Magnum — Here Comes The Rain (SPV)
Less than a month ago an apologetic Tony Clarkin released a statement explaining that Magnum would be unable to support the release of Here Comes The Rain with the band’s planned UK and European tour.
The guitarist revealed he’d been diagnosed with a rare and incurable spinal condition that made it impossible — in the short term, at least — to carry the weight of his myriad guitars.
According to Clarkin ‘the future might have to be a bit different’ for Magnum.
Nobody imagined one of the greats of the British classic rock scene would pass away within weeks of a painful admission.
It seemed inconceivable that Here Comes The Rain might be the last time fans heard that familiar Clarkin tone driving a typically assured album.
And yet on January 7 one of the most innovative, inventive and intuitive guitarists of his generation died peacefully, surrounded by family.
Judging the band’s 23rd studio album in isolation would have been easy enough.
This is peak 21st century Magnum: AOR with an edge that showcases the Clarkin-Bob Catley axis at its dynamic and subtle best.
But assessing the 10 tracks here whilst simultaneously coming to terms with a terribly sad loss is incredibly tough.
Some Kind Of Treachery, in fact.
And it’s deeply ironic that the best track here trades on a line that perfectly captures to mood on album release day.
That mood is naturally sombre given the circumstances.
But Clarkin wouldn’t want that. Not at all.
And the hope is that Here Comes The Rain can become a fitting celebration of a life well lived and a career fulfilled.
Tony Clarkin’s Magnum Opus
Listening to Catley sing the line ‘So now it’s over/it had to end’, on the uplifting After The Silence, is strangely reassuring.
Magnum’s singer has always been blessed with a voice smothered in emotion and what’s now become a heartfelt message to his old mucker is deeply affecting.
Of course, the song was recorded long before Clarkin’s diagnosis.
The idea behind it was conceived earlier still.
And yet it’s easy to imagine that two godfathers of the melodic rock scene occasionally talked about the ‘end’ as they settled into the twilight of their careers.
If this really is Magnum’s grand finale — and who knows how many unrecorded gems Clarkin’s squirrelled away in the vaults — it’s a bullish farewell.
The sweeping title track allows is a Catley-fronted call to arms that benefits from a sweep of classy Rick Benton keys.
And it’s one of those frequent Magnum moments where Clarkin appears happy to take a back seat — a chunky riff purposefully relegated to the rear of the mix as the band’s de facto leader focuses on the bigger picture.
Blue Tango’s upbeat chorus sounds like an AOR-fuelled cross between the Quo and Quireboys as a honky tonk piano jostles for position with some serious fretwork.
‘No more crying/no more tears’ implores Catley.
Elsewhere The Day He Lied and opener Run Into The Shadows stand tall alongside the very best of the band’s post-2000 canon — a consistently strong body of work that spans an incredible 12 albums going way back to 2002’s Breath Of Life.
It would be easy to over-analyse I Wanna Live and yet, given Clarkin’s admission that he’d been in pain for a year prior to his diagnosis, the defiant piano-led piece, featuring a blistering solo, provides another poignant opportunity for deep reflection.
Classic rock’s lost a true giant of the genre but Here Comes The Rain evidences a songwriter who remained at the top of his game for decades.
RIP Anthony Michael Clarkin.