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5th album by multi-talented keyboardist / composer / producer and one of our biggest selling artists of the past decade - Steve Hackett guests on guitar!
CDS Customers are more than well aware of the genius of this man's work and have been enjoying the worlds of Magnus music for many years now, but to the vast section of the music buying public Nick Magnus is still one of the UK’s best-kept secrets, but possibly not for much longer with the arrival of ‘N’monix’.
Steve Hackett certainly knows the true worth of this musician, because his guitar work has featured on tracks from Nick’s last two albums, and now again on ‘N’monix’, so that alone has to be the ultimate endorsement of his talents!
First, a bit of Magnus history for the newbies, an intro to the new album, and a track-by-track review for it…
Following a short period with The ENID in 1976, Nick Magnus became Steve Hackett’s first keyboards player when Steve formed his own band after leaving GENESIS.
Nick remained an integral part of Steve’s studio and touring set-up throughout the 70’s and 80’s and played keyboards on the ‘Spectral Mornings’ & ‘Defector’ albums, plus appears on many others in some shape or form.
Among Nick’s other activities in the mid-80’s was time spent working with James Warren (KORGIS) on his ‘Burning Question’ solo album, and appearances on albums by: CHINA CRISIS (‘Flaunt The Imperfection’), RENAISSANCE (‘Timeline’) and Claire Hamill (‘Love In The Afternoon’).
He was later to be the creator of several high profile music projects that were not published under his own name, some of which became chart topping releases, plus he has worked on music related to the popular TV quiz show ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’.
Nick Magnus has been one of our top-selling artists over the past decade and more since he conceived and recorded his first solo album way back in the early 90’s. Entitled: ‘Straight On ‘Til Morning’ it initially found a home with a library music company and then had a limited CD release in 1994. His music took off in earnest in 1999 with the release of ‘Inhaling Green’, a wonderfully symphonic, mainly instrumental gem released on our in-house label: Centaur, and this is now rightly considered to be classic Magnus! From there Nick subsequently independently released two other albums: ‘Hexameron’ in 2004 and ‘Children Of Another God’ in 2010. Both were more “Progressive” in form and featured more in the way of lyrical content than previous offerings and included vocalists among their guest lists. Both albums were extremely successful for Nick and consistent sellers at CDS Towers over the last decade.
Soon in 2014 we will have his eagerly anticipated 5th album: ‘N’monix’, which I have just heard, and I’m here to tell all Magnus music (and GENESIS/Steve Hackett) fans – you will not be disappointed!
Nick Magnus makes a magnificent brand of melodic symphonic rock and together with lyricist Dick Foster, the pair craft top-notch Progressive styled songs that run the gamut of dynamics, from powerful and rocky to ethereal and grandiose, incorporating magical moments of sublime beauty and pure melancholy, touches of Celtic music and even some tongue in cheek humour along the way!
Nick has been working on ‘N’monix’ for the past two years, and as with every new Magnus release, he again raises the bar a few notches on his playing and production skills as well as levels of perfectionism!
‘N’monix’ contains 8 brand new tracks, all with something different to offer a wide spectrum of music fans. It starts and ends in pure Prog Rock territory, and in between delivers a variety of quality tracks and instrumental stylings that touch on the edge of the main genre with the feel of his Prog past is never far away.
As with past Magnus albums, there is a lot of storytelling to be found in the lyrical content… Dick Foster not only writes wonderful lyrics for Nick’s melodic and often catchy instrumental tracks, but he’s also the creative mastermind behind the promotional videos that can be found on YouTube. There will be a video for a track from ‘N’monix’ available soon featuring Steve Hackett doing the honours in front of the camera for a stunning guitar solo.
The musician line-up for ‘N’monix’ is: Nick Magnus (keyboards / percussion / vocal – track 4), Steve Hackett (electric guitar – tracks 5, 6 & 7), Tony Patterson (vocals – tracks 1 & 3), Kate Faber (soprano vocal – track 2), Pete Hicks (lead vocal – track 5), Andy Neve (backing vocals – tracks 5 & 8), Tim Bowness (vocal – track 6), Rob Townsend (soprano sax & flute – track 6) and James Reeves (lead vocal – track 8).
So, here’s a brief track-by-track rundown to whet your appetite…
'Time' is a Prog person’s dream track that is intended as the precursor to the 2nd track. It features an abrupt but ethereal opening sequence that develops quickly into a driving instrumental riff that is initially reminiscent of ‘Squonk’ from the GENESIS ‘Trick Of The Tail’ album, then, as the jabs of Hammond organ and sweeping waves of Mellotron string & brass with layers of gothic choral voices introduce RE-GENESIS’ Tony Patterson’s first Gabriel-esque vocal performance, the track takes on a feel nearer to ‘Lamb Lies Down…’ period GENESIS… this is a fantastic album opener that’s set to become another Magnus classic! ‘Time’ continues into an extended instrumental passage following the same theme, with the mighty Magnus keyboard rack coming into play, including more powerful organ work and the sound of choirs and more Mellotron waves taking the track on to a massive military-esque percussive link passage that leads to the sombre symphonic intro to…
… 'Memory' where a beautiful soprano vocal from Kate Faber is set over a soft orchestral backdrop created on Nick’s synthesizers. With a roll of classical percussion just past the halfway mark, the track moves into a grandiose closing passage of massed heavenly choirs and concludes in a cloud of percussive effects.
