Magnum - Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow
Here's a band that needs little introduction. Magnum has been around since the 70s, changing their styles with every album, but keeping the signature core that makes an album, well, a Magnum album, intact and untarnished. They have shifted and changed during the years, the favorite period being the mid 80s that gave birth to a trilogy of highly melodic releases, "On A Storyteller's Night", "Vigilante" and "Wings of Heaven". The band called it quits mid 90s as Bob Catley produced a trio of fantastic streamlined solo releases built by Gary Hughes, epic in scale and teaming up with other ex-Magnum musician, guitarist/songwriter Tony Clarkin for the rock jam session outfit of Hard Rain. With 2000 opening up they reformed the UK jaggernaut and popped out a duo of records, "Breath of Life" and "Brand New Morning". Both met with mixed critical acclaim as they both shared too many modern influences between them and were alot alike. The sticking point was the pacing, it was dirge like, overly long and plodding. After Catley's crackling solo discs and the memories of "Storyteller's Night" still lingering like ghosts of a not-too-long past, these two albums were pretty much rejected by the hard rock community.

Magnum had the potential to do more. They could do better. They could rise above being just another dinosaur rock band trying to be hip and hot. Classic music had been created by them in the past and the talent remained to do so for the future. So in steps their latest, "Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow".

"When We Were Younger"
A reflection on youth, looking backwards from an older perspective. A somber softness prevails throughout, as looking back through rose coloured glasses at your lost youth, stirs up nothing but feelings of regret and maybe a pinch of heartache. We grow older, but things don't grow with us, they die or drift away. The loneliness of aging is caught here with aching clarity. Flurries of keys, sublime guitar, simple catchy harmonies, and a flowing chorus that has the triumphant lifting feel of older Magnum. The snappy solo is done entirely acoustic, with a flourish of backing rhythm guitar to keep the rock edge and pace. This is a track where momentum continues to gain ground, more instruments added as it progresses, and Bob Catley's gorgeous gentle rasp drips sorrowfully over the waxy swirling synth. The candle still hot and the watery molten heat warbles til the finish. Seven minutes? Gone in a flash. A telling mark of a great song, when its over before you know it and prepared to be played yet again. "There's no one to whisper goodbye..."

"Eyes Wide Open"
Continuing the Magnum magic, there's this beautifully composed midpaced track. It gets up to cranking rock speed and falls away for smoldering verses and a highly addictive chorus. They have hit the bullseye with this. Balancing acoustic, a feel-good rhythmic pacing, sing-along verses, and splashes of electric guitar. The guitar is full bodied, the tone slick yet forceful. Its an instrument that takes charge and drives the song. Undoubtedly melodic rock that has kept in touch with those late 1970s roots.

"Like Brothers We Stand"
Warbling synthesizers open the song along with Catley declaring "I never shot no one..." His voice seems a bit shaky here at the opening, but the soothing "oohs" and trippy key work masks that wavering first impression. Rising and falling, keeping that midpace at heart, this track oozes with the signature Magnum sound. A relaxing, laid back track that sees a mature band tapping their past and pushing for the future. The segway between worlds has been bridged nicely into a mature track that has lovely lyrics and an expert touch composition-wise.

"Out of the Shadows"
is a midtempo track too but the vibe is completely different. Thick, lumbering heavy rock suitable for the subject matter. Clarkin revisits the horrors of war and life being snuffed out as a result. A powerful piece musically and lyrically. Linked hand in hand. Not one of the better examples of the disc, yet its still a great intellectual track.

"Dragons Are Real"
A fairy tale feel here for a song about mythical creatures from English lore. This could easily be a tale told by a traveler of the winding road through the kingdoms' come. A declaration that dragons are indeed real, in all their serpetine scaly glory, wings stretched across the sky. You can almost see the beasts circling the sun from Catley's spirited vocal, each verse painting broad strokes for a more complete picture. The pace is rocking but kept in check, and the chorus is snappy but not too over-the-top.

"Inside Your Head"
The dull monotony of reality pitted against the fantastic fantasies of your dream. A lush piano opens and creates the atmosphere of chances gone by, dreams fading to dust. "No one sees inside your head..." sometimes its best to keep your secrets and hopes your own. They become dissapointing tarnished broken things if shared and opened to the outside world. The slow, unfurling pace gives equal parts sorrow and hope. Sorrow for the lost, hope for potentially still can be brought from dreams and made into reality.

