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Magnum: The Valley Of Tears – The Ballads

Like any band with a long and proud history, UK pomp rock specialists Magnum aren't exactly short of compilation collections for their fans and casual observers to choose from. Hence releasing another selection of remixed, remastered or re-recorded songs so soon after The Evolution did likewise in 2011, could be seen as a little confusing. That album was an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the best work of the band since their 2002 comeback and resurgence, however The Valley Of Tears – The Ballads takes a slightly wider and yet at the same time narrower look at Magnum's work. This time selections are taken from as far back as 1986's Vigilante album (the band's sixth), stopping off at the Rock Art and Sleepwalking records along the way. The other six songs are from the reunion era, with "Your Dreams" even coming from 2016's excellent Sacred Blood "Divine" Lies.

As its name alludes, the narrower viewpoint comes from the bringing together of the band's slower tracks under the not always accurate, but you get the idea, banner of 'The Ballads'. Anyone who has followed this band will know that Magnum have always been able to pull off these type of slower numbers with aplomb, so rather than struggle to fill the ten strong track list, fans will no doubt argue long into the (lonely) night about what others could and maybe should have been included… However focusing on what is here, it's wonderful to hear sympathetically updated versions of "Back In Your Arms Again" and "Broken Wheel", both coming from the pre-break-up period of the band when they were receiving less media attention. On the other hand "Lonely Nights" and "When The World Comes Down", the two songs from Vigilante, are from the era when they were reaching their greatest success. However here the former is re-recorded as a new, wonderful acoustic version (which it also was for '93s Keep The Night Light Burning), while the latter is presented as a superb live offering which captures its atmosphere and majesty perfectly.

From the newer cuts, "Dream About You", "A Face In The Crowd" and "The Last Frontier" stand proudly against anything Magnum have recorded in this style, Bob Catley continuing to defy the years with his full, rich voice, guitarist Tony Clarkin still able to make his presence felt in this more restrained setting. Hats off to keyboard player Mark Stanway (who in a shock move, sadly left the band mid-tour during their December 2016 dates to promote this album, just before its release), who positively thrives here, while drummer Harry James and bassist Al Barrow know when to push themselves forward and when to sit back to make the most of these songs.

There's no denying this is an excellent set of 'ballads' performed quite superbly, or that there is maybe enough 'uniqueness' about this release to keep long standing fans happy. However there's no getting away from the thought that through its very ethos, The Valley Of Tears – The Ballads, only focuses on one side of a many faceted band and in that light it just ever so slightly fails to satisfy. It's a minor gripe, but I have to be honest and say and that I'm not sure when I'd pull this album down from the shelves in favour of either a full release from the band, or a more broadly focused compilation. However if you're looking for a heartfelt, honest and emotional album from a truly great outfit, there's no doubt you could do much worse than this.

Track Listing
1. Dream About You (remastered)
2. Back In Your Arms Again (newly re-recorded)
3. The Valley Of Tears (remixed, remastered)
4. Broken Wheel (newly re-recorded)
5. A Face In The Crowd (remixed, remastered)
6. Your Dreams Won't Die (remastered)
7. Lonely Night (acoustic version, newly re-recorded)
8. The Last Frontier (remixed, remastered)
9. Putting Things In Place (remixed, remastered)
10. When The World Comes Down (new live version)

Added: December 18th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Magnum online
Hits: 2373
Language: english

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