When it was originally released in 1997 'The Magical World of the Strands' took my breath away and was acclaimed as a masterpiece by those in the know. Yet somehow it slipped under the radar. With this re-release, it becomes clear that the word timeless does indeed apply to this album, which seems to have matured with age.

A product of Pale Fountains and Shack songwriter Michael Head, 'The Magical World...' is indeed a wonderful creation. The powerful, pastoral aesthetic that pervades these compositions has the power to soothe the angry beast and transport the listener to the hazy and idyllic summers of the mid 1960s with a wistful and beautiful vibe. The history of this legendary album is entwined with Head’s fractured past, his heroin problems and his infatuation with the music of Arthur Lee’s Love.

'Queen Matilda' sets the scene and the listener is immediately engaged. References to Nick Drake or early Van Morrison might give an indication of the kind of territory that we might be heading towards, but comparisons and references do not really apply here. Head invites us to “Come on get in” on 'Something Like You', with its swirling strings and aching vocals. How can you resist? This is really an album of unblemished quality, song after song envelope you like long lost friends. The restrained and fluid feel to the album continues with 'X Hits the Spot' with some lovely Byrds–ish guitar while 'Harvest Time' heralds in the desolate and fragile 'Loaded Man'.

'The Magical World...' is a timely re-issue. If you missed it first time around in 1997, now is the time to take the trip. The new edition is sumptuous, with a 20 page booklet and liner notes by Michael Head.

Accompanying 'The Magical World...', Megaphone also release 'The Olde World' which is really the Holy Grail for Head completists. Constructed from rough sketches and mixes, 'The Old World' is the perfect companion to the original and includes a string quartet instrumental version of the enigmatic 'Something Like You' and three unreleased songs - 'Poor Jill', 'Wrapped up in Honour',which is a wistful psychedelic beauty, and the jaunty title track “Olde World”.

All these wonderful visions come from Michael Head’s Liverpool bedroom window, but somehow to look out over Arthur Lee’s heady landscape of the LA canyons. I simply cannot recommend these recordings highly enough.












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