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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 24 March 2014
Marvelous sounding record from Magnum; I haven't been a fan of this band for very long but it is clear from the very first song "Live 'til you die" that this band mean business; and in hindsight- sort of continues a recent trend of very high quality albums dating back to around 2004's "Brand new morning". With "Escape from the shadow garden" I am now convinced that Magnum are better now than they have ever been:- A comfortable record contract with SPV and a knack for writing versatile, memorable and compelling rock songs as they have always done, is behind the results which are so demonstratively compelling with this latest 18th installment.

"Escape from the shadow garden" follows in a natural progression to "On the 13th day", which I found to be as good a rock album as I have ever heard. The production sounds organic and natural; clear and as perfect a rock sound as you would want. The relative quality of musicianship is also very high:- there is some small elements of classical sounds, with a heavy imprint of the awesome Magnum style, strong musical corridors and a decent array of rock riffs sandwiched comfortably within a set of dynamic and well constructed songs.

A stratospherically high quality of songwriting is testament to Magnum's studio focus, experience and dedication to what they're doing. For me, every song on the album is re-playable and enjoyable; Highlighting the track "Falling for the big plan", it is quite simply a superb song and a key track of the album. Whilst "Too many clowns" will be a surprise to many as there is a distinct metal influence and style underneath it's chunky chorus which remarkably suits the band quite well. I still cannot believe however, that the band have released an LP of this quality so soon- of the back of such a great predecessor just 18 months ago.

I believe there is two versions of this album on CD, a jewel case version with eleven songs -as standard, and also an alternative double 2disc superlative digipak version with "Recorded over six nights in europe" as a bonus and some extra on tour footage in "Too many clowns". So nothing outstandingly special about the extra's then; but as myself having now bought the digipak version, I find it a well pressed, designed and decently presented item- so full marks from me on that note. Definitely recommend a straight purchase of this album; and that is frankly the best artwork I have seen on a rock album since Rush's - Moving Pictures.
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on 24 March 2014
Right from the start this Album oozes classic Magnum with some some great keyboards from Mark Introducing the first track "live Till You Die". Then it just gets better and better as you listen to it with the great vocals from Bob and guitar riffs from Tony. With great solid rock tracks like "Too Many Clowns" and the moving Ballad's like "Don't Fall Asleep" you really have got an album here that showcases magnum at their very best.
As much as I love Magnum I always seem to find a song on every Album that takes me a couple of Listens before I get it! But not on this Album all the tunes had me hooked from the very first listen.
Well done Tony, Bob Mark , Al and Harry (Magnum)
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on 22 November 2016
I have bought most releases from Magnum over the years but although I like the band I am not someone who eulogises over each new release hailing it as the greatest thing since sliced bread, I feel I am more objective. With this in mind, with this review comes a little criticism that has nagged at me for a while. Escape from the Shadow Garden is a good album, of that I have no doubt and yet again Tony Clarkin has written some excellent songs (he usually does!) For me though Tony Clarkin (along with Bob) is Magnum's strength but also, in some ways its weakness: let me explain.
I know many will criticise my last comment and I firmly believe Clarkin to be both an excellent composer and lyricist but, he doesn't appear to be an excellent lead guitarist. Many will say that doesn't matter, but for me anyway, many Magnum songs call for an injection of some gentle fire to truly elevate them from good to great or, as in some cases, from the one paced, one dimensional to very good. Many Magnum songs call for a decent guitar solo or lead fill to make their sound even more expansive and I believe someone like a Vinny Burns in their ranks would have done wonders for Magnum and broadened their appeal even further.
As stated I have bought most of Magnum's output over the years and have seen them live a couple of times so I feel reasonably qualified to be objective when reviewing this.
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on 8 April 2014
After seeing a preview of 'Too Many Clowns' on YouTube, I'll admit that I started to wonder whether or not Magnum might have finally run out of steam, but I'm happy to say that once again, Tony Clarkin has penned yet another album of startling quality.
The first thing that hits you is the cover artwork. For me, this is quite possibly Rodney Matthews finest Magnum album sleeve and there are some interesting parallels with 1983's 'The Eleventh Hour'. The cover recreates the setting of that sleeve whilst tipping the hat to the imagery on other records and the tone/mood of the music on 'Escape From The Shadow Garden', in addition to some of the social commentary and cynicism in the lyrics is very similar to that album. If that wasn't enough, this record reached number 38 on the UK album charts, as did 'The Eleventh Hour'. Spooky eh?
Onto the music; a good way to gauge how good Magnum albums are is to try and picture Bob Catley gesticulating on stage to each track. There's plenty on offer here and from the glorious, galloping pomp rock of opener 'Live to You Die' to the cigarette lighters in the air finale of 'The Valley of Tears', this new album shows Magnum playing to their strengths, but giving it some extra steel.
'Unwritten Sacrifice' and 'Crying in The Rain' have an intensity that I've rarely heard on a Magnum record and the aforementioned 'Too Many Clowns', along with the rollicking 'Burning River' deliver plenty of hard rock crunch. It's not all big rock though; 'Midnight Angel' and 'Don't Fall Asleep' are two superb and reassuringly uncorny ballads.
Magnum are in terrific shape. Bob Catley's vocal performances are bang on the money. He sings his little heart out on every track and remains arguably the most underrated British rock vocalist of his generation. Tony Clarkin delivers soaring, jagged guitarwork and a surprising amount of riffage throughout his finely crafted songs, with Mark Stanway's keyboards adding plenty of symphonic flourishes, depth and textures to the music. Again, the rhythm section of Al Barrow and Harry James on bass and drums respectively is unfussy, yet effective, driving the music home with real power at times and what I love about this music and Magnum in general, is that you don't get many fade outs with their songs. They end properly, which shows a reluctance to be lazy in the studio.
Magnum continue to defy age, fashions and trends and despite a lack of mainstream coverage, they continue to grow their fanbase and creep further and further up national charts, both here and in Europe with each release. 'Escape From the Shadow Garden' is another high end collection of melodic/hard rock with the odd proggy element here and there and when you consider the banality of British music these days, one can only thank the Lord that Magnum are still going strong. God bless 'em.
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on 27 March 2014
I've given this album a few listens to before writing the review as I certainly think this one is a grower. I loved On The 13th Day and thought that it couldnt be topped but Magnum have done their level best to attempt it and I think they have an album as good as the previous one, and may very well be seen as better than in the months to come.

