In the '70s, Philadelphia's most famous soul empire was Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's Philadelphia International Records, home of the O'Jays, the Intruders, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the Three Degrees, and Billy Paul. But the Thom Bell/Linda Creed school of Philly soul was also huge thanks to heavyweights like the Stylistics and the Delfonics. When Blue Magic hit big in 1974, their smooth, polished sound owed a lot to the Bell/Creed school; this incredibly promising debut album finds the Philly vocal group wearing their Stylistics/Delfonics/Moments heritage like a badge of honor. But the LP also demonstrates that Blue Magic was a fine group in their own right. The single that put Blue Magic on the map was "Sideshow," a hit ballad that is as clever as it is melancholy. "Sideshow" describes a circus, but not an ordinary circus -- a circus in which all of the attractions are noteworthy because of their terrible luck when it comes to romantic relationships. The tune is simply brilliant; like so many great blues and country gems, "Sideshow" finds a very witty way to talk about romantic disappointments. But even though "Sideshow" is one of Philly soul's all-time classics, it isn't the only song that makes this LP worth owning. The rest of the album is also superb, and that includes the snappy "Look Me Up," as well as dreamy, gossamer ballads like "Spell" and "What's Come Over Me" (which Blue Magic revisited on a 1975 remake that features singer Margie Joseph). All of the albums that Blue Magic recorded in the '70s are worth hearing, but this 1974 debut is arguably the finest and most essential of the bunch.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson