Archive [Rialto]

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Following an initial flirtation with progressive rock (or perhaps more accurately, the posturing of progressive rock for the sake of prevailing trends) at the start of the band's career in the late '70s, Magnum developed into possibly the most pristine example of pure American AOR ever to issue from England. Guided by the creative vision of guitarist Tony "The Hat" Clarkin -- another walking contradiction with his long beard marking him as a ZZ Top refugee more than a melodic rock songsmith -- the band thwarted most pundits' pessimistic predictions to carve itself a remarkably long-lasting career with successive generations of fans. (At least in Europe -- in the U.S. no one knows them from Adam.) One of the better greatest-hits sets available in the marketplace, Rialto's Archive samples a good cross-section of Magnum's long career, taking time to spotlight high-concept hard rock pieces ("How Far Jerusalem," "Les Morts Dansant," "Kingdom of Madness," "Soldier of the Line," etc.) as well as fluffy, keyboard-driven singles and ballads ("Just Like an Arrow," "The Prize," "Start Talking Love," "Lights Burned Out," etc.). Numerous spirited live versions lend additional credence to Magnum's solid reputation as a touring unit, and offer simultaneous reparations for the odd blunder, the most egregious of which has to be the saxophone and keyboard-drenched pop atrocity "Foolish Heart." This single Achilles' heel is hardly enough to screw up the overall package, however, and Archive provides a worthy introduction to Magnum's grandiose oeuvre.

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