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Magic 12 - Live

  by John Clarkson

published: 17 / 12 / 2001

Magic 12 - Live
Label: hinah
Format: CD


It has been almost exactly a year since Magic 12 released their acclaimed second studio album 'Dear Diary'. The cult Boston five piece were once described as "somewhere between the Velvet Underground

It has been almost exactly a year since Magic 12 released their acclaimed second studio album 'Dear Diary'. The cult Boston five piece were once described as "somewhere between the Velvet Underground and Kurt Weill" and with the release of 'Dear Diary', have also drawn favourable comparisions with other delicate "mood acts" such as the Go Betweens, the House of Love, Mazzy Star, the Red House Painters and Harvey Williams. In the time since it came out, the band have taken some time out, and have also begun working and concentrating on a third album, which, as yet untitled, will hopefully be released at some point next year. Magic 12 play concerts only infrequently, and therefore, in this interim stage between albums, it is doubly exciting for fans that the French micro label hinah should choose, as its fourth offering, to release a recording of an all too rare live outing which was played at the Abbey Lounge in Boston on May 5th this year. The Abbey Lounge concert was one in a series of benefit shows, that featured over 140 Boston bands and which were played in May to raise funds for Mikey Dee, a popular local college DJ. Dee gave a lot of local groups and musicians support and airplay on 'On the Town', his Sunday night show. He has been ill , but making a slow but hopeful recovery after suffering a brainstem stroke last year which has left him unable to talk and paralysed from the neck down. 'Live at the Abbey Lounge', like each of hinah's three previous releases, has plenty to offer for both old and new fans alike. The bulk, five out of the eight songs from Magic 12's half an hour set, come from 'Dear Diary', but one song 'Wonderin' is from the band's 1998 eponymous debut CD , and included as well are two previously unreleased songs 'Neptune' and 'Radiowave'. Pianist Beth Heinberg's striking, fluttering chords are a powerful, omnipresent force throughout, while singer and songwriter Toby Ingalls has the unique ability with his clear, slow vocals to sum up a complete situation or meaning of a song often in a sentence or a stanza. "Rinse that bitter taste from your mouth/Here's to another chance to try to redeem yourself" he sings with weary self disillusion on the wistful 'New Year', having failed to keep any of the previous year's resolutions, but knowing already only too well that he will do the same again in the forthcoming year. 'Fallen Star' meanwhile bounces sudden light surges of Heinberg's piano against a lyric about a "sweet" love quickly turned sour. "Just when you thought that your life is charmed" croons Ingalls. "Something comes along and sets off your alarm/All of a sudden your world is so misshaped." One of the great joys of this recording, however, is that each of its musicians, rather than just Heinberg and Ingalls alone, are given the opportunity to take centre stage. Guitarist Dana Hollowell provides strong, textural guitarwork throughout, but has a strident, jubilant guitar solo at the end of the glorious, exuberant Van Morrison-inspired love song 'Sweet Refrain'. Drummer Nancy Asch and bassist James Apt also provide steady backing and rhythm work on each of the eight songs, but are too given a chance to individually shine when the former's rattling, insistent drumming and the latter's firm bass playing, alongside a buzzsawing e-bow solo from Hollowell, are thrust to the fore on the dreamy 'Radiowave'. The song itself tells of the instant homosexual telepathic waves that wordlessly develop between two strangers from across a crowded room. "What makes us different is what turns us on ? Oh baby, I can read your signal" rasps Ingalls. Silent communication (or lack of it !) is also the theme of the other new number, the poetic and tingling-sounding 'Neptune', which opens the set and a studio version of which will appear on a compilation CD on the Spanish label Acuarela later in the year. A this time heterosexual couple drive home at night from the beach in what seems to be a state of mutually unspoken sexual tension and desire, but as its final stanza reveals, this tension is all one sided. ("You drive along the shore/The moon shines on the bay/Your hand barely touches mine/I'm trying to think of something to say.") The set is closed by the elegiac, evocative 'Wonderin'. "Wonderin' when you wander/when the sun goes under/And the stars come up/And the moon shines brightly" lilts Ingalls. The good people at hinah have, however, one last treat in store for us and, to extend the album to a hinah CD's usual forty minutes plus running length have also added demo versions of three of the songs from the 'Magic 12' CD, 'Macaw', 'Pink Slip' and 'Lone Star'.The songs admittingly prove to be little more than slightly rawer versions of the finished products,but serve to show how the band has progressed during the three years it has now been together and to give a fuller perspective of the band's history to date Essentially a Greatest Hits package, with a strong influx of new as well as old material, this is another strong offering from Magic 12 and a further worthy and excellent addition to the hinah catalogue. Like all hinah releases it is unfortunately limited to just fifty copies. Heartfelt, evocative and sincere, however, it will more than fill the gap, for those lucky and fortunate enough to hear it, until the next studio album comes along.

Track Listing:-
1 Neptune
2 Long Walk Home
3 Moonfaced
4 New Year
5 Fallen Star
6 Sweet Refrain
7 Radiowave
8 Wonderin
9 Macaw
10 Pink Slip
11 Lone Star

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