Magnum – Dance Of The Black Tattoo: Album Review

Magnum start 2021 with a best of their heftier material in Dance Of The Black Tattoo.

Release date: 8th January 2021

Label: Steamhammer/SPV

Format: digipack CD / 2LP vinyl with coloured option

Blimey, Magnum have come a long way since I saw them supporting Blue Oyster Cult back in ’79 while promoting Magnum II in its shiny silver sleeve. Periodic encounters have led to a point over forty years later as the Catley/Clarkin combo continues to flourish.

Three years ago, The Valley Of Tears – The Ballads, showcased the side of the melodic rockers. Dance Of The Black Tattoo provides the sister accompaniment. Maybe not one for the Magnum hardcore to be truthful although the selling point might be the Tony Clarkin remastered selection of choice live material plus a few radio edits.

It might be billed as the “tough-as-nails rocking” side to Magnum but their signature melodic sound enhanced by keyboard textures and colours is still at the core. In fact, the idea of presenting live tracks almost guarantees a rawer interpretation, uncluttered by studio polish.

The album kicks off with hefty live versions of a dramatic Black Skies and (as the title suggests) a more celebratory/musically theatrical Freedom Day. And now here’s the rub. Both were previously available exclusively as DVD bonus tracks on Escape From The Shadow Garden. “The perfect launch of this compilation because they present Magnum musically and lyrically from our familiar raw side,” explains Clarkin, yet kicking off a trend of mustering tracks that were previously around on disparate releases.

The grandeur and hook filled All My Bridges is a little different in that the music is still heavy, but the lyrics take up a more poetic guise in a similar fashion to the title track of what many regard as the Magnum masterpiece, 1985’s On A Storyteller’s Night. Along with Dance Of The Black Tattoo they form another two rare live tracks from the bonus section of Escape From The Shadow Garden.

The seasonal anti-war offering On Christmas Day might warrant a soft-focus video and a free pass to some of the Best Christmas Albums In The World surely. Alternatively, another reason for grabbing this Magnum selection. As are Born To Be King from their Goodnight L.A. album and surprise surprise, previously only available on vinyl or for digital download. A couple of bonus tracks from Sacred Blood Divine Lies have Clarkin declaring: “To be honest, when I started going through those old masters, I didn’t even have Phantom Of Paradise Circus on my radar.” Then it’s the same story for the inclusion of two bonus live tracks that appeared on the excellent Lost On The Road To Eternity from 2018. A fertile period for the band as we get the bonus of three previously unreleased radio edits from the studio recordings from 2018-20.

A handy stopping point or one stop shop for all those tracks that have appeared as bonus tracks or to gather some live Magnum. Some may baulk at what should or could have been included but then that ‘s what compilations are for. Take solace in the involvement of Tony Clarkin who should be a decent judge of his own work.

Listen to Your Dream Won’t Die here:

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