Principal Edwards Magic Theatre were one of those support bands you’d encounter in the colleges and town hall venues of the UK in the early 1970s. Whereas Hawkwind had just one interpretative dancer, this outfit had a troupe of them, wending their way not only across the stage but out into the audience itself. Their songs were often bolstered by theatrical devices and eye-catching costumes to articulate several socially conscious, alternative messages via a bit of agit-prop style staging. When Round One was released in 1974, the group had trimmed not only the name but the line-up as well, discarding most though not all of the extraneous theatricality. However, what can be highly entertaining on stage doesn’t necessarily translate too well to a recording studio, and probably goes some way to explaining why Principal Edwards’ nevertheless engaging blend of folk and rock failed to gain commercial traction.
For a group whose energetic transmission of an idea was as much visual as musical, there are times when the resulting signal only comes through at half-strength. Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason delivers an empathetic production, making useful adjustments to the material such as cutting back a chorus or a solo here and there in material that often retains something of a late 60s naiveté to it. The jaunty folk rock groove, with earnest down-strumming, trilling mandolins and harmonies, rollicks along on The Whizzmore Kid, and Juggernaut, the latter dealing with the advent of supertankers on UK roads. A quaint bit of carbon-dating, it’s striking how relevant the environmental subtext within the song remains today. The electrified jigs-and-reels bounce on instrumental Triplets, posits a rockier version of the group, boasting some serious, biting guitar and bright moog. Though Round One doesn’t always reach the extent of its ambitions, it’s a reminder there’s plenty of rough diamonds, scattered away from the beaten track just waiting to be rediscovered.