Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Magic’ (1997) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

After the last album, ‘Black Moon Pyramid’, Axel Rudi Pell wanted to do a tour, but Jeff Scott Soto’s schedule wouldn’t allow it. He was fully committed to his other project Boogie Knights which was a 70’s funk, R&B tribute style band. The commitment was due to a very steady paycheck. As a result, Axel took a short break and then started working on his next album which became ‘Magic’. Jeff was still on board for vocals as he didn’t want to let his friend down. While performing 3-4 nights a week with Boogie Knights, Jeff would work on the vocals for the this album. It became utterly exhausting for him as his voice had no rest.

The keyboardist for Axel’s band was Julie Greaux up to this point, but she left the band mostly because she became Jeff’s ex-girlfriend. As a result, a friend of Axel’s was brought in named Christian Wolf to help out. Christian was still in the band Rage, but was able to do this album as well. The rest of the band, Jorg Michael and Volker Krawczak were still in tact. Axel wanted to a heavier album than the previous and I think he succeeded. The album ‘Magic’ was released on May 21, 1997. Again, Axel was wanting to tour, but Jeff wasn’t feeling it. Boogie Knights was too important at this time and when it got down to it, this wasn’t his favorite type of music to sing anyway. In fact, Jeff didn’t co-write any of the songs on this one. It was all Axel. After much discussion, he parted with Axel and moved on. He and Axel are still good friends today and nice to see there were no hard feelings between the two gentleman.

My favorite thing about this album is Jeff’s short hair. Take a look above. My guess is that it was easier to wear those giant afro-wigs from the Boogie Knight shows if his hair was short. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t look natural for him to have short hair. Enough of that, let’s get to the music as that is what we really care about. Not Jeff’s hair.

The album kicks off with “Swamp Castle Overture (Intro)” which is a simple music interlude to kick of the first song called “Nightmare” which shows that Axel was serious about going heavy cause this one will rip your face off with the speedy shredding and explosive sounding drums. Jeff’s vocals are melodic but aggressive and fast. Axel’s solo had his fingers smoking as he is moving so fast and how Jorg could continue that pace through out the song is amazing as it it a non-stop barrage of sound. The most metal song by the band in awhile and I would say it is straight up Power Metal.

“Playing with Fire” starts off with more sensational drumming by Jorg Michael again. His intensity is impressive. Jeff’s vocals are great even if the lyrics are pretty generic. He does hit some killer notes in the chorus but he seems hard pressed to speed through the lyrics during the verses as he up against a tempo that makes it hard to catch your breath. It’s not an easy task. Some more great guitar work and Axel is still true to his word on the heaviness so far.

The title track, “Magic”, feels a little like ‘Heaven & Hell’ by Sabbath. The over 9 minute track sees some fantastic shredding by Axel and one of Jeff’s best performances on the album. The song is a little more melodic and fits Jeff’s vocals a lot better. The chorus is really catchy, but the highlight is the long instrumental break that are bookended by the more melodic parts of the song. Axel’s playing has some great melodies, a cool riff and that solo is something to be heard as it starts off simple and fitting the song and then turns in to a shredfest of Axel’s utter talent.

The Power Metal returns with “Turned to Stone” with more unrelenting drumming and super speedy shredding. The song is okay, not my cup of tea, but Jeff sounds great, of course. The chorus is catchy but a little too repetitive and uninspiring for me.

Then comes the ultra-epic “The Clown is Dead”. It is a ballad and at over 12 minutes long it is a lot to take in. It opens with some pretty piano work and then Jeff comes in and sings softly as he sings about the death of a clown (I’m not sure who the clown is…and I don’t like clowns in general). It is a very somber song and a chance for Christian Wolf to really shine as his playing is fantastic on the piano and keyboards.At about 4 minutes in we get more from Axel with some gentle picking before he starts showing off that he can be restrained and still lay down a great solo. I like that it isn’t a shredfest and a solo that fits the song. Did I mention the song is over 12 minutes…it is a long one.

