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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 15 May 2009
When a band releases an album as good as 2007's "Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow", it can sometimes prove a little tricky to produce a follow-up that will please the fans as much. Expectation has been raised, and bands often founder attempting to deliver its promise.

Luckily for fans of Magnum, "Into the Valley of the Moonking" should meet those raised expectations. Whilst the album is perhaps not as instantly accessible as the Princess Alice album, it does prove on repeated listening (I've heard it four times now) to be as good, if not better, than its predecessor.

I think this difference is due to the fact that "Into the Valley of the Moonking" is a more varied album than Princess Alice: it's more varied compositionally and the instrumentational arrangements are richer. These aspects take time to absorb. But worry not, this album has the hallmark Magnum sound alright - great rockers with catchy riffs, power ballads with hooks to reel you in, and impressive musical performances from singer Bob Catley and the rest of the band.

A string-synth prelude ("Intro") leads us into "Cry to Yourself", a fairly standard Magnum rocker (that's a compliment by the way, not a criticism!). "All My Bridges" and "Take Me to the Edge", however, really bring out the fireworks! The pace is raised, Tony Clarkin's guitar really comes alive in these tracks but, even here, the composition is clever, not allowing the songs to become boring. "All My Bridges" opens with a "Pinball Wizzard" style piano run before the high-tempo rock kicks in, then hte verses are sung to a quieter synth-driven backing, before the guitar comes in with a vengeance again for the choruses and the outro. It's ace! Similarly, "Take Me to the Bridge" has some real steel about it - definitely a contender for "track of the album" - superb riff kicking off, lightening up for the verse, back with a vengeance for the chorus. Wow!

The song which is the title track, "The Moonking", is very clever and very good indeed, it's a real "grower". Songwriter (and guitarist) Tony Clarkin has added an extra layer to the normal verse-chorus-verse structure. Here, before the verse, we have an additional section, played and sung in a slow-tempo blues format. The verse and chorus return to more "normal" Magnum styles. So, blues-verse-chorus, repeat, then the bridge section becomes the blues-verse done instrumentally before the chorus comes in. There are some neat musical transitions between these sections. Frankly stunning and well done Mr. Clarkin.

This trio of songs is probably the highest peak of the album. The standard continues to be very high, but these three are going to take some beating!

"No One Knows His Name" is honouring the bravery of the individual soldier, a fine musical tribute it is too."In My Mind's Eye" starts as another "standard" Magnum (more praise!), features a pretty keys&guitar arrangement in the bridge, and goes out with a stonking rock vocal from Bob. Impressive!

"If I Ever Lose My Mind" is another of these good "standard" Magnum rockers, sandwiched by a couple of impressive power ballads. First comes "In My Mind's Eye", in which acoustic guitar is very prominent: the start of the bridge section is very wistful, then there is a slight musical "rest", and you wait with bated breath for the leccy guitar to come swooping in, but no, another Clarkin trick, he delivers a superb acoustic guitar solo. Woof! On the return to the ballad, the electric guitar is there, lowish in the mix - very effective stuff! The other sandwich layer, "A Face in the Crowd", is very catchy, good single material - this would be a great arena sing-along if the band were that big!

Two tracks to go - wham! Raise the tempo! "Feels Like Treason" has all the band in fine form for another pacey rocker! Finally, "Blood on Your Barbed Wire Thorns" (how's that for a title?) leaves me with goose-bumps every time I hear it. It's a great closing number, opening with a super rock-riff, features some fine work on the keys going into the chorus, great bridge section, great guitar soloing - excellent head-banging material here - and then, it just leaves me in pieces on the outro: not quite mirroring the album's prelude "Intro", but very cleverly done, the lush melodic string-synths come in and the piano....the piano...wow!

Now - that's music! Rock on!

A word about the production. I have the CD version of the album - not the Digipack or the vinyl LP - the production sound is very "live" sounding (which I quite like as a personal preference). The bass is quite prominent and you may have to adjust your hi-fi settings and turn the "loudness" button off. I wouldn't call it a bad production however, and the effort getting the sound right is well worth it.

Excellent album! Next, please!!
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on 23 July 2009
The great Brummie pompsters just keep getting better and better! Tony Clarkin's lyrics and Bob Catley's crystal clear vocals shine out on this their 15th studio album. They leave the best to last too, try not to hum along with the final track after a few listens. A much underestimated band, great fun live and very very addictive!
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on 8 August 2009
It's always a treat to hear a new magnum album.Infact,they are the only band who's albums i would purchase on the day of release.
As for this new one,I hate it when people say "it's the best they've done since...", usually only a few days after it's been released.I've given it a couple of months to settle down and really get to know it and I can confidently say it's every bit as good as Princess Alice,and in my opinion the best they've done since they reformed about 8 years ago.
It's a very solid and consistant album and there are no songs I tend to skip.
Personal favourites are moonking,A face in the crowd and Barbed wire thorns.These would fit in easily with their classic songs from the past and I hope they are played during the upcoming UK tour.
Magnum have slowly matured and very nicely too.Tony's guitar still has that lovely chunky sound and Bob's voice is as emotional and powerful as ever (it is a little gravelly now,but I think that adds to it's charm).
It's an easy recommendation for people who loved magnum in the 70's-80's and wonder how they are sounding today,and also for those who loved Princess Alice. (although there is no song on the CD quite as strong as Alice's opener- When we were younger).
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on 28 August 2014
Not there best album by a far way, but this one takes me back to MAGNUM of the early 80s for some reason, maybe its hearing acoustic guitar and piano again, 4 songs really stand out for me, Cry To Yourself → a really catchy chorus and some nice guitar work,
Time To Cross That River→ acoustic work by Tony Clarkin very good, A Face In The Crowd → this is the one that Bob Catley shows what a great vocalist he is, and then there's one of those very good last tracks that MAGNUM seem to pull off on most of there albums, Blood On Your Barbed Wire Thorns→ a big time song with lots of twists and turns, also comes with a very good DVD.
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on 28 February 2014
I have been a Magnum fan for yonks and not surprisingly their music has changed over the years. Whilst on the 13th Day is good to play in the car (even though the band has lost its way a tad), this album is mediocre at best and it feels like the songs that were not good enough for its predecessor. The tracks sound a bit samey and nothing really grabs me. I shall give it another chance on my next long car journey but it could end up being whizzed out of the window.
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on 25 February 2014
Since reforming, Magnum go from strength to strength. The songs are well written, and played amazingly. great album. buy it if your a fan, try it if your not. I bought Chase the Dragon because I liked the cover (I was young with money) and been a big fan since. this album is every bit as good.
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on 8 September 2009
...Unmistakably Magnum, but not of old - Music is professional but you won't find melodies and lyrics/mood changes etc, as found on Chase the Dragon, Vigilante, On a Story Tellers night. I don't know why. It's not just nostalgia on my part - those songs were great. These songs are ordinary and very samey. To summarise, I think they lack imagination.
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on 7 January 2010
