on 31 March 2007
As a Magnum fan for 25 years, it is always with a sense of excited anticipation that I first play their latest album. This album defiantly does not disappoint but like a good barrel of ale, my first hasty play was disappointing & I had to let it settle with time to experience its full depth & character.
The dominate theme of the album is a `reflective nature' in both style & lyrics. Tracks recapture the style, spirit & sound of past Magnum albums: Eyes Wide Open (Storytellers), Like Brothers We Stand (Rock Art), Out Of The Shadows (Soldier of the Line, Chase the Dragon), You'll Never Sleep (Sleepwalking); While many of the songs, lyrically, have veteran Tony searching the past philosophically.
Unfortunately the album does have a couple of weak tracks: Be strong, staggers around never flowing & really coming together, & Desperate times is too reflective & negative. The original Magnum albums had 8 to 9 tracks. Maybe these days there is too much pressure to release a lot of material to make an album financially attractive?
However, take these two tracks away & add the solid classic Magnum performances: When We Were Younger & Dragons Are Real, & you have Magnums best album yet.
Well done guys. Look forward to hopefully seeing you on tour.
on 6 April 2007
This long awaited album was received with great anticipation by myself and my wife. As long-time Magnum fans we longed for new material from the boys - and they have NOT disappointed us, What an absolutely storming album Princess Alice is, Magnum at their very best. Some tracks a little heavier than usual but Bob's soaring vocals, Tony's superb guitar work and Mark with his evocative keyboard sounds, all backed up by the solid drums and base of the "new boys". Stand out track for me is "Inside Your Head" with "Like Brothers we Stand" close behind, but the whole set is Classic Magnum. This latest offering takes Magnum into a new era and their fans follow willingly. This is superb!
I like this album. It offers well produced, balanced and typically Magnum melodic rock. "Dragons are Real" is a thundering example, as is the haunting "Like Brothers we Stand". This is not the "Oh please, you should have stopped long before you got to this" you might fear. Well put together: on first listening its good - almost very good. Each track earns its place, and I can't see any fillers. It feels like an album that will grow on me.
So why not 5 stars?
With apologies to any loyal fans I'm about to upset - and hey, I really like this band - to me, Magnum so often seem to fall just a little short of the mark. This sensation is particularly keen with album, because if feels like this one mattered: it doesn't come across as something they churned out for the sake of it. In many of the songs here I can't help feeling: where's the beef? After listening to "Princess Alice" a few times I realised I keep anticipating the point where the song just takes off and flies - intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, and THEN: lead break, where the music takes over. And it just never does. It all feels like prelude with no main event. The curtain raises, the stage is set, and then... nothing. Think of "Don't Fear the Reaper" without the guitar break in the middle, and you'd have what I mean - it would be a good song, but not great. The lead break four minutes into "You'll never sleep" (which is one of several good tracks here) is an example - it's OK, but the song is crying out for some real screaming fireworks here, not the workday hammer-on, pull-off riff and a touch of whammy bar we get here. And there are hints from their live work that this band has more in them (see "Kingdom of Madness" live, for example).
The thing is, this feels as if it could have been a five or even six star album, if someone (the producer?) had pushed them to go flat out, and sent them back to the studio with a "that's really great, lads. Now get back in there and do better," until they'd given every last thing they'd got. As it is, "Princess Alice" is a good, solid, well made piece of work. It's worth every penny, good value, and good ingredients, and I have no reservations about that - this is a firm "buy", or at least "get a copy and listen" recommendation, not damming with faint praise. But it's not to die for, and it's not utterly essential - altough it's so close, it might have been. I can't help feeling that Magnum (Bob Catley, Tony Clarkin, Mark Stanway and the new guy) have more in them, and that they could, if they could just get it absolutely spot on, blow us away. Maybe live, "Princess Alice" will.
Tony Clarkin has apparently said that this "really is one of the best, most complete and rounded records we have ever made" (quoted in "Rock of Ages" online), and I'd agree. Maybe it's one of the best albums Magnum can make - and if so, it's a very creditable piece of work, and fine stuff. But there are hints of something more in here. Meantime: if you're asking should I buy this, I'd say yes, definitely. This might not be five Michelin stars, but its a good solid meal for the working man or woman.
on 28 March 2007
(Have the version with the bonus DVD, but the songs are the same)
I actually pre-ordered this - the anticipation was that intense! I'd been slightly disappointed with the previous two..safe in my estimation, but Alice does not disappoint.
At first quick flick through, you already begin to know a few tunes, and after a handful of entire run-throughs, the rest are opening up nicely.
The speed and agression of teenage angst (never really their style, but they dabbled) has been replaced by middleaged technically supreme epic stories with measured pace - which is fine, because punk this aint - it's "music" for the more discerning, not pop-pap to be forgotten!
Bob and Tony hope this will be their best ever....not sure yet, only time will tell. Probably won't dislodge Storyteller, and possibly a couple of others, but it's already one of my top 5 Magnum albums...which is good going when you look at the fantastic releases they have produced - I reckon they'll always be my favourite band.
To the songs (sorry about the waffle!)....
Dragons are real - swirling and atmospheric.
Your lies - foot-tapping, nice dirty guitar underslung with hummalong keyboard.
Be strong - funky fist pumping.
Eyes wide open - lots of change to hold the interest.
Like brothers we stand - storied semi-plodder.
Out of the shadows - 'waterloo teeth' legend epic.
Thank you for the day - live classic swayalong show-ender.
When we were younger - lament on youth gone by with drive.
You'll never sleep - warms up to be a nice romp with a nice change of pace in the middle.
Different times & Inside your head are the 'plodders', they haven't fully engraced themselves yet.
To sum up - fantastic album - buy it!
on 12 April 2007
Magnum have never recorded a truly disppointing album (even their controversial reunion CD "Breath of Life" had some genius touches to it) but "Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow" is a totally unexpected return of the immaculate brilliance the band's fans remember from the "On A Storyteller's Night" era. Tracks like "When We Were Younger", "Be Strong" or "You'll Never Sleep" are incredibly catchy, "Like Brothers We Stand" is a bit lazier with impressive vocals from Bob Catley and "Eyes Wide Shut" is a less typical Magnum track - somehow "colder" but still beautiful and quite unforgettable. And, in all honesty, all other songs on the album are fresh and filled with great melodies only Magnum can come up with. Show me a better 2007 album with this sort of music and I swear I'll eat Tony Clarkin's guitar.
The Bonus DVD sports interviews with the band members, a doc "The Making Of Prince Alice And The Broken Arrow", the studio video for the song "Dragons Are Real" and a slideshow with exclusive pictures.
on 15 February 2008
I can imagine Tony Clarkin writing and completing this album in the full and firm knowledge that it was the absolute pinnacle of everything he has done, which is remarkable given the longevity of their career. It basically squeezes the best bits of every previous Magnum album and distils it into something quite magnificent. To these ears it's perfecting the basic sound of Storyteller, but with a much bigger sound (production, vocals, keyboard and vocals wise) and much stronger melodies. Its noteworthy that Catley's vocals are absolutely superb on this and I guess the overall performances are lifted by the sheer quality of the songs (I particularly like the drum patterns and sound).
My one and only slight concern is that, unlike my favourite Magnum album `The Eleventh Hour' which is both quirky and darker, this is so immediately accessible and memorable that it may suffer in my play list in the longer term - only time will tell.
on 20 April 2007
A worthy successor to Brand New Morning showing progressive development and a really fine production. True, a couple of the tracks demonstrate Clarkin's predilection for quirky changes of pace and style in the middle breaks, but there is a noticable tightness to the band and the production. There's a couple of typically anthemic Magnum songs - "Dragons are Real" is a corker - and I'm anxiously awaiting the live gig to see how they manage to put across some of the more complex acoustic/electric mixes. I can't agree with some of the documentary commentary about Bob's voice - it's still fabulous and he can still belt it out, but he'll never get back that easy, imperious vocal agility and power he demonstrated on Vigilante. It's a good job his current best is SO much better than most others. Yep, Magnum can still rock, boys and girls..........
on 11 August 2007
Having been a fan for more years than I can remember, although I do remember the deathly silence and then the smiles that greeted a group of friends huddled around a record player in a loft when playing Chase the Dragon for the first time or the only concert that I have ever been to where I experienced 'white noise' (The opening of Story tellers night in the Hammersmith Odeon) I had of late been singularly depressed with the output of the band for example; I cannot remember the title of the album prior to this, I bought it, listened to it, really tried to like it, and then discarded it. But having been with them since Magnum II and bought every album along the way I bought this. All i can say is welcome back this album is great; returning to what they do best, honest rock, great songs excellent riffs and good song writing; The band to my mind occupy a unique place in British Rock Music and this album serves as a reminder of their talent. It runs like a sledgehammer through the sensitive young men placed at piano's offering angst only glimpsed at through novels or the female artists hyped as connected but in the end sadly the same.
This is rock as it was meant to be, in your face and yet at the same time carrying personal convictions that ring true.
Welcome back, I look forward to seeing you on the road, and last of all thank you.