Where 13th Day had a lot of immediate up-tempo numbers Shadow garden opts more for bringing you into the song gradually. Exceptions to this are the excellent all-out rocker Too Many Clowns (which screams single) and Burning River. Midnight Angel is superb and other tracks such as Falling For The Big Plan, Live Til You Die and Unwritten Sacrifice, are all superb both in terms of the structure and the performance of the band. For me the album finishes off with possibly Magnum's best ballad anthem, Valley of Tears, a beautiful song with an uplifting lyric and should go down well live, as the whole album would truth be told.

All in all a class album. Great production bringing the best out of the songs and all the band playing brilliantly. Bob's voice sounds good on this album with Tony really pushing the voice and Bob responding. he really ensures that the emotion of the song carries across. Tony's work on the guitar is as excellent as always. he is undoubtedly the most under-rated guitarist as well as under-rated songwriter in the UK, if not the world. It is a source of sadness that whilst no name one-shot wonders get all the credit, true talents like Magnum barely cause a stir.

I guess the best compliment I can give this album was playing it at a cafe and the other people there asking who the band were and saying what an amazing album it was. Magnum deserve to be far better known than they are. With this album they show again why that is. Whilst other bands in their age range are content to go on greatest hits tours, Magnum keep putting out new material. Always high quality, always with the highest of integrity.
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on 30 March 2014
I pre-ordered this album and nearly cancelled it before it came out due to some financial constraints, but I'm glad I didn't. For me, it's a release that ticks all the boxes straightaway.

Since their reformation - Breath of Life is still an album I play a lot - they've produced some stunning songs with great lyrics and construction that are deep and meaningful - When We Were Younger and Spin Like A Wheel for example.

While they never record a bad song, some just don’t hit the mark and that’s understandable when you realise this group have made 18 studio albums. However, not all have been consistent in terms of that quality. Even though there were some enjoyable tracks on it, I never grew to appreciate Into the Valley of the Moon King and it sits on my shelf in the shadows of Vigilante, On a Storyteller’s Night, and the aforementioned Breath of Life, gathering dust.

