Swedish instrumentalist Bo Hansson was probably more surprised than anyone when his 1972 masterwork, "Lord Of The Rings", became a runaway success. Yet despite - or perhaps because of -its lack of bombast, pomp and grandeur, this burnished collection of perfectly honed and haunting tunes (recorded on a four-track, folks!) perfectly encapsulates Professor Tolkien's epic. Bo had a difficult task on his hands to come up with a worthy follow-up; that he did so, with the mighty "Magician's Hat", is no less astonishing than its predecessor's success. Magician's Hat is more jazzy and dense, with a greater emphasis on the players where "Rings" had almost been a one-man band. Standout tracks are "The City", included here in original and extended versions, with its lonely saxophone beginning morphing into a swirl of time signatures and patterns, and "The Sun", where Hansson demonstrates his prowess on the electric piano without being in any sense show-offy. His musicians provide superb and sympathetic back-up - praise be, no progsters they - and it is a crying shame, even 30 years on, that this record failed to repeat the success of the Ring. The re-mastering is a treat, the sleeve notes generous, and there is a bonus track in the shape of the neat little coda, "Waltz At Dawn", slated for inclusion on the original album. Best of all, the packaging - and that magnificent front cover - have been beautifully preserved. A treat for the wee small hours.
I haven't heard this in years - many years; I once owned it on vinyl. At the time it was a bit too "strange" for me. Now, however, it's a joy and a pleasure. It is difficult to classify - something a previous reviwer had identified. It's like Jazzy/Prog come avante guarde and yet far more accessible than I remember. Chunky keyboards, good supportive guitar work and plenty of funky percussion; there may some woodwind and brass in there as well. I keep hearing Weather Report with a bit of RTF but with definite Prog undercurrents. Largely instrumental with vocal interludes the music is tight and lively; there is so much going on. I am so pleased that I revisited this recording; whereas I was unsure of it before and gave my vinyl copy away - now, it's a revelation, as I've grown, it has grown on me!
Bo Hannson didn't produce much but what he did produce is so beautiful and magical and technically brilliant that he deserves a much wider audience. Most prog types I know have heard and appreciate his musical interpretation of The Lord of the Rings a piece that sublimely captures the otherworldly weirdness of the book itself. Magicians Hat follows in a similar otherworldly vein but within a broader range of musical experimentation and moods. Hansson's playing is faultless and tasteful and the album, although not containing a narrative sequence, flows beautifully.
Not really a review,a superb album of innovative music,I bought this,LOTR's and Attic Thoughts way back in time and have enjoyed them immensely since then,I find comparisons to anyone else pointless,he was one of a kind and fitting him to any specific genre is square pegging into a round hole time.Would like to point out that the track listing has two errors,"Big City" should read The City,unless somebody else has already pointed this out,I thought it worth clarifying.
This album has come as quite a suprise. For somebody who though they knew a great deal about 70s prog music I have been blown away. For a start the music is not really prog but a mix of Psycadelic / Prog / Fusion. Think Wishbone Ash / Hawkwind / Yes and you are in the same musical area as Bo Hannson, however Bo and his boys stand head over shoulders when it comes to pure musicianship. You will not find on this album hour long self absorbed solo's or wailing backing vocals. All you will find is a kind of jazzy, psycadelic fusion which leaves most other groups of the time way behind. As I say I have been suprised and I feel you will be too.
Not as mystical as his Lord of the Rings album, this effort has a more jazz oriented feel here and there. yet still maintains the unmistakeable Middle Earth soundscapes .One or two tracks could easily be outtakes from his masterwork so this will be a welcome addition to a collection for anyone who like me considers the rings album to be one of Prog rocks finest moments.
A lot of good stuff has already been written about this album, so I would just like to add that, in my opinion, this album falls short of the quality set in his Lord of the Rings album. Perhaps it's because i've heard that album a lot more, and know it better..... There just doesn't seem to be much that stands out. It's all very well played, and in some ways, is more advanced that LOTR, the playing and arrangements are good, but there isn't anything that sticks in my mind. Very professional, but lacks the spark of LOTR. (Still quite good though- I still play it!)