Album review: MAGNUM – Escape From The Shadow Garden

Interview with Tony Clarkin of Magnum, first broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, 2 March 2014 (12:31)

Magnum - Escape From The Shadow Garden

SPV [Release date 24.03.14]

It is fair to say that with Magnum you will probably never get a naff album.  Tony Clarkin’s songwriting sensibilties and the band’s standards are far too high for that.  The albums do vary by degrees but when on form  – usually with specific standout tracks – they are formidable.

Rather strange then that after an atmospheric orchestral intro, the album starts with ’747 (Strangers In The Night’) a.k.a. ‘Live ‘Til You Die’.  Why somebody didn’t gently point out that this is a classic rock riff and Magnum don’t need to replicate it, I don’t know.

Bernie Shaw from Uriah Heep told me recently – when talking about vocals in general – that Bob Catley nails his with the greatest of ease in the studio and this album isn’t any exception.  Tracks like ‘Falling For The Big Plan’,  ‘Don’t Fall Asleep’ and ‘The Valley Of Tears’ illustrate the mellowed vulnerability that he brings to his work these days.

Lyrically, the usual Clarkin themes of war and social awareness are present and correct too.  Ditto his beefed up guitar as on the Hard Rain-like rocker ‘Too Many Clowns’ and the obvious single ‘Burning River’.  If you’ve enjoyed the last couple of albums from Magnum you will like this offering as it’s very much more of the same.

‘Midnight Angel’ also has an air of recycling about it – it’s lineage can be traced to ‘Les Morts Dansant’  – now heretic that I am I have never really warmed to this piece and the country/crooner type of Bob Catley vocal inflection that has increasingly crept into the mix – although that song has formed a staple of the band’s stage show since the eighties and is always lapped up by the fans.

Wrong-footed by that rampant plagiarism at the start, it would be easy to dismiss this as “just another Magnum album”.   Yes, the band have mellowed in their more advanced years  and whilst standards are high there is a dearth of the really memorable (like the song ‘Brand New Morning’ for example), save perhaps for ‘Crying In The Rain’ and ‘Wisdom Had It’s Day’.

And there isn’t really anything remotely alarming or comfort-zone pushing.  In fact, if you want that in the past 20 years, ‘Rock Art’ (Mark Stanway’s favourite album) is a good enough place to start.  Stanway’s keyboard contributions are typically in orchestration and perhaps that is one aspect that appears too neutered with Clarkin’s guitar very much the lead instrument.

Magnum albums do have a habit of percolating through the listener over a more extended period of time which is a reflection of Tony Clarkin’s consistent songwriting, so this album needs to be given space.

But what do I know?  I actually highly rate ‘Sleepwalking’ and ‘Goodnight LA’ the latter of which has never been a fan favourite and the former usually dismissed by the band themselves if only for the quality of its production.

For their hardcore fans, though,  ‘Escape From The Shadow Garden’  is yet another triumph from a band we should continue to cherish.  ****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

Album Launch (March 2014)
Gig review (April 2014)

Tour dates 2014

07.04. FI-Helsinki – Tavastia
09.04. DK-Copenhagen – Amager Bio-with NeonFly
10.04. SE-Gotheburg – Sticky Fingers-with NeonFly
11.04. SE-Borlange – Liljan-with NeonFly
12.04. SE-Sandviken – Backstage Rockclun-with NeonFly

19.04. UK-Southampton – The Brook -with NeonFly
20.04. UK-Buckley – Tivoli-with NeonFly
22.04. UK-Oxford – O2-with NeonFly
23.04. UK-Bristol – O2 -with NeonFly
24.04. UK-Norwich – Waterfront-with NeonFly
25.04. UK-Leamington Spa – Assembly Halls-with NeonFly
26.04. UK-Manchester – The Ritz-with NeonFly
28.04. UK-Nottingham – Rock City-with NeonFly
29.04. UK-Glasgow – Garage-with NeonFly
30.04. UK-Newcastle – O2-with NeonFly
02.05. UK-Holmfirth – Picturedome-with NeonFly
03.05. UK-Wolverhampton – Wulfrun Hall-with NeonFly
04.05. UK-London – Islington Town Hall-with NeonFly

06.05. NL-Uden – De Pul
07.05. B-Vosselaar – Biebob

08.05. D-Dortmund – FZW*
09.05. D-Cologne – E-Werk*
10.05. D-Emden – Nordseehalle*
12.05. D-Hamburg – Docks*
13.05. D-Berlin – Huxley`s Neue Welt*
15.05. D-Saarbrücken – Garage*
16.05. D-Filderstadt – FILharmonie*
17.05. D-Offenbach – Capitol*
19.05. D-Regensburg – Airport Obertraubling*
20.05. D-Nürnberg – Rockfabrik*
22.05. D-Munich – Circus Krone*
23.05. CH-Pratteln – Z7*
24.05. D-Ravensburg – Club-Oberschwabenhalle*

26.05. AT-Kufstien – Kulturfabrik
27.05. AT-Dornbirn – Conrad Sohm

MAGNUM live 2014 (Festival)
04.-07.06. SE-Sölvesborg – Sweden Rock Festival

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