Spirit: A History

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Magnum's sound blends a progressive edginess with an arena rock pounce, but comes across as rather distinct sounding when compared to other groups that may fall into the same musical category. Likened to early Styx or Pendragon, Magnum's formula was rich in poetry and storytelling, a trademark of many a British prog rock band. Spirit is a two-CD compilation of the band's history and is a splendid oversight of their material. Although Magnum's popularity failed to emerge in North America, their guitar-driven sound, alongside clean percussion and sharp keyboards, makes them one of the most polished-sounding progressive bands to come out of the '80s. Guitarist and songwriter Tony Clarken gives the band its lifeblood, and vocalist Bob Catley sometimes resembles John Wetton in his passionate singing style. While their music ranges from the three-minute rock song to the ten-minute epic suite, the selections that make up Spirit are wisely chosen, representing both aspects of their repertoire. Magnum's pomp rock formula can be best regarded on tracks like "Shoot," "Kingdom of Madness," and "How Far Jerusalem," since they all highlight the group's energy with the intermingling of guitar and keyboards and the stern seriousness of Catley's lyrics. Magnum's musicianship is bolstered by its tightly knit sound, heard in songs like "Love Is a Stranger" and "Tell Tale Eyes," as a progressive feel is cultivated without the extravagance of lengthy synthesizer passages or rambunctious instrumental gatherings. There are numerous compilations of Magnum's short-lived career, but Spirit may be the most comprehensive of the lot.

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