At a time when most people had written this group off as perennial all so rans, Clarkin well and truly hit the jackpot with Princess Alice. Immediately accessible due to its lavish melodies and intricate craftsmanship, it was almost as if after years of trying Clarkin had literally stumbled across the perfect Magnum sound - a bit of Vigilante, a dollop of Story Teller and a dash of Eleventh Hour, all wrapped in a noughties context, both in the music style and the superb production. My only complaint was that it was a little too nutritious, a bit too slick to be a repeat player. Without much chance to find out we get a follow up to gorge on. Big question is whether Princess was a one off - a creative zenith not to be repeated. Well surprise, surprise, Clarkin has pulled it off again. The formula of Alice is obviously learnt and repeated here but the coup de grace is the fact that the strength of the predecessor is actually built upon. Moonking is not as accessible on first spin, but when listened to a few times the brilliance becomes apparent. Crunchy production has tightened and hardened up the guitar sound, but the songs' grandeur really lies in the perfect balance of Catley's singing and the rich melodies of the lavish keyboards. The drums sound more straight-forward than the last album, which, coupled with the beefier guitar, gives a bigger overall punch to the songs. Highlights abound, most notably in the beautifully crafted title track, but the whole works perfectly. This is possibly the most complete Magnum piece to date - shame it took Clarkin what seems like 200 years of trying (admirably) to achieve it. In a nut shell - beautifully crafted melodic and uplifting songs with great production and that all important Magnum passion holding the whole thing together. Brilliant.
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on 13 October 2009
There aren't many bands out there with over 30 years recording history who can knock out album after album of top quality material. Magnum are one of them. Guitarist/songwriter Tony Clarkin seems to have a bottomless reserve of material and 'Into The Valley Of The Moonking' is yet another masterwork.
There has been a lot of criticism on these pages regarding the title of the record. I think it's a great title which marries itself to Rodney Matthews' cover artwork beautifully. Let's not forget the titles of previous Magnum albums over the years: 'Kingdom Of Madness', 'Chase The Dragon', 'On A Storytellers Night' and 'Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow'. The title of this latest record is hardly new territory.
As for the music on '...Moonking', whereas the previous studio album 'Princess Alice...' was a colourful, powerful and at times boisterous set, this album is thoughtful and contemplative with a mellow feel. There's a fine mixture of electric and acoustic guitars, and Bob Catley's vocal sounds at times world weary which really gives the lyrics a genuine depth of emotion.
Although 'Into The Valley Of The Moonking' has a more relaxed feel to other Magnum records, that's not to say there aren't any rockers on it. 'Take Me To The Edge' and 'Feels Like Treason' are big and powerful snorters with loads of crunching guitar and a thumping rythmn section. 'All My Bridges' is a classic Magnum toe-tapper, highly reminiscent of 1985's 'Just Like An Arrow'. 'Cry To Yourself' and 'In My Mind's Eye' are catchy with lots of radio friendly appeal and album closer, 'Blood On Your Barbed Wire Thorns' is a real grinder with an AC/DC style riff and a gorgeous orchestral outro.
This album is really about the slower, more melodic tracks and in that it really delivers. 'Moonking' is a dark, brooding number with a bluesy guitar. 'No One Knows His Name' and 'Time To Cross The River' are bleak, yet beautiful and brilliantly underplayed, the latter featuring a gorgeous acoustic guitar solo from Clarkin.
'A Face In The Crowd' is one of my favourites on the album, which like the aforementioned tracks is deep and thoughtful, yet has the kind of big anthemic chorus that only Magnum can deliver.
'Into The Valley Of The Moonking' is a rustic, quintessentially British rock album with all the melodic charm that the band have been delivering for years. Tony Clarkin's guitarwork is as sagely as ever and the sheer talent of the man is evident on every track. Bob Catley sings his little heart out, and although his vocal might not have the same power it once had, it's compensated by more feeling than ever, and a genuine warmth which suits this set of songs perfectly. Mark Stanway's keyboards add depth and character to the music and the rythmn section of Al Barrow and former Thunder drummer Harry James gives weight and power to what is largely a mid tempo batch of songs. The wealth of experience and professionalism on display here means that the band breeze through the more technical aspects of the music effortlessly, making 'Into The Valley Of The Moonking' the most mature album Magnum have ever recorded and by far the best 'classic rock' album you'll hear in 2009. All in all, highly recommended.
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on 6 October 2013
Always been a fan of Magnum Tony Clarkeson is a good songsmith and Bob Cately had a good voice Went off for a spell but these later albums have much to offer with some real singalong anthems Buy if you like a good rock outing
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