Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1970)
- Rod Alexander (aka Vicar) -- keyboards
- Tony Ashton (aka Bevy) -- keyboards
- Ritchie Blackmore (aka Boots) -- lead guitar
- Matthew Fisher (aka Sorrt) -- keyboards
- Chas Hodges (aka Sleepy) -- bass
- Earl Jordan (aka Jordan) -- vocals
- Albert Lee (aka Pinta) -- lead guitar
- Ian Paice (aka Speedy) -- drums, percussion
- Big Jim Sullivan aka (boss) -- lead guitar
- Tony Ashton (solo efforts)
- Ritchie Blackmore (solo efforts)
- Chas and Dave (Chas Hodges)
- Deep Purple (Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice)
- The Les Humphries Singers (Earl Jordan)
- Matthew Fisher (solo efforts)
- Heads, Hands & Feet (Albert Lee)
- Albert Lee (solo efforts)
- Ian Paice (solo efforts)
- Paice, Ashton and Lord (Ian Paice and Tony Ashton)
- Procol Harum (Matthew Fisher)
- Big Jim Sullivan (solo efforts)
- Tiger (Big Jim Sullivan)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Natural Magic
Company: ECY Street Records
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 1413
Strange release that's gotten a surprising amount of attention over the years; not for being particularly good, or enjoyable, but primarily for the fact Ritchie Blackmore was involved in the project. For his part, Blackmore's never been particularly kind to the release, but don't let that stop you from checking it out.
The album evolved out of a pair of all day 1970 recording sessions sponsored by producer Derek Lawrence. Having worked with a slew of British rock acts, including handling the first three Deep Purple albums, Lawrence had no problems pulling together an all-star cast of musicians, including keyboardist Tony Ashton, Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice, Procol Harum's Matthew Fisher, Albert Lee, and Big Jim Sullivan (known for teaching Blackmore to play guitar). Over a four month period the band recorded a string of studio jams, with an emphasis on rock classics and blues numbers, but the resulting tapes were ultimately shelved.
Decca catalog number DL-75269
Perhaps eager to cash-in on Deep Purple's sudden breakthrough, a couple of years later Lawrence revived the project. Running into contractual issues trying to release a collection so many of the all-stars scattered across multiple record labels, Lawrence ended up listing the original performers under pseudonyms (aka Blackmore was credited as 'Boss'). The irony was that when Decca Records released "Natural Magic" in 1971, the collection did nothing commercially. Of course nobody realized this was one of those super-star compilations. Anyhow, assuming your expectations for the project were low, then you'd be pleasantly surprised by this mixture of rock chestnuts, blues, and a couple of "originals". The sound quality was surprisingly impressive for what were essentially jam sessions and as you'd expect from an album featuring contributions from Blackmore, Albert Lee, and Big Jim Sullivan, there was plenty of lead guitar. To my ears the big surprise on the set came in the form of American singer Earl Jordan. Jordan had previously done a stint as one of the lead singers for The Les Humphries singers and had a nice, rustic voice that was well suited for this diverse collection. Whereas a lesser singer would have been buried under this all-star cast, Jordan held his ground throughout the set, turning in some first-rate performances on 'My Baby Left Me', their cover of The Creation's 'Makin' Time', and funked-up cover of Tony Joe White's 'I Want You'. The collection's real charm came from the fact these guys seemed to be having fun. We've all heard "superstar" albums where the participants seem bored out of their minds, or simply interested in showcasing their own chops at the expense of the group effort. Not the case here. They really sounded like they were having fun - doubt that comment then I'd suggest checking the blistering instrumental 'Bullfrog, or the opener 'My baby Left Me'.
Magic" track listing:
1.) My Baby Left Me (Arthur Crudup) - 3:16 rating: **** stars
I'm usually not a big fan of remakes of '50s R&B numbers and while their cover of 'My Baby Left Me' wasn't something I had to have, I'll admit it was actually pretty good. For me, the big surprise came in the form of Earl Jordan. The guy had a great bluesy voice that added crackle to this one. From the sound, I'm guessing Albert Lee was featured on the country-tinged solo.
Decca also tapped the track as an instantly obscure single:
1972's 'My Baby Left Me' b/w 'Loving You Is Good for Me, Baby' (Decca catalog number 32831)
2,) Makin' Time (Kenny Pickett - Eddie Philips) -2:51 rating: **** stars
The Creation had a 1966 UK hit with this one and while this remake didn't stray too far from the original arrangement, Jordan and company turned in a surprisingly energetic and enjoyable cover. You also get to hear Blackmore cut lose for a moment, though bassist Chas Hodges actually stole the show. One of the album's most commercial performances and probably should have been the single.
3.) Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Lloyd Price) - 3:15 rating: *** stars
Professional cover, but not the most endearing performance on the album. Lee's solo provided the highlights.
4.) Bullfrog (instrumental) (Derek Lawrence) - 7:15 rating: **** stars
Showcasing Blackmore's speed-of-light fret work, with Lee and Sullivan trading licks between themselves, the bouncy instrumental 'Bullfrog' sounded like a Deep Purple outtake. In fact, even though the credits showed it as a Lawrence composition, 'Bullfrog' was actually written by Lawrence, Blackmore, and Paice. The latter two weren't credited in to avoid contractual issues. If you're a hardcore Deep Purple fan, you'll probably hear similarities with Deep Purples 'Jam Stew'.
As much as I loved the Tony Joe White original, I think this roughed-up, funked-up cover may be ever better. Jordan sounded fantastic on this one.
2.) I'm a Free Man (Mark Klingman) - 4:30 rating: *** stars
Rollicking southern soul tune with some needless Stax-styled horn charts.
3.) Walk a Mile In My Shoes (Joe South) - 3:33 rating: ** stars
Given a speeded-up, almost jazzy arrangement this was the one cover that didn't;' do anything for me.
4.) Loving You Is Good for Me Baby (Derek Lawrence - E. Corlett - M. Hutton) - 5:05
Another Lawrence original, the bluesy 'Loving You Is Good for me Baby' avoided being just another also-ran as a result of the interesting time signatures and the Blackmore-Lee-Sullivan guitar interplay.
Who knows why, but in 1980 the small American ECY Street label decided to reissue the album (with different album art). It was quickly pulled after the threat of legal action.
In 1991 the set saw a CD release. Issued by the English Connoisseur label with the title "The Green Bullfrog Sessions" (Connoisseur catalog number NSP LP 503), the reissue featured re-mastered songs, new cover art, and three previously unreleased tracks:
- 'Ain't Nobody Home'
- 'Louisiana Man'
- 'Who Do You Love'
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