It has been three years since The Valley Of Tears – The Ballads, a compilation that focused on their quiet, more otherworldly and dreamy side, and now they are back with a companion release which focuses on the harder side.
This is a compilation of rare live cuts and radio versions to show a different aspect of the band, as if anyone needed reminding what they are all about. I have been a fan of the Brummies for more than 40 years and consider myself incredibly fortunate to catch them four times in the Eighties, including on the On A Storyteller’s Night tour. There is no doubt that Bob Catley is one of the finest rock singers ever to take the stage, while in Tony Clarkin he has the perfect songwriting partner, and even though they tried to break the band some years ago it didn’t last too long at all.
The problem with this album is that it feels more like a collection of rarities than it does a balanced release, which is exactly what it is. It means that while there are some standout tracks, such as the excellent Born To Be King (originally on the somewhat underwhelming Goodnight L.A. album from 1990), there is no common thread. One cannot imagine an album like this without a version of On A Storyteller’s Night, but we get a modern take, and I would much rather hear something taken from a recording of the period as back then it felt special and new, while now it is somewhat overdone. The positive for me is that mostly Tony has looked at more modern material, as it would have been very easy to pull together an album of material from the first eight albums, but there has been a much stronger focus on the more recent eight.
I love Magnum, have done so since I came across the All Of My Life EP and the associated Marauder album, but while there are some juicy tracks on here, the mix of live and radio from different periods does make this a somewhat difficult release to fully get inside.