Bob Catley needs very little introduction, of course he’s most known for his work as the lead singer of British rock legends Magnum, who are still going strong. The band have been around since the 1970’s, so Bob certainly has a lot of mileage behind him. Besides Magnum, during its down period in the late 1990’s, Bob played with Tony Clarkin in Hard Rain and also launched his solo career with “The Tower” – majestic, and brilliant melodic opus. It remains my favourite Catley solo disc and in fact is one of the best records ever released in that particular music field. His collaboration with Ten mainman Gary Hughes was bringing forth some excellent results, further embellished on follow up “Legends” and on their third and final venture “Middle Earth.” Magnum reformed around this time but luckily Bob kept on working on his solo material whenever his main band was taking a break.
Since then he has teamed up with Ten keyboardist Paul Hodson for 2003’s “When Empires Burn” and guitarist Vince O’Regan for 2006’s “Spirit Of Man.” After releasing “Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow” with Magnum early 2007 and touring the world to support it, Catley returns. Still with Frontiers Records, another album of melodic intensity. “Immortal” features 12 tracks written by Magnus Karlsson, a Swedish mastermind more known as the creative force behind such projects as Starbreaker, CodeX and Allen/Lande. He also currently weaves some six string magic in Germany’s finest, Primal Fear. Karlsson takes time off here from his favourite instrument and has switched off to keyboards, only providing a guitar solo to one track, which we’ll come back to later on. Guitars are played by Uwe Reitenauer and Dennis Ward, who has also plugged in some additional bass and keyboard work – and produced the album. Ward is mostly known from Pink Cream 69. Add to this, the album has Dirk Bruinenberg from Elegy on drums. So the talent is very much in place. Of course talent doesn’t always guarantee straight quality so with excitement and even a bit of trepidation one slots the CD into a player.
The albums kicks off with “Dreamers Unite” and it makes you feel right at home. Bob’s soaring voice of course is on top of everything as it should be, supported by tight guitar and keyboard work from both Karlsson and Ward. These guys, full professionals as they are, have not tried to pointlessly re-write the formula. What we have here is a cross between metal influenced “When Empires Burn” and more commercial sounding albums recorded with Gary Hughes.
Guitar hook on “Dreamers Unite” is irresistible and leads nicely into title track of sorts: “We Are Immortal.” This is again straight up classic sounding Bob Catley number, no big surprises here. What follows however is “End Of The World” – my current favourite on the record. It simply rules with its tasteful keyboard work and awesome performance from Bob himself. It’s also the one song where Magnus Karlsson handles the lead guitar work and it is very impressive.
“Open Your Eyes” introduces more commercial sounds and “The Searcher” is typical emotional Catley ballad, guitar solo is again majestic and effective. Check out the outro solo for further proof! After couple of tracks pass by before another highlight arrives with “War In Heaven”. This is another gem, not too different from its distant cousin “Wings Of Heaven” by Magnum 20 years back. With this one as well, great guitar work lifts the song up to another level.
“Win The Throne” begins heavily, almost resembling classic metal acts from the 1980’s before settling into more familiar melodic groove. “Haunted” also contains some heavier undertones behind Bob’s emotional delivery on the choruses. The album closes with “Heat Of Passion” – a towering ballad delivered as only Bob & his cohorts can. It works fine as it is, albeit would be interesting to hear a full acoustic version.
Production on “Immortal” I think is slightly better than on previous outing “Spirit Of Man” but this is a minor difference. All instruments are well balanced, nothing is over emphasised, most of the spotlight is on Catley’s voice – as it should be. Like I mentioned before, sometimes I do wish there’d be a full acoustic track or two to give it another dimension..
Regarding the songs themselves, listening to “Immortal” is another interesting experience. Somehow as always the song writing seems to carry very similar themes despite four different creative forces. Also musicianship carries through similar feelings compared to previous Catley outings. This of course could be a disadvantage but personally I find it to be only a good thing. There are few moments like mentioned before – some subtle nods at heavier direction are displayed here and there. These give inclination to Karlsson’s past and his other projects. But otherwise this is Bob Catley album as we have come to expect from him. Nothing more, nothing less. The songs herein are mostly thoughtful and passionate mix of melodic, power, and emotion. Just what good music should be.
The album definitely took two or three playing times before the songs really started to sink in, but when they did it was rewarding experience. The bottom line is “Immortal” continues the fine tradition of excellent Bob Catley solo albums. “The Tower” might never be topped from my personal favourite top list, but “Immortal” is as good an album as Bob has ever done. Cheers!
2.We Are Immortal
3.End Of The World
4.Open Your Eyes
6.One More Night
7.Light Up My Way
8.You Are My Star
9.War In Heaven
10.Win The Throne
12.Heat Of Passion