Friday, March 6, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #12: Magic Christian

Magic Christian

Wizard's Den Records

Given the pedigree of Flamin' Groovies, The Plimsouls, and Blondie, one can't help but to think in awe of Magic Christian. It comes bottled in their second release, Evolver. As a good intro, "In Your Arms" is good, jangly, late Groovies era, but it's followed by the supercharged "Out In The Streets", with full, raw chords from Cyril Jordan, intense rhytmic drumming from one of the most talented drummers around, Clem Burke, and convincingly superb, commanding vocals from Paul Kopf, who's probably the luckiest rock fan in the world! It's also got some southern boogie, Rolling Stones style piano that brings together the overall sound. Perhaps the trademark of Cyril's legendary Flamin' Groovies was this ultimate mix of dirty r & b with perfect, jingle jangle melodies. "All The Stars" is a great example of this hard rockin' with great melodies, almost to the point where the melody is really familiar even though it's an original song. They also give "Anytime At All" from The Beatles A Hard Days Night a great update that has echoes of "Turn Turn Turn!". What's most exciting about this one is Paul's incredible vocals.

"Run and Hide" takes a careful emphasis on great vocal harmonies, another late Groovies trademark, but with a lean towards Rubber Soul that will dare anyone not to think it's a great song, but it also has a deeper bass melody from 'Fast' Eddie Munoz and builds up into a louder song with some heavier guitar parts and layered vocals that are quite surprising. As if self fulfilling, "Turn Up the Heat" matches a little rock ferocity r & b style, a simple melody, and Clem Burke's fabulous beats. At times, one can hear his snare drum stand out, but the buildups, especially before and during the chorus, is proof why he's so sought after. Two songs on Evolver remind me of "Shake Some Action", which I often tell people is the best song ever: "Sha La La" has Cyril's familiar twang, but with a slower beat and a surprising high voice from Paul that takes one back to '64 even though most of us weren't around back then, while "Come And Go" mixes a few different chord effects that sound both raw and with effects, but also combines with a smooth and strong vocal tone that turns it into a song that's somehow hard, sweet, and melodic.

"Tomorrow Never Comes" (notice a second Revolver reference) is one's personal journey, which is a familiar theme in rock that plays out with practically every band that's able to look at themselves, but it also reflects both a personal struggle of trying to move that fits into the title itself. Much different than most songs involving personal journeys, which don't really describe a some sort of change, lyrics like "Clocks are running now...will I ever find the time to get some piece of mind? There's never a way of knowing where or what you will find" emphasize that personal change, which makes it a better story than the familiar lament of a personal identity crisis. Additionally, the longer intro played dually with Cyril and Eddie is a great sounding exchange. Magic Christian ends Evolver on a great high note with the Memphis Blues hued "The Real Thing", complete with stompin' shoes, smokestack lightnin', '60s themes of "You can't do this, and you can't do that", but with encouragement to "come on down the road, it's not what you think you'll see, the real thing, baby!" and experience some down home, raunchy rock Beggars Banquet style, but with a great sounding guitar echo that are loud and clean with a little bit of Andy Summers from The Police's louder, least known Regatta de Blanc. Luckily, the reggae influence is left out.

Evolver should be considered a true rock 'n' roll album. It mixes soul harmonies, dirty blues guitar, a lot of jangle, a little twang, and a strong presence all around. The drumming's incredible, the bass has it's own melodic presence that also compliments the guitar, and the vocals, both group and solo, have a presence that's unrestrained but remain grounded. Evovler is great rock 'n' roll. Then again, that's exactly what one would expect with the combined talents of Magic Christian.

SXSW Appearances

Mar 17 2009 7:30p.m. The Dog And Duck Pub’s 19th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Party Austin, Texas
Mar 19 2009 4:00p.m. SXSW - Dogfish Head Showcase Ginger Man Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2009 4:00p.m. SXSW Day Show Dogfish Head Showcase Ginger Man Austin, Texas
Mar 21 2009 1:45p.m. SXSW Day Show Breakaway Records Austin, Texas
Mar 21 2009 5:00p.m. SXSW Day Show Antone’s Records Austin, Texas

"Out In The Streets"

"All the Stars"

Videos courtesy of vinylrichie

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