current thoughts (and review)
Posted by: Kevin ()
Date: September 30, 2012 03:13PM

without starting yet another Magnum thread (I don't think you can have too many of these, but others probably view this differently....), here are my thoughts at this stage.


ON THE 13th DAY

Magnum. 40 years. 16 studio albums, an acoustically reworked studio album, and 2 more under the Hard Rain moniker with Catley and Clarkin while the band was on hiatus. That’s not counting a bunch of live albums, compilations, a recent Best-Of that was partially re-recorded with a few new songs, and a multi-disk box set. To put it mildly, that’s a big catalog.

For whatever reason, Magnum never really hit it as big as a lot of people thought they would. The issue really starts with the “Magnum sound”. Unlike many of their contemporaries, there never was one specific style. They were too pop for progressive rock fans, too progressive for most everyone else, and far too serious lyrically for the average fan used to bands singing about girls, drugs and rock and roll. Vigilante’s pink cover with a unicorn probably didn’t help the cause either! Added to that, the albums varied wildly in sound. Taking a 5 album range in the late 80s/early 90s, Storyteller’s Night was English pomp, Vigilante was pop rock with big Queen-influenced backing vocals, Wings of Heaven was commercial hard rock with progressive leanings, Goodnight LA was the record company’s attempt to make the Magnum sound palatable for commercial radio (aka diluted Magnum), and Sleepwalking was fairly laid-back AOR. Still, all those elements (British pomp, pop-rock, melodic hard rock, AOR, and progressive leanings) combined for a very unique sound. People either got it and loved it, or couldn’t care less. To survive 40 years, it’s obvious enough people “got it” to make the band viable.

The post-reunion albums, for the most part, have been their own animal. While there have been throwbacks to the classic Magnum sound (All My Bridges and Wild Angels standing out), many of the newer albums have gone further from the pop sound with fewer anthem-styled choruses and closer to the progressive tempo-changing style, along with being more straight-forward both lyrically and musically. That said, each new album has verged closer and closer to that commercial Magnum sound where the band found the most success.

Unlike many bands from that era, Magnum have been very prolific since reforming, and have forced the audience to move forward with them. So, onwards to album #16…On the 13th Day.

SONG BY SONG

After an extended intro, All the Dreamers kicks off with a slow to mid-tempo rock burner which lifts a bit for the chorus and wouldn’t sound out of place on any of the post-reunion albums. It has that post-reunion sound all over it.
Blood Red Laughter kicks off with a guitar riff that explodes into the commercial hard rock with a big chorus. A real feel-good song with a very revitalized sounding Magnum. This should go over really well live.
Didn’t Like You Anyway is an interesting song. Neither a ballad nor a straight rock song, this medium slow paced pomp song is a very biting take lyrically on the corporate world. The song rises a bit for the chorus with a bit of urgency. Fairly original sound also. Pretty cool.
On the 13th Day, the song, starts off with some very Journey-ish moody guitar work from Tony Clarkin before busting into your classic Magnum rocker. A mid-tempo verse gives way to big harmony backing vocals as the bridge gives way to a hard rock chorus.
So Let It Rain starts with a rather rough low-pitched vocal from Bob Catley before turning into the most commercial pop-rock song Magnum has recorded in a very long time with a huge chorus. Very old-school Magnum, and the first single from the album.
In complete contrast, Dance of the Black Tatoo starts with maybe the heaviest guitar riff heard in Magnum since Kingdom of Madness and a menacing vocal from Catley. Think of a heavier version of Black Skies from The Visitation with a bigger chorus.
Shadow Town is back to the Wings of Heaven pop -rock sound, with a mid-tempo verse giving way to a big Magnum-styled chorus. Similar in style to Wild Angels, and a big album highlight.
Putting Things in Place is a slow, haunting ballad about loss with a really classy and soulful Bob Catley vocal and a subdued chorus.
Broken Promises is a track I’m still trying to get my head around. A slow verse transforms into a rock chorus with a bit of that Rock Art guitar sound. Not sure it really has the impact it should have with the modern Magnum sound, while being surrounded by a bunch of classic-Magnum sounding songs.
See How They Fall is the real surprise of the album. A chugging guitar sound opens into this big riff that is straight out of the All England’s Eyes/Endless Love songbook. The chorus could have been even bigger, but this is the Storyteller’s Night anthem pomp sound that hasn’t been heard from Magnum in a very long time. Perfect contender for the opening song to the album, and sure to be a live favorite.
From Within is mid-tempo AOR that would have fit in on the Sleepwalking album. The woah-ohs on the chorus go into overdrive near the end lifting this classy laid-back ending song.

And so endeth the regular version of the album, but there is also a 2cd limited edition with some extra songs.