The metal comes back with “Prisoners of the Sea”. Everyone sounds great, but it is more like “Turned to Stone” which doesn’t seem to find a footing and is a little stale. I just never connected with this one and as soon it is done, I don’t remember it.

“Light in the Sky” is up next and reminds me a little of Yngwie (sorry Axel…but that isn’t a bad thing). Axel’s playing is fast and furious and quite sensational. Jeff screams more than sings at times and not a favorite performance for me, but it isn’t him it is the style of the song. It is a fast paced, power metal song that does nothing for me.

The album ends on another ballad with “The Eyes of the Lost” and after the constant shredding, I’m okay with something a little more laid back, but this is so laid back you might fall asleep. The monotone instruments, the slow delivery of the lyrics and so softly sung that first 3 minutes almost puts you to sleep. Jeff sounds fantastic, so no argument there, but there is nothing interesting about it.

Track Listing:

  1. Swamp Castle Overture (Intro)
  2. Nightmare – Keeper
  3. Playing with Fire – Keeper 
  4. Magic – Keeper
  5. Turned to Stone – Delete
  6. The Clown Is Dead – Keeper
  7. Prisoners of the Sea – Delete
  8. Light in the Sky – Delete
  9. The Eyes of the Lost – Delete

The Track Score is 4 of 8 Tracks or 50%. The album is loved by fans and I have read at times that it is a lot of people’s favorites with Jeff, but I don’t agree with it. I don’t feel it was a great showcase of his vocals and Power Metal is not his wheelhouse or something he loves to sing and it shows.  Axel did live up to his word with giving us a more heavy album after ‘Black Moon Pyramid’ pulled back a little…but I liked it more than this one.  The title track, “The Clown Is Dead”, “Nightmare” and “Playing with Fire” were all killer, standout tracks so it isn’t a total lost. It is a decent album, but I don’t feel their best with Jeff. My Overall Score is a 2.5 out of 5.0 Stars.  Now realize, this style of Axel’s playing is not something I enjoy, I’m not in to Power Metal at all so it might be a great album, but does nothing for me.

UP NEXT: HUMAN CLAY – U4IA (1997)

THE JEFF SCOTT SOTO SERIES:

