The Magic Elf - "Elf Tales"
(Big Shoe Music 1998, BSM-7001)
From Aural Innovations #6 (April 1999)
The Magic Elf is the prayer answer to all those Dixie Dregs fans who have just given up hope that the Dregs will ever release an album that doesn't sound identical to the previous one (including Morse solos). Playing a blistering brand of instrumental fusion and progressive rock this trio also strays slightly into metal, classical, and even a dash of country. Guitarist Carl Roa studied at the Berkley College of Music and graduated from the University Of Miami with a degree in Jazz Performance and Composition. Drummer Dave Miranda studied jazz fusion and also plays in the hardcore outfit The Six & Violence. Bass duties are handled on various tracks by George Panos and Saul Zonana.
Much of what gives the Magic Elf their identity (apart from the obvious influences) is rather than being a showcase for guitarist Roa, Magic Elf is a power trio that seems to give equal prominence to the guitar and drums. Roa is very much a "vocalist" in that his guitar creates each song's melody, but Miranda's drumming right out there with him helping to create the feel of the songs.
There's plenty of heavy rockin' here that display the musicians' proficiency and ability to handle both flash and good melodies. Songs like "Mr Destructo", "Hobgoblins", and the metallic "Limbonic State" will put you in the seat of the guy in the Maxell tape commercials where the chair is blown across the room by the rush of the music blasting from the stereo. Magic Elf do allow some breathers as well. "Greensleep" is an ambient-acoustic piece that briefly slows the pace and "Tree Talk" is a solo classical acoustic guitar number. It's interesting that despite the heavy Dregs sound, the opening track, "The Big Shoe", forecasts that this will be more along the lines of Allan Holdsworth. I don't hear the Rush influences that several reviewers have cited, but I haven't heard a lot of Rush in recent years.
In summary, The Magic Elf will blow you away if you like technical progressive fusion that has chops galore, but is also creatively composed. A note to the band: Heed the first line of this review and don't fall into the same rut Morse and company did.
You can visit The Magic Elf at their web site.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz