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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Principal Edwards Magic Theatre

Soundtrack (vinyl)

Review by Gary Hill

This release from 1969 was very much a masterwork of proto-prog. I reviewed a CD box set that included all the songs on it, but I think it's important to think about this as an album, and a snapshot of time, by taking it outside of that collection. I should mention a couple things, though. First, since the songs here are the same as those on that CD, I've modified or used the track reviews from that review here for the sake of consistency. Also, I had these guys listed as "Principal Edwards" previously, as there was a release under that name. I've put this one under the full moniker.

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Track by Track Review
Side 1
Enigmatic Insomniac Machine

An alarm clock starts this. Then a ticking clock creates the rhythm. Other percussion instruments join in that same beat. Acoustic guitar and folk elements join. The female vocals come in, bringing this very much into a folk prog style. I like this song a lot. It feels a bit dated, but it's also quite cool.

This comes in hard rocking, but drops to mellower stuff for the vocals. This time the voice is male. It's a bit weird. In fact, the whole song is rather strange. This is more trippy psychedelia than prog, but it's still proggy enough to qualify. The cut shifts later as the female vocals return. At first it's closer to the folk prog stuff of the opening number. Then it works out to some scorching hot psychedelic rock turned progressive. This is an unusual and quite effective piece of music. We're brought back into the earlier modes (complete with the male vocals) further down the musical road. 
Death of Don Quixote
Although there are some hints of psychedelia and theatrical elements, I'd consider this, more than anything, to be a folk song. It's a minstrel kind of piece. There is some theatrical dialog in this piece. I dig the busy percussion later in the track. As it gets more powered up later (this song is over 13-minutes long), it does wander toward prog territory.
Side 2
Third Sonnet to Sundry Notes of Music

Olde worlde folk music starts this with female vocals. As the male vocals take the second sung segment, the cut works to more Celtic sounds. It shifts toward weird psychedelia as the female vocals return. Then a smoking hot 1960s blues rock jam works forward from there. Beyond that, it returns to the first section of the cut. From there, it works through the same series of changes as we heard before. This time, though, after the blues rock jam it works to more of a psychedelic version of that kind of sound. The guitar solos like crazy as the bass lays down some exceptional sounds for the bottom end. After that it drops back down to a reprise of the beginning again, and we work forward from there in a familiar pattern. The harder edged section closes the cut.

To a Broken Guitar
Based on male vocals, this is much more of a pure folk tune at the start. This is pretty strange in a lot of ways. It never wanders far from its beginnings. At a little over two and a half minutes long, it's the shortest cut here.
Pinky: A Mystery Cycle
Dramatic percussion opens. The cut grows out from there. This is among the most purely prog rock stuff here. It's powerful and unique. It has faster paced, almost world music based stuff, mellower folky elements and dreamy kinds of prog stuff. In a lot of ways this makes me think of Renaissance quite a bit. I love the stereo effects on this piece. There are some incredible things going on with this track. There is a later section of the track that is built around a prog meets psychedelia instrumental jam that's quite cool. The vocals return at the end of this to take us back down the earlier roads. This is definitely one of the strongest things on this album..
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