Escape from the Shadow Garden I have played three times already and if I was pushed to name a favourite song it would be Falling for the Big Plan. There are some harder ones too like Too Many Clowns and Burning River, and Crying in the Rain is another that grabs my attention. More spins will reveal further strengths and some other songs will come to the fore I'm sure. There is a lot to discover in this one. Quite frankly, I think Tony Clarkin and the boys have excelled themselves this time!

I have read some negative reviews though, mostly from people who seem to want Magnum to revisit their 80s period - which was a defining moment in their career, a classic time and when I became a fan - but they’ve moved on and it seems some of us have happily moved on with them and some haven’t. But that’s the way of things – there was a time when I was a massive Def Leppard fan, but since Steve Clark died and some seriously forgettable releases followed, I wouldn’t give them the time of day now. Not so Magnum, they still cut it for me.

There is only one other band that I buy every time they release a new album and if you’ve been impressed like I have by their post-reformation work, then I’ll recommend this to you. If you haven’t, but you’re still a fan of from their classic era, then I’d urge you to give this a chance.

I was tempted to give it five stars, but on reflection, in my vast collection of music, there are very few five star releases, so I feel it will have to earn that lofty position by repeated hearings. Therefore, a high-end of four stars and I’d recommend it to anyone, Magnum fan or not.
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on 26 March 2014
So, 18 months on, and another new album. Wonderful news! Probably my wife and mine joint favourite band, so we sat and listened non-stop, focussed. Loved nearly all of it straight away, and am determined not to over-play, however tempting it is. How Tony writes album after album, so close together, at his age,(67) I do not know. They should be known to millions but sadly are not. My only slight disappointment is that the 'ballad' Don't Fall Asleep, which is good, is followed by another slow song, Wisdom Had Its Day. It just slowed down the pace too much. Fortunately there is then the penultimate track Burning River which storms along before the nice but, again, a bit slow, finale The Valley of Tears, which will be a 'grower'. This album is probably as good as all since, and including, Brand New Morning (Breath of Life just doesn't do it for me-songs that I just cannot remember, which is odd when followed by every album since). Excellent. Not 5 stars as I feel that should be reserved for the rare all-time best albums. Now to play the new Asia CD, back to the new Wishbone Ash album, and looking forward to the new Ian Anderson and Uriah Heep albums, and the new I.Q. How they all keep doing this is amazing!!

I programmed the CD including 2 of the 4 songs, to keep up the tempo. That avoids too many slow ones, and it's still a whopping 50 minute CD, so no complaints at all.
Two reviews I read elsewhere mentioned that a track has 'borrowed' a well-known riff from Saxon. Tony Clarkin was unaware, and I must say having heard the album, I can't tell...yet...any ideas?
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First thing that catches the eye,is the cover,nearly said sleeve,that would have aged me,it evokes memories of the past,when the sleeve was key,you knew already what you were going to get,this would have had you expecting Uriah Heep-like rock and fantasy,nice nod to the 'Chase the Dragon cover' and if your a fan of ELOY,then the old man looks similar to the wizard on the UK cover of 'Planets'

The fantasy may be short on the ground but the heavy rock isnt,from the fist pumpin' in the air guitar driven rock of 'Live Til You Die' to the crunchin' dirty guitar riff in 'Too Many Clowns' this band is on fire once again.

Throw in the lush keyboards of 'Unwritten Sacrifice' with Bob Cately's raspy voice, taut with emotion,marvel at the(born to be played live),'Midnight Angel',an epic of majestic proportions,you can just see the dry ice billowing across the stage,enjoy the simplicity of 'Burning River' which reminds you of the early 80's.... I could go on and on,you get the drift,they've done it again,3 stunning albums in a row.
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on 4 April 2014
If you are looking at this album because Amazon or someone has suggested it to you, but you don’t know much about the band, then let’s get what will quickly become obvious to you, if you buy this album, out of the way first. Magnum are the most underrated band in the history of rock music. Ever. These guys should be (still) selling out arenas and stadia. But they’re not. And I don’t know why. What I do know is that since reforming. Magnum have consistently, and regularly, put out stronger and stronger albums, and each time they do I worry they won’t be able to top it. They’ve reached their pinnacle. And then along come “Escape From The Shadow Garden” Let’s start with the cover. Another Rodney Matthews original, a nod to the past, with some likening it to “Chase The Dragon” cover. For me , it puts me more in mind of “The Eleventh Hour”, but whatever, it’s a cracking design and gives us a clue that Magnum are indeed getting back to there roots with this new album.

