Magna Carta

Midnight Blue/Live & Let Live

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Recorded in 1980-1981, at a time when early-'70s folk heroes Magna Carta were forgotten even by their original (vociferous) fan club, Midnight Blue is a surprisingly pleasing album, one that overlooks all the odds that were stacked against it (just one original member, no deal to speak of, and a decade having elapsed since their last LP of note) to drift on the edges, instead, of the folk movement that was just beginning to push its way out of punk rock. Of course, it was another decade too early to truly take advantage of those currents, and the band was still firmly locked into the gears that ground around its original incarnations. But hindsight blesses the original album with a lot to be thankful for, while half a dozen bonus tracks continue the story through the next 20 years of outtakes. The second disc in this package is also dominated by those same two decades; although the subtitle insists listeners are in for a truly career-spanning live retrospective, all but two of the 12 songs ("Sponge" from 1971 and "Fields of Eden" from 2007) were recorded during the 1990s and early 2000s. That said, there is a timelessness to the set that illustrates why this band is still so adored, and the opening (2000) recounting of "Airport Song" is priceless.

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