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Event the staunchest Magnum advocates will find it difficult to claim with a straight face that the band has a peerless track record. Consistency of an elite caliber is one defining hallmark easy to bestow upon most of the group's 80s output, but this inimitable streak reaching back all of the way to Chase the Dragon was put in earnest danger courtesy of the discursive, anticipation-deflating Goodnight L.A. Sleepwalking saved the day two years later, only to be subsequently felled by the '90s baggage that carried over with the otherwise admirable Rock Art in '94, and as a result Magnum's time as a stadium-filling juggernaut seemed to be reaching its logical conclusion. The band broke up in Spring of the next year.
Attention was naturally diverted to the cadre of side projects now transitioned to the main stage. Stanway retired from music altogether during this period, while eternally conjoined (after the fact) twins Catley and Clarkin continued collaborating within the confines of the average Hard Rain project for a short period thereafter. Legends, Catley's second solo record, is a landmark insofar that it is the vocalist's first studio record released without the nagging pull of other distractions. Catley had departed Hard Rain some time prior to Legends' release date, so from a certain point of view, Bob was really poised to make the naysayers eat their words here. The truth is hardly stranger than fiction in this case, as Legends ends up falling primarily in line with The Tower, ossifying the line that separates the more animated, traditional Magnum-esque numbers typified by the style evident on When Empires Burn; far beyond the more unplugged, soft rock pseudo balladry that embodied the project's first steps.
Sadly, this bottle-necked template features clear-cut limitations right from the start, but an obvious credit goes to Bob for his ability to pull off even the most lachrymose and pompous with a clear-defined ear for emotive wizardry. Few shortcomings can be levied against the supporting cast, as the well-traveled Gary Hughes and Vinny Burns clearly have a comprehensive grasp of the AOR eccentricities they wish to purport. The biggest problem is exactly that, as this is a style that doesn't grant much in the way of stylistic variance without flagging and coming off like a lampooning if forced via an unwise angle. Legends still manages to pull the proceedings together more often than not.
Although Catley picked up a nagging, nasal affect concerning his singing voice some time after 1990, downright confounding limitations such as these can do little in the way of dulling choruses that gleam and sparkle like every cosmos in the night sky crying out for attention in unison. Legends plays up to its greater strengths in these instances, be it "Hydra," "The Pain" or especially the monster progressive behemoth that is "The Light." These numbers feature just enough sprightliness to the riffs to connect the chains, allowing the more exultant melodic appeals to sell the lion's share of the appeal. While the album lives up to its name by featuring a narrative that touches on a different mythos (alternating between both fictional and historic) from song to song. Some work better than others, as "Medusa" is the closest Catley comes to an all out cringe moment here on Legends, but the winners far and away outstrip the duds.
At the end of the day, it would be a safe bet to look to Catley's later solo output first if you are markedly curious about his potential in the metal arena. When Empires Burn and especially Immortal will more than scratch that itch. This by no means shortchanges records like Legends, which redeem some virtues and fill an alternate, softer void left by Magnum's then-fresh dissolution and the loss of classic numbers like "Need a Lot of Love" and "The Spirit." Definitely an improvement over the largely meandering The Tower, and undoubtedly contains some of Catley's best solo output, period.
No, this isn’t a metal album either. Again, if you want that one, go see “When empires burn” what we have here is a natural successor to “the Tower” it is perhaps slightly heavier guitar wise, but all the symphonics are still there. The concept for this one (the tower is a concept album, but I can’t figure out exactly what about) is simply legends, ranging from mystical creatures and Dracula, to Elvis! Well, each to their own I suppose.
The opener “the pain” is the Elvis themed song, and it is also a metal song! Yep, that riff is to heavy to be called anything else. Of course the song is very melodic, but has a killer solo in the middle, which lasts for ages and really picks up speed, that is no hard rock solo right there, that’s a full on metal one!. The symphonics are great, as always, and the song itself is very good indeed.
“Shelter from the night follows” This song being based on Dracula. It starts off like a ballad with a harpsichord playing, then the guitar kicks in. a very, well, “narrator” approach to the vocals. The vocals are souring in the chorus as always, and the solo’s are great. Another song which is very good indeed, certainly not metal, but nicely done.
“Carpe Diem” is next, and is based on Shakespeare’s “Henry the fifth” This one is definitely a hard rocker and not really a song that comes close to metal, the intro section is very pedestrian. The chorus is soaring as always, but the song is rather too laid back to be great. A reasonably weak track though there is nothing technically wrong with it.
“Tender is the night” is a song based upon Marlyn Monroe! Ok then, confusing, but since the song itself doesn’t actually mention her name that could be incidental. It is another rather pedestrian song, the symphonics are good, but there is very little guitar until about two thirds of the way through the song when a really strong solo comes through, but it is still rather too slow, and never really goes anywhere, again, a rather weak song.
Then we have Medusa, the first of two songs dealing with the Greek myths, and this one really kicks the tempo back up! That opening riff and solo scream metal! This song has that bouncy rhythmn which is great. The chorus is sung over that rhythmn which gives it a very strange feel to it, but it is still a great chorus. There are some quiet sections in the middle, but this song is generally quite fast paced and really is a great song, one of the best on the album, a very good song indeed.
The Hydra, the second Greek themed song follows. It starts off with a keyboardi intro. But then the riff and drums create that bouncy feel like in the previous song. Definitely more hard rock than the previous, but very catchy (hell, all of his songs are at least catchy!) I love the “legends of stories told…of the HYDRA!!!” section of the chorus. The solo is also very good. Another good song this one!
“A beautiful night for love” follows. I suppose our Bob never really got out of the heard rock vein of Magnum, which too had the occasional love song. And this one is based upon “Wuthering heights” This is a ballad through and through. It is a catchy ballad still, but it is far to pedestrian for me. It does have a decent solo when all is said and done, but another weakfish spot for the album.
“Too late” is next, and this one is a “phantom of the opera” song. A strange little intro starts this one, opening into a drum solo, before the vocal and the keyboards start, which explode into the guitars. A hard rock song through and through, mainly because it is vocal driven, but a reasonably good song, nothing truly amazing, but still, a reasonable song, and one where several of the lyrics remind me of Iced earth’s “Phantom opera ghost” “oh my Christine” and the like.
“The light” is next, and it doesn’t have a concept, but this is an epic, over eight minutes long, and it is a total metal song! A galloping riff and song fast drum patterns in this one. Reminds me of the heavier magnum stuff. In fact, this is a real throwback to the early magnum days, perhaps the only place where his vocals sound nigh the same as they did over 20 years ago! It still is Symphonic and such, but there are several very nice solos in there. This is more metal than Rainbow’s Stargazer for example, and in parts does remind me of that song. There is a slower section in the middle, but it does not bring this song down. All in all, a truly amazing epic, one of his very best songs.
The final song is “where the heart is” and is based upon, I quote “Robert Louis Stevensons ‘The Master of Balantray’” what on earth that is. This is another ballad through and through, not even a solo in there. Sure it is catchy, but without any hooks. A weak ending song all and all.
Well, its not as good as “The Tower” and its certainly not as good as “When Empires Burn” but it is much better than “Middle Earth” All in all a good album with some amazing songs, but also with some weaker ones as well.