Those Were the Days kicks off cd 2 with a demo from the 1988-89 era. The bridge should be familiar to fans of the Goodnight LA album, as it was re-used on Heartbroke & Busted. For the most part though, this is a new mid-tempo AOR song that could best be described as a slightly-slower paced nostalgia-flavored version of C’est La Vie, a b-side from the Wings of Heaven album. I dare say it’s better than some of the songs that made the Goodnight LA album but, at the same time, I’m not surprised it was left off.
Next up is Eyes Like Fire, which previously appeared as a video track on The Visitation album as a work-in-progress in the studio song. By fan request, is here in the full version. Commercial Magnum pop rock with a huge chorus that really should have been included on the last album.
Also on track are acoustic versions of Blood Red Laughter and Shadow Town. While the songs are nice, the grand scale of the Magnum songwriting style tends to lose something when you bring it down to acoustic. Cool for the fans however.
The other two songs are live versions of We All Need to Be Loved (from Rock Art) and The Moonking (from Into the Valley of the Moonking) that were recorded on the Visitation tour. Magnum have always been a good live band, and nothing really changes here. It’s obvious that several shows were recorded, so it would be nice to post a complete show for download for the fans, since there’s a bunch of stuff just sitting in the vaults from The Visitation tour alone—especially since the band is known to play a bunch of the post-reformation material live.
And that’s the bonus cd. Nothing really earth-shattering, but a nice little gift for the hardcore fans of the band.


SUMMARY THOUGHTS AND RANDOM RUMINATIONS

Over the years, I’ve come to accept that post-reunion Magnum is a different band, and there is a divide between the old and the new, just as there was pre and post Storyteller’s Night. Throughout the many style changes from album to album, Magnum had an impeccable run in the 80s and early 90s. Storytellers, Vigilante, Wings of Heaven, and Sleepwalking are classics for me (and all feature a different sound), and the others, while having some faults, are nothing to sneeze at. While I have enjoyed a lot of the post-reformation cds, there seems to be that spark that was missing for me to take it from “good” to “great”. I’m don't see many songs I would call fillers, but likewise not many songs that I would call classics. Solid, but not spectacular would be a way of saying it. I don’t think I’m alone on this feeling either. Things have been changing in the Magnum camp for the better, however, starting with The Visitation, which is the first album since the reformation that I've loved.

This is by far the closest to the mid 80s Magnum sound of any of the post-reunion albums, and therefore, the best “bridge” between that sound and the post-reformation sound of the band. It’s also probably the most commercial album since Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow. Many of the progressive leanings have been lessened for more straight-forward commercial songs, and some of those grandiose Magnum choruses are starting to rear their heads again.

There are elements from most parts of the Magnum sound here, but if you mix the post-reunion sound with a healthy dose of the Vigilante/Wings of Heaven sound, you are getting close to the new cd. It’s certainly not a carbon-copy of the old stuff, and it shouldn’t be, but with every new cd, they get a little bit closer to finding that niche of what made Magnum great without simply spitting out a regurgitation of 80s Magnum rewrites. I believe that’s called progress—and that’s a good thing. There’s still life left in Magnum, and unlike most bands, they seem to be getting better with each album. That post-reunion masterpiece album hasn’t been written yet, but they are getting closer. In the meantime, this should keep the fans well satisfied. Nicely done guys.

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SubjectViewsWritten ByPosted
Thoughts on the new Magnum album (questions for Al Barrow) 687 Figge 09/30/2012 07:03AM
current thoughts (and review)486 Kevin 09/30/2012 03:13PM
Re: current thoughts (and review) 412 Andrew 09/30/2012 04:50PM
Re: current thoughts (and review) 356 Marty 10/01/2012 12:08AM
Re: current thoughts (and review) 343 Al Barrow 10/01/2012 06:30AM
Re: current thoughts (and review) 287 Kevin 10/01/2012 01:46AM
Re: current thoughts (and review) 244 Figge 10/01/2012 04:09AM
Re: current thoughts (and review) 392 Al Barrow 10/01/2012 12:01AM
Re: current thoughts (and review) 265 Kevin 10/01/2012 01:35AM
Re: current thoughts (and review) 261 Figge 10/01/2012 04:19AM
Re: Thoughts on the new Magnum album (questions for Al Barrow) 441 Al Barrow 09/30/2012 11:56PM
Re: Thoughts on the new Magnum album (questions for Al Barrow) 280 aorneil 10/01/2012 01:25AM
Re: Thoughts on the new Magnum album (questions for Al Barrow) 269 Figge 10/01/2012 04:02AM
Re: Thoughts on the new Magnum album (questions for Al Barrow) 302 Andrew 10/01/2012 10:18AM


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