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Seasons & Wasties Orchard

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Album Review

Magna Carta's second and third albums are combined onto one CD on this 1999 reissue, with the addition of historical liner notes. Magna Carta's second LP, Seasons, was dominated by the 22-minute, nine-part suite title track, which took up all of side one. "Seasons" was indeed a grand conceptual work inspired by the changing of the seasons. Its laudable ambition apart, it's pretty ordinary, mild pop-influenced early-'70s British folk-rock. There's a dated preciousness as it slightly varies the pace from jolly full-band good-time folk-rock and pastoral harmonizing to twee, fairytale-like narration and almost pop-like orchestration. The six standard-length songs on side two can strike an almost too-cheerful pop-folk bounce, with soft rock orchestration and harmonies that make it vaguely reminiscent of American sunshine pop at points. Simon & Garfunkel are an obvious influence, too, on songs like "Give Me No Goodbye" (overlaid with slight sitar licks), "Scarecrow," and "Elizabethan," though Magna Carta could make Simon & Garfunkel sound almost heavy in comparison. The closing "Airport Song," which was plucked from the LP as a shot for a hit single, goes furthest into pop with its bossa nova beat and easy listening arrangement, though the Simon & Garfunkel influence in the vocal harmonies is nearly overwhelming. Magna Carta co-founder Lyell Tranter was replaced by talented guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Davey Johnstone for Songs From Wasties Orchard, which benefited from a little more guts and earthier folk colorings. They were still playing Clark Kent to Simon & Garfunkel's Superman, however, on songs like "Time for the Leaving," "Sunday on the River," and "Good Morning Sun," whose lyric "Good morning sun, how ya doin'?" bore a too-close resemblance to Simon & Garfunkel's feel-good classic "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)." Though Johnstone gave a Celtic lilt to numbers like "Sponge," the band's brand of folk-rock was just too mild-mannered (and, on songs like "Home Grown," too incessantly good-time in its celebration of country life) to make a difference. "White Snow Dove" brings in a minor-keyed, doleful British folk aura that effectively breaks up the mood, though it's not typical of the album.


Formed: 1969

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

In progressive rock circles, Magna Carta are a bit like the Little Engine That Could -- from relatively modest beginnings in 1969, they've endured across 36 years and counting, even as their louder, more heavily amplified rivals from the same era have long since been consigned to history. Acts such as King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer may be better (and much more widely) known, but Magna Carta have stayed together, making music decades longer. The group was founded in 1969 by Chris Simpson...
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Seasons & Wasties Orchard, Magna Carta
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