Majic Ship – “The Complete Authorized Recordings” (2017) review
Majic Ship – The Complete Authorized Recordings (Gear Fab Records, 2017)
The newest reissue from Roger Maglio’s Gear Fab Records features a New York band, Majic Ship, whose first life spanned the years 1966-1970. The Complete Authorized Recordings contains exactly that, both sides of the band’s four singles, their sole s/t LP, a tune recorded in 1997, and as icing on the cake, a new interview with members of the band, making this truly a complete collection.
As for the music contained on this collection, it can be divided into two nearly equal, yet quite different parts. First, the rather pop rock singles released on various labels between 1968 and 1970, and secondly the much heavier, beefier LP tracks. Both feature fine performances by the band, but the album tracks obviously indicate the direction the band was headed with their sound.
The disc opens, appropriately enough, with the band’s first release, the single a-side, melodic, folk rocker “Night Time Music,” which showcases Majic Ship’s gorgeous vocal harmonies, and is a clear indication of the band’s fondness for The Bee Gees, reinforced by their wonderful take on “To Love Somebody” which features beautiful vocal harmonies and adds very tasteful wah wah guitar to the mix. “Mustang Sally” a r and b staple, is featured in demo version, played in a much more restrained style than the familiar Wilson Pickett hit version. “On The Edge” the band’s fourth and final single has a horn filled intro and more gloriously gentle vocals. Eight of the discs first nine tracks are single a- and b-sides, “Mustang Sally” being the only exception. All feature gentle, restrained performances focusing almost entirely on the vocal abilities of band members Tommy Nikosey and Mike Garrigan.
The real “majic” of Majic Ship begins with track ten, the opening number from their s/t 1970 LP, “Sioux City Blues” written by lead guitarist Phil Polimeni while residing with his parents at a military base in Sioux City, Iowa, where he was close friends with another well known lead guitarist, Tommy Bolin. The track features fuzzed out guitar work, a driving beat courtesy of bassist Gus (Cosmo) Riozzi and drummer Rob Buckman. The tune, while being quite heavy, retains the band’s hallmark beauteous vocals. The song would not sound out of place on a Eric Burdon and The Animals album at their highest point. “Life’s Lonely Road” features vocals reminiscent of John Kay of Steppenwolf with Polimeni’s lead guitar bringing “Born To Be Wild” to mind. “Free” features an infectious guitar riff, driving beat and an absolutely stunning solo by Polemini, while still retaining the band’s gorgeous vocals. The album’s show stopping highlight is their eleven minute medley of “Down By The River/For What It’s Worth” a most fitting indication of the influence Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had on the band. The gentle, acoustic into stands in stark contrast to the screaming lead guitar and two minute solo by Polemini. Tommy Nikosey’s vocals do great justice to those of Neil Young on the original recording of the tune. “Too Much” is a fuzzed out classic, with probing lead guitar work, yet still retaining ever so delicate vocals by Nikosey. “Cosmo’s Theme” the album’s closing track is a killer, with its heavy, building guitar intro leading to perhaps the album’s best guitar solo, bringing to mind Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love.”
The band’s 1997 recording “Blow Me Away” combines the band’s gorgeous guitar and vocal mix, as well as Buckman and Riozzi’s driving beat. The song recorded twenty seven years after “Majic Ship” shows the band was as cohesive as ever and a clear indication that the band members had remained close friends throughout the years and remain so to this day, a fact reinforced by the bands 1999 album “Soundwaves Project” released on Cozy Beef Music. The disc’s grand finale is an interview done by Gear Fab Records owner Roger Maglio, in which Gus (Cosmo) Riozzi discloses the sad and tragic inspiration for his composition “We Gotta Live On.” On February 24, 1970, Riozzi was informed that both his parents had been fatally injured in an auto accident and the tune was Riozzi’s way of trying to express his grief, yet honor their memory by “living on.” In the interview the band discussed their major influences, the above mentioned Bee Gee’s for their vocal styling and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young for their musical performances, making for a perfect ending to this most enjoyable and fulfilling musical collection.
– Kevin Rathert
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