FAME Review: Sean Costello - In the Magic Shop
Sean Costello - In the Magic Shop

In the Magic Shop

Sean Costello

Vizztone - VTSCF01

Available from The Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Sean Costello was a rising comet whose luminosity was cut short by biocemical problems we in America understand far too little of, in fact know almost nothing about. Suffering from bipolar disorder, he made it not even two years past The 27 Club. Dead from an overdose a week after voluntarily entering a program for the rehabilitation of alcohol addiction and the night before his 29th birthday, one can't help but see shadows of Nick Drake in his tragic circumstances, though the music of the two was radically different. Hendrix's Manic Depression nailed it about as well as any psychology tome I've ever read:

Manic Depression's touching my soul
I know what I want but I just don't know
Feeling, sweet feeling
Drips from my finger, fingers
Manic Depression's captured my soul
Music, sweet music
I wish I could caress, caress, caress
Manic Depression's a frustrating mess
Well, I think I'll go turn myself off an' go on down
Really ain't no use me hanging around

Myself having tutored kids in Language Arts and the Humanities for a decade after retiring from aerospace, I've run across bipolar individuals, very sweet kids but with a Jekyll/Hyde burden heartwrenchingly shocking and which should serve to make the rest of us count our blessings because, dear readers, there but for the grace of God and a lack of physiognomic accident go you and I. In the Magic Shop is the 2014 release of 2005 sessions shelved for unexplained reasons, and, as his mother notes in the liner notes, it's different from the rest of his ouevre…and, my God, is it ever! Just the first lines to the opening cut, B.B. King's It's My Own Fault, let you know that, raw as raw can be but so imbued with heart and soul that the ear is glued irremovably to the stereo until the entire disc winds down.

Then there's the killer version of Rod Stewart's You Wear It Well, which serves to remind us how compelling Ron Wood was on the Small Faces' First Step (Around the Plynth, etc.) and how rarely that sound is exemplified anymore. In fact, throughout Magic Shop, I was most minded of the raw soul of Mike Bloomfield. Sean's guitar lines in Told Me a Lie sound as though retrieved from cutting-room floor tapes from the old Kooper / Bloomfield sessions, and Sean's singing is equally impassioned. Then there are the Brit Blues equivalents: Hard Luck Woman is my favorite cut and sounds like a cross between Stan Webb and T.S. McPhee, Costello's lead lines the kind of intersection between melodics and improv only he could come up with, as inventive as Rory Gallagher's work (and you can catch all that again in You Don't Know What Love Is, a powerful cover of the Fenton Robinson composition). If you want a tear in your eye, though, listen to his cover of Trust In Me, a plaintive cry for kinship and love in a world full of treacheries, Paul Linden his Ian McLagan (as he is throughout the album). There's a wedge of vulnerability in that song that you could sail the Queen Mary through.

Sean dug the hell out of Steve Rosenthal, whose Magic Shop recording studios the disc takes its name from, and Richard Rosenblatt, owner of Vizztone Records, and the two combined here to further Sean's legacy but have also dedicated all proceeds to the Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research started by Mrs. Costello. I, however, being a self-centered bastard (all we crits are sonsabitches), am grateful to all of them for a very different very greedy reason: this is my favorite among all Sean's releases, and thank God it emerged because I was starting to get a little jaded lately, and that's now all flown to the clouds. I'm right back in the 70s I so loved, gratis a kid born its very last days (April 16, 1979).

Oh and let me say one last thing: I'm digging the hell out of this turn away from those hideous cheap plastic CD cases and over to sturdy gatefold paper presentations like this one. Not only are such forms vastly more aesthetic, but, especially in this case, they exhibit a good deal more of the class and elegance due the artform and its creators. In what may be the last hurrah (though I hope to God there are more tapes stashed away somewhere) for this fallen angel whose wings were clipped through no doing of his own, there's a transcendent appropriateness in such things. Elegies come in all kinds of form.

Track List:

  • It's My Own Fault (King / Bihari)
  • Can't Let Go (Sean Costello)
  • Hard Luck Woman (Sean Costello)
  • Trust In Me (Wever / Milton / Schwarz)
  • Feel Like I Ain't Got A Home (Costello / Linden)
  • You Don't Know What Love Is (Fenton Robinson)
  • Check It Out (Bobby Womack)
  • I Went Wrong (Sean Costello)
  • You Wear It Well (Stewart / Quittenton)
  • Told Me A Lie (Costello / Linden)
  • Make A Move (Costello / Linden)
  • Fool's Paradise (Fuller / Geddins / Rosenbaum)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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