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Magna Carta: Live At The Royal Albert Hall With The Royal Philharmoni

Album Review

Long-lost prog-folk evening revisited.

In June 1971, the folk-prog trio Magna Carta filled the Albert Hall for a performance of their recent thematic album Seasons, re-arranged by Johnny Dankworth and accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic.

The tapes fell between the cracks of schedules and labels, but have now been tracked down and mixed by the band’s mainman Chris Simpson. It was clearly an exhilarating night. Certainly it pleased Princess Margaret, who invited the band to a soirée at Kensington Palace (with Liz Taylor, Richard Burton and John Betjeman) afterwards, where they were persuaded to perform her favourite song, Sea And Sand, again. Before we even get to Seasons, Magna Carta perform seven whimsical pieces flitting somewhere between Donovan, Nick Drake and Renaissance. Meanwhile, Seasons involves a Shakespearean narrative comparing the lifespan of a year and a man and lines about nobody knowing which way their mind is blowing – plus, of course, Dankworth’s carpet-bombing strings. A quaint period piece, which overcomes cheese with lashings of charm. 

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