This is a truly great album from a group that for some reason never made it big here in the UK. They compare so well to The Stylistics. 'Payola' perhaps ? I am told this had and still has a massive influence on the charts....
The reviews below sum up the album with one exception. For me 'Spell' is the greatest soulful track ever made next to 'Me and Mrs Jones'. Never mind the comment made elsewhere in these reviews. If you like slow, romantic, soul songs of the mid 1970's then this is definitely the tops. Buy this CD, turn down the lights with the one you love and 'Spell' will take you to another world.
However do BE CAREFUL. I ordered this CD expecting 12 tracks as shown including the 3 bonus ones (in particular the Tom Moulton mix of Look Me Up) - well I just got the 9 track original. If you look below the track sample list you will see only 9 under 'Product Description'. I only noticed this after I received the CD ! I am sure it is an honest error but I got no response from Marvelio UK when I submitted their requested feedback. So 9 tracks it is...
I had a Blue Magic vinyl album which had all of these songs on but with a different cover. I recently gave all of my vinyl to my 19 year old son who deals in records. He got 40 quid for the Blue Magic album as was an import version. He happily paid for this download album for me. I used to always play this album when I was young and feeling a bit tragic at the end of any relationship so for me it's remembering my teen years in the 1970's when I was into Philly soul and Stax. Love Sideshow, which is much more dramatic than the rubbish cover by Barry Biggs but my all time favourite of this band is Just Don't Wanna Be Lonely. Smooth, easy classic track and should have done much better than it did in the charts..
Blue Magic was formed in Philadelphia in June 1973 when former member of The Delfonics, Randy Cain brought singer-songwriter Ted Mills in to do some writing with the Philly-based WMOT production company and a short time later, the group Shades of Blue, featuring Keith Beaton, Richard Pratt, Vernon Sawyer and his brother Wendell, came in for an audition. According to Marc Taylor, in his book A Touch of Classic Soul of the Early 1970's, "although the group performed well, they lacked a standout lead singer and WMOT executives in a rare wise decision for executives decided to put Mills with the Shades of Love and renamed the group Blue Magic. They were signed with Atco/Atlantic Records in the same year. Blue Magic were one of the earliest acts produced by Norman Harris, a Philadelphia records veteran. The group's harmonies were supported by the MFSB house band. If you like your soul music so smooth it would make grease seem like sandpaper then Blue Magic are the band for you. This expanded edition of the album originally released in 1974 kicks off or more aptly glides off with the top ten hit co- written by guitarist Bobby Eli "Sideshow". it's the sort of seventies soul ballad that I truly despised at that time but I'm older , wiser , balder and know better now. Strings glide like gossamer swallows , the vocals range from truly high falsetto courtesy of Ted Mills to growly baritone . It's by no means the only classy track here though. "Stop To Start", "What's Come Over Me", "Just Don't Want To Be Lonely" are all exemplary Philly soul . The truly lugubrious ballad "Spell" would placate a psychotic mastiff while "Answer To My Prayer" is more up-tempo with some addictive rhythmic backing strings . The funkier" Look Me Up" has livid bursts of brass and wah wah while "What,s Come Over Me" dares to use that most toe curling of musical affectations. The spoken interlude where "I've never been to heaven/instead I spent the night with you".The extra tracks include another emollient ballad in "Guess Who" and the laid back swing of "Where Have You Been" .The Tom Moulton remix of "Look Me Up" is predictably ace. I personally prefer my soul a little more dashing and funky than Blue Magic which is why i love Isaac Hayes but this is quality suave soul music, great to listen to if you are in the mood for something a little mellower and deliciously relaxing as well. I suspect this album has been used as a mood setter for many a romantic night in as well , not that I would ever resort to anything as crass and clichéd as that .Don,t let that stop you though .
