Magic Bubble

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1969)

- Wade Brown -- lead guitar

- Brian Kirkwood -- bass

- Sonny Milne -- drums, percussion 

- Buzz Robertson -- keyboards

- Frank Rondell -- vocals 

- Rita Rondell -- vocals 


  line up 2 (1969-70)

NEW - Paul Benton -- keyboards (replaced Buzz Robertson)

- Wade Brown -- lead guitar

- Brian Kirkwood -- bass

- Sonny Milne -- drums, percussion 

- Frank Rondell -- vocals 

- Rita Rondell -- vocals 




- Battle Axe (Rita Rondell)

- Rita Chiarelli (solo efforts)

- Custer's Last Stand (Frank Rondell)

- Robbie Lane and the Disciples (Sonny Milne)

- Little Ceasar and the Counsels (Sonny Milne)

- Theresa Malenfant & the Balck n' Blues Band (Wade Brown)

- The Dutch Mason Blues Band (Wade Brown)

- Reaction and Peter Marino (Buzz Richardson)

- Frank Rondell and the Chancellors ( Frank Rondell)

- Sea Dog (Brian Kirkwood)

- Sweet Blindess (Sonny Milne)

- Tempest (Rita Rondell) 





Genre: psych

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Magic Bubble

Company: Columbia

Catalog: ES-90038 

Year: 1970

Country/State: Hamilton, Canada

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear; 2 small creases under the title, initials KR written in ink in the black part; Canadian pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4229

Price: $200.00

Cost: $118.50


In spite of the group name and hookah themed cover art, Toronto's Magic Bubble was essentially a duo consisting of siblings Frank and Rita Rondell.  For their 1970 debut "Magic Bubble", the Rondells were backed by guitarist  Wade Brown (who along with one Alex McDougall penned most of the material), bassist Brian Kirkwood, former Little Ceasar and the Counsels drummer Sonny Milne, and keyboardist Buzz Robertson (quickly replaced by Paul Benton).  


Produced by John Williams, musically the album was exceptionally diverse, including stabs at pop ('Back To Toronto'), hard rock ('Circle (Lonely Wind)'), blues-rock moves ('Cry Cry'), and even what sounded like an attempt at a calypso rhythm.  That diversity was simultaneously a strength and a weakness.  The album's ten tunes certainly didn't suffer from a case of "sounds-the-same", but then you couldn't get a feel for what these guys wanted to be.   To my ears Rita had an okay, if less than overwhelming voice.  Her bluesy vibe occasionally recalled Maggie Bell-meets-Janis Joplin, but exemplified by tracks like the opener 'I'm Alive' and the ballad 'If I Should Ever Love Again' she was largely relegated to handling the group's more pop oriented material.  Those performances were okay, if slightly under whelming.  Her best performance happened to be her toughest vocal - 'Cry Cry'.  That left Frank to handle more rock-oriented tracks such as 'Whiskey Fire', 'Changes' and 'Circles (Lonely Wind)'.  Occasionally sounding like a more rock inclined David Clayton Thomas, his ragged voice provided most of the set's highlights.  Strangest tune - their bizarre bluesy cover of George Gershwin's 'Summertime'.  Elsewhere, there was only one real duet between the siblings; their cover of Bobby Darin's proto-rap tune 'Me & Mr. Hohner'.  As far as I can tell the album didn't see an American release, though 'I'm Alive' was released as a US single.

"Magic Bubble" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) I'm Alive   (Wade Brown) - 2:27   rating: *** stars

Initially I didn't think very much of the opener.  The song sounded like a folk band trying to toughen up their sound for a rock audience.   Still isn't my favorite, but I'll grudgingly admit to liking the Paul Benton keyboard propelled melody.  Columbia also tapped it as the album's leadoff single.  It even saw a US release:

- 1970's 'I'm Alive' b/w 'Sunshine Man' (Columbia catalog number C4-2980)

- 1970's 'I'm Alive' b/w 'Sunshine Man' (Epic catalog number 5-10781)

3.) If I Should Ever Love Again   (Alex McDougall) - 3:24  rating: ** stars

Another track showcasing Rita, it wasn't a stretch to imagine Ann Murray taking a stab at the ballad 'If I Should Ever Love Again'.  Nah, that really wasn't intended as a compliment.

4.) Changes   (Alex McDougall) - 3:24   rating: **** stars

Frank's first lead vocal, 'Changes' found the band diving headlong into hard rock with a surprisingly daring anti-drug lyric.  Frank's voice was quite raw and ragged, but sounded great on this one.

5.) Cry Cry   (Wade Brown) - 4:29   rating: *** stars

'Cry Cry' found Rita toughening up her delivery; sounding a bit like a cross between Joplin, Maggie Bell and Christine Perfect.  The blues-rocker wasn't anything special, but it was probably Rita's best performance.  Excellent drums from Sonny Milne.


(side 2)

1.) Circles (Lonely Wind)   (Wade Brown) - 2:40   rating: **** stars

'Circles (Lonely Wimd)' found the siblings returning to a harder rock sound with suitably enjoyable results.  Songwriter Wade Brown provided some nice, raunchy lead guitar.  

2.) Sunshine Man   (Alex McDougall - Frank Rondell) - 2:34   rating: *** stars

The album's catchiest tune (maybe it was the Latin percussion), I'm not sure "Sunshine Man' would have made nearly as much of an impression on another album, but surrounded by some of these other tunes, it really stood as one of the album highlights.  Once again guitarist Brown stood out with a killer guitar solo.  

3.) Back To Toronto   (Dave Robertson) - 2:29   rating: **** stars

Riding on a bubbly Brian Kirkwood bass line, "Back To Toronto' painted a rather depressing picture of touring.  Guess they were homesick for Toronto'.  The closest thing to a true pop song on the album.

4.) Me & Mr. Hohner  (Bobby Darin) - 3:37   rating: *** stars

I was actually familiar with this song from the Bobby Darin original which was a proto-type rap tune (seriously, who would have thought Darin was a grandfather to the genre).  The Magic Bubble version wasn't bad, but with Frank and Rita splitting the versus, it lacked the cohesion of Darin's version.  By the way, the title was a reference to the harmonica solos that populated the song.

5.) Summertime   (George Gershwin) - 5:57   rating: *** stars

I'm not sure how wise it was to turn the classic 'Summertime' into a blues-rocker.  While I loved Wood's guitar work,  I wasn't as keen on Rita's lead vocals.




The band released a pair of non-LP singles before vanishing into the history books:


- 1971's 'Whiskey Fire' b/w 'Circles (Lonely Wind)' (Columbia catalog number C4-3004)

- 1971's  'Who Turned the World Around' b/w 'Ohio and Sun' (Columbia catalog number C4-3030) 



Rita relocated to Italy where she made a name for herself as a backup singer.  In the late 1980s she returned to Canada where she started a solo career as Rita Chiarelli. Over the years she's recorded about a dozen solo albums.


Frank remains active in music, starring in a Ray Charles tribute: