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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


25/06/04: guillermo - guillerperez@usuariosretecal.es
Rating: 82
Un buen album quizas habria mejorado siendo un poco mas aor pero con todo entretenido y totalmente escuchable

22/06/02: Big Mike - bigmike@knobache.com
Rating: 30
This is not the Magnum I wanted to hear. I thought RockArt was a good album and i was hoping for an album more like that. I didn't get it. The songs just aren't as catchy as of old. "This Heart" is the closest song to the old style, but its the only song I find worth playing. The rest is sub par for mine. The songs aren't as melodic. Why do bands change winning formulas after establishing a fan base, how many bands 'll take a good listen first.

24/04/02: Kevin - rrchas2@yahoo.com
Rating: 90


MAGNUM BREATH OF LIFE


The short version says the best album from Tony Clarkin & Bob Catley since Sleepwalking. If you are looking for an immediate album though, you won't find it here. A lot of people were probably expecting "Wings of Heaven 2", but while there are a lot of "classic" Magnum elements here, the style is closer to Sleepwalking/Rock Art/Hard Rain. The quality isn't quite up to the Storyteller's Night/WOH peak, but when everything comes together on this album, it's hard to find a complaint. As mentioned elsewhere, Mark Stanway is a key force in holding this album together and bringing the Magnum sound back. He really is one of the best keyboard players around and gives this album an extra dose of class that really help the songs. The only complaint I can come up with is that a drum machine was used for some of the songs and the songs suffer because of it. A few of the songs have a session drummer in there and the quality is lifted immensely by the presence of real drums.

Sony by song…

Cry….nice guitar riff and verse, but the chorus just doesn't work. As mentioned, there is a bit of a Hard Rain sound to this song. It does get better with repeated listens, but just doesn't match the overall quality of the rest of the songs here.

This Heart….starts off sounding pretty heavy, but then subsides to a nice mid-tempo pop rocker. The verse is a little strange on first listen, but by the time the chorus hits, you will be hooked.

Everyday….very Wings of Heaven-ish, and maybe--to be closer--something akin to "Wild Swan" without all the time changes. If there were any doubts about this being "Hard Rain 3" instead of a new Magnum album, this should convince you otherwise. This isn't the pop side of Magnum, but the more straight-ahead hard rock side, even though the song is mid-tempo. Nice instrumental break towards the end.

Still….This was originally a demo for the 3rd HR album with Sue McCloskey doing the vocals. Now, Bob Catley gets his chance on the slightly reworked version and sounds better than ever. Mark Stanway's keys play a huge role in this song. All I can say here is this is a classic Magnum pop rocker, and the song literally takes off with no returning when the instrumental break starts. Soundwise, you are talking about a mixture of classic Magnum and Hard Rain and it's hard to find a fault here.

Dream About You….ballad #1. This is Bob Catley's turn to shine and he takes a good ballad and makes it a lot more with his emotional delivery. Nice break from the rocking and another fine addition to the Magnum ballads. Chorus works really well on this one.

Breath of Life….one of the more interesting Magnum songs. The pace is mid-tempo and moody, and while not the song that will hit you first, the song just grows and grows and becomes very hard to forget. Sound is sorta in the Sleepwalking-vein and probably wouldn't sound too out of place there.

After the Rain….back to the pop-rock style and one of the easier-accessible tracks. Mark Stanway's intricate keyboards are the guiding force here and it really shows how important he is to the sound of the band. Very nice song.

That Holy Touch….here is where the Hard Rain influence makes it's presence known (along with "Cry"). Very guitar driven and a funky sound. A very hard-hitting chorus with a driving drum beat behind it. Not my favorite song on the album, but not a filler either.

Let Somebody In….Starts with just Bob's voice and a piano. A sad-sounding Magnum ballad with a chorus that fits the song very well. Reminds me a bit of a darker version of "Back in Your Arms Again" from the Rock Art album.

The Face of an Enemy….Back to the rockers again, and a very Bon Jovi-ish guitar sound from Tony Clarkin. Soundwise is a mixture of Hard Rain and Rock Art. Not the strongest chorus on the album, but the song does grow on you. I like the bridge a lot on this one.

Just Like January….the last two songs here are a serious throwback to "classic" Magnum. This one starts off very slowly with some eerily-sounding piano before jumping into one of the most powerful choruses of the album. Not sure how to describe it, but if you like the epic Magnum songs, this will not disappoint. The end of the song flows into…

Night After Night….a VERY impressive 2 minute opening guitar solo by Tony Clarkin starts off this song, and it's some of his best guitar work to date. The song is mid-tempo and feels like a closing song with the lyrics and musical sentiment. Sounds like "classic" Magnum again and the big chorus fits the song so well. Nice backing vocals on the chorus also behind Bob Catley's always excellent lead vocal. When Magnum is at this epic, dramatic style…there are few bands that can equal them and the last 2 songs really let this album end on a high point.

