Not getting lost anytime soon…
Released by Steamhammer/SPV on 19 January 2018 and reviewed by Andrew Manning
Who would have thought back in the mid to late 90’s that Magnum would still be delivering albums some 20 years later. After all this was the time when Magnum ceased to exist. A very underrated spin off band called Hard Rain had been formed by Bob Catley (vocals) and Tony Clarkin (guitars). In addition a number of excellent solo albums were released by Catley. However it was a time to serenade again when Magnum reformed and released Breath of Life in 2002. Since then we have seen regular new releases from the band and 2018 brings us right up to date with the new opus Lost On The Road To Eternity.
A career spanning more than 40 years with the main protagonists now septuagenarians you might be forgiven for asking why release new material and not just hit the gig circuit playing the many classics from their recording career. After all this is what many of our beloved bands from the 70s and 80s do. Well thank goodness we still have groups like Magnum and in particular songwriters like Clarkin, who continues to share his new creations with us.
This is studio album number twenty and once again we are treated to some fantastic artwork from the great Rodney Matthews who has painted over 130 album covers for many artists. Remember the days when we could all sit and just stare at the sleeve of new LPs whilst we absorbed the new music. Well with this release being available in different physical formats you might just want to invest in the double gatefold 180 gram purple vinyl LP and relive the memories.
The album once again features Al Barrow (bass), now based in Tennessee, who has been in the band since 2001 and also introduces us to two new members in keyboardist Rick Benton and drummer Lee Morris. Benton joined the Magnum camp in December 2016, at very short notice during the UK tour, to replace long standing member Mark Stanway, while Morris has only recently taken over from Harry James, whose other bands Thunder and Snakecharmer were starting to take up more time creating the inevitable scheduling conflicts.
Right from the off with ‘Peaches and Cream’ you feel like you are in familiar Magnum territory with a powerful commercial sounding anthem complemented briefly with some nice Hammond organ from Benton towards the track ending. Magnum have their own signature sound and this is why they continually deliver quality music. Why change something when it’s not broken…
As usual Clarkin has written all of the songs, probably in his favourite shed (studio) at the bottom of the garden. What adds that little bit of extra sparkle is the way in which Catley delivers the vocals. There is always plenty of melody and expression in his voice drawing you fully into songs like ‘Welcome to the Cosmic Cabaret’ and ‘Storm Baby’ where he vocally narrates us through the tracks. The former being a minor epic clocking in at 8 minutes which contains an atmospheric middle section.
When you feel you know what to expect next you will be knocked out by the title track ‘Lost on the Road to Eternity’. This has got everything to make it a future classic. A spectacular arrangement featuring the Wolf Kerschek orchestra and Edguy/Avantasia frontman Tobias Sammet, long time friend of Catley, on joint vocals. A beautiful piano and strings opening leading us straight into a real vintage sounding Magnum track.
Lead single ‘Without Love’ has been getting a good amount of airplay on BBC Radio 2 and it is not difficult to see why. Great rhythm throughout this track provided by the pounding drums of Morris and another catchy chorus drawing you into the song. Back in the day this would have been guaranteed a singles chart placing and Top of the Pops appearance.
Listen closely to the lyrics of ‘Ya Wanna Be Someone’. Could this be about someone who is no longer such a close friend of the band? It would appear the individual had a higher opinion of themselves than that shared by others!
The final trio of tracks ‘Forbidden Masquerade’, ‘Glory to Ashes’ and ‘King of the World’ are full of the great intricacies that the band are famous for. Drenched with punchy bass lines, melodic keyboards, harmonic vocals and a cacophony of riffs from Mr Clarkin.
Overall a great sounding production with a real freshness coming across at every corner. This is a band still very much in their prime and they will find it difficult to decide which tracks to play on the forthcoming tour. Someone’s favourite will be left out.
- Peaches and Cream
- Show Me Your Hands
- Storm Baby
- Welcome to the Cosmic Cabaret
- Lost on the Road to Eternity
- Without Love
- Tell Me What You’ve Got to Say
- Ya Wanna Be Someone
- Forbidden Masquerade
- Glory to Ashes
- King of the World