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Old 08-20-2011, 11:52 AM   #162 (permalink)
Trollheart
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Brand new morning --- Magnum --- 2004 (SPV)


This, ladies and gentlemen (and those undecided!), is one hell of a great album. I'm not intimately familiar with all Magnum's work, but on the basis of this I've acquired their catalogue and it's on my list to be listened to (tentatively pencilled in for around 2014, assuming the world doesn't end next year!). I don't know whether this album will turn out to be their best, but if there is better waiting then I can't wait to hear it.

In many ways, although 2002's “Breath of life” is considered their comeback album, released a full eight years after their last studio album, “Rock art”, it's this one that brings the band sharply back into focus following the heart attack suffered by guitarist Tony Clarkin, and indeed, the title of the album reflects that near-death experience. And you can hear it in the music. The whole thing is a glorious celebration, gratitude at being alive and a fierce determination to make sure the time left is spent productively. Even on “down” songs like the nuclear scare “We all run”, you can still hear the hope and the joy permeate not only the lyrics but the playing too. This is a band who, having been together since the late seventies, know that one of their members could have died, didn't, and are proclaiming loudly their joy and relief at that.

The title track gets proceedings underway, heavy keyboards and punchy guitars, with the drumbeat stomping along like a newly-transplanted heart, singer Bob Catley growling out his prayer of thanks for the survival of his friend, while Clarkin himself makes sure his guitar does the talking for him. The track is a real cruncher ™, driven by the rhythm section of Al Barrow on bass and Harry James behind the drumkit. The lyric is unmistakably thankful: ”It's a brand new morning/ So spread your wings/ And you'll take flight.” I'm sure it must have been terrifying to have gone through such an ordeal, but Clarkin certainly does not seem any the worse for it, cranking out the solos like they were going out of fashion, his fingers assured and determined on the frets.

Great piano on “It's time to come together”, where the tempo rises and Clarkin's guitar bows to the expertise of Mark Stanway on the keys (heh! Imagine if his name had been Steinway, eh? No?), although he does get in a solo. Mind you, Stanway kind of outdoes him with his own solo on the piano!

Then it's time for “We all run”, one of the standout tracks on the album. As mentioned, it's a warning against the dangers of nuclear war, and how we're being very blasé about them. The song has a great melody, very AOR. Great vocal harmonies too. But then you have “The blue and the grey”, another slow cruncher, and another candidate for best track on the album. Catley is on fine form vocally on this track, with great guitar from Clarkin. A great melody that you just can't get out of your head. Sorted.

And still the excellent tracks continue to pour into the ears! There are no ballads on this album, as such, but “I'd breathe for you” probably comes closest, being not only the slowest but also the one track which could be legitimately described as a love song. It's another cruncher, another great melody and powerful vocals from Catley. Strong piano from Stanway, the band on fire basically. “The last goodbye” starts off on lovely piano, leading you into the trap of thinking it's a ballad, but then the drums kick in and the guitar gets going, and you're left in no doubt that this is a rocker!

“Immigrant son” adds in a small touch of funk to the proceedings, though I could swear Catley is singing “American son”. Must just be me. The almost ten-minute closer, “The scarecrow”, is a great slice of blues/boogie/southern rock, and a great way to finish the album.

An album with not one bad track. A rare thing indeed. Hard even to choose the best track, as there are about five that could all take the title. An embarrassment of riches, to be sure. If this is Magnum's brand new morning, I look forward to seeing what the day brings!

TRACKLISTING

1. Brand new morning
2. It's time to come together
3. We all run
4. The blue and the grey
5. I'd breathe for you
6. The last goodbye
7. Immigrant son
8. The hard road
9. The scarecrow
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