First up we have the obligatory intro, a nice piece of strings and xylophone which opens up with a crash of guitar and drums into the opening of “Live ‘Til You Die”. This is a fine rocker with strong guitar riff and keyboard melodies dancing around it. Bob’s voice enters the fray, and it’s immediately clear that Mr. Catley’s vocal chords are in fine health, thank you very much.

Next is “Unwritten Sacrifice”, with a piano and synth setting the atmosphere for a power ballad. As the first verse ends and goes into the second, however, he comes the guitar and suddenly we’re not in ballad country anymore. With it’s pounding rhythm and sing-a-long chorus that Magnum do so well, it’s one that will be hooked into your brain.

“Falling For The Big Plan” follows on and it’s another slow start with just piano and vocals, before the a touch of percussion picks up the beat and we’re off again. Just over the half way through, and the beat changes and we get a cracking middle eight before Tony decides it’s time people remembered he can play lead as well as rhythm…

Now we’re up to “Crying In The Rain”. An off-beat with-a-punch drum and there’s no sign of a let up from they band. A slow and powerful song.

Now anyone who bought the last album may have done a double-take when they first heard the song “Dance Of The Black Tattoo”, one of the heaviest Magnum songs I have ever heard. Well they’re at it again with “Too Many Clowns”. It’s the first single taken from the album, and one that you suspect will quickly become a crowd favourite live.

My favourite song on the album keeps changing, but currently it this next one – “Midnight Angel”. One tiny, tiny criticism. Why THAT synth sound for Bob to sing over before the guitar kick in? It’s sort of like an electronic bagpipe, and I can’t help wondering if an actual bagpipe might not have been better? Hard to imagine, I know, actually suggesting that bagpipes should be used, but it never hurt “It’s A Long Way To The Top” for AC/DC… That sound may grow on me, or I may think of something better they could have used, and it’s REALLY no biggie. Because this song is not only one of the highlights from the album, it’s one of the Mr Clarkin’s finest compositions for many a year, which in itself, is no mean feat. Seven and a half minutes of genius.

Whatever followed was always going to struggle, but no, “The Art Of Compromise” starts with Bob accompanied by piano once again before opening into another classic Magnum pomp rocker, full of bounce, fist pumping and “Whoa-oh”s.

Eighth track in and we get to the first real ballad. Let’s face it, these guys are old (very old…) hands at these and they ain’t about to drop the ball with a classic power ballad. And who else could write lyrics like “Just let your magic lantern burn” and get away with it…?

Now it feels like I’ve written this before, but “Wisdom’s Had It’s Day” starts with…? Yes just Bob’s vocals over a piano, and your thinking “Again..?” Honestly though, the songs all work so well with the slow build up to and this one is no different. Bob is really starting to push his voice on this and his vocals really start to soar.

Next is “Burning River” and it starts with… Crunching guitars. No delicacy or build up, straight into the heart of a galloping riff that we’ve all come to love

Lastly is “The Valley Of Tears”. Starting like a traditional ballad, it starts to build from around the two minute mark into this MONSTER! Bob’s singing his heart out. His vocals may have developed a slightly cracked edge to them, particularly in these type of songs, but it just makes him sound more powerful and emotional than ever! Everything about this song just makes you feel so uplifted and it’s a fabulous way to end the album. I can see the cigarette lighters already during the live version. Set closer?

In conclusion, over an hour, 63 minutes, of GENIUS. Wonderful stuff and not a dud among them.

6*’s
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on 6 April 2014
I haven't been totally enthused by the albums since Magnum reformed, although the reworked songs on Evolution were a big Iimprovement on the originals. However this album is Magnum back to their best. There are some excellent tracks and I can already see Bob singing them on tour. There are a couple of songs where age has caught up with Bob's voice and his range is not as good as it once was. Nevertheless I have my ticket for the local gig and I am looking forward to seeing/hearing the band live again. Rock on.
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