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Magnum: The Gathering (Box Set)

With their thirty-something year career having taken them from Jet Records to SPV via FM Revolver, Polydor, Music for Nations and EMI, compiling the definitive Magnum anthology has been no easy task. Previous efforts have suffered from a poor representation of the Polydor-era, a period that marked the bands commercial peak and budget priced packaging has further cheapened the presentation. Thankfully, Universal have pulled out all of the stops with The Gathering, an 82 track, 5 disc set, that covers all of the bands back catalogue from Kingdom of Madness to Into The Valley of the Moon King and also features new artwork from the pen of Rodney Matthews and a lengthy band biography courtesy of long-time supporter Dave Ling.

Although not included here, the Magnum studio output began back in 1975 with a one-off single for CBS, a cover of "Sweets for my Sweet" that has since become a sought after collectable and is notable in that lead vocals were provided by then bassist Dave Morgan as opposed to Bob Catley. After coming to the attention of Don Arden, the band were picked up by Jet for debut album Kingdom of Madness albeit the label delayed the release until 1978 when it received a strong review from Geoff Barton in Sounds magazine. With original keyboard player Richard Bailey making full use of the mellotron, songs like "Universe", "Invasion" and the title track ensured a prog flavour that combined effectively with the influence of early Queen. Magnum II, released in 1979, continued in a similar vein although "Changes" was given a remix to make it a more accessible radio friendly rocker and Magnum were able to benefit from the rise of NWOBHM when the live album Marauder found chart success. Kansas producer Jeff Glixman came on board for 1982's classic Chase The Dragon, an album that included live staples "Soldier of the Line", "The Spirit" and "Sacred Hour". It was also notable for marking the first time Rodney Matthews contributed his distinctive fantasy artwork to a Magnum album cover.

Disc Two of The Gathering delves into the archives for single only release "Back to Earth" and B Sides together with an orchestral version of "The Word", where Bob Catley simply excels. A further five tracks are included from 1983's The Eleventh Hour which was followed by a period of uncertainty for Magnum. Original drummer Kex Gorin departed, Tony Clarkin was too ill to tour and the band were finally able to break free of Jet Records by announcing a split. Fortunately local label FM / Revolver offered a deal, new management came on board and together with producer Kit Woolven, Magnum entered the studio armed with some of Clarkin's strongest material to date. The result was On A Storyteller's Night (1985) which was the album that broke Magnum across Europe and is still cherished by many as their finest moment. Unsurprisingly the album is plundered here for the likes of "How Far Jerusalem", "Just like an Arrow", "Les Morts Dansent" and the title track. Immediately after a memorable performance at the Monsters of Rock festival they signed a major label deal with Polydor and it seemed Magnum's time had finally arrived.

After recording Storyteller's... at a converted abattoir in Birmingham the backdrop for Vigilante could hardly have been more different as the band were dispatched to Queen's Montreux studios to hook up with Roger Taylor and David Richards. Taylor's influence can certainly be felt on the pop-hooks of "Lonely Night" and "Midnight" together with Mickey Barker's use of electronic percussion. But whilst Vigilante was a satisfying start for the new label it was with Wings of Heaven in 1988 that Magnum hit their commercial peak. Three UK Top 30 hits ("Start Talking Love", "It Must Have Been Love" and "Days Of No Trust") and a Top 10 album across Europe saw them reach arena status for the first time. With European success assured attention was turned to the US and Keith Olsen, fresh from his work with Whitesnake, came on board for Goodnight LA, an album that saw Clarkin collaborate with outside songwriters for the first time, notably Russ Ballard on "Rockin' Chair". Record company politics ensured the album never even saw the light of day Stateside and Magnum split with Polydor and were back in the halls for 1992's Sleepwalking, "Only In America" being Clarkin's view of their experience in LA. After Rock Art (which yielded the anthemic "The Tall Ships"), one final European trek saw the end of Magnum as Clarkin, growingly increasingly dissatisfied with the band, retained Catley's services and formed Hard Rain.

After a couple of albums as Hard Rain Catley began to concentrate more on his solo career and the partnership between the pair, dating back to 1972, went its separate ways for a time before the much demanded Magnum reunion in 2000 for Breath of Life. The title track is included here together with more of their recent output such as "Brand New Morning", "Dragons Are Real" and "The Moonking". After chronologically taking you through the bands studio output for the first four discs, disc five is taken from Hammersmith Odeon in 1988 on the eve of the release of Wings of Heaven. Fittingly it is "Sacred Hour" the heartfelt and emotional song that best sums up the special relationship between Magnum and their audience that closes this collection.

With a new album, The Visitation, due for release early in 2011, the final chapter in the Magnum story has still to be written. But whilst we wait to see what Clarkin and Catley will come up with next, The Gathering is a simply outstanding collection from one of the greatest British Rock Bands of the last thirty years.

Track Listing
Disc One
Find The Time (outtake)
In The Beginning
Baby Rock Me
Kingdom of Madness (alternative version)
Great Adventure
Changes (7" remix)
The Battle
All Of My Life
If I Could Live Forever (live)
Foolish Heart (live)
Lords of Chaos (live)
The Lights Burned Out (outtake)
Soldier Of The Line
On The Edge Of The World
The Spirit
The Teacher

Disc Two
Back To Earth
Hold Back Your Love
Long Days, Black Nights
True Fine Love
The Word (orchestral version)
The Prize
Vicious Companions
One Night Of Passion
Road To Paradise
All England's Eyes (demo)
How Far Jerusalem
Just Like An Arrow
On A Storyteller's Night
Les Morts Dansent
Lonely Night
Need A Lot Of Love
Midnight (12" remix)

Disc Three
When The World Comes Down (12" version)
Days Of No Trust (12" version)
Wild Swan
It Must Have Been Love
Don't Wake The Lion
Start Talking Love
Crying Time
C'est La Vie
Maybe Tonight
Rockin' Chair
Heartbroke and Busted
What Kind of Love Is This?
Hanging Tree
Cry For You

Disc Four
Where Do You Run To
Stormy Weather
Just A Little Bit
Maybe Tonight (acoustic)
Without Your Love (acoustic)
We All Need To Be Loved
The Tall Ships
The Last Dance (live)
Sacred Hour (live)
Breath Of Life
Brand New Morning
Dragons Are Real
Thank You For The Day
The Moonking
A Face In The Crowd

Disc Five Live At Hammersmith 26th March 1988
Wild Swan
Start Talking Love
On A Storyteller's Night
Need A Lot Of Love
How Far Jerusalem
Lonely Night
Days Of No trust
Don't Wake The Lion
Just Like An Arrow
Kingdom Of Madness
The Spirit
Sacred Hour

Added: June 17th 2010
Reviewer: Dean Pedley
Related Link: Magnum WebSite
Hits: 7147
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Magnum: The Gathering (Box Set)
Posted by Lee Suffolk on 2011-01-12 17:30:05
My Score:

The best thing about this box set is that the Magnum gig which was originally released on VHS video in 1988 titled Magnum 'On The Wings of Heaven-Live' is finally available on CD. I've waited 22 years for this! For me it is no doubtably the bands finest hour. Very disapointingly tho, the opening track on the video release, 'Back To Earth', is missing. There are however 3 additional tracks to its original format release. This gig should be now released on DVD as it's long overdue, but with the missing opening track.

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