Pomp rockers Magnum germinated
from the band Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin put together when gigging in
Birmingham in the early seventies. With Kex Gorin on drums and Dave Morgan
on bass they recorded an early single for CBS 'Sweets For My Sweet' which
failed to chart but led to a contract with Jet Records and their debut
album 'Kingdom Of Madness' in 1978.
Regarded as a classic, many of the tunes were included in the band's stage
set in subsequent years. The band consolidated their growing fanbase with
supporting slots on tours with Blue Oyster Cult, Tygers of Pan Tang and
appearances at the Reading Festival.
However, by the time of their fourth Jet album 'The Eleventh Hour', the
band became disillusioned as they had not received the breakthrough they
anticipated. The album title was ominous: At Reading Festival in 1983 they
decided to give it a final try - in the face of adversity as drummer Jim
Simpson had just quit.
'On A Storyteller's Night' was released on local label FM Records in 1985
and is rightly regarded as a pomp rock classic. The album was the first to
feature the classic Magnum line-up of Catley, Clarkin, Wally Lowe, Mickey
Barker and Mark Stanway who rejoined the band on keyboards after a spell
with Phil Lynott.
The band performed the album as part of their 20th anniversary
celebrations in 2005 and a special expanded edition and DVD of the London
gig was released called 'Livin' The Dream'.
The band made some demos for Polydor and were signed in late-1985. There
followed their most successful period and with a bigger budget lending a
sheen to the resulting albums 'Vigilante' (1986) and 'Wings Of Heaven'
(1988). 1990's 'Goodbye LA' failed to provide the band with the
breakthrough they sought in the USA and they were then dropped by Polydor.
For the next decade the band followed a somewhat precarious course, which
saw them treading the boards in venues considerably smaller than those of
the late-eighties. The albums were also lower-key, with 1992's 'Sleepwalking'
and 1994's 'Rock Art'. Magnum's brand of quality rock was seemingly out of
favour and they announced their split after a farewell tour in 1995. This
was immortalised on the CD 'Stronghold' (titled 'The Last Dance' in
Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin then formed a Magnum spin-off with Al Barrow
(bass) called Hard Rain but the band's two albums
provoked a mixed response. Many fans thought it was all but Magnum in
name, but the songs and atmosphere had changed. At this time Bob Catley
also had a burgeoning solo career and guested on several rock projects.
Photo: Lee Millward/GRTR!
There were rumours in
late-2001 of an impending Magnum reunion, but this time without Mickey
Barker (drums) and Colin 'Wally' Lowe on bass. The Hard Rain band came
together again, added Stanway on keyboards and Jimmy Copley on drums, called themselves Magnum, and
produced the album 'Breath of Life' in early 2002. This, and the
subsequent tour, was well received and convinced the band they were back
'Brand New Morning' followed in 2004 with Harry James (ex-Thunder) now on
the drum stool and in 2007 the band were confident
enough to call their new album 'Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow'
harking back to the dungeons/dragons-era of the early eighties. And to
underline that, the Rodney Matthews artwork rounded things off.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of 'Wings Of Heaven' in 2008 the band
played the album in its entirety on tour and a live album followed.
In 2011 Magnum marked their 10th anniversary with the German label SPV
and at the instigation of the label boss revisited some previous
material, adding new parts where necessary. 'Evolution' was
released in November 2011.
Characterised by Bob Catley's warm and expressive vocal skills, and Tony
Clarkin's consistently high-standard songwriting, Magnum have always
evoked a passion in those that have closely followed their progress since
the late-seventies. The Polydor-era pushed the band into the big-time
stadium arena although some (including with hindsight, the band) thought
their final studio album for that label was wrongly aimed at the American
The band's recorded output over the years is blighted somewhat by a large
number of compilations for which they gain no financial benefit.
Collectors wil relish the large number of special
editions, especially during the Polydor period when there were any
number of shaped and coloured discs (albums and singles) often with
extended or bonus tracks.
For starters, listeners should try 'On A
Storyteller's Night' for sheer consistency and then move on to 'Wings Of
Heaven'. The 1990s albums 'Sleepwalking' and 'Rock Art' are often
overlooked. The live album 'The Spirit', which covers all eras of their
career up to the time of its release in 1991, shows the band at the top of
© 2007 David Randall/GRTR! All rights reserved.