Prog folk legend: Turning a dream into new Magna Carta album

Chris Simpson.
Chris Simpson.

By Gig Scene Editor Graham Chalmers

The founding member of 70s folk-prog giants Magna Carta is ready to unveil one of his most cherished projects.

Although he has been performing The Fields of Eden live for several years, Chris Simpson has finally realised his long-held ambition to utilise the track as the centre-piece of a brand, new album.

Simpson, who lives in the Dales, has been musing on the project for nine years, working on the central theme of what is happening to his beloved Yorkshire Dales.

It seems the great songwriter’s creative engines were fired up by the successful remastering sessions for Magna Carta’s Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic from 1971.

The original version of The Fields of Eden combined music with spoken word, Now Simpson has added a slew of new tracks in extensive recording sessions with co-producer Will Jackson at Soundworks Studios in Leeds.

The results are set to live up to classic Magna Carta albums from the 1970s such as Lord of the Ages and Seasons.

Simpson, a published author, said: “The sound is clearly Magna Carta and very English but shot through with elements culled from a variety of musical sources such as country and blues.”

Among the musicians helping him turn a concept into an album were bassist Alan Thompson of John Martyn and Rick Wakeman reknown, lead guitarist Elliott Randall of Steely Dan and Dobbie Brothers fame, sax player Derek Nash of the Jools Holland Big Band, Laurens Joensen on a variety of instruments and Chris’s wife Cathy on piano.

Providing spoken word parts as he had done so for many years live is Andrew Jackson.

Several of the musicians were part of the new line-up of Magna Carta line up which toured the Netherlands in September and October 2011.

At their peak, Magna Carta’s reputation and success were sufficent to tempt guitarist Davey Johnstone to join the band, recording the Songs From Wasties Orchard and In Concert albums with them before leaving to work with Elton John, with whom he still plays to this day.

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