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MAGNUM
BREATH OF LIFE

SPV
Produced by: Tony Clarkin

Released: OUT NOW / Website
Closest Relative: Hard Rain
GENRE: AOR
OVERALL: 80%

  1. Cry
  2. This Heart
  3. Everyday
  4. Still
  5. Dream About You
  6. Breath Of Life
  7. After The Rain
  8. That Holy Touch
  9. Let Somebody In
  10. The Face Of An Enemy
  11. Just Like January
  12. Night After Night

I have a lot of feelings towards this album, but I will try and make those points as brief as possible!
Firstly - regardless of anything - it's great to see Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin back together again and I look forward to more Magnum albums over the next few years. They are after all, a classic act.
It's obviously been a while since the last Magnum album - Rock Art in 1994. There was of course the two Hard Rain albums - the most recent of which was in 1999.
This album took an awfully long time to click with me - longer than any other Magnum album. It finally has, but certainly not all of it.
Breath Of Life is as much a Hard Rain re-union as it is a Magnum re-union. The mix of the four guys involved between the two bands is equal - (Tony, Bob and Al Barrow: Hard Rain) & (Tony, Bob and Mark Stanway: Magnum).
I was not a big fan of Hard Rain or their sound and unfortunately some of the influence from those two albums remains on this recording.
My main beef is that the sometimes manufactured sound of Hard Rain is replicated here.
The use of drum machines and synth programs to fill in for a studio drummer on several tracks also affects the album in places.
Most Magnum albums prior to this have featured better production quality and a fuller sound.
The big difference for the positive, is the return of Magnum keyboardist Mark Stanway.
His contribution to the sound of this album cannot be under stated in any way. He is much of the key to this album - supplying the rich textures that take the simple rock songs into more pompish proportions and filling out the sound.
Had the guys bought in a drummer for all the album's tracks, I have no doubt this would have been better still.
However, thankfully, in places we are indeed blessed with some classic Magnum songs.
They do require more work as far as listening and learning than past albums, but they are there and their charms to become apparent.
Rather than a return to the glory days of Wings Of Heaven or On A Storytellers Night, this album is part Hard Rain, part Rock Art and a (very small) part Sleepwalking (one my favourite albums!).
To kick things off, we have an impressive intro that falls flat as Cry kicks in. I think this track should never have been allowed to open this album. It's not a song suitable to open an album and it certainly doesn't match the quality of other tracks.
You are much better placed to start the album with the excellent This Heart. This high-tech rocker has a better intro, a better melody and much better chorus. The inclusion of a real drummer would have placed it right over the top! Mark Stanway helps make this song what it is.
Everyday has all the feel of a Magnum epic. It's slow to mid pace, builds in tempo and comes close to the band's classic sound. However, at the most important stage, the chorus is somewhat tarnished by a poor 'plodding' drum sound. Otherwise the feel and delivery of the song is spot on.
Still features Stanway at his solo best, tinkering away throughout and introducing a sweet sounding pop rocker that shows great promise as it moves on. And thankfully the song delivers in a big way. The chorus thunders in and the fists get raised into the air as you sing along. Nicely done lads - one of the albums best and most classic songs.
Dream About You is the band in their lighters-in-the-air power ballad mode and is again headed by some fine Stanway keyboards. This is a sweet moody and emotional song with another strong chorus. A fan favourite I am sure.
Breath Of Life has the air of an epic about it, but is standard in length. It's one of those Magnum songs that starts slow and moody and builds towards a climax. However, I don't think that climax is as strong as it could have been, but the track does have power and does grow on you.
It also features some smooth Sleepwalking style harmony vocals.
After The Rain again starts slow, but features a stronger chorus and more involvement from Mark Stanway. The addition of a bridge before the chorus adds to the song's quality and likeability.
That Holy Touch is mid tempo again, but is rescued by a strong and rather robust hard rocking chorus. Not one of the catchier songs of the album, but being a little different helps it stand out.
Let Somebody In is another classic Magnum ballad and like Dream About You is very enjoyable and features a strong anthem like chorus.
The Face Of An Enemy features Tony Clarkin playing his Bon Jovi best guitar licks. The uptempo nature of the song is welcomed. As enjoyable as the song is, the chorus is not as strong as it could have been.
Just Like January is yet another mid-tempo number, and another that features a hard hitting powerful chorus.
Night After Night is the album's obligatory epic track. The song features a 2 minute opening sequence of excellent soloing from Clarkin, backed by mood enhancing keyboard work. Once the song gets going, it doesn't really get going. But it does feature strong vocals and a great chorus with some well placed big backing vocals.
BOTTOM LINE: Bob Catley is in fine vocal form throughout and is a treat to listen to. His work with Tony Clarkin is always outstanding. As I said earlier, keyboardist Mark Stanway is the key to the album, helping bring the songs to life. The band needs to hire a permanent drummer and work on creating a better consistency in the music. At 12 tracks, the pace of the songs is too similar. I am not saying it has to rock - Magnum created a brilliant ballad driven album in Sleepwalking, but some extra variation is needed.
Most importantly, Clarkin needs a few better songs. For a man who spend the best part of 20 years writing classics, we all know he has it in him. I just hope the next album is a little closer to the Magnum we all know and love.
Those gripes aside, this is still a solid album and it is always a treat to hear Bob and Tony together. i might add that it blows the two Hard Rain albums out of the water.
PRODUCTION: 70% SONGS: 85% VIBE: 80%ATTITUDE: 85%
ESSENTIAL FOR: Most fans of Magnum and Bob Catley, all fans of Hard Rain.
RECENT DISCOGRAPHY:On A Storyteller's Night . Vigilante . Wings of Heaven . Goodnight LA . Rock Art . Breathe Of Life; Hard Rain - 2 albums & Bob Catley - 3 solo CDs



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