Emerging from a cloud of distant rumblings comes a solitary trumpet melody followed by an approaching thrilling military style symphonic march, where melodic synth brass leads herald an introduction for: ‘Kombat Kid', the second track to feature Tony Patterson’s stylish vocals. This is another Proggy style piece with a storytelling lyric that relates a tale of a child locked inside a computer game. Musically it could be another GENESIS or Steve Hackett track in any other life, with fantastic synth solos coming and going along the way, plus there are some great high-register sweeping guitar spots too. A synth that sounds like a 12-string acoustic guitar and a lush keyboard backdrop that includes Mellotron choirs adds a finishing flourish to music that again sounds vaguely familiar…ah I’ve just got it… this could be a ‘Selling England…’ track brought into the naughties with a modern lyric – Great stuff for GENESIS / Hackett fans!
'Headcase' is a more upbeat keyboard driven song with a catchy chorus and clever lyric that features Nick on vocals for the first time. It includes some classy keyboard and bass work and an infectious synth solo in the middle, with added guitar riff towards the close.
'Eminent Victorians' is the longest track on the album so far and marks Steve Hackett’s first appearance on ‘N’monix’. It’s another storytelling track that features Pete Hicks on lead vocal - Pete first came to prominence as a vocalist on Steve Hackett’s 3rd solo album: ‘Spectral Mornings’ and subsequently became part of his touring band.
A fairground organ sound intro’s a song with a strong chorus and excellent keyboards work from Nick.
Steve provides excellent guitar work throughout, with a solo in middle instrumental section and then another that assists Mangus’s organ and other keyboards toward a fitting and dramatic finale.
'Broken' is beautifully fragile and the longest on ‘N’monix’. It features a lovely vocal performance from Tim Bowness (NO-MAN), with superb guitar arpeggios from Steve Hackett. Nick’s waves of Mellotron and melodic synthesizers give the track the feel of a GENESIS ballad, and (for me) the track also brought some of Mark/Almond’s (the 70’s American duo, not the pop guy) delicately styled melodic atmospheric music to mind. Added flute and a Mellotron backed soprano sax solo from Rob Townsend closes the track with extra tonal colour and is rather fab too!
‘Shadowland' is a gorgeous instrumental choral arrangement with an emotion fuelled singing Steve Hackett electric guitar set over a sea on gorgeous choir sounds courtesy of choirmaster Magnus, and it truly is a beautiful piece of “shiver down the spine” music folks!
'Entropy' closes the album and features new boy James Reeves on lead vocal with Andy Neve on backing vocals. It opens with some rather moving and gorgeously cosmic/ethereal keyboard work from Nick that is similar in style to some of the more symphonic stuff he produced for the ‘Inhaling Green’ album – dreamy symphonic Prog that’s serenely melodic, slightly classical and slightly Celtic at times. ‘Entropy’ is really a Prog ballad that has a strong hook in the chorus. James Reeves delivers a beautiful vocal performance that compliments the pace and feel of the piece absolutely perfectly – this guy has a great voice! The sombre Mellotron strings and synth backing is set over a steady but gentle rhythm, and there’s a fine guitar solo (that - I think - is actually one of Nick’s synths) blossoming out in grandeur in the middle instrumental passage. This builds and flies into the heavens towards a fantastic symphonic finale where Magnus, as he has often done in the past - rather annoyingly I might add - skilfully brings the closing fade in too early and leaves you crying out for more, more, more!
A ploy to make you repeat play the track methinks!
To conclude, ‘N’monix’ is yet another highly polished creation from Nick Magnus. Again he has made full use of his Progressive roots and exemplary production & playing skills to create an album’s worth of material that is far wider in scope than the term “Prog” might imply. The symphonic construction on ‘N’monix’ is, as always, first class, and I feel he has taken elements from all of his past four albums: ‘Straight On ‘Til Morning’, ‘Inhaling Green’, ‘Hexameron’ and ‘Children Of Another God’, and incorporated them in to this highly evocative new 2014 production.
There is no doubt in my mind that ‘N'monix’ is bound to be another winner for CDS Tower’s symphonic Prog fans and will surely gain the wider recognition it certainly deserves.
‘N’monix’ is released on 28th April 2014.
Also available from CDS Towers by NICK MAGNUS ...
‘Hexameron’ (3rd Album / 2004 / Features Steve Hackett) – Stock # 653675
‘Children Of Another God’ (4th Album / 2010 / Features Steve Hackett / Digi-Pak) – Stock # 1291538
NICK MAGNUS: N’MONIX Track List:
01. Time (6:23)
02. Memory (5:24)
03. Kombat Kid (6:28)
04. Headcase (3:49)
05. Eminent Victorians (7:01)
06. Broken (8:05)
07. Shadowland (2:51)
08. Entropy (6:46)
TPT - 46:50