Masters of Illusion, from the Welsh progressive rock band, Magenta, contains six songs about the private lives of classic Hollywood horror movie actors of the 1950s and ’60s. This might seem like an odd theme for an album, but the broad cinematic sound of Magenta allows the band to explore the personal lives of fascinating people in ways that draw the listener in. “The Rose,” for example, about actor Peter Cushing, revolves around the loss of his wife, Helen. After her death, he commissioned a rose to be cultivated in her honor.
“Snow,” the shortest song on the album at six minutes, is about Polish actress Ingrid Pitt, best known in films as Countess Dracula. She spent part of her early life in a concentration camp imprisoned by the Nazis. While mostly a light and airy song, reflecting her career in films, it takes on a slightly darker and more reflective tone as Booth sings, “See the horror, day by day, to watch them die.”
These songs are long, averaging 10 minutes each, but the length gives Magenta time to develop more than one musical theme for each biographical sketch. Multi-instrumentalist and composer Robert Reed’s keyboards often anchor the songs while the other instrumentalists add a solid foundation or interesting melodic lines. Special mention should be made of lead vocalist Christina Booth, who soars above the sound of the band as musical and lyrical themes weave in and out in ways that inspire. Masters of Illusion is a beautifully written, performed, and recorded song cycle. (Available at magenta.bandcamp.com.)