Magnum – “Dance Of The Black Tattoo” CD / 2 LP (Steamhammer / SPV)
Battle Helm Rating
Following the resounding success of 2017’s “The Valley Of Tears – The Ballads”, it was inevitable that some sort’ve follow up was on the cards from Britain’s most famous of all pomp rockers – Magnum. However, knowing a thing or two in the many years they’ve been around, “Dance Of The Black Tattoo” has swung to the other end of the spectrum in being a special compilation of the band’s most accomplished rock numbers. I say ‘special’ as this is no mere cull from the past, but as you might expect from founder guitarist Tony Clarkin, selected rare live cuts and choice radio edit versions all lovingly re-mastered in his expert hands – 14 tracks in all – for the fans, and not one a disappointment. Going back to 1994’s “Rock Art” is the radio edit of ‘On Christmas Day’, Magnum’s poignant seasonal anti-war number that never fails to touch the heart in every regard thanks to Bob Catley’s made-to-measure vocals, awash with heart and soul made all the more emotional through violins, Mark Stanway’s atmospheric keyboards and not forgetting of course, Clarkin’s own stirring but still rocking guitar work. Indeed, his axe mastery is no better exemplified than by his outstanding solo on ‘Phantom of Paradise Circus’, the bonus track to 2016’s “Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies”! On the live front, it’s hard to beat ‘Your Dreams Won’t Die’, also from the aforementioned album, resonating pomp rock in all its majesty through its magnificent singalong chorus, heart melting orchestrals, Rick Benton’s 70s organ and most of all, that unmistakeable Magnum touch that makes you feel good and leaves you with hope, no matter what the storm. Of the more recent releases, then ‘Show Me Your Hands’ from 2018’s “Lost On The Road To Eternity”, here in its radio edit version, will take some beating in fulfilling this compilation’s objective of showcasing Magnum’s rockier side, be it through Clarkin’s red-blooded guitar resonating strongly in sounding that heavier aspect, or the ever-soulful Catley, and Benton’s subtle, if no less effective keyboards gracefully continuing the melodic momentum in fine style. Indeed, this flawless attention to detail demonstrates yet again, why Magnum, while not being as much of a household name as Marmite in Britain, have no less earned their place (many times over) in the annals of this island’s rock history.