Friday, August 8, 2008
Magic Carpet - Magic Carpet (1972)
In the 1960s and 70s, both in the UK and in America, there was a burgeoning interest in Indian culture and music, most famously spear-headed by virtuoso sitar player Ravi Shankar and sarod player Ali Akbar Khan, amongst others. Numerous UK bands of the era began to use sitar and Indian musical sounds generally to add a flavor of the east to their recordings. By contrast, Magic Carpet was a more cohesive Anglo-Indian fusion, the Indian instrumentation generating and being integral to the music, not simply an addition. Based around the classically trained sitar virtuoso, Clem Alford, and the ethereal voice of Alisha Sufit, Magic Carpet created a distinctive sound described (perhaps misleadingly) as "psychedelic progressive folk" music.
The Magic Carpet album has been described as "a psych folk gem - a unique and extraordinary fusion of east and west, Magic Carpet being one of the very first bands to truly combine Indian and western instrumentation". After a launch at the 100 Club, London, UK, the Magic Carpet band performed at Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth's Wavendon, enjoyed airplay on Pete Drummond's Sounds of the Seventies on BBC Radio, plus made several club and festival appearances. However, this novel collective split up shortly after the first album was released. It was only after a lapse of some fifteen years that recognition followed. Widely and more positively reviewed, the original Magic Carpet album has now been reissued on CD and vinyl by the UK Magic Carpet Records label.
Seven of the vocal tracks written by Sufit employ modal tunings in the guitar accompaniment. These 'open' guitar tunings, first introduced and popularized by musicians such as Davey Graham and Joni Mitchell, are supremely compatible with the modal tuning of the sitar, allowing a true integration of sounds. Sufit's vocals feature on nine of the twelve tracks, the remaining three being purely instrumental.