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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Magic Pie

Motions of Desire

Review by Josh Turner

They are purveyors of the latest trends in progressive music. Their album offers everything you'd expect to find on display from all the modern day greats plus various jam band antics and amenities. They are true anthropologists to this genre.

A while ago I listened to a sample off Magie Pie's web site and honestly, I was mildly impressed. I'm not sure what tainted my initial impression. When I found out they'd be in the line-up for RoSfest 2006, I had to check them out again. That and the fact many people were giving them a lot of high praise. The second time must have been the lucky charm. I was completely knocked head over heels when listening to this debut release.

In some ways, Magic Pie is like MoonSafari, A.C.T, and Splinter all rolled into one. These bands too adorn all the hottest fashions. Yet, in some ways Magic Pie wears them best. While their songs have many chapters nestled into well-written novelettes, the stories never seem to get drawn-out or torturous. Instead, they develop slowly, build up, and bring us to a realm of fantasia. Their complex theorems hold water no matter how many times you revisit them. To be completely candid, I like these songs more with every listen. If you, like me, have your finger on the pulse of the progressive community, you must certainly check out this band. To miss this release would be low down dirty shame.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Change
The album initiates with a psychedelic spiral of sound not too much unlike the beginning of Spock's Beard's "Time Will Come." It then goes on to entertain all layers of the epidermis. We are lathered in a topical ointment that's infused with rock and jazz. Then we are teased from head to toe by ticklish fingers. One section in particular goes from Transatlantic's "Suite Charlotte Pike" to Flower King's fare. It then goes into something that's more like NDV's Karma. From here on out, we are quickly reintroduced to The Beatles, Izz, Platypus, and even Liquid Tension Experiment. Ironically, this only starts to scratch the surface of the explanation. There are shades of Deep Purple, the esoteric nature of ELP, and the kind of mania to come from Magellan. It hits each one of these styles in a series like ducks in a row. They kick snares, hit keys, and beat the bass. In between, we're hammered by many snappy solos. When they're not giving us a bout of tuneful tantrums, we get passages that are a bit more passive. They even find time to perform a Gentle Giant acapella section smack dab in the middle. While the instruments are amazing, the singing is just impeccable. The band states this is the blueprint for all releases to follow. I'm very excited to hear anything that's built upon this foundation. It's hard to explain how the song resonates and hums. On one hand, it is a whitewash of heavy industrial paint from the most standard symphonic factory. On the other, the rhythms ebb and flow erratically to bring in vast amounts of variety. This is a Las Vegas buffet with all the trimmings. It's enough to gorge yourself cheaply, yet each plate is prepared with a gourmet touch. You'll be more than satisfied by this spread. You get expensive servings of Flower Kings, Spock's Beard, and Echolyn. With options such as these, you'll be pushing the lobster claws and crab legs aside. At 20 minutes, there is more than enough time to pile it onto several plates. Sit back and enjoy your lunch, but stick around for its duration. You'll find the dinner dishes shortly arriving.
Motions of Desire
The start of this song is less livid and unruly than the last. It begins as more of a ballad, but exponentially evolves back to a wall of sound. I find it's closer to what you'd find on a Guy Manning album. The focus is on the lyrics and the voice. When it gets going, it's an amalgamation of U2, The Hooters, and Farpoint. One of the choruses is very similar to that tune on the "beef, it's what's for dinner" commercial. I really like the vocals in this song as one chorus sets up another. That aspect of the number is similar to The Moody Blues or The Bee Gees. For a song that is folksy and almost bluegrass, it has a symphonic section that makes me think of a couple acronyms. That would be ELP and ELO. As you can tell, I hear a lot of influences in this song, but it's much more intuitive than you might imagine. It's easy to follow the winding turns that come with each transition. All the parts are made out of the same piece of clay. It's just a matter of the shape of each section.
Full Circle Poetry
This has a similar feel to the previous track. Maybe it's less down-home and Dixie. Ironically, it's a tad more song-oriented even though it's three times as long. If the last one went into the oven with a glittery glaze, this one comes out of the kiln with a shiny shellac coating.
Without Knowing Why
They like to recycle good items. The beginning starts in a similar manner as the first before spending its time hanging out at the bar of Blue Öyster Cult. They seem to be proficient in lining up chord progressions and arranging separate sections. Everything fits nice and snug and they even find a place for yet another symphonic segue in the middle. The threads this one wears is symphonic stars and stripes along with progressive plaid. Each gaudy garment clashes with the next. At this same time it shows a lot style and even a little class.
Illusion & Reality

Part 1
This long ordeal begins like a Flower Kings epic. The mellowest melody introduces the main theme. Parts of this opener are certain reminders of Echolyn's masterpiece "Mei" while other aspects come straight from Spock's Beard "The Light." Some of the guitar parts bring visions of Brian May, Roine Stolt, and even John Petrucci to mind. The song is packed with many enthralling instrumentals. The interworkings of these passages remind me of such classics as the elegant "Ode To Joy" and even Pachabel's "Canon." The most technically proficient parts rival the riffs that come from the camps of Tiles, Kopecky, and Dream Theater. The vocal harmonies, on the other hand, make me wonder if I could buy the world a Coke.
Part 3 (Final Breath)
Actually, there is no "Part Two" to "Illusion & Reality" on the album. I couldn't tell you why, but I'd say this clearly shows another aspect of this band's peculiar personality. Hold your breath and take a plunge into this abyss of amazing music. It's a congruent continuation of the last with a beginning that's much like the commercially successful "Cat Scratch Fever." Is that guitar rock, man? Well, then turn it up.
Part 4 (Reprise)
As the title suggests, no theme is new in this number, but it's not muddled by redundancy either. The wrap-up to the epic is light and airy. The outro is served to us on a laudable luncheonette.
Dream Vision
The final cut is influenced by all that is progressive. Some passages are slow and sweeping; others are mixed with tenser tendencies. The music takes us many places high and above and in the process covers a lot of ground. It travels over the Transatlantic, drives in the direction of the Dixie Dregs, and then treks over to the California Guitar Trio. Along the way, we encounter IQ, Marillion, Pink Floyd, and Pallas. We even catch a plane to Kansas. In our excursion we also encounter a guy named Sid. In this song, you will find a surge of symphonics on one street corner, dark shadows at the next. If you're not careful, you may step on deadly looking spikes that are laid across your path. The list of influences could go on and on for hours. This has obviously evolved from an ear that's spent many years in front of the stereo. Even with so many goodies packed into this incredible grab bag of gag items, they somehow manage to effortlessly work in a sudden surprise ending, which is most similar to the one in Procol Harem's "In Held ('Twas) In I." For a group that has taken us to so many places, this is the proper end to this assortment of ambitious adventures.
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