Magna Carta, Mike Varney and Peter Morticelli’s label, appeared in the nineties as the royal standard for symphonic and progressive, introducing a new generation of bands, such as Cairo, Magellan or Shadow Gallery, which gave new and young blood to a yet-to-be reborn genre.
A decade after, the promise of this american label has vanished. May’be there’ve been some disagreements with their featured artists (which, in the case of Magellan, it’s been confirmed by Trent Gardner, now with Inside Out); maybe they’ve changed their commercial strategies, or they’re running low on budget, but the truth is that almost all Magna Carta bands have run away, or they’re simply gone. They’ve never been promoted enough, they’ve never toured, and probably the label hasn’t paid enough attention to them.
Nowadays, situation is quite lamentable, with the label having so worn out names like David Lee Roth in their “all star” team. Another of their resources is to go on exploiting one of their most recurrent seams, which is no other than tribute and “famous names” albums. File Drum Nation under this last category. This is an attractive title, and a sure bestseller on the drumming community. After all, it’s nothing more than a bunch of famous drummers giving free rein to their abilities.
Fest opens with ubiquitous Terry Bozzio, who offers one of his traditional solos, adding some sampling and electronic tricks. Interesting, but irregular. Bill Bruford and his jazzy Earthworks are more inspired on their excellent “Beelzebub”, a short but brilliant and catchy rhythmic jazz. Fusion master Steve Smith, along with percussionist Zakir Hussain, follows with the two parts of “Mad Tea Time”, experimenting with eastern sounds and wind instruments in a quite interesting duet.
Next section is made up of names like Chad Wackerman, Stanton Moore or the magnificent Simon Phillips; Moore, on a funky style, and Phillips, on the hard rock, offer a different approach to drum solos, and raise the interest of the album, which doesn’t happen with the uninteresting “Lagerborg”, by Josh Freese. Rod Morgenstein, a big name, joins Jordan Rudess for the acceptable “Faceless Pastiche”,a typical Rudess & Morgenstein Project track.
The last third of the CD features “Shut Up And Play Yer Drums”, a spectacular tribute from Tim Alexander and Brain to master Zappa, and one of the best things on the album; the pleasing but unimportant “Wandering Portland Maine” by Marco Minnemann, and finally “Pull Up My Sleeve”, a topical and predictable, if very intense, drum duet by Stephen Perkins and Brooks Wackerman.
An interesting CD for the percussive guild, but insignificant for the rest of the crowd. Magna Carta has lost direction, and albums like these are not the best way to recover prestige.