It’s been almost exactly 20 years since I first heard MAGNUM, “Two Hearts” off their legendary “On A Storyteller’s Night” album was what got me hooked and now, in the 35th year of existence, the Brits around singer extraordinaire Bob Catley and musical mastermind Tony Clarkin are back with their 13th studio album “Princess And The Broken Arrow”. And in more ways than one this release reminds me a lot of the mentioned genre classic from 1985, for starters a quick look at the album cover shows that Rodney Matthews is back and he truly has delivered the goods once more, as intricate and a little off-kilter as ever, good to see! And also the songs awaken memories of the band’s heydays, reminding me of “On A Storyteller’s Night”, “Vigilante” and some “Wings Of Heaven”, which definitely is a trio you would want to be compared with, if you ask me!
MAGNUM never were about flashiness or in-your-face melodies, they deliver mature Rock that does not sound out-dated, but grown-up and every note has its place on this disc. And even though the band rarely gets heavy, you don’t miss that at all, but indulge yourself in the harmonies that Tony Clarkin so masterfully pens and that he is an equally good storyteller should be widely known by now as well. It is the subtleties both within the music and the lyrics that mark the true genius of this man, who undoubtedly is among the best songwriters Britain ever has produced.
“When We Were Younger” is a surprisingly subdued opener, which lives more off atmosphere than anything else, but Catley’s trademark vocals leave their inimitable stamp on the song, which culminates in a very harmonic chorus and surprises with a plucked acoustic solo over all of the instruments, very interesting and unusual! The next few songs all contain some of the true trademarks of the MAGNUM sound, irresistible melodies and an intense atmosphere, be it the mid-tempo of “Eyes Wide Open”, the slower, mature sounding “Like Brothers We Stand” or the a bit more powerful “Out Of The Shadows”, all quality material!
“Be Strong”, “Your Lies” and “You’ll Never Sleep” all are among the a bit more powerful songs and fully convince, especially the chorus of “Your Lies” is very strong, and with “Inside Your Head” and even more so the ingenious “Thank You For The Day” Clarkin also proves that ballads are among his forte as well.
Even though there might not be the absolutely outstanding one track to point out, “Princess And The Broken Arrow” is a full return to form, without any filling material and fully in tradition with the above mentioned trio of albums between 1985 and 1988, the production is excellent as well, with this warm sound the songs need and I had already mentioned Matthews’ new masterpiece, I had high hopes for this CD and MAGNUM lived up to every single one of them!
(Online April 20, 2007)