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Album Review : Magnum – Here Comes The Rain 

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Review by Taf Rock for MPM

As I sat down to write this review the sad news broke of the passing of Tony Clarkin. The release of this album should have been a celebration of all things Magnum however I write this review with a heavy heart.

I decided to present the review pretty much as originally intended however some songs do take on a more poignant meaning as a result of Tony’s passing.

Tony leaves us a great body of work and following the news I listened to all the classic albums in celebration of his life. If this proves to be Magnum’s final album it ensures the band finish on a high. It would have been glorious to hear these songs in the live arena…sadly fate has dealt its hand and we may never hear them as Tony and Bob intended them to be heard in the live arena. Thank you Tony Clarkin for the music and the memories.

Magnum – a band very much from my past. During the 80s/90s I attended various Magnum gigs including the two headline shows at the NEC in Birmingham which marked the pinnacle of their career – 1988’s Wings of Heaven album their most successful release to date. When the band called it a day for a short period of time in 1995 our paths went separate ways and I’ve not really listened to much material of theirs since they reformed in 2001. So it was a pleasant surprise to be asked to review Here Comes The Rain – Magnum’s latest and 23rd studio album. 

Magnum will forever be associated with magnificent Rodney Matthews album cover artwork. To my delight Here Comes The Rain continues that trend. Featuring a wizard standing on a rocky outcrop with a decrepit umbrella bracing himself against the oncoming rainstorm. Accompanying the wizard is a catapult yielding young lad and a dog with an eerie hand pointing in the direction of the ensuing storm.

Magnum albums are known for opening with belting songs. Think ‘How Far Jerusalem‘ from 1985’s On A Storyteller’s Night, ‘Soldier Of The Line‘ from 1982’s ‘Chase The Dragon’ or ‘Days Of No Trust‘ from 1988’s ‘Wings of Heaven’ opus.

The tradition is upheld on ‘Here Comes The Rain’ with stupendous opener ‘Run Into The Shadows‘. Keyboards have always played an important part in the Magnum sound and so it continues with orchestral Rick Benton keys opening the album in style. Lee Morris on drums and Dennis Ward on bass provide the driving rhythm before the mainstays of Magnum – Tony Clarkin on guitar and Bob Catley on vocals – provide that distinctive sound.

A sound that can only be one band – Magnum. A glorious rocker of an opener. ‘Don’t want to play your wargames…and see those bullets fly’. ‘Dark clouds acoming’. Catley still more than capable of belting out those magnificent Clarkin lyrics. 

Here Comes The Rain – Clarkin opens proceedings with his distinctive guitar as we slow the pace considerably. ‘Here we go … It’s the same again’. Catley providing the vocal whilst Rick Benton’s keys provide an air of mysticism before building to the climatic chorus. Catley conducting the band, the keys making it sound like a full orchestra is backing the band up. ‘Nowhere to hide… No one explains … No one has tried’. Clarkin is at his best on tracks like this. Never the most extravagant or showy guitarist nevertheless he is up there amongst the finest of our British rock players. A classic Magnum track.

Some Kind of Treachery – once again we open with keyboards. A more subtle piano style arrangement this time as Catley leads us into a ballad of epic proportions. ‘Now the old man, deep in prayer, wonders. How he’ll survive and who cares’. And with a beat of Morris drums the orchestra returns. The synchronicity of the band evident on this track – guitar, bass, drums and those incredible keys together in perfect harmony as we ebb and flow between the orchestral sound during the choruses and the calmer piano led verses. 

After The Silence – Rocking things back up we open once again with a flurry of Benton keys. ‘After the silence it all disappears … Nowhere to run if you fall … a sad atmosphere … No one will come when you call’.  Catley’s vocals are bang on form …  his partnership with Clarkin the cornerstone of all things Magnum. Clarkin provides the words… Catley delivers them with style and charisma. Resulting in such a big sound as evident on tracks like this, Rick Benton’s keys filling the room making it feel as if you are in a concert hall.

Blue Tango – Heads down rocker at times reminiscent of fellow British rock icons Status Quo. Tony’s guitar carrying the track on an almighty lead riff that will have you reaching for your air guitar. Bob Catley urging ‘C’mon and rock my soul…sweet valentine’. 

The Day He Lied – Clarkin’s guitar introduces this track. ‘We won’t hurt you…not anymore…don’t be afraid…just close the door’. Catley at 76 years of age still loves to perform, defying the age barrier. His vocals as great as they have ever been. ‘Worried and lost…nighttime turns black…your flesh and blood…deep in your heart’. With over fifty years experience in the music industry Clarkin never tires of writing new songs  – his lyrics as masterful as his skill on the guitar. Every track on this album is a work of art. The guitar and keys together in unison like a well oiled machine. Lee Morris bringing another epic track to a close with a military like drum beat.

The Seventh Darkness – Guest saxophonist Chris ‘BeeBe’ Aldridge and Nick Dewhurst on trumpet provide a different dynamic throughout this track as the band rock out once again. ‘Everybody wants fortune and fame…just how long can it last’. The call and answer exchange between the saxophone and Tony’s guitar is magnificent and a real highlight of the album. 

A series of bursts of gunfire and explosions announce the arrival of Broken City. ‘No more maybe again … That’s not a surprise…it’s so hard to pretend …and to memorise’. ‘That’s not rain on the ground…smoke and fire will leave its deadly mark’. Strings provide the backdrop to Catley’s sorrowful vocals creating a sense of devastation which builds with each ensuing verse. ‘Worlds are on fire…dark neighbourhood’. ‘No children playing in the distance … Just the gunfire’. Stirring stuff indeed.

I Wanna Live – majestic keyboards combine with the band for an upbeat rocker. Magnum sure know how to ramp things up as demonstrated here. Thunderous Lee Morris drums precede Clarkin’s lead break. ‘C’mon and take my hand and walk me through the fire’. Not to be outdone Rick Benton provides an almost Jon Lord Deep Purplesque keyboard exhibition to see out this number.

Eerie calls herald the arrival of Borderline. A rumbling drumbeat before Clarkin leads us into another rocked up number. Catley’s vocals distinctly different on this number. Almost Alice Cooper like at times, ‘it’s not a freedom song…it’s just notes on paper’. Clarkin is having fun here,  an abundantly talented man who provides the exceptional lyrical content –  here he also demonstrates his skill on the guitar leading from the front throughout this final number. 

Magnum have produced a remarkable album in ‘Here Comes The Rain’ – one of their finest for many years. If like myself you have drifted away from listening to this band in recent years then I urge you to give this album a listen and rekindle your love of one of the UK’s finest and longest serving rock bands. 

Life is a precious thing,
so don’t burn it up,
start living it day by day.

The Word
Tony Clarkin

www.magnumonline.co.uk
https://www.facebook.com/groups/MagnumOfficial/ 

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