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Magnum: Escape From The Shadow Garden

Over the course of a career extending to almost four decades Magnum remains a band that has rarely disappointed. There has always been a refreshing honesty about the Brummies that rose from playing the clubs and pubs of the English Midlands in the mid-1970's to the giddy heights of packing out arenas by the end of the 80's. From their spellbinding debut Kingdom of Madness (1978) through the delights of the Jeff Glixman produced Chase The Dragon (1982) and landmark On A Storyteller's Night (1985), Magnum saw their fan base swell but remained a band that were just as happy to rub shoulders with their audience at the bar as they were wowing the masses at the Monsters of Rock festival. When guitarist and songwriter Tony Clarkin called time in the mid-90's it left a hole that was impossible to fill until, together with vocalist Bob Catley, the pair realised that Magnum had unfinished business and re-launched the band for the twenty first century. A succession of majestic albums has followed since then and Escape from the Shadow Garden might just be the finest one yet.

Right from the off this looks and feels like a Magnum classic, from the archetypal Rodney Matthews inked cover artwork to the windswept introduction provided by keyboardist Mark Stanway that ushers in 'Live 'Til You Die'. And from the moment Uncle Bob sings the opening line he can simply do no wrong; one of the most underrated vocalists of his generation Catley took his inspiration from the great singers of the 60's and has consistently proven himself worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as his heroes. 'Midnight Angel' has that heartfelt sincerity that could only have flowed from the pen of Tony Clarkin, who's skills as a songwriter mature like a wine of the very finest vintage. Solemn, melancholy and austere, 'The Art of Compromise' continues in the tradition of Clarkin's songs having a story to tell, his words brought to life as only Catley can. 'Wisdom's Had Its Day' combines power, pomp and melody and it all seems so effortless and yet, as every fan knows, Clarkin pours his heart and soul into writing every note and word. 'Too Many Clowns' and 'Burning River' are the type of rock solid Magnum barn burners that their audience loves so well, blending chugging riffs and an insistent chorus set to a mid-tempo gallop. And having been responsible for some of the most stirring power ballads of the last thirty-odd years it is hardly surprising that Clarkin can still come up with songs as emotional and moving as 'Don't Fall Asleep' and the closing 'The Valley of Tears', both of which deliver the enduring Magnum message of struggle, faith and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Seventeen studio albums in, Magnum continue to delight. Escape from the Shadow Garden is yet another triumph from one of the UK's most beloved and cherished hard rock bands.

Track List:-
01. Live 'Til You Die
02. Unwritten Sacrifice
03. Falling For The Big Plan
04. Crying In The Rain
05. Too Many Clowns
06. Midnight Angel
07. The Art Of Compromise
08. Don't Fall Asleep
09. Wisdom's Had Its Day
10. Burning River
11. The Valley Of Tears

Added: April 26th 2014
Reviewer: Dean Pedley
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 6583
Language: english

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Magnum: Escape From The Shadow Garden
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-04-26 05:53:51
My Score:

It has been interesting for someone like myself who has thoroughly enjoyed the five (and one compilation) albums since Magnum's self enforced half decade lay off ended (Into The Valley Of The Moonking and On The 13th Day being especially worthy) to read reviews of this, their seven post reformation release, Escape From The Shadow Garden and find the band being lauded as finally making their first top notch set of songs since 1994. I couldn't disagree more on the dismissal of the recent canon of work this Birmingham based band of veterans has created, yet at the same time I can see why EFTSG is causing such a furore.

So what's the difference? Well certainly not a shortening of the album title and neither the fantasy based themes, nor excellent Rodney Mathews artwork. However even on first listen, what is immediately apparent is that guitarist and songwriter Tony Clarkin has reintroduced a ballsy fret based approach that has probably been missing in Magnum's output since On A Storyteller's Night, or possibly moments on Goodnight LA. In fact the likes of the wonderful "Unwritten Sacrifice" and its staccato guitar bursts possibly hark back even further than that. Just listen to lead track "Too Many Clowns" for proof that 2014 finds Magnum much heavier than they've been for years, even if there's not one moment of doubt as to who this could be across the whole she-bang. Singer Bob Catley positively shines on this track, finding an authoritative growl that's been missing from his armoury for quite some time. However Bob's not alone in thriving, Clarkin himself also offering some seriously fiery lead work, while drummer "Harry" James provides the solid driving force required to make these tracks hit home.

The trade off that makes Escape such a potent force would appear to be the prominence of Mark Stanway's keyboard work, the in recent times dominant tinkler happy to embellish, reinforce and add colour, rather than lead from the front. Although the slow build of "Midnight Angel", or mid-paced anthem "The Art Of Compromise" do allow the long standing keyboardist the time to take centre stage. However to hear best what has long time Magnum fans all a froth, crank up the rifftacular "Burning River", or pulsating "Live 'Til You Die", you won't be disappointed.

With one or two notable exceptions Magnum are a band who have delivered time and again across their near four decade existence and once more Escape From The Shadow Garden finds this band operating at full velocity. It is a sight and sound to behold and one to rejoice in....again.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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