Way back in the mists of time someone bought me the debut album from Birmingham’s Magnum. Introducing me to singer Bob Catley and guitarist Tony Clarkin, Kingdom Of Madness, launched me headlong into over thirty years of buying everything released by this band.
Since then I have seen them numerous times. They have always been on the button, delighting fans old and new, and I have never had a dud night in their company. Recently they released their fifteenth studio album, Into The Valley Of The Moonking.
As soon as you lay eyes on the cover, it can only be a Magnum album with its characteristic Rodney Matthews artwork. This is underlined when the windblown keyboard “Intro” sets the scene for a journey into the latest labyrinth world that Tony Clarkin’s lyrics create.
Arguably their career reached something of a zenith when 1985s On A Storytellers Night went gold. In truth there have been a lot of other highlights with albums such as Chase The Dragon, The Eleventh Hour, Wings Of Heaven, and the acoustic Keeping The Nite Light Burning. Another valuable addition arrived in 1979 with the live album Marauder, recorded at London’s Marquee Club.
In 1995 the band went their separate ways with Catley and Clarkin forming the Magnum-esque Hard Rain. However, in 2002 Magnum tentatively returned with Breath Of Life an album which saw them begin a successful partnership with the SPV label.
In 2004 they released the impressive Brand New Morning and followed that with Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow in 2007. Last year Bob Catley added to his solo catalogue by releasing the impressive Immortal album, which I reviewed on Blogcritics.
Magnum set the tone for dramatic, melodic, anthemic, sensitive power-ballads with On A Storytellers Night. Tony Clarkin’s imagination has produced track after track of inspiring and passionate visual imagery and, yes, storytelling. Meanwhile, Bob Catley’s instantly recognizable vocals have always managed to draw every dramatic emotion from them.
It’s a heady and highly successful combination that is further enhanced by the irrepressible Thunder drummer Gary ‘Harry’ James. They are also joined by ex-Hard Rain bass player Al Barrow, and the perfectly named keyboardist Mark Stanway who also played with Phil Lynott’s Grand Slam.
“My hope is to make it interesting for anyone who hears the album”, says Clarkin, on the back of my promotional copy, with a nice touch of understatement. He adds, “I think the common ground in all Magnum releases is that we take great pride in making a record and always do the best we can”.