Although by the time of its recording in 1977 Nektar guitarist Roye Albrighton had left the band and had been replaced by Dave Nelson, Roye's influence can still be heard all over Magic is a Child, now presented in remastered form by Eclectic Discs. While not a classic like Remember the Future, Tab in the Ocean, or Recycled, there are still plenty of strong tunes on Magic is a Child that hold up to much of the back catalog with Albrighton. Eclectic's remaster job is excellent, and the booklet contains full lyrics and song explanations from Mo Moore.
"Away From Asgard" kicks off the album in fine form, and is perhaps the most representative of the earlier sound of Nektar. The song tells the tale of the German Gods of Odins forest, and features plenty of lush keyboards from Taff Freeman and Larry Fast, not to mention Nelson's stinging guitar licks. The title track is a beautiful yet haunting piece punctuated by a string quartet and harpsichord commandered by Larry Fast, and "Eerie Lackawanna" is a funky rocker dealing with the old trains that ran through New Jersey (where the band lived at the time), and a song that could easily come off of Down to Earth. "Midnite Lite" is a strong rocker with plenty of harmony vocals, Freeman's chunky organ and Nelson's nasty guitar licks, while "Love to Share" was the bands tribute to the Beatles according to Moore.
"Train From Nowhere" is actually sort of a fabled song for the band, as King Crimson's Robert Fripp was hanging around the studio when they were recording it and actually layed down some guitar parts for it which never made the final mix. Thankfully this remaster contains the early version also as a bonus track with his Frippertronics left in, so you can compare the two and hear his parts. In all honesty, I feel the song sounds better off without Fripp's soundscapes, as they sound a little out of place on the piece. On "Listen", a song left over from the Albrighton years (and seem to tell the story of Roye's last few months in the band), the band pulls in a great atmospheric performance that packs a punch, with crashing drums from Ron Howden, Nelson's emotional guitar work, and plenty of spacey keyboards. Nektar shifts gears on the rocking "On the Run (The Trucker)", led off by Moore's rumbling bass line and Nelson's distorted power chords and lethal licks. Howden's passionate vocals work well on this heavier number, and Freeman's raging organ rages alongside the guitar riffs from Nelson. The last track, "Spread Your Wings", was a song that Nelson brought to the band, and has a different flavor than some of the other tunes, as it has an almost Southern Rock/boogie feel to it. Chunky guitar riffs and Freeman's piano are the highlights on this melodic number, a song that surely went over well live, with Nelson able to rip it up during his guitar solo section.
Eclectic Discs include four previously unavailable bonus tracks on this edition. There is an alternate demo take of "Away From Asgard" featuring additional vocals from Steve Barth and slightly different lyrics, and overall the song has a stronger keyboard feel than the final album version. An alternate mix of "On the Run" sees a heavier & rawer guitar sound, and a live version of "Midnite Lite" recorded at Hofstra University is also included.
Magic is a Child is a very enjoyable album, and would mark the lone contribution from Dave Nelson before Roye Albrighton's return to the band a few years later for the Man in the Moon release, which would then shut the band down permantly until their triumphant return in 2002.
1. Away From Asgard
2. Magic Is A Child
3. Eerie Lackawanna
4. Midnight Light
5. Love To Share (Keep Your Worries Behind You)
6. Train From Nowhere
8. On The Run (The Trucker)
9. Spread Your Wings
10. Away From Asgard (bonus original demo)
11. On the Run (bonus alternate mix)
12. Train From Nowhere (bonus alternate version featuring Robert Fripp)
13. Midnite Lite (bonus live track -WLIR Long Island FM Radio Broadcast from Hofstra University)