Saturday, October 6, 2012
Shame Shame - The Magic Lanterns
The Magic Lanterns
Atlantic SD 8217
I guess I would call this a mistake although I'm not sorry I have it. I picked it up in a flea market years ago not knowing much about the group. Kids nowadays have continuous access to the internet, but back in the dark ages we had to wing it. I looked at this album in the bin without any way of checking it out. I bought it because I dug the cover, the name of the band and the liner notes which said they were a British band from the late 1960s. Weird as that may sound today, I bought a lot of records that way. I actually enjoyed that more than hearing a preview and reading about a band on the net, the way I generally do now. Records are too expensive to take risks anymore. This was only a few bucks so I bought it, mostly because of the cover which bares a curious resemblance to the cover of the debut album by Stephen Stills' group Manassas who also recorded for Atlantic. I expected a hip group playing hard rock like the Pretty Things or psych-influenced English rock akin to Kaleidoscope. Instead I got this album of commercial pop with a slight soul influence, the British version of the Grassroots. Actually I missed an obvious clue to the nature of this album in the credits, namely that none of the band wrote any of the songs. How many good bands in 1969 were totally dependent on outside songwriters? So I goofed. I was disappointed at the time, but I like this record better now that I realize its limitations and have lower expectations for it. The best song is the hit single "Shame Shame." It is a catchy tune with a big beat and a weird guitar sound that sounds like a fake sitar and some punchy brass support. It was arranged by John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. Jones also arranged the bubble-gummy "Give Me Love" and "Highway of Dreams." I find his arrangements excessively fussy for such slight songs. My other favorites on the album are the comparatively gritty ""Missing Out On You" and "Out In the Cold Again" which have a blue-eyed soul feeling suggestive of the Box Tops. The other songs I like are "Impressions of Linda" which is a nice bit of sunshine pop reminiscent of the Tokens, "Brunette Lady" which has a country flavor to it and Mann/Weil's "Feelings" which is sappy but pretty. On the negative side "Never Gonna Trust My Heart Again," "Sarah Wear a Smile" and "Pussy Willow Dragon" are mundane mainstream pop that could have been done by Tom Jones or some cabaret singer. "When the Music Stops" is corny Euro-pop that sounds like something more suitable for Sandie Shaw or Cilla Black. I don't really need this record, I mostly keep it for "Shame Shame," but I have no plans to get rid of it. It is just likeable enough that I enjoy it on the rare occasions that I take it for a spin but if I pay close attention to it I get bored. If you have an appetite for mainstream pop you will probably find stuff you like on it. Recommended for fans of Marmalade.