|MAGNA CARTA RECORDS
"The Future of Prog Rock"
“I’m pretty old,” admits Peter Morticelli President of Magna Carta Records. “When I was growing up it was the Beach Boys and Dionne Warwick, Patty LaBelle and the Blue Bells, then it got a little dangerous around the Rolling Stones and Satisfaction.” Morticelli started out in the early ‘80’s managing Heavy Metal outlaws, the Rods. His sophisticated taste in music eventually led him to forming Magna Carta in 1989 which he claims, “is music for the guy who wants to think”.
The label was traditionally created as an outlet for progressive rock and has seen a ten-year rise in fan interest for its polished sound. “In the early Seventies there were bands like Yes, ELP, King Crimson, Gentle Giant and Genesis that were more progressive than the mainstream rock put out by most record companies,” says Morticelli. “There are still bands out there (today) that love that sound and play it very well. And the audience is there stronger than ever…I wanted to get some of it out there for people to hear.”
Morticelli has since combined talents with rock icon Mike Varney to create a functioning passage for what has become a mass following. “We had a lot of success with TalesFrom Yesterday our Yes compilation. So we put out a few more.” Morticelli refers to a set of compilation tribute CD’s Magna Carta has released that feature a number of the label’s artists covering mainstay progressive legends. Aside from Tales From Yesterday (Yes) there has been The Moon Revisited (Pink Floyd), Supper’s Ready (Genesis) To Cry You A Song (Jethro Tull) and the most successful to date, Working Man (Rush). Encores, Legends & Paradox has just hit the streets and is a brilliant tribute to ELP.
The label extends far beyond simply recreating the forefathers of ‘prog rock’. A whole new generation of bands has grown up listening to Fragile, FoxTrot and Dark Side Of The Moon. It is to them that Morticelli centers his attention. “We don’t look for all the pretentious stuff in today’s music. We try to find the more honest and give it a fertile planting.” Most of the label’s upstarts have themselves pushed the musical boundaries that one extra step.
Most recently, Pennsylvania-based Shadow Gallery have delivered an amazing Technicolor masterpiece entitled Tyranny. If this were a movie it would be Enemy of The State meets West Side Story. A concept album on par with those of Queensryche and Savatage, Tyranny unlocks Pandora’s Box with an explosion of crafty metal and orchestrated instrumentation. Their ability to tell a story with subtle time changes and bone-crushing effectiveness is a real art form. Victims, Hope For Us and I Believe are monsters with Spoken Words evoking real tears. It takes many times hearing the CD over and over, just to begin to grasp its depth.
The long anticipated Liquid Tension Experiment (II) will come out just in time for the summer. The super group featuring Tony Levin, Jordan Rudess, John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy have created a swelling, dynamic mixture of styles and freeform wonderment. No surprises stemming from the first record but just as tidy.
Ice Age debut, The Great Divide clock in at roughly ten minutes a song. Like several of the Magna Carta stable they compared closely to their influences Kansas, Styx, Saga and Journey but with epic tales and soaring melodies. Lead vocalist Josh Pincus comes dangerously close to Dennis DeYoung (of Styx) especially in the higher ranges.
Tiles third release Presents Of Mind brings the depth of progressive metal right down to its fundamental roots. The guitars are a bit more gruff, open and edgy. Gone are the overwhelming keyboard bits with only pure layered acoustic guitar to create the harmony. The combination of Pat DeLeon (d), Chris Herin (g), Jeff Whittle (b) with Paul Rarick’s vocal harmonies make this a real gem for prolonged listening. The record does wander into a jazzy outer path on occasion but comes right back for a decent kick in the crotch.
Tempest have a ‘best of’ 10th Year Anniversary on the docks. Fans of the Celtic Rock band will find this as close to a fantasy live set as they will get. Many of the songs have been newly arranged and recorded ‘live’ in the studio with the current line up. Classics include Queen of Argyll, Montara Bay, Heather On The Moor and the wonderful instrumental Jenny Nettles.