09/04/02: Freddy De Keyzer - freddydekeyzer@hotmail.com
Rating: 80
Glad these guys are back and in good form. Not the very high standard of their top, but nevertheless they offer us once again a very good record.
These guys have the class and they never really disappoint their fans ! Another good one for the collection of every melodic fan !

27/03/02: Paul Kean - PAULBLUESMAN@AOL.COM
Rating: 65
I thought long and hard before posting this review....It's now been a few weeks since I bought the album and despite repeated plays I'm afraid it just leaves me cold....and that is extremely disappointing as Magnum are a band I love.
The major concern for me is it is SO hard to get past the VERY poor production..Come on guys..programmed drums..What's all that about?!..The punch and impact that the songs may have had are immediately lost due to this fact.
Sure there are good moments but hey this is MAGNUM we're talking about!!...When you expect brilliance..average comes as such a letdown.
The songs I feel ..whether it is due to the production entirely do not quite reach the heights of previous Magnum (and I'm not living in the past by saying this....On the recent tour they were excellent..BUT again the new material failed to hit the mark)
The thing is we ALL know these guys are capable of so much better and lets keep fingers crossed that the next album recaptures the sound we love....And guys..real bloody drums next time if you don't mind!

17/03/02: Alister Hill - alisterhill@yahoo.com
Rating: 91
Considering that I am a straight down the line early to mid Magnum is best freak plenty of people are going to be surprised when I say that Breath of Life is almost my favourite ever Magnum album! It seems that a lot of Magnum fans are struggling with various aspects of the reborn band and I can certainly understand some of the difficulties that are being experienced in those dark, sound filled rooms. Yes, the production is puzzlingly poor in places and yes, some of the drums are pale shadows of reality. However I urge everyone who places this CD into a player to plug themselves into the soul rather than the surface of this record. Once you do, I can almost guarantee that your jaw will drop in recognition of an absent genius returned. Again let me state my corner - to me, Magnum equals Les Morts Dansant, Soldier of the Line, So Cold the Night, Wild Swan... and I think Breath of Life captures the spirit that breathed within the walls of those and many other Magnum anthems. The riff that pins Face of an Enemy down in sweet merciless grandeur rivals the dance of the Vigilante. The emotion in Bob's voice as he begs one and all to Let Somebody In wrenches that very same gasp from the being that was uttered when the Sacred Hour was first spent. The return of Mark Stanway reminds us of the true joy of a beautiful melody played with fervent talent and genuine pleasure. Breath of Life gives to us, in my honest opinion, some of the most 'Magnum' music of all time. Bob's voice is more than ever like that last shot of fiery cognac from the dusty yet shining bottle that has been on the shelf for just the right number of echoing years. Tony's guitar playing is among the most emotive he has ever laid down in a studio. And the songs themselves drip with class, both instrumentally and lyrically. Without a doubt this is Tony's best set of songs since Sleepwalking and as time tests them they may well measure up to the very best. Long may this Breath of Life blow.

15/03/02: Alvaro Pinto Junior - alvaropintojunior@bol.com.br
Rating: 70
A good and solid album, but sounds too much like hard rain for my taste! Anyway, if you like Bob Catley you must check it out!

15/03/02: john ruggiero - js.ruggiero@btinternet.com
Rating: 85
Magnum are back together and that is great news, I have just seen them live on the new tour and I can confirm they are sounding as good as ever. The set list included 4 songs off the new album and the rest were all classics. I must give a special mention to Harry James who looks and sounds as though he's been with them for years.
The new album was always going to be an anti climax, I was like many others expecting some vintage material, but it was not to be. However what we have is an excellent album which grows and grows the more you listen. I would place it between Sleepwalking and the debut Hard Rain. I also feel that the production could have been sharper but I am just happy they are back and I feel the next album will be the one that everybody wants them to put out.Any true fan will be happy with this album.

13/03/02: Craig Bishop - bisho72@optushome.com.au
Rating: 78
Being a MAGNUM fan of almost 20 years it is hard to review a new album without being biased, but...after listening to this album several times I really cannot get into this. For starters, is it just me or is TONY'S songwriting just a shadow of its former self? Only a couple real of moments of brilliance (namely STILL). The production is terrible. The whole album sound flat with way too much echo in the mix! If you are going to call it a MAGNUM album then why start with what I would call a HARD RAIN leftover(CRY)? After the particularly weak GOODNIGHT L.A, I had almost written them off. They then came back with a vengeance on SLEEPWALKING and ROCK ART. Hopefully they will do the same with the next album.

P.S: Die Hard Fans - It is worth owning just for the 3 bonus tracks on the first pressing(The Flood live is excellent!)

12/03/02: David Nicholson - bothdaves@aol.com
Rating: 90
This MAGNUM album is definitley a must for all fans of Magnum and Hard Rain, a well recieved comeback album and the highlight of the music is Mr Mark Stanway and his keyboards give it that Magnum feel especially on songd such DREAM ABOUT YOU and STILL,
plus Tony Clarkin and his classic songwriting at its best.
MAGNUM welcome Back and keep making excellent music.