"Be Strong"
Kicking it back into rock territory is this upbeat 70s flavored style song that is awash in funky effects. The splashy electronic effects coat this rocker in a modern wash tied to the psychedlic prog rock of the era. A snapshot of Magnum's past productions and an utterly "now" feeling laying in the background.

"Thank You For the Day"
Pomp AOR that has been stretched to the huge grandiose bursting point. A killer chorus that has lighters raised to the air and a stadium rock setting that is perfect for the band, and at a crucial point in the album. Stanway's luscious piano raises the AOR bar to a higher level and the whole band just comes together in sublime synch for the build and bursting point. Melodic goodness just rains down all over, a tidal wave of music bliss that has their classic style written all over it.

"Your Lies"
A weird contrast against the completely classic rock direction of the previous piece, "Your Lies" has that Hard Rain sharp simplicity. Modern, heavier, especially in the thunder roll of the drums and guitars that cut to the chase. The Clarkin/Catley Hard Rain influence can be heard in the loose jam session feel that's shoved violently against the dagger dark styling.

"Desperate Times"
Another traditional minded track that puts you back in the 80s mindset, this time with a heart churning ballad take. A perfect lead in to the final cut, the grand finale.

"You'll Never Sleep"
Pulls out all the stops and goes for the gold. Its a perfect slice of AOR heaven. Verses steeped in melody, Catley's voice glowing and a chorus that is wickedly wonderful. Melody abounds, tearing loose for addictive moments everywhere you turn. This is Magnum at their finest hour, and one of the main reasons why "Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow" has attracted attention as being hailed as a return to the "On A Storyteller's Night" fold. Polished melodic magic made beautiful and timeless. If there should be one song that defines today's incarnation of Magnum, this should be it.

Magnum have been around for decades, and through the years they have released one album after another. Each has been its own entity, varied directions but at the core, still completely Magnum. Some had pondered that after the band's reformation a few years ago, that some of this originality and shifting gears had been lost, as "Breath of Life" was very much like 2004s "Brand New Morning". They were two albums that shared a very modern sound borrowed out of the book of Hard Rain and very little in the way of big harmonies that delighted fans in the past. But thinking back, Magnum "II" was a very different beast than "Vigilante" and the same could be said for "Rock Art". All of these, and the ones inbetween carried their own identity. "Princess Alice" has broken away from repeating the same song and dance and has become another Magnum piece that is its own creation. The blending of Magnum's efforts from days gone by makes for a varied and exciting musical journey. It may not be as memorable and wonderful as the classic "On A Storyteller's Night" but it is a fantastic reboot for a band that was previously treading water. The dirge like pacing is gone, and "Princess Alice" sweeps you off your feet with her own stories to tell. A recommended disc for all lovers of the band and melodic rock in general.

Written by Alanna
Monday, April 9, 2007
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RevelationZ Comments

Comment by VonSeux (Anonymous) - Friday, April 13, 2007
a very solid album. the best from the new ones, even tough it lacks some riffage.

Comment by stefan (Anonymous) - Thursday, April 19, 2007
this album is great.outstanding

Comment by Alice (Anonymous) - Sunday, April 29, 2007
Bob Catley, true to his appellation, does indeed have
nine lives. Thanks to Alanna for a perceptive, intuitive review. Would have been a shame to miss hearing this wonderful disc. No broken arrows, henceforth, address me as princess....

Comment by dragon (Anonymous) - Monday, April 30, 2007
The Best Of The Best Of Rest Best
good album.

Review by Alanna

Released by
SPV - 2007

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
7. Be Strong
8. Thank You For The Day
9. Your Lies
10. Desperate Times
11. You'll Never Sleep

Supplied by Target

Melodic rock

Related links
Visit the band page

Magnum - Official Website

Other articles
Brand New Morning - (Alanna)

The River Sessions - (Michael)

Vigilante - (Alanna)

Wings of Heaven Live - (Alanna)

Into the Valley of the Moonking - (Alanna)

The Visitation - (Brian)

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