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JJ Chardeau

In Terra Cognita? The Music Of The Rock Opera “Magical Musical Man”

Review by Gary Hill

This is an intriguing set. Most of the lyrics are in languages other than English. The music has a real musical theater vibe, but there is a good range within. There are some interesting people involved at various points long the road including Jerry Goodman (Mahavisnu Orchestra) two members of the band Chicago (Danny Seraphine and Jason Scheff), Brian Auger, John Helliwell of Supertramp, Martin Barre (of Jethro Tull fame), Michael Sadler and more.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Evolution (Magical Musical Man Ouverture)
Starting with symphonic elements, piano takes over from there. The cut grows outward with a prog meets classical vein that includes non-lyrical vocals. As it approaches the two-minute mark it shifts to more of a rock arrangement. The non-lyrical vocals from the previous section remain.
Dream in Moscow
Symphonic instrumentation laced with piano brings this into being. The cut works forward with some suitably Russian sounding music in a very classical way. There are some voices, like a military drill, probably in Russian later along the musical road. There are also some moments of prog rock bombast. After the two-and-a-half-minute mark it powers out to hard rocking zones to continue. There is a real musical theater vibe to it. There is some cool guitar work, too. They work through a number of changes along this road. It's decidedly artsy and prog oriented.
Black Taj Mahal
I dig the almost psychedelic meets Asian vibe that starts this cut. A spoken vocal comes in over the top as that begins to fill out. This never really rises up to the level of song, as the previous cuts did. Instead, it remains more in the zone of world music.
Farewell Lhassa
Mellower modes with an atmospheric element open this and hold it for a time. The cut gradually grows outward from there. There are some spoken vocals later in the number, but not any singing. The track has a dramatic soundtrack like element in some ways, but never really rises to rock zones.
DMZ
Now, this is so cool. It's a pure fusion jam that's energized, a bit off-kilter and crazed. It's also one of the highlights of the set.
Frisson Nippon
There is a lot of musical theater in this, part from the music, but also from the various voices. The number is artsy, but also quite strange.
Les Larmes Du Pacifique
A tasteful jazz sound opens. A number of voices are added to the mix as it works outward. The musical theater aspect becomes firmly entrenched as it grows, but informed with a real prog element. This gets quite rock oriented later. In fact, it's one of the most rock songs of the set. It's also a highlight.
Nunavut
More world music oriented, this has spoken lyrics. There are many layers of those along with some real atmospheric music that gets pretty otherworldly at times.
The Last Rockaway
Now, this one is more of a straight-ahead AOR rocker. It's classy stuff. There are some jazzy elements, but also plenty of hard rocking stuff. This is another highlight of the set.
Pablo Tequila
There are some Latin elements to this. The horns bring some magic. The guitar fills are classy. The cut rocks. It has some jazz along with rock.
Machu Picchu
Piano brings this into being with style. The number grows out to be a melodic prog instrumental that's quite classy.
Cabale Kabyle
Starting with Latin percussion, this cut becomes a world-music based fusion jam. It has a lot of style. It's another instrumental (mostly because there are some hints of non-lyrical vocals). It's also another highlight of the set.
Wall of Laments
One of the most purely progressive rock oriented pieces of the set, this is all class. It still has some world music and some jazz in it. This instrumental is classy.
Tchad
World percussion and world singing opens this number. It's another solid example of the type of music that makes up the rest of the album.
The End? (Magical Musical Man Finale)
This is a powerhouse jam that works so well. It serves as a tasty closer.
 
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