A band that definitely needs no introduction is Birmingham’s masters of rock, the one and only Magnum, purveyors of quality music since 1972. If you remember, it is now around three years since the band released the compilation album The Valley Of Tears – The Ballads, a record designed to show the quieter and more reflective side of the band with a perfectly selected set of slow, burning ballads at which the band excels. Dance Of The Black Tattoo can be considered as the companion album to The Ballads as this album is designed to show the rockier, anthemic and more up tempo side of the band both in the studio and in the live environment too.
The back catalogue of the band is huge and legendary but, for this release, they have remastered 14 tracks taken from 2014 to the present with the material previously only available on bonus CDs/DVDs and as alternative tracks edited for radio release. As the material ranges from over the last six years then there have been musicians both old and new involved with the ever presents of Bob Catley on vocals and Tony Clarkin on guitar with Al Barrow and Dennis Ward on bass, Harry James and Lee Morris on drums and Mark Stanway and Rick Benton on keyboards.
The song selection is inspired and avoids the over use of well known tracks although a new live version of Storyteller’s Night is always to be welcomed. There are several tracks that you may or may not know too well like Phantom Of Paradise Circus or even the anti-war single On Christmas Day but they are all vintage Magnum and sound simply majestic and totally enthralling. I guess the only track that doesn’t meet the 2014 to present day criteria is the thumping Born To Be King taken from Goodnight L.A. which is unavailable on CD and it seems that this song has only previously been available on vinyl and digital download.
Tony Clarkin is a masterful songwriter and imbues every song with that special Clarkin magic that has stood the band in good stead all of these years and he is the standard that all song writers should be assessed against. These are musicians that simply get better with age and Tony Clarkin’s guitar playing is some of the finest that he has ever done and his relationship with Bob Catley is something totally unique and there is an unbreakable bond between the two of them. As a vocalist, Bob Catley is without equal and his rich, sumptuous and velvet voice is a hallmark that guarantees total satisfaction.
Magnum remains on top form and the re-mastering of these tracks is impeccable as you would expect from these guys as perfection is their standard setting! The album is very well balanced and there is a serene flow to the music so there is a real consistency throughout unlike so many collections that other bands have put out which often seem to be rather roughly cobbled together. If Magnum do a job then they do it right and these fourteen tracks serve again to remind just what a magical rock and roll band this is, coming up 50 years in the game and still as relevant and committed as they were when Clarkin picked up his first six string and Catley picked up his first microphone (although I secretly believe he was born with a microphone in his hand).
Dance Of The Black Tattoo may be another compilation and God knows that there are many of them by Magnum but this is a perfectly re-mastered, crafted, paced and set out record. Go on, you know you want it, great cover art as well.
Dance Of The Black Tattoo track list
- Black Skies (live) (6:06) – DVD bonus of CD version Escape From The Shadow Garden
- Freedom Day (live) (6:20) – DVD bonus of CD version Escape From The Shadow Garden
- All My Bridges (live) (4:55) – DVD bonus of CD version Escape From The Shadow Garden
- On A Storyteller’s Night (live) 5:09 – DVD bonus of CD version Escape From The Shadow Garden
- Dance Of The Black Tattoo (live) (5:53) – Bonus of vinyl version from Escape from The Shadow Garden
- On Christmas Day (radio edit) (4:21) – Previously unavailable on CD
- Born To Be King 5:31 – Previously unavailable on CD
- Phantom Of The Paradise Circus (5:58) – DVD bonus of CD version from Sacred Blood Divine Lies
- No God Or Saviour (5:24) – DVD bonus of CD version from (Sacred Blood Divine Lies
- Your Dreams Won’t Die (live) (5:44) – Bonus of CD version from (Lost On The Road To Eternity
- Twelve Men Wise And Just (live) (6:22) – Bonus of CD version from Lost On The Road To Eternity
- Show Me Your Hands (radio edit) (3:48) – Previously unreleased version from Lost On The Road To Eternity
- Not Forgiven (radio edit) (3:38) – Previously unreleased version from (The Serpent Rings)
- Madman Or Messiah (radio edit) (3:41) – Previously unreleased version from The Serpent Rings