, a very minor complaint which certainly cannot be levelled at the superb live album, recorded at various locations over the last couple of years, but mainly in 2004.

Another Time, Another Place. Though the band should be congratulated for producing such faithful studio versions considering the fact that is pretty much a different band playing them, several things become apparent when listening to these live renditions. Firstly, the sound quality is superb with plenty of meat in the drums and bass, without affecting the impact of the lead instruments at all. Secondly, the vitality of the playing comes across beautifully, and the performances themselves are never less than first rate. Rob Reed on keyboards--with an impressive "mini-moog" lead sound--and Chris Fry on lead guitar are the instrumental stars, but the rest of the band contributes to the energy and tightness of the performances. Christina is an astonishing live singer, as all those that have seen the band in concert will testify. Not only is she note-perfect technically, but also she injects plenty of humour and passion into her performances. In fact, the bands' harmonies are, in the main, pretty good, if a touch rough and ready in places. But then, this is a live album, after all!

Those that delight in the differences between studio and live versions will find most of interest in the tracks from "Seven," despite their shorter running times. "Gluttony," which opens the album, has a few differences, including a slightly revised opening, with "cha-cha-chas" omitted. Rob Reed's Dylan-esque vocal section has been revised inventively, and Christina ends the piece with a spine tingling scream. "Lust, also has some variations, especially an extended end instrumental section, and Martin Rosser's midi-guitar handles the orchestral sections impressively. "Pride" continues the theme of extending instrumental passages, while "Anger" is delightful, Chris Fry's sensitive nylon guitar complementing Christina's bare vocal nicely, with Martin taking the lovely electric solo at the end.

"Children of the Sun" and "The White Witch" from Revolutions are played convincingly in their entirety, though with fewer frills than their studio counterparts. These are reasonably straight versions, with the band handling the complexity of the material with energy, though a particular note should go to Chris Fry for his rasping solo on "Children." "Genetesis" is also played in an effective, 12-minute version. The band also demonstrate that shorter, less proggy material can be performed with tightness and precision, playing excellent versions of "Broken" and particularly the sublime standout ballad "Call Me."

Obviously, Magenta fans will seek this album out as a document of the band's live performances, especially as the band doesn't get out as often as many would like, so opportunities to see them are limited. It is a great opportunity to hear the live band lineup do these great tracks as well. Those curious in the band will also find this a useful "best of" to kick start an interest in their music Overall, this remains a wonderful record of a jaw-droppingly good live band.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham, England and Russ Elliot in New York

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