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Imperial Wizard

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Album Review

Ignoring the fiery breath of punk that laid waste so many of his glam rocking peers, David Essex moved into the late '70s on a wave of musical confidence, readjusting his own early teen appeal for a more adult approach, but without ever falling into the prevalent trap of full-on AOR. Imperial Wizard was released in the wake of his biggest hit in three years, "Oh What a Circus" — performed in Essex's role of Che Guevara in the stage musical Evita. A number three hit in summer 1978, it succeeded a bunch of 45s that had struggled to make the Top 30, but the album proves that its success was not a fluke. Pre-empting the warm, sax-driven moodiness that would soon bring great reward to Gerry Rafferty, Imperial Wizard opens with the smooth "Let It Flow" before drifting into a menacing art-funk vibe ("Call On Me" and the super-rousing title track) that helps dominate the remainder of the album. Elsewhere, Essex even takes on medieval folk song, to firmly establish his all-round musical qualities — an asset that was to prove of immense importance as the 1980s hove into view. Arguably, the best of his next decade's worth of albums was originally blueprinted here. There are a handful of missteps that prevent Imperial Wizard from truly ascending to the ranks of great Essex albums. But the overall sensation is of a performer who was truly aiming for the long haul, fame and fashion be damned.


Born: July 23, 1947 in Plaistow, London, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The mention of the name David Essex -- at least to Americans -- usually invokes a wave of '70s nostalgia, not just of his own monster hit "Rock On" and the movie That'll Be the Day, but also of such British pop/rock exports of the period such as Godspell, Rock Follies, color episodes of Doctor Who, and Rula Lenska. For most of that decade, Essex was a pop culture institution in England, and he produced the music and entertainment in enough different media to fulfill the role admirably. Born David...
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Imperial Wizard, David Essex
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