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Magic Bubble (1970)

Toronto's Yonge Street by the late sixties was a cauldron of bands playing a pounding, massive rhythm and blues, no doubt a fire lit years prior by the masculine bark of the young David Clayton-Thomas and the backwoods bite of Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. The likes of Lighthouse, Motherlode, and the Mandala trawled the clubs and peppered the airwaves with such hits as 'One Fine Morning', 'When I Die' and ,'Opportunity',, respectively. The influence obviously spread to nearby Hamilton, where sister and brother Rita and Frank Rondell formed the Magic Bubble, releasing their sole long-player on the Canadian Columbia label in 1970.

The Magic Bubble is somewhat of a haphazard effort, mired in tepid songwriting and cliched rhythms. In fact, much of the record is rescued by the siblings' talented vocal performance, especially on such tracks as the second single 'Whisky Fire', and 'Sunshine Man', where Frank's throaty Claytonesque wailings carry otherwise weak material. The true gem here is unsurprisingly Rita's boldest performance, the closing cover of 'Summertime'. Rita's vocals, which alternate between a slick and robust Julie Driscoll and a lamenting Janis Joplin, soar over Paul Benton's keyboards and Wade Brown's guitar, rendering Gershwin's classic a cross between Brian Auger and the Electric Flag. It's a brilliant 5'52" that needs to find its way onto a comp someday.

Alas, with meagre sales and without any chart trajectory, the Magic Bubble was swept into the dustbin of rock history, barely surviving as a footnote even on the collector circuit. Rita Rondell, however, after a spell in the seventies fronting blues-rock combo Battle Axe, quit Canada altogether to do session work in Italy, returning in the late 1980s to launch a successful career as none other than blues belter Rita Chiarelli. --- Michael Panontin

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