Philly Soul had a distinctive face, and was rooted firmly in the Vocal group tradition. It had become a force in the early 70's as Thom Bell and Gamble & Huff had produced a string of hits, both R&B and pop, for groups like the O'Jays and the Delfonics. The latter had a very distinctive sound, due to the falsetto lead, and this in itself was a Black music tradition. They were soon followed by the Stylistics and Blue Magic, both out of Philadelphia and both of whom enjoyed huge success.
This album was Blue Magic's first, produced by Norman Harris, who had worked with Bell, as well as Gamble & Huff, and if you are familiar with the symphonic style of Philly Soul, then you know what to expect here. Ted Mills ethereal vocal leads the group through a series of tracks, which are among the best examples of the genre. Indeed it is rare to find a whole album which maintains the kind of quality on show here.
The album contains the hit singles "Sideshow", "Look Me Up" and "What's Come Over Me", and in fact "Spell" and "Stop To Start" had also been singles without hitting the heights. The whole album creates a relaxed and mellow feel, and I seem to remember it being ideal for generating a romantic mood when I had this album on vinyl on it's original release.
It is a surprise that it has taken this long to resurface on CD, but a welcome one. Recommended.
Produced by Norman Harris of Philadelphia International fame and with their songs pumped up by the MFSB Orchestra - BLUE MAGIC were TED MILLS, WENDELL and VERNON SAWYER, KEITH BEATON and RICHARD PRATT.
Released in early 1974 on Atlantic's label imprint ATCO - Blue Magic's first album was dominated by the huge US Number 1 soft soul hit "Sideshow" (opening lyrics above). This October 2007 12-track CD reissue on Rhino 8122-76428-2 (Barcode 081227642822) finally makes that self-titled debut album available on remastered CD (and for the first time in the UK).
Here's the breakdown (56:51 minutes): 1. Sideshow 2. Loom Me Up 3. What's Come Over Me 4. Just Don't Want To Be Lonely 5. Stop To Start 6. Welcome To The Club 7. Spell 8. Answer To My Prayer 9. Tear It Down Tracks 1 to 9 are the LP "Blue Magic" released in the USA on Atlantic SD 7038 in January 1974 Track 10 is "Guess Who", the non-album B-side to the 1st 7" single off the album Track 11 is "Where Have You Been", the non-album B-side to the 2nd single off the album Track 12 is a Tom Moulton Remix of "Look Me Up" issued on a 1976 Atlantic Records compilation called "Disco-Trek", Atlantic SD 18185
The album yielded four singles in the USA: "Spell" b/w "Guess Who" on Atco 6910, March 1973 "Look Me Up" b/w "What's Come Over Me" on Atco 6930, September 1973 "Stop To Start" b/w "Where Have You Been" on Atco 6949, January 1974 "Sideshow" b/w "Just Don't Want To Be Lonely" on Atco 6961, April 1974
BILL INGLOT - Rhino's long-time tape-expect did teh remaster and a typically superb job has been delivered - very clear despite the often overbearingly lush string arrangements. There are very detailed liner notes by noted soul writer and contributor CHARLES WARING that include interviews with the band - and the CD even reflects the original yellow ATCO label and multi-coloured logo - all nice touches.
A cross between The Stylistics and The Chi-Lites "Blue Magic" were soft soul and not to everybody's taste. And while this might seem like the kind of music your sister would buy, both disco and soft soul have seen a resurgence of affection among soul lovers in the last few years - usually because if you dig deep enough second time round, there's great tunes in there somewhere. This seems to have been the case with Blue Magic. Although they charted 3 singles prior, they were forever tied down to their huge "Sideshow" hit, which sort of sidelined better tracks on the album like the Ted Mills penned "Spell" and the sweet seven minutes plus of "Just Don't Want To Be Lonely".
Disco fans will enjoy the bonus remix of "Look Me Up", while the two B-sides are excellent and rare.
Another top job done by RHINO - and a cleverly chosen title for reissue.
PS: This release is part of Rhino's "CLASSIC SOUL ALBUM - REMASTERED & EXPANDED" Series. Most titles are first time onto CD and are rare soul albums from the Warner/Atlantic/Cotillion/Elektra vaults.
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