Magnum – “The Valley Of Tears – The Ballads” (Steamhammer / SPV)
For anyone with frayed nerves post Christmas, this might be just the tune you’re after. Whilst I would normally balk at the idea of ‘easy listening’, the exception might be when I’m listening to pedigree pomp rockers Magnum. Certainly no lightweights in their youth, they have however, evolved to become masters of the rock ballad and justifiably renowned for it. Apparently inspired by guitarist Tony Clarkin’s daughter asking why dad hadn’t already put a collection together of the band’s quieter numbers, the inspiration behind “The Valley Of Tears – The Ballads” was born! Being Clarkin, this would be no easy matter, with the maestro delving as far back as 1986’s “Vigilante” album and the cuts being a mixture of new re-recordings, remixes and re-masterings as well as a live track. More importantly, his final choice was based on endless sequencing, running the songs through time and again mentally so to achieve the flow and atmosphere to make this release special. Well, it’s worked (as if anything he ever did didn’t)! Right from the rich, colourful artwork based on his concept, this collection of 10 tracks exudes atmosphere in abundance. You don’t need to do anything except enjoy the bliss of the material on offer here in its entirety. For me especially, it was nice to hear a new version of ‘Broken Wheel’ taken off 1992’s “Sleepwalking” album, and equally the oldies from “Vigilante” of ‘Lonely Night’ and ‘When The World Comes Down’, now given a new lease of life thanks to Bob Catley’s still heartfelt voice and in a live format, sounding great even after 30 years! And hats off to Mark Stanway, who left the band last month and whose presence here makes his departure all the more missable.