I could write a whole blog post to explain how I came across this completely unexpected album but I’ll just stick to noting that it came as a complete, and welcome, surprise when I saw it offered for sale on e-bay recently. After so many years since I got the two vinyl albums released by Principal Edwards Magic Theatre (PEMT) I really hadn’t anticipated that I would discover a complete album of unheard tracks in a different century. Thanks to the comprehensive insert notes I found that ‘The Devon Tapes’ is a collection of new tracks recorded by a slimmed down version of PEMT when they spent some time in a Devon cottage; the recordings were only ever intended as ‘demos’ with a hope that more produced versions might be recorded under recording studio conditions at a later date. Bearing that in mind, I found it to be a fascinating experience to listen to this and wonder what might have been had the band got as far as a proper studio production.
The missing ‘Magic Theatre’ from the band’s previous name signifies much more than just two missing words; the commonality between Principal Edwards here and the former fourteen strong ‘community’ of PEMT that I have known and loved for many years is actually fairly limited with Root Cartwright and Belinda Bourquin providing the only true continuity. There are many things that I missed, most particularly the wonderfully exquisite vocals of Vivienne McAuliffe, but things change and I can always return to the earlier recordings to appreciate her voice.
I believe that it is Belinda’s masterful musicianship that helps make this a very special recording in my opinion – in particular her violin playing adds an extra dimension. Having said that is in no way meant to play down the excellent musicianship of the others.
All told I found it really quite fascinating to be able to discover this archive from a different age; whilst listening I found myself recalling a whole range of music that had formed a significant part of my youth. It was certainly interesting to hear how the band’s sound had moved on form that produced by the original collective to a tighter more ‘prog rock’ orientated one with this leaner line up. The fact that this was only ever intended to be a recording of some exploratory sessions leaves me wondering what could have been, and glad to have been able to have the opportunity to share their time in that Devon cottage (and to finally see photos of ‘The Whizzmore Kid’).
Root Cartwright – guitar, mandolin
Nick Pallett – vocals, guitar
Belinda Bourquin – keyboards, violin, vocals
Richard Jones – bass guitar, vocals
Peter White – keyboards, guitar
Geoff Nicholls – drums
1/ The Beast
2/ Saccharine Lady
3/ Assassin Senorita
5/ Double Jointed
7/ Yes, She Said Yes
8/ The Alamo
9/ Over And Out