Randy Burns' second album, 1968's Evening of the Magician, is an enormous improvement over his 1967 debut, Of Love and War. That album, while fine for what it was, included too many covers of songs by Burns' contemporaries in the Greenwich Village folk scene to show what the singer/songwriter was capable of. This album, which features ten good-to-great Burns originals, is far superior and much more personal feeling. Burns' new backing trio, the Sky Dog Band, provides sympathetic and low-key backing on keyboards (Matt Kastner), bass and flute (Bruce Samuels), and percussion (John O'Leary). The acid folk settings are similar to those of Burns' ESP-Disk labelmates Pearls Before Swine, but his solid, simple songs lack Tom Rapp's psychedelic flightiness. (This is either a good or bad thing depending on one's point of view.) Burns' three originals on Of Love and War hinted that the Connecticut native might be a gifted songwriter, and the best songs of Evening of the Magician more than fulfill that promise. Burns' forte is the evocative love song, and Evening of the Magician contains several, with "Echoes of Mary's Song," "Susan, Your Mind's Got Wings" (featuring some odd, seemingly random organ interjections by Kastner), and the heartbreaking "Girl from England" particularly lovely standouts. The brooding "Ron's Song" and "Rainy Day Children" are nearly up to those standouts, but "You've Got All of Love Standing at Your Door" is marred by a bizarrely stentorian, Anthony Newley-like chorus. Other than that misstep, however, Evening of the Magician is an excellent piece of gentle, lightly psychedelic folk-rock, and an album well worth rediscovery by fans of Pearls Before Swine, late-period Phil Ochs, or other acid folk artists.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason