Magenta – Masters of Illusion

The adventure continues with another unusual theme for the 2020 release from the Welsch band Magenta. “Masters of Illusion” sees the progressive rock masters take on possibly the most unexpected theme to date as they cover the lives and travails of six classic horror movie stars from the 50’s and 60’s. Robert Reed and his brother, lyricist Steve Reed tackle this most intriguing of storylines.

Magenta’s line-up features Robert Reed on keyboards and several other melodic instruments, award-winning singer Christina Booth on lead vocals, the extraordinary Chris Fry on guitars, and Dan Nelson and Jiffy Griffiths on bass and drums respectively. Also, two guest appearances from vocalist John Mitchell and saxophonist Peter Jones, plus a performance on Uilleann Pipes by Troy Donockley and oboe work by Karla Powell.

The six songs on Masters of Illusion produce a glorious palette of colors that are as varied as the rainbow. Across the album Moogs and Mellotrons, bass pedals underpin odd timings, majestic melodies soar, the core essence of prog is all there, including engaging lead guitar solos that punch through. Readers here will want to seek out the Deluxe Edition which includes a 5.1 surround mix on DVD, plus an additional album called The Lost Reel that features different mixes of a couple of the songs. Furthermore, the bonus disc contains alternate versions of a few older songs, such as the shortened version of the sprawling Legend which has been the more common live version of this piece. Additionally, there are crisp ‘2020’ versions of Man the Machine (also shortened) from 2001’s Revolutions, and the more recent Turn the Tide from 2011’s Chameleon.

For the technically minded, the DVD includes two 5.1 surround codecs, both at 48kHz / 24-bit. Naturally I preferred the DTS over the Dolby Digital version, as I found the DTS to be less compressed. A slight disappointment, and an ongoing choice by Magenta, is the lack of a high-resolution stereo version on the DVD, thus audiophiles are left with a 44.1kHz / 16-bit stereo mix on the included CD.

Still, I continue to be impressed with the immersive soundscape of Robert Reed’s 5.1 surround mixes. When listeners take a seat in the sweet spot, they are treated to a meticulously arranged widely spread sonic odyssey. In a common style, the band is up front with vocals from the center channel, drums and bass between the left and right fronts, along with keyboards and guitars spread across the soundstage. Secondary parts and delays emanate from the back speakers, offering a discrete nuanced mixed.

The bass lines purr with an understated roar, while the synthesizers freely float across the soundscape in a kaleidoscope of aural ecstasy. Yet, dynamics are a bit restricted and there is greater weight given to the midrange over boasting an accentuated shimmer at the top end. Christina Booth’s eloquent vocals stand out above all, almost as if she is performing in one’s listening room. I must admit that the music herein is not as compelling as earlier albums for me, yet the guitars and keyboards weave throughout the songs are still layered with gusto that straddles the line between genius and progressive nostalgia.

Recommended for fans of Magenta, progressive Rock collectors, and 5.1 surround enthusiasts.

Released July 1, 2020

 Format Info

CD + DVD with 5.1 surround 48kHz / 24-bit DTS and DD plus 2.0 stereo mix on the CD only.  Also available on Vinyl and Streaming Services.

 

 

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 About the Author

Wesley Derbyshire Profile Image

Wesley is a lifelong music enthusiast. He started his career in the recording industry in New York City as an audio engineer, producer, and studio manager. Subsequently he toured across America as a guitarist with the short-lived band Land's Crossing. After many years in the technology sector and amassing a substantial vinyl and CD collection, he delved into immersive audio and created Hi-Res Edition to share with other listeners about the sound quality and discrete mixes available on many formats. He recently upgraded his system to 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos and continues to seek out and share about the best sounding releases.

 

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