  1. Panther – ‘Panther’ (1986) – recorded in 1984
  2. Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – ‘Rising Force’ (1984)
  3. Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – ‘Marching Out’ (1985)
  4. Kuni – ‘Lookin’ For Action’ (1988)
  5. Kryst the Conqueror – ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ (1989) / ‘Soldiers of Light: The Complete Recordings (2019)
  6. Eyes – ‘Eyes’ (1990)
  7. Eyes – “Nobody Said It Was Easy” (1990) – 7″ Single – Bonus Edition
  8. Talisman – ‘Talisman’ (1990)
  9. Talisman – “I’ll Be Waiting” (1990) – 7″ Single – Bonus Edition
  10. Skrapp Mettle – ‘Sensitive’ (1991)
  11. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Eternal Prisoner’ (1992)
  12. Bakteria – ‘Deficate! Suffocate! Mutilate! Masturbate!’ (1992 / 2009)
  13. Eyes – ‘Windows of the Soul’ (1993)
  14. Talisman – ‘Genesis’ (1993)
  15. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘The Ballads’ (1993)
  16. Biker Mice From Mars – ‘Biker Mice From Mars (Soundtrack)’ (1993)
  17. Takara – ‘Eternal Faith’ (1993)
  18. Talisman – ‘5 Out Of 5 (Live in Japan)’ (1994)
  19. Talisman – ‘Humanimal’ (1994)
  20. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Between the Walls’ (1994)
  21. Gary Schutt – ‘Sentimetal’ (1994)
  22. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Love Parade’ (1994)
  23. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Made in Germany (Live)’ (1995)
  24. Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995)
  25. Talisman – ‘Life’ (1995)
  26. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Black Moon Pyramid’ (1996)
  27. Human Clay – ‘Human Clay’ (1996)
  28. Talisman – ‘Best of’ (1996)
  29. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Magic’ (1997)
  30. Human Clay – ‘U4IA’ (1997)
  31. Boogie Knights – ‘Welcome to the Jungle Boogie’ (1997)
  32. Talisman – ‘Truth’ (1998)
  33. Takara – ‘Blind in Paradise’ (1998)
  34. ‘Rock Star (Soundtrack)’ – Various Artists (2001)
  35. Talisman – ‘Live at Sweden Rock Festival’ (2001)
  36. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Holding On E.P.’ (2002) – Bonus Edition
  37. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Prism’ (2002)
  38. Humanimal – ‘Humanimal’ (2002)
  39. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘JSS Live at the Gods 2002’ (2003)
  40. Talisman – ‘Cats & Dogs’ (2003)
  41. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Lost in the Translation’ (2004)
  42. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at the Queen Convention 2003’ (2004)
  43. Talisman – ‘Five Men Live’ (2005)
  44. Soul Sirkus – ‘World Play’ (2005)
  45. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Believe in Me E.P.’ (2006) – Bonus Edition
  46. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Essential Ballads’ (2006)
  47. Talisman – ‘7’ (2006)
  48. Journey – ‘Live from Atlanta (Bootleg)’ (2006)
  49. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘B-Sides’ (2006)
  50. Redlist – ‘Ignorance’ (2007)
  51. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Beautiful Mess’ (2009)
  52. Jeff Scott Soto – “21st Century” / “Gin & Tonic Sky” CD Single (2009) – Bonus Edition
  53. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘One Night in Madrid’ (2009)
  54. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – ‘Night Castle’ (2009)
  55. W.E.T. – ‘W.E.T.’ (2009)
  56. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at Firefest 2008’ (2010)
  57. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Damage Control’ (2012)
  58. W.E.T. – ‘Rise’ (2013)
  59. W.E.T. – ‘One Live in Stockholm’ (2014)
  60. SOTO – ‘Inside the Vertigo’ (2015)
  61. SOTO – ‘Divak’ (2016)
  62. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Retribution’ (2017)
  63. Sons of Apollo – ‘Psychotic Symphony’ (2017)
  64. W.E.T. – ‘Earthrage’ (2018)
  65. SOTO – ‘Origami’ (2019)
  66. Sons of Apollo – ‘Live With the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony’ (2019)
  67. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Wide Away (In My Dreamland)’ (2020)
  68. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live and Loud in Milan 2019’ (2020)
  69. Sons of Apollo – ‘MMXX’ (2020)
  70. SOTO – ‘Revision’ (2020)
  71. W.E.T. – ‘Retransmission’ (2021)
  72. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘The Duets Collection, Vol. 1’ (2021)
  73. Jeff Scott Soto / Jason Bieler – Live In Concert (2022) – Bonus Edition

15 thoughts on “Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Magic’ (1997) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

  1. What is is with guys named Axel or Axl? lol. Batting 50% on this one eh John? Indeed look at the haircut but I suppose this album is one to fill out the collection which is crazy to think you are at only 1997. Seems like 4 months already that u have been writing about JSS. He should be following your page …
    C’mon JSS

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do see your point on this one, it’s not the best showcase of Jeff’s strengths. I like Axel’s direction here, it lent him more relevance in this time period and into the next decade just as power metal was catching on and I’ve enjoyed what he’s done in that vein. I honestly don’t mind Jeff singing on it, if only because so many power metal singers get carried away with high registers that it makes him sound like a breath of fresh air, but again, he’s better suited elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Good stuff until “The Masquerade Ball”. After that it’s just the same album over and over and over… Always good to hear Johnny Gioeli though

        Liked by 1 person

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