Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Nick Magnus - n'monix

The last week or so may have been dominated by IQ's magnificent new album "The Road of Bones", but there has been another newly released album that is just as equally impressive, in it's own distinctive way. The latest solo album by Nick Magnus is a sheer delight from start to finish.

For many, Nick's name will be familiar from his days playing with Steve Hackett back in the late 70's and early 80's. He appeared on classic albums like "Spectral Mornings" and "Defector" and you can hear that same post-Genesis, eccentric English progressive vibe permeating "n'monix". The songwriting, arrangements and production have such a beautiful lightness of touch. Listen to "Eminent Victorians" and you will be transported back to Hackett's "Tigermoth", which is helped by the fact it is sung by Pete Hicks who was another stalwart from Hackett's late 70's band. The man himself lends his unmistakeable guitar tone to three of the tracks here. But without doubt the highlight is the inspired choice of having Tim Bowness sing the epic ballad "Broken". His breathy, heartfelt vocal is just right for this emotive song, which is further enhanced by the wonderful sax solo from Rob Townsend.

All the keyboards and synths are by Nick himself of course. But like everything else on the album, there is nothing showy. Every instrument is placed effortlessly into the mix. I did wonder about who played the drums and some of the guitar, as they are not credited in the sleeve notes, so I put this to Nick on Facebook. Lo and behold did he not email me personally. Seems the drums are programmed which surprised me as they do not sound synthetic at all. Also, what I thought was a wonderful guitar solo on the last track "Entropy" is in fact keyboard! Very ingenious, he really has spent time and effort to ensure the instrumentation sounds just right.

This is a real gem of an album. Classic, crafted progressive rock songwriting at its very best but maintaining a contemporary feel for instrumentation and production. It's no surprise that Mark and Vicky Powell have released this on the Esoteric Antenna imprint, as along with Matt Stevens recent album "Lucid" they have shown real savvy for finding that something special for their label. Even the packging is classy. Full marks to the inimitable Phil Smee for his usual flair in layout. It does my heart good to see that in this day and age an album as good as this gets the release it deserves.


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