Mark Stanway chatted to David Randall for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio in February 2019 about his career including Magnum, Grand Slam and Kingdom of Madness. This two-part special includes many Magnum favourites.
Our first big musical disappointment of 2019 had to be the non-showing of Kingdom of Madness at Giants Of Rock due to Mark Stanway’s hand strain. Fortunately Dave Wilson had caught the band’s set the previous week in Skegness and whetted the appetite.
Now, starting a series of UK dates the band attracted a welcoming crowd at one of our favourite haunts, The Tivoli. It was here that Magnum trod the boards “back in the day” and especially in the 1990s. I have many ticket stubs to prove it.
Mark Stanway has assembled a formidable group of musicians to celebrate an earlier period in Magnum’s history, taking the story up to 1994 and the album Rock Art. As far as the audience is concerned, you pays your money, you take your choice but the more enlightened fan will realise it’s an audience win.
Stanway’s secret weapons are former Magnum members who we never thought we’d see on the same stage again. So welcome back Richard Bailey, early keyboard and flautist, and Micky Barker on drums. And let’s not forget Mo Birch has performed with Magnum both on album and on stage. Completing the line-up Laurence Archer on guitar (Magnum, 1984, Grand Slam, UFO), that reliable chameleon Neil Murray on bass with Chris Ousey on vocals (both seen most recently with Snakecharmer).
Kingdom of Madness does sum up one element of classic rock these days, where relevant musicians come together to perform former glories. In fact, Stanway previously gigged with Neil Murray in M3 who specialised in early Whitesnake. Whilst there is always a precedent, the big question is always how well earlier material is interpreted.
Mark has emphasised that KoM don’t rely on any programming, reflected in two keyboard players actually playing keyboards and not off an iPad. It’s clear too that he’s not employed another Bob Catley sound-alike but someone who can simply sing the songs well.
Similarly, Laurence Archer brings a new dimension to the guitar parts. Tony Clarkin was always a very competent guitarist but not a spectacular soloist. Throughout, Micky Barker demonstrated why he so brilliantly reinforced the “classic” Magnum line-up of 1985-1995.
The setlist will obviously change, and there’s certainly a lot to choose from. But it’s good to hear songs that modern-day Magnum will rarely if ever play. ‘Kingdom Of Madness’ gets an original treatment with flute whilst Rock Art is fondly remembered with ‘Love’s A Stranger’ and ‘The Tall Ships’. Another often overlooked album – 1992′s Sleepwalking – is plundered for the spunky ‘Only In America’ which Ousey remarked may have sounded a little improvised but “we got there in the end”.
I’ve always loved the subtleties in Magnum’s song arrangements and the Mo Birch- inspired intro to ‘Sacred Hour’ was preserved with Stanway’s reflective keyboard textures countermanded by equally expressive guitar figures from Archer. In fact, I wonder whether this aspect couldn’t even be expanded in future?
In truth, early Magnum can sound a little proggy and a little dated but move the story on ten years and they hit a purple patch with albums like Wings Of Heaven and Goodnight LA, the latter with a production sheen that should have catapulted them in the States. ‘Rockin’ Chair’ is a glowing vestige but there’s plenty more where that came from.
So this really was a night of Magnum nostalgia and – perhaps more than a real Magnum gig – a more evocative celebration of the band’s heritage and, moreover, Tony Clarkin’s stellar songwriting. Even if Clarkin resents this bastard offspring, I am sure the old guard and the new can peacefully co-exist. And in time, once original material is developed, Kingdom Of Madness could truly be a (magnum) force to be reckoned with.
Stelist: 1. Changes 2. Back To Earth 3. Just Like An Arrow 4. Love’s A Stranger 5. Start Talking Love 6. Wild Swan 7. The Lights Burned Out 8. Need A Lot of Love 9. Only In America 10. The Tall Ships 11. Midnight (You Won’t Be Sleeping) 12. Rockin’ Chair 13. Days Of No Trust 14. Kingdom of Madness Encore: 15. The Last Dance 16. Sacred Hour
Review and photos by David Randall
UK tour dates 2019
Fri MAR 1st
Sat MAR 2nd
Sun MAR 3rd
Manchester, Academy 3
Thu MAR 7th
Newbury, Arlington Arts Centre
Fri MAR 8th
London, ULU Live
Sat MAR 9th
Poole, Planet Rock “Winter’s End” Festival
Sun MAR 17th
Milton Keynes, The Stables
Sat JULY 13th
Alfreton, Carnfield Hall, Rock and Bike Festival
Sat AUG 3rd
Faversham, A New Day Festival
Fri OCT 4th
Troon, South Beach Sessions
Sat OCT 5th
Kinross, Backstage at the Green Hotel
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.
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