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  • John Williams: The Magic Box
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John Williams: The Magic Box


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Audio CD, April 16, 2002
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Product Details

  • Performer: Vasco Martins, Ralanto, Enoch Sontonga, African Traditional, Christopher Laurence, et al.
  • Composer: John Williams, Francis Bebey, Timothy Walker, Paul-Bert Rahasimanana, Jean Mwenda
  • Audio CD (April 16, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B000065APV
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,996 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. O Bia
2. Township Kwela
3. Maki
4. Engome
5. Malinke Guitars
6. Masanga
7. Musha Musiki
8. Mitopa
9. Triangular Situations
10. Guitar Makossa
11. The Magic Box
12. Omby
13. Nkosi Sikelel'i Afrika
14. Djandjon
15. Sangara

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Amazon.com

With his crystalline articulation and extraordinary rhythmic prowess, John Williams ranks among the greatest solo voices the acoustic guitar has ever known. Now, with the joyous evocations of the African guitar tradition, Williams has hit upon his most emotionally satisfying crossover recital to date. Though both chief soloist and arranger, Williams nevertheless avoids shining the spotlight on his virtuosic skills--even his solo showcase, "Masagna," places greater emphasis on the tune's folkish incantations. He allows plenty of melodic space for the likes of steel-string player John Ethridge, while guiding listeners through the idiomatic flora and fauna of the pan-African experience: from the hornpipelike airs of Madagascar ("Mitopa") and kora-styled arpeggios of Mali ("Malinke Guitars") through to intimations of South African vocal traditions with a lovely children's chorus on the anthem of the African National Congress, "Nikosi Sikelel'I Africa." Simply expressive and deeply felt, Magic Box exudes a universal vibe that transcends borders and nationalities. --Chip Stern

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 18, 2002
Format: Audio CD
In pursuing his goal of expanding guitar music beyond the traditional Spanish repertoire, Williams and friends have produced a very enjoyable collection of African style music. The blend of percussion, bass, and wind instruments gives it even more flavor. Particularly delightful is track 3, "Maki," with Williams playing beautiful tremolo and strumming on a bright sounding requinto. Several other pieces give off a similar tropical, mellow, and happy feeling. I'm eagerly anticipating Williams' next project and where he will take us.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Eric M. Jones on November 15, 2003
Format: Audio CD
I have Magic Box playing and a small water sculpture flowing as I type this and the combination is just about perfect. I wouldn't call myself a sophisticated listener, even though I bought my first Segovia recording as a teenager in the early 1960s and, over the years, have accumulated quite a few recording by Segovia, Isbin, Williams, Parkening, and others. I never tire of listening to these superb guitarists playing Rodrigo and Bach and the other standards but, every once in a while, it is a pleasure to hear something a little out of the ordinary. It takes a special talent for a classically trained musician to handle pop or folk material with any success - as it does for pop/folk musicians to go the other way. Williams does it with ease.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By R. Webb on May 7, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Once again John Williams pushes the classical guitar 'limits' to new horizons. Introducing new genre's of music to the guitar is nothing new for this guitarist. Accompanied by voice, double bass, accordian, zarb, harmonium, flute, whistles, percussion and steel string guitar among other insturments makes this a cd that has gone far outside the 'classical' category. This cd however is not specifically a John Williams showcase. It is a panoramic view of Africian music in general. Reflecting the different cultural tastes of the continent. I would like to add that I think Mr. Williams is long overdue for a Grammy Award. Maybe this cd will do it.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. H Smith on November 1, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Classical guitarist extraordinaire John Williams has never been afraid to set out on little side-trips, away from the mainstream of the classical guitar literature. Beyond taking part on occasion in big orchestra-backed 'pops' excursions, he has regularly immersed himself in avant-garde, jazz, and even rock projects (for example the band 'Sky'). "The Magic Box" therefore does not really represent Williams doing anything unusual for him, but it does expand his repertoire within the world of folk and international music, in this case the traditional music of Africa. I find most of this material very attractive, but somehow a little less involving than when it is played on native instrumentation (perhaps simple beauties just cannot be improved upon...). Nevertheless, as always Williams executes each item in the program with grace and understanding, and with a level of gentleness and respect that one expects from a classical musician of his calibre. Call it a worthwhile experiment--though I'm not sure I would clamor for an encore.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Maureen Earl on May 1, 2002
Format: Audio CD
I stopped my car driving in San Fransico traffic tonight to write down the name of this album. How often does one do that?
It's superb! I am now ordering it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Karl W. Nehring on August 10, 2009
Format: Audio CD
The premise for this recording is spelled out on the back cover of the CD packaging: "Guitarist John Williams discovers the continuing tradition of guitar music in Africa and Madagascar." He is joined on this musical adventure by Paul Clarvis on hand drums and other percussion, John Etheridge on guitar, Richard Harvey on various woodwinds, Chris Laurence on bass, with Francis Bebey and the Africa Children's Choir providing vocal support.

This music has a wonderfully rich texture to it, with a wealth of rhythmic and timbral variety and interplay. The music also has a remarkable feeling of joy associated with it, the joy of making music and the joy of living life. It will bring a smile to your face if you give it half a chance. The liner notes offer an overview of the music, the sound is clean and clear and well balanced, and overall The Magic Box is magic in a CD jewel box.
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19 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Paul Hostetter on December 20, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Being quite close to some of the sources for some of these pieces, I was both thrilled that they had been recognized, while a bit disappointed in the actual music treatment on Magic Box, which I found rather tepid and polite compared to the originals.
Paul-Bert Rahasimanana is much better known as Rossy, and he has many albums, most available on Amazon.com. Unfortunately, the links on this page don't tell you that. I have produced him, and toured and performed with him. He's an amazing musician. I hope people take the time to listen to his music.
Another source musician, Ralanto, is on the cover of an album called Moon and the Banana Tree, a 1995 compendium of acoustic guitar players in Madagascar which I produced for Shanachie. Omby, the piece John Williams covers, is on that album, and again, I hope people will take the time to seek that album out as well. Williams recently referred to it in an interview as a real eye-opener. I wish he could have heard Resting Place of the Mists, the companion CD which is already out of print.
Africa (including Madagascar, which is more properly associated with Indian Ocean culture than with Africa) has some of the most astounding guitar players on earth. Hearing an admittedly superb classical guitarist attempt to do that material justice requires that the listener either be unaware of the source, or willing to ignore it and judge the extremely European treatment he offers, which is dramatically inside the limits of the source. With all due respects, I truly hope it will draw some folks to listen to the real thing.
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