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4.8 out of 5 stars
38
4.8 out of 5 stars
Magpie
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£5.47+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime


The first thing I noticed when I listened to this CD was the outstanding guitar-picked melodies. They lend an almost elegant beauty to the album in stark contrast to Stephen's edgy voice. The second thing I noticed was the beautiful lyrics and the way he will repeat one line to assert its meaning within the song.
This is an entirely acoustic-based album, with enough pure acoustic moments to make it different. It makes a nice change, as the songs are simpler and uncomplicated. In fact, how Stephen manages to put so much into each song with seemingly so little is amazing. You can hear every instrument clearly in its own right, and all together as a whole the sound is truly great.
This CD was recommended to me by Amazon, and I decided to buy it after reading the reviews here. If it's been recommended to you too, I expect you'll love it. I'm not sure if I can compare Stephen Fretwell to any other artist, although now and again I think "that sounded a bit like Ed Harcourt/Tom Baxter/etc." and even Don McLean at one point.. He doesn't make music that sounds like anyone else, but he's along the same guitar/piano-based lines.
After only a few listens this album is one of my favourites, and I expect it will be for a long time to come. Excellent.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 8 September 2005
I don't know what I was expecting when I bought this record, but I don't think it was a folk album! The chord changes are perhaps more indie than folk, but it's basically folk music. If you liked Moving Up Country by James Yorkeston and the Athletes then the the slow building Do You Want to Come With? will certainly ring your bells. If Richard Hawley takes the sound of Scott Walker and brings it right up to date with a little northern witt and charm, then Steven Fretwell does the same to the songs of Tim Hardin. The production is perfect. I've heard a couple of albums lately where the artist has tried to create a "live" sound and failed. Steven pulls it off with aplomb. It sounds like he's sat with his band on top of your hi-fi, when he laughs a little mid song (i think from memory it's on What's That You Say Little Girl) you can't help but laugh with him. Where the music itself is sparse and acoustic, occasionally lifted with a little light (and beautifully syncopated) piano, the lyrics are confesional and warm. They lift the arangements and stop the whole thing from drowning in melancholy. I guess that Steven Fretwell could be classed as this years Damien Rice. He is certainly much closer to Damian than Coldplay or Snow Patrol or any current Indie act. Whilst Damian's arrangements are endlessly inventive, his lyrics and vocal style eventually became too much for me. I just don't need that much traumor in my life! You're safe with Steven Fretwell though, he'll take your heart, but promise not to break it.
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on 12 July 2005
After seeing an advert on TV, i decided to buy this album and see what it had to offer. I have to say that i am so glad i did, this is a beautiful album - stunning voice, soul searching lyrics, and beautiful beautiful guitar melodies. The album flows right from the beginning, a definite easy-listening cd. Perfect for relaxing to, and successful in creating a range of emotions. This is a must buy album, and you will not be disappointed. It's hard to pick out my favourite songs, as they are all stunning. However, i do love Emily and Do you want to come with me? But saying that, every track could be a favourite. A spectacular album, each song is as beautiful as the previous - a must buy!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 January 2016
key tracks..
sicknote (untitled track 12)
emily
rose
lost without you

from the opening lyrics "green eyed monster..." and dreamy acoustics. this album draws you in instantly, and never lets you go. the sparse instruments, laid back melancholy and poignant lyrics only serve to give stephen fretwell the vehicle in which to carry his soaring, emotive voice.

the album burns away nicely, but by the time you reach the golden cluster of songs rose, lost without you and the single emily, you know that this album is something special. the guitar on rose haunts you as stephen sings about the perfect date, while the bittersweet lyrics in emily, give the impression of a lover he would rather forget, but yet he cant simply resist.

the album carries on nicely, and when it hits the fan faourite of new york, you realise these are not just songs...these are stories. each song lasts a few minutes and yet the album paints the picture of a lifetime. you cant fail to connect with stephen, and know what he is trying to say. just when you think it cant get much better than this, the stunning album standout track 'sicknote'(untitled on the album sleeve notes) appears.the haunting piano, serves to emphasise the need, and the feel of loss to maximum effect.

everything on this album works. the voice is incredible, the storytelling phenomenal. the comparisons to bob dylan and nick drake are a flattering nod to his greatness...and yet he exceeds them. for 10 years i have been playing this album almost non-stop..and still it wont go away. give this album a listen...for me this is the best album of all time!!!
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on 27 February 2005
...but this bundle of music has led me to make an exception. I am sure that the average Amazon reviewer will give 5 stars for his or her favourite CD, and I'll make no fuss about doing the same. Fretwell has something so real, unspoilt, and clear in his music and lyrics that he leaves another chamber in that area where he struck that chord in you (heart? mind? soul?) open; you go back for more... and more. Who was that girl this morning on the bus? Where is the friend you skipped school with when you were 17? Whatever happened to those plans you had last year about changing your life within the next year?
It's not necessarily what the storyteller tells; sometimes it's what you connect with it that makes the story for you. Fretwell tells it like it is in his world through his lyrics and music, but he always leaves you the opportunity to finish the picture. This is what seperates the music makers from the music relators (the other 99.5%).
I won't say "listen to this track" or "track x is the best" - find the one(s) that strike that chord in you. Make it personal. Make Stephens story your story. Then press repeat.
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on 21 August 2005
I bought Magpie entirely on impulse having never heard of Stephen Fretwell, but having a fondness for singer-songwriters and a weakness for special offers. I figured the universe would see me right. I owe it one.
The most astonishing thing about this album is that Fretwell is only in his early twenties. Come across a serious male artist and reviewers start reaching for the comparisons with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, but there are tracks on here that either would have been proud to write.
All this album asks is that you actually listen to it. The rewards are immense. Gentle settings frame bitter words, and from the teasing opening of 'Do You Want To Come With?' there's a continual desperation to hear the next line.
The melodies, for the most part acoustic and sparce, are widely varied in style and insistent. You'll find yourself humming these tunes all day. At the moment I can't stop singing 'New York', but yesterday it was 'Bad Bad You, Bad Bad Me' and tomorrow feels like it might be a 'What's That You Say Little Girl' day.
Deeply splendid, and a record your ears deserve.
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on 22 November 2004
Absolutely fantastic album. Stephen has been admired by many people in Manchester and beyond the pennines for a number of years. I waited a long time to hear this album and I was not disappointed. Lovely soothing melodies and evidently talented musicianship, come together in what I believe will be one of the best albums in the next 12 months. You have to add this album to your collection. The only problem is, that at only 23, is there going to be space in our CD collections for all the albums Stephen will undoubtedly produce over his career.......I think so. BUY IT!
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on 19 December 2004
Errr, WOW.
This album is simply stunning,its perfect for the long dark winter nights.
Lights out, just the fire on and these beautiful, haunting melodies filling the room.
Stephen's voice reminds me very much of Chris from Coldplay, its a very obvious comparison, but beyond that, this guy as a Dylanesque delivery to his vocal.
You can go two ways when listening to this album, you can just enjoy the melodies, or if you pay attention you can pick up on some very well written songs.
This album for me just basically flows, if your looking for comparisons in order to make your decision to buy then I would compare him to David Gray and Snow Patrol, but I would give this album the edge over the most recent releases by either artist, which says a lot, because Final Straw by Snow Patrol is awesome also.
Buy this, its very good and deserves your hard earned cash, and your ears deserve the treat.
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on 18 January 2005
Varied styles throughout this modern day classic. Meaningful lyrics coupled with haunting melodies that warrant recognition to a much wider audience. Every track is a joy to listen to and I guarantee that anyone who appreciates music will not be disappointed by any one single track its that good
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on 15 February 2006
Stephen Fretwell's 'Magpie' is, without doubt, one of the best albums of 2005. Understated, folk-infused acoustic guitar, accompanied by Fretwell's mellow (and unmistakably Mancunian) voice make this the perfect album for lying on the sofa, closing your eyes, and letting yourself drift away for an hour or so. But to simply call it an easy-listening album would be to do Fretwell a gross disservice. His lyrics are full of vivid imagery; he sings of the complexities of a relationship in 'Bad Bad You, Bad Bad Me', his own insecurities in 'Rose', and at times can be scathing with his words, such as in 'Emily'. Comparisons with Nick Drake and Damien Rice are inevitable, but Stephen Fretwell is very much an artist following his own path...whilst his arrangements are maybe simpler than those of Drake or Rice, his music is certainly a little edgier - far closer to the indie vein than the more traditional folk of Drake. To date, only 'Emily' has received any real airplay on UK radio, which is a shame, because there are much stronger songs on the album which deserve to be heard.
This is a criminally overlooked album, and one of the best by a UK artist in the past few years. Buy 'Magpie'...you won't be disappointed.
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