Covering five CDs, including all of their biggest hits and a career-defining live set, this is the lavish Magnum collection die-hard fans have always dreamed of.

rushonrock got its hands on a promo copy last week and we’ve been rejoicing in all things Clarkin and Catley ever since.

With a hugely anticipated performance at newbie festival High Voltage lined up for July there’s never been a better time to get into a band as comfortable slugging it out with prog’s finest as they are going toe-to-toe with pop rock royalty.

If variety is the spice of life then it’s no wonder Magnum are in such fine fettle – this exhaustive collection proves that few British bands have worn so well and we review and rate their piece de resistance right here.

Magnum – The Gathering (Universal Music Group)

For some inexplicable reason Magnum have never received the respect their astonishing music deserves. Whether staying true to their roots in the face of the NWOBHM, emerging as a truly melodic alternative to US rivals in the late 80s and early 90s or reinforcing their reputation as prog-tinged storytellers post reformation, this is a band which has always fused brilliance with a bona fide passion for rock.

Tony Clarkin and Bob Catley are one of the greatest musical partnerships ever to grace the world’s stages and their constant commitment to creating cutting edge rock with commercial appeal underpins this fantastic five-disc career resume. Compiled in chronological order over the first four CDs and featuring a fifth, live disc there is no stone left unturned in the quest for the full Magnum story.

Pulling together a body of work from stints on no fewer than six labels takes some doing but there’s a snapshot of the band from almost every era here. Whether you marvel at the quality of early work like Universe or Invasion or wallow in the over-produced majesty of the Polydor years – replete with sugary sweet ballads and multi-layered tracks – there’s barely a bad track.

Session outtakes, single B-sides and the odd live track in addition to the Hammersmith show mean there’s enough unique material, coupled with a lavish book and nicely packaged box, to keep the Magnum fan who has everything satisfied. The 12 inch single bonus track C’est La Vie is a prime example of a prime cut widely available for the first time.

But this should be equally appealing to Magnum virgins – if you’ve always looked down on the Midlands crew for being neither prog enough nor rock enough and failing to meet the demands of either the classic rock fan or the melodic metal aficionado then it’s time to change that skewed view. Catley’s wonderful vocal delivery coupled with Clarkin’s ear for an addictive hook make for a mighty canon of emotive British rock.

Fans of the band’s Polydor years – when albums like Wings Of Heaven and Goodnight LA gave the invasion of US hair metal bands a run for their MTV money – are royally spoilt with a slew of hits including It Must Been Love, Start Talking Love and Heartbroke And Busted. But even during the late 80s/early 90s proggy gems like Don’t Wake The Lion paid homage to the band’s glorious past and predicted an equally rosy future.

With cuts from the band’s most recent SPV records bringing this worthy aural CV bang up to date one thing becomes clear: quality has always complemented quantity where Magnum is concerned. This standout collection has been a long time coming. The Lion has finally been woken.

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Mag-nificent