08/03/02: Mike Matney - matneym@yahoo.com
Rating: 90
As I am probably one of the biggest Magnum fans around, I may be a little biased, but here goes!

The tracks!

1. Cry - Probably the most "Hard Rain" sounding track on the album. A nice drum and keyboard intro start this song out. I can see this song being the opening song on the tour. Some nice tasty licks from Tony and a semi funky bass from Al. This should really be good live.

2. This Heart - This song has lots of classic Magnum elements to it. The vocals, song structure, and the chorus scream "Magnum". Certain parts have a vibe similar to the song "radioactive" by the Firm. A nice tune.

3. Everyday - I think everyone has heard this one already so I there isn't much I could add. I will say that it sounds much better than the version on the net. I really like this song.

4. Still - The sound bytes don't do justice to this song. This song sounds like it could have come right off of Rock Art. Classic Magnum.

5. Dream About You - Another typical high quality Tony Clarkin ballad. This has a Wings of Heaven feel to it.

6. Breath of Life - A nice mid tempo song that sounds similar to something off of Sleepwalking. A real grower the more I listen to it.

7. After the Rain - Nice title! :-) Some really nice piano work by Mark to set the mood for this song. This is another really nice mid temp song. Lots of classic Magnum elements.

8. That Holy Touch - Another semi funky tune. This one would have fit in on the Hard Rain S/T. Just has that vibe to it.

9. Let Somebody In - Another typical Tony Clarkin ballad. What more can I say??

10. The Face of an Enemy - Some wha wha peddle work from Tony here to start it off. This is the "hardest" sounding song on the album. I would really like to hear this one live. Sounds like Magnum, don't know how else to describe it.

11. Just Like January - Starts out nice and quiet. Then the chorus comes in big and loud. Then it softens a little. Then the chorus. Nice sounding song.

12. Night After Night - Starts right out nice and slow, with some atmospheric keyboards and a nice little guitar solo. Then the rest of the band kicks in. The song is another mid-tempo tune with all of the classic Magnum elements to it.

Ok, let me state right away that if you are expecting Wings of Heaven Part II you will be disappointed. This album fits squarely in the Sleepwalking/Rock Art/1st Hard Rain in style, with a modern edge. It takes a few spins to really sink in. It has lots of classic Magnum moments, but sounds fresh and new to me. The two tracks everyone has heard so far are a good indication of how this album sounds. A lot of songs on here are going to sound fantastic live!

The performances on the album are top notch. Some really nice guitar work from Tony on this album. Mark Stanway sounds as great as ever. Al Barrow does an outstanding job on bass. Bob's vocals are as wonderful as ever. As for the burning question on everyone's mind, I am talking about the drums here, they sound fine to me. I think some of it is most likely computer generated, but I would have to say that a live drummer was used on here also. Maybe a mix of the two? Doesn't matter to me because the sound and mix are very good. Why Tony isn't in demand as a producer is beyond me...Lyrically, typical Tony Clarkin, enough said!

Bottom line: Magnum are back!!! This isn't the Magnum from 1987 but I wasn't expecting that. But it is definitely Magnum. Great album and hopefully lots more to come. -

07/03/02: Noddy - jonferg@nortelnetworks.com
Rating: 85
A good album, if not a great one, however it is a grower and when the shakedown comes this Christmas, it will surely be near the top of my list of albums of the year. More Hard Rain than Magnum? Heard and read a lot of comments along those lines and having played the CD through several times now I would have to say it is very much a Magnum album. The Hard Rain albums offered very little in the way of memorable songs - Rage On from the debut and Rock me in ya'cradle from ....Good Times the exceptions.
The running order on Breath of Life does the album no favours, as opener "Cry" is rather stiff and lacking melody, whereas the closing brace of "Just Like January" and "Night after night" prove to be exactly what Magnum fans are looking for - dramatic, melodic and epic. The other stand out is the smooth, seductive title track and long standing preview track "Everyday" is an honest Clarkin stomper.
the one thing that puzzles me about this album is the question the drummer / lack of drummer. I have to say, had I not read so much about the fact there was no drummer on the album, I would not have noticed. Then there is the question of why Mickey Barker's photo is in the sleeve notes, but his name is not!!!
A welcome return to flag bearers of British pomp!

07/03/02: John Trimbos - john.trimbos@ashursts.com
Rating: 85
Hmm, a hard CD to review. It sounds like a cross between Magnum and Hard Rain , but then I loved the first Hard Rain album in particular. There's certainly a Magnum classic here in the form of Everyday, with Just Like January and Night After Night not far behind. And Tony Clarkin's guitar playing is much more aggressive than before, which is really great. So overall I think this CD is pretty good stuff, not quite in the same league as Wings of Heaven or Goodnight LA, but not far off.


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