What can you say about Magnum? They are essentially one of the cornerstones in British hard rock. During the last 30 years, they have created plenty of unforgettable tracks on such genre defining albums as “Vigilante” and “Wings Of Heaven.” Also their reputation as a great live band remains intact. Like many of their contemporaries, Magnum suffered hardships in the early 1990’s. Their brand of rock was not in vogue at the time and despite remaining ever-faithful fans, the band split up in 1995.
Luckily times got better. After reuniting for the new millennium, the group released so-so “Breath Of Life” to establish their come back and two years later hit the bulls eye with “Brand New Morning” – to this writer’s ears one of the finest Magnum albums ever released. Fast forward another few moons and they return again with “Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow.” In reviews and statements from the boys themselves, this album has been praised even above “On A Storyteller’s Night,” the seminal 1985 release many still view as Magnum’s finest hour. These comparisons are not without merit. After “Brand New Morning” and string of excellent solo releases from vocalist Bob Catley, expectations were getting higher by a minute.
First, there’s the title. Who else could it be but Magnum? And the songs as well, “Dragons Are Real,” “Like Brothers We Stand…” Even as you are holding the album it somehow seems to fit the big picture. The artwork comes courtesy of Rodney Matthews, who of course also designed the Storyteller- now classic cover. This one continues the tradition, the fox and Princess Alice are having dinner in familiar setting, only the fireplace is missing. Even the old Magnum-logo has reappeared.
So with trembling hands the disc is slid into a player and music starts flowing from the speakers. Mark Stanway’s beautiful keyboard opens the track “When We Were Younger” and soon Bob Catley’s instantly recognisable voice takes over to carry a classic tune. Chorus is great for a live sing-along and Tony Clarkin’s acoustic solo is a nice touch. “Eyes Wide Open” continues in the same vein, there’s an obvious scent of old here, you could play “The Last Dance” for example alongside and it all ties together. But there’s still no doubt it stands on its own. “Like Brothers We Stand,” apparently about the fall of American Indians succeeds creating a heartfelt song from a used topic. It gives enough space for imagination. Any listener can relate to it as at the end of the day it is a track about oppression.
Onto “Out Of The Shadows” – the guitar riff reminds me of Scorpions’ “Love At First Sting” era. “Dragons Are Real” – awesome tune, Clarkin’s poetry is simply beautiful. Power metal bands sing about dragons and it all sounds a bit ludicrous but here the sentiment comes through plain and honest. Same goes for ballad “Inside Your Head” – Tony’s words and Catley’s adaptation of them have through the years always been something unique.
Again I must give special mention to Stanway’s brilliant keyboard playing; it perfectly enhances the songs and ties loud and quiet, more subtle sections together. Overall production is good, only complaint is possibly that Catley’s voice could be a notch higher in the mix. On some songs you almost crave for it to soar above them.
The latter half of the album continues similar themes, despite the over 1 hour-length, this album can be devoured in one sitting and even benefits from such treatment. One of the best songs on the album comes last; “You’ll Never Sleep” is a fitting closer. Great arrangement and exquisite melodies complete this album in style.
It is worth to note that the limited edition includes a bonus DVD, containing making of document, studio footage and interviews.
To sum it up, purists will be more than satisfied with this effort, it might not steal the top spot from “On A Storyteller’s Night” and personally “Brand New Morning” is still the one I prefer. But it sounds as great as Magnum have always been; everything that’s always worked for them comes through in spades here. Here is to more albums and years for this classic rock band!
1.When We Were Younger
2.Eyes Wide Open
3.Like Brothers We Stand
4.Out Of The Shadows
5.Dragons Are Real
6.Inside Your Head
8.Thank You For The Day
11.You’ll Never Sleep