Album Releases Album Reviews

Magnum – Escape from the Shadow Garden Live Review



Release date: 17th May 2015




Line up:
Bob Catley – Vocals
Tony Clarkin – Guitars
Mark Stanway – Keyboards
Al Barrow – Bass
Harry James – Drums


Track Listing:
01. Live Til You Die
02. Black Skies
03. Freedom Day
04. Dance Of The Black Tattoo
05. Blood Red Laughter
06. Unwritten Sacrifice
07. How for Jerusalem
08. Les Morts Dansant
09. Falling For The Big Plan
10. All England’s Eyes
11. Vigilante
12. Kingdom Of Madness


There can be no doubting the British midlands have been a virtual factory for producing the most innovative rock bands in music history. From Black Sabbath to The Moody Blues, ELO to Judas Priest, they’ve all been responsible for resonating classics. However, there are always bands that tend to be overlooked, taken for granted or just plain bloody ignored. Birmingham’s Magnum are a prime example of that. For the best part of 40 years, the Rossi/Parfitt of British prog, singer Bob Catley and guitarist Tony Clarkin, have been the bands front of house through some tough but mainly successful times. Having chiselled out 18 studio albums, including the career changing, On A Storytellers Night, compared to the above mentioned, they remain truly unrewarded. But still they plough on, and following the success of 2014s’ Escape From Shadow Garden European tour, a live album and their ninth in total, is being released.


Magnums’ music has always been top heavy with the dramatics, the wonderful shock and awe opening of Live Til You Die sets the mood perfectly. Not even Catley or Clarkin could deny the similarities between Black Skies and Zep’s Kashmir, but hey, it doesn’t matter one iota because it sounds absolutely epic. The galloping Freedom Day and the tribal stomp of Dance Of The Black Tattoo are executed with military precision, while Catley’s gravel licked pipes still sound massive for a man 67 years young.


The brilliant Blood Red Laughter sounds a lot meatier live than the studio version of On The Thirteenth Day. New song, Unwritten Sacrifice, oozes hooks by the bucket load, and there’s not many people in all genres of music today who write them better than Tony Clarkin. But when you hear them in live format, they just flow. The treble of How Far Jerusalem, Les Morts Dansant and All England’s Eyes from On A Storytellers Night still carry an irremovable stamp of class. Don’t forget, these songs are this year celebrating their 30th anniversary, and corny as it may be to say, they’ve matured like a fine wine, only these classics don’t require breathing.


As well as constructing prog rock of epic stature, they do no nonsense rock as good as anyone. Falling For The Big Plan and Vigilante absolutely dwarf their respective studio versions here, performed with numbing power. And if you’re discovering Magnum for the first time, and think they’re prog nuts, and might be singing 23 minute songs about empty spaces, whack these babies up to eleven. Finishing up with an oldie, 1978s’ Kingdom Of Madness, just rubber stamps this bands enduring live prowess. There’s been some pretty impressive live albums over the last 40 years, but a hell of a lot more shit ones, thankfully this little gem sits proudly in column A.

Written by: Brian Boyle


Rating: Brian 10/10

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