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Magic Cat - 1980 Only Make Believe



ARTIST: Magic Cat
ALBUM: Only Make Believe
LABEL: Magic Cat
SERIAL: -
YEAR: 1980

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Thomas Strain - vocals, guitars * Eric Chase Chitty - bass * Chris Lewis - drums * Michael Bastedo - keyboards, sax

TRACK LISTING: 01 Is This Only Make Believe * 02 Find Em, Fool Em * 03 Twenty One * 04 I Am Free * 05 Perfect Love * 06 Runaway * 07 Rock N Roll Punk * 08 I've Been This Way Too Long To Change


Background
Magic Cat are best known to most observers as one of guitarist Tommy Strain's many bands, Strain of course featured elsewhere on the site as part of Starbuck who had the huge hit 'Moonlight Feels Right'. This was another stop on Strain's musical journey around the Atlanta region and here the pleasant pop harmonies have been replaced by a hard rock meets AOR hybrid, quite typical of the late 70's, although it's not quite as Styx influenced as some observers have claimed. This is along the lines of Steeplechase instead, with the addition of sax and the odd keyboard flurry. As pointed out by our own Eric, the cover artwork is indeed rubbish, looking like the worst indie job you've ever seen, although the band looks like a happy go lucky bunch of guys in the group photo. Another Atlanta staple, Marty Bone helped pen the title track, keeping this album very much an 'in house' affair.


The Songs
This is a very basic US hard rock album when all is said and done, but there are a few pomp moments on offer worth discussing. 'I Am Free' I concede has a Styx vibe, with a brief keyboard solo and some very romantic arrangements, all very progressive with some Beatles influences in the harmonies. Theres a few typical teen rebellion rockers, 'Find 'Em Fool 'Em' and Twenty One', the latter with some ridiculous but funny lyrics about turning the legal drinking age, when considering how old these guys look show some good humour. This is perhaps the best Steeplechase comparison of the album. Maybe the cover of fifties hit 'Runaway' was ill advised, despite the contemporary melodic rock update, as there are only eight tracks to start with. All pent up is 'Rock 'N' Roll Punk', where the band displays some Who styled power chords courtesy of Strain who rattles off his heaviest work of the album. The sax gets a good airing on 'I've Been Like This Too Long To Change', and there's a helping of funk in the mix and this could almost be The Doobie Brothers mixed with a bit of Aerosmith. The title track is the AOR stand out, but it sounds a little re'strain'ed which has me thinking these guys were a better live band when really capturing their full effect.


In Summary
This is all that was ever heard from Magic Cat, but I'd stop slightly short of recomending it as a 'must have'. There were a ton of bands ploughing through the same ground in the equivalent years and Magic Cat were at the time just another overlooked contender. The addition of Strain probably added more recognition but it didn't appear to benefit in the long run. How and why the band split is unclear but Strain resurfaced in a host of other acts, among them Mother's Finest, as well as teaming up with Doug Bare of that band in their own band. If you recall the Revolver review here a while back, then lump Magic Cat right in with them. Worth a listen but not quite good enough to warrant more.


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