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Gandalf - Magic Theatre CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.83 | 18 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Austrian multi-instrumentalist Heinz Strobl goes by the alias of Gandalf for his musical journeys, and his conceptual LP from 1983, `Magic Theatre', is comprised of richly detailed instrumental passages that are frequently acoustic based alongside ethereal keyboards, sometimes even with soft ethnic touches, the artist crafting a fusion of ambient, New Age and the lightest of symphonic prog flair. His music can remind of everything from Mike Oldfield, Steve Hackett, Kitaro, Anthony Phillips and perhaps even Deuter's discs once he moved away from the more Krautrock-flavoured experimentation of his earliest works, but on `Magic Theatre' you can add in a pinch of the big symph-prog names like Genesis, Yes and Renaissance as well.

There's a touch of Genesis to the sleek guitar runs, upfront coursing bass, bubbly Moog spirals and announcing synth themes of opener `Entrance: The Corridor Of The Seven Doors'. `1st Door: Reflections From Childhood' bristles with strident acoustic strums and whirring Moog ruminations, but it's `2nd Door: Castles Of Sand' that will greatly appeal to prog-rock fans, being a thirteen-minute suite of multiple musical passages that move through everything from stark drama to intimate contemplations. There's Renaissance-like symphonic orchestral pomp, heartfelt solo piano reflections, sprightly jazzy bursts and an expertly revealing extended guitar run in the middle that is a masterclass in restraint and gradually building power, and many will identify it and the brief chanted choir-like climax with Mike Oldfield. `3rd Door: Loss Of Identity In The Labyrinth of Delusions' then closes the first side with a brief touch of danger to its heavy keyboard chords backed by distorted jagged sax and pounding drums.

The flip's `4th Door: The Magic Mirror' dazzles with victorious and crisp guitar runs dancing over fizzing keyboard washes with a touch of Mellotron creeping in, and the subtle `5th Door: Beyond The Wall Of Ignorance' channels Deuter's unfurling meditative atmospheres with careful reprising guitar themes flitting in and out, breezy flute, creaking sitar and controlled drum patterings. `6th Door: Peace Of Mind's mix of sighing Mellotron, sparkling electric piano and placid flute trills wrapped in the softest of eastern flavours hold several embracing reprising themes. Between drowsy and romantic sax wafting, `7th Door: The Fountain Of Real Joy's frantic guitar runs over buoyant thick driving bass and trilling synth noodling remind of the holy trinity of Howe, Squire and Wakeman of Yes at their most hopeful, and `Exit' is an uplifting and live-affirming farewell with lulling organ and sparkling acoustic/electric guitar ringing soloing that perhaps calls to mind Camel.

Such a crossover of styles means the LP has so much to offer. New Age listeners will get a weightier album than what would usually be expected to be found with something with that tag, ambient followers will find more colour and vibrancy than usual, and prog fans will discover something more tasteful and restrained than mere flashy show-off soloing. Full of wonder, instrumental flair and deep emotion, `Magic Theatre' is one of Gandalf's defining and most enduring works, and it even makes for a superb introduction to his musical world for newcomers.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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