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Magic Mixture - This Is (LP)
 

Magic Mixture - This Is (LP)

Price: $150.00 currently not available     
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Genre: psych
Rating: **** (4 stars)
Title:  This Is the Magic Mixture
Company: Saga
Catalog: FID 2125
Year: 1968
Country/State: London, UK
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+
Comments: UK pressing (thin cover) with a couple of creases, though this is one of the best sounding
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 5139
Price: $150.00

Based on a couple of glowing reviews I'd see over the years, this forgotten release was one I'd been trying to find for quite some time. Given it never saw an American release it took some time and effort to track down a copy. At the same time, being somewhat cynical it was probably only natural that I was a bit apprehensive about the album ... guess I've become accustomed to thinking along the lines "crap, another over-hyped piece of dullness." Luckily that wasn't the case here.

Other than what I gleaned from the liner notes accompanying 1968's "This Is the Magic Mixture" I can't tell you too much about the band. Serving as lead singer, lead guitarist and writer (all eleven tracks were credited to him), Jim Thomas (aka Terry Thomas) was apparently the front man. Thomas along with drummer Jack Collins, keyboardist Stan Curtis and bassist Melvyn Hacker all apparently played in a number of earlier bands before coming together as the London-based Magic Mixture. They made some noise on London's club scene before being signed to the small classically-oriented Saga label. Released in 1968 their debut LP proved surprisingly diverse and enjoyable though to be perfectly honest this wasn't a Pink Floyd-styled psych romp that some dealers would have you believe ... In fact one of the album's charms was it's versatility. I've seen it advertised as being psychedelic and that's true - to a degree. Reportedly recorded in a single, extended one day session, powered by Thomas' nifty gruff voice and tasteful guitar (the jazzy performance on 'Urge To Leave' sounded like something from Carlos Santana's catalog), songs such as 'Slowly the Day', 'New Man' and 'Living On a Hill' (the latter sporting another great guitar solo) certainly incorporated modest psych influences. That said, strong melodies and Thomas' distinctive vocals gave the album a distinctive commercial sheen. Elsewhere 'You' sounded like a Cream-styled rocker, while '(I'm So) Sad' and 'It's Alright By Me' could have been ripped from a Spooky Tooth album. To my ears the only misstep was the dreadful 'The Motor Bike Song'. Apparently meant to be funny but sung in a heavy cockney accent it just irritated my American ears.  

- 'Kicked along by some hyperactive Melvyn Hacker bass, '(I'm So) Sad' opened the album with a glorious, lysergic soaked mid-tempo ballad. Wonderful melody with an even better Jim Thomas fuzz guitar solo made this track one of the album highlights. rating: **** stars
- A breezy, jazz-tinged ballad, 'Urge To Leave' showcased Thomas' overlooked talents as a lead guitarist. His opening solo served as a perfect example of a restrained, tasteful performance. rating: **** stars
- 'You' found the band taking a stab at Cream-styled blues-rock. Built on Thomas Clapton-styled extended guitar vamp, his vocal seven sounded a bit like Jack Bruce. Not particularly original, but surprisingly nice. rating: **** stars  
- Another acid-tinged ballad, 'Slowly the Day' spotlighted Thomas' instantly recognizable voice (you could clearly make the Charlie connection on this one). The song also featured one of Thomas' best guitar solos. rating: **** stars
- With Jack Collins' frenetic drums almost serving as the lead instrument, 'New Man' was side one's most commercial number. The song also found Thomas turning in a tasty Hendrix-styled solo. rating: **** stars
- Showcasing Stan Curtis' moody organ, 'Living On a Hill' found the band taking a stab at a West Coast-styled slice of psych. With another beautiful melody, this one underscored the band's strong vocal harmonies and a fantastic, slashing fuzz guitar solo from Thomas. One of my picks for standout performance. rating: ***** stars
- Side two started out with another slice of Cream-styled blues-rock/psych. The lyric was trademarked 1967-68 psych nonsense with Thomas turning in another nice Jack Bruce impression. Hacker's bass line was great. rating: **** stars
- 'Hey Little Girl ' is one of those albums you need to listen to on a good stereo system of a quality pair of headphones - the mix of Collins drums and Curtis keyboards literally explodes in your head. With a romping rhythm pattern, nifty swirling keyboards, and strange vocal arrangement the end result was a classic slice of Brit psych. rating: **** stars
- The stark ballad 'Hey Little Girl' could easily have been updated to fit into the Charlie catalog. Quite pretty and mainstream with commercial potential. rating: *** stars
- Built on Curtis' swirling organ and some strumming Thomas guitar, 'Tomorrow's Sun' was another moody ballad, though this time out the results were less inspired. Pretty, but this one simply never kicked into gear. rating: ** stars
- Apparently meant to display the band's sense of humor (it does sound like they had a good time recording this one), 'Motor Bike Song' was simply lost to my American sensibilities. I've listed to the song dozens of times and have simply never been able to get through the heavy Cockney accent. I will admit I liked the Sir Douglas Quintet-styled organ flourishes. rating: ** stars
- Sounding like it was recorded by a stoned band who accidentally stumbled into an echo chamber rather than a recording studio, 'Moon Beam' was another album standout. With some excellent jangle rock lead guitar, Hacker's hypnotic bass, and Collins pounding drums, this one was instantly memorable. I still find myself humming it at odd times. rating: ***** stars

Unfortunately, the album suffered from mediocre production. As an English 'budget' label Saga had little interest in investing a great deal money in any of its acts (Thomas says the band were paid 150 pounds for their work, in the process signing away all their rights). Tat was apparent on the resulting sound which suffered from a distant and somewhat muddy feel. Not horrible, but it makes you wonder how good this would have been with a bigger investment. Regardless of sound quality definitely one that grows on you the more you play it and an interesting precursor to Thomas' mid-1970s work with Charlie.

"This Is the Magic Mixture" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) (I'm So) Sad (Jim Thomas)
2.) Urge To Leave (Jim Thomas)
3.) You (Jim Thomas)
4.) Slowly the Day (Jim Thomas)
5.) New Man (Jim Thomas)
6.) Living On a Hill (Jim Thomas)

(side 2)
1.) It's Alright By Me (Jim Thomas)
2.) Hey Little Girl (Jim Thomas)
3.) Tomorrow's Sun (Jim Thomas)
4.) Motor Bike Song (Jim Thomas)
5.) Moon Beams (Jim Thomas)

One instantly obscure album and the band were history.

Collins reappeared in the short-lived The Five Day Week Straw People.

Thomas moved to Portugal for a couple of years, turned to sessions work and in 1971 formed the band Charlie.
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