SPV [Release date 19.01.18]
We’ve always said Magnum should be cherished. Even more so in 2018, and with the arrival of their 20th studio album. The latest magnum opus also introduces new members Rick Benton (keys) and Lee Morris now firmly on the stool vacated by drum-whore Harry James who evidently couldn’t split his time between Thunder and Snakecharmer.
While many “heritage” bands trade on former glories, topping up with distinctly average new releases, Magnum plough on regardless releasing a valid album every couple of years or so. Their last outing – Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies – was a definite return to form and as ever a great vehicle for Tony Clarkin’s songwriting and Bob Catley’s ever more evocative vocal stylings.
We’ve said before that on various album releases Mark Stanway’s keys were sometimes muted and one of the characteristics of ‘Lost’ is that Rick Benton’s work is up in the mix. Add to that the heft added by Morris and Magnum – at least in the rhythm and orchestration department – get another new breath of life.
Ultimately it all comes down to the tunes, and you can’t fault Magnum when it comes to value for money with a near on capacity CD playing time. But what of the consistency? I have this idea that deep in the Staffordshire countryside in his recording-cum-potting shed Tony Clarkin knocks out tunes like shelling peas. However, that process – like the peas – could always be disappointing with a lot of effort and not much to show for it.
Clarkin might be as good a gardener as he is songsmith. He nurtures, judiciously prunes and preens his musical flora and all the hard work based on talent and experience is rewarded. It is plainly evident on the new album, which ultimately flowers into a thing of real significance.
The marvellous opener ‘Peaches And Cream’ demonstrates the band’s recent rejuvenation, characterised by Clarkin’s insistent riffage and Catley’s multi-tracked vocal adding to the song’s overall urgency.
The pace is maintained for ‘Show Me Your Hands’ with a nice keyboard led mid-section and echoes of a speeded up ‘Another Day In Paradise’ in the early verses whilst the mid-tempo ‘Storm Baby’ echoes earlier glories and is distinctly ‘Magnum’. ‘Without Love’ – an early single – takes us back to the 1994 raunch of ‘Rock Art’ but with the commercial groove of John Farnham’s ‘I Am The Voice’.
The band even give us the indulgence of longer tracks such as ‘Welcome To The Cosmic Cabaret’ and ‘King Of The World’, the former allowing both Benton and Clarkin to come up with attractive and florid motifs in the breakdown sections.
A departure on this album is the widescreen aspiration especially on the excellent title track which features a full orchestra and Tobias Sammet with whom Catley has collaborated in Avantasia. I can only assume that Bob and Tony got fired up earlier this year when they performed several tunes on tour in Europe with an orchestra. Fans might wonder if such a duet is a slippery slope but it is an album highlight nevertheless.
At times, for this writer since their millennium comeback, Magnum have frustrated and fired up in equal measure. But this usually relates to their live show and the omission of “killer” tracks even from the more recent albums. Hopefully we’ll hear a good cross section of the latest offering when the band tour in February/March.
‘Lost’ will appeal to the die-hards (who will surely hail the return of the early eighties logo) as well as the lapsed. Forty years after their album debut, ‘Lost On The Road To Eternity’ is an absolute triumph. *****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
Gig review (HRH Prog, November 2017)
UK Tour Dates (2018)
Fri January 26 Giants Of Rock, Minehead
Tue February 20 BRISTOL Trinity Centre
Wed February 21 CARDIFF Tramshed
Fri February 23 HOLMFIRTH Picturedrome
Sat February 24 Manchester Academy 2
Sun February 25 HULL Welly
Mon February 26 ABERDEEN Garage
Tue February 27 GLASGOW Garage
Thu March 01 BELFAST Limelight
Fri March 02 BIRMINGHAM Town Hall
Sun March 04 PRESTON Live – Preston
Mon March 05 NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Wed March 07 LEAMINGTON SPA Assembly
Thu March 08 CAMBRIDGE Junction
Fri March 09 LONDON Islington Assembly Hall
Sun March 11 SOUTHAMPTON Engine Rooms
Mon March 12 BRIGHTON Old Market
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