Review: Magna Carta on fantastic form at Ripley

Captivating performer - Chris Simpson, founder of Magna Carta.
Captivating performer - Chris Simpson, founder of Magna Carta.

It's taken Chris Simpson 45 years of playing live concerts round the world to finally bring Magna Carta to a Yorkshire village where his deepest family roots lie - Ripley.

Appearing for the first time ever in the fabulously intimate venue of Ripley Town Hall, there's an atmosphere of reunion in the air, almost like an episode of ITV's Long Lost Family.
The chit-chat from the stage with local musicians and friends this veteran Harrogate-born musician hasn't seen for decades breaks the ice, though the packed crowd in this soldout gig is in no need of thawing.
The music itself just flows warm and sparkling from the latest superb line-up of the ever-evolving Magna Carta.
There's many an admiring glance on stage from Chris, not a man famed for his patience, towards the likes of the accomplished, multi-talented Ken Nicol on guitar, who deservedly gets his own solo spot at one point, and the dynamic Wendy Ross on zesty fiddle.
The setlist is superb, visiting the full range of the band's lengthy back catalogue from the late 1906s to the present day, revealing Chris and his prog-folk-pop band to be one of the last greatest 'undiscovered' musical gems from rock's long-gone heyday.

Despite the predominantly semi-acoustic tone, it's a head-spinning musical journey from the catchy acoustic pop of Highway to Spain off 1982's Midnight Blue album back to the contemplative Hungerford Bridge from early classic album, Seasons (1970).

The song was inspired by seeing all aspects of life while living in London in the 60s and Chris tells the rapt crowd he was once told that this sympathetic and subtle work of street philosophy from 1970 was the "best thing you've ever written."

There's even time for a cover of Colours by Donovan, another acoustic artist like Chris Simpson who blended pop and folk and much else to the point where it was impossible to see the join.
Songs from Magna Carta's million-selling 1973 album Lord of the Ages such as the deliciously gentle Wish It Was and Two Old Friends go down well but no better than newer songs from Magna Carta's most recent album, Fields of Eden (2015) - such as the upbeat romantic pop of Walk Away From Heaven, the slinky jazz-blues of Same Rain and pastoral majesty of Greenhow Hill.
The title track, in particular, an epic, elegiac story of changing times told from the point of view of a man of the rural Dales show the unique and important role Magna Carta continue to hold in British cultural history.
With the soul of a poet, the heart of a farmer, the passion of a priest and the ego of a rock star, Chris Simpson remains a captivating performer at the age of 75. A lost legend found once more.