Pat Travers: vocals/guitar
Peter "Mars" Cowling: bass
Nico McBrain: drums
Canadian guitarist/vocalist Pat Travers relocated to London in the mid-'70s, falling on his feet in recruiting bassist Peter "Mars" Cowling, previously of the 'none more prog' Gnidrolog, getting one of the most solid and inventive players on the London scene of the day. He released his so-so eponymous debut on Polydor in 1976 (only two of its tracks have really stood the test of time), following up the next year with the vastly superior Makin' Magic.
Switching drummers, Travers recruited a youthful-looking Nic(k)o McBrain, some years pre-Iron Maiden, giving him his second-best rhythm section of the many he worked his way through in his career. After Pat Travers' measly two great tracks, Makin' Magic features not a single duffer, although closer What You Mean To Me cuts it close, to be honest.
Makin' Magic: After a whooshy intro (apparently not a synth) the title track kicks off in a solid, pacey manner with one of Travers' most inventive riffs, a choppy, propulsive major/minor hybrid, his blues influences never far from the surface. This track is almost a microcosm of the whole album, throwing in a quick funky riff, a typical Travers solo, a couple of jazzy chords and a most Hendrixy guitar break closing one of his best-ever songs. Let's not talk about the lyrics.
Rock'n'Roll Susie: As you might expect, Rock'n'Roll Susie is a high-octane boogie, featuring some ripping slide work and a great guitar harmony part, not to mention a couple more of those superb, jazzy chords to close. A classic 'second track in', this is perfectly situated on the LP, building on the title track's grand opening, although I'm not sure if Travers' lyrical self-referencing is amusing or just a bit naff.
You Don't Love Me: More blues slide and jazz chords on You Don't Love Me, along with Pete Solley's boogie piano. Y'know, its hard to say what makes Travers' blues-rock stand out from everyone else's (yeah, you noticed). His non-standard riffs? His sound? His way with a vocal melody? All of the above? Yet another stand-out, anyway.
Stevie: By far the better of the album's two big ballads, Stevie's lyric is aimed at the narrator's wild child younger brother, by the sound of it, although I've no idea whether or not it's actually autobiographical. Mucho harmony guitar and keyboard work make for a true epic; heavily rearranged, it became a highlight of Travers' live album a few years hence. A drawn-out ending and lengthy fade feature Glenn Hughes' guesting stratospheric vocal contributions over multiply-overdubbed, heavily reverbed guitars. Joint best track?
Statesboro Blues: After successfully covering Little Walter's Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights) on his debut (later a live favourite), Travers tackled Blind Willie McTell's Statesboro Blues this time round, pretty much making the track his own. Just when you think, "OK, just another rock'n'roll cover", however, he chucks in an unusual, burlesque-influenced chord sequence halfway through, just before Thin Lizzy's Brian Robertson's guest solo. Properly rocking.
Need Love: The funky Need Love opens with a bizarre, tribal rhythm section, credited to 'the Mambo M'Boot Orchestra, courtesy of Jungle Records', which has to be some kind of in-joke. A marginally weaker song with an overly-complex riff, more of those jazz chords litter the track, enhanced by Travers' heavy chorus pedal use (he lists his band's full equipment on the original inner, right down to his effects and Nico's cymbals).
Hooked on Music: The propulsive Hooked On Music carries on Need Love's funky, slightly jazzy rock'n'roll approach, applying it to a far better song, featuring possibly the album's top groove. Yes, groove, you know, that thing that makes your hips swing and your feet tap uncontrollably? Maybe surprisingly, the track is actually enhanced by a lengthy solo before a final verse/chorus and the album's ultimate jazzy ending. My theory: Cowling suggested the unusual-yet-superbly-effective bass notes. Discuss.
What You Mean to Me: Massed, slightly Brian May-like guitar harmonies open the album's only instrumental, What You Mean To Me, probably, sad to say, the album's weakest track. Perfectly pleasant, but overlong for its content.
Six great tracks out of eight? Bring it on... What makes this album so good, other than nostalgia? Having possibly never heard it before, will you see in it what I do? The 2004 Majestic Rock CD still seems to be available, which is good news, although I'm sure you're more likely to look for a dodgy download, at least at first. Aren't you?
Travers was worked hard by Polydor, sticking out the substandard Puttin' it Straight later the same year, quickly followed by '78's Heat in the Street, before reaching the height of his fame with '79's Live! Go for What You Know and 1980's Crash & Burn. Sadly, he never reached these musical heights again, presiding over a career in a tailspin throughout the horrible '80s before 'doing a Gary Moore' and returning to his first love, the blues. I haven't seen him live in over twenty years, but I'd imagine he still gets a track or two from Makin' Magic into his set.