Artist: Bob Catley
   Title: When Empires Burn
   Label: Frontiers Records

‘When Empires Burn’ is Oor Bob’s 4th solo album and as a diehard fan and long time follower of his work I can whole heartedly confirm it to be his finest solo album to date.

Words cannot express my delight when I first heard this fourth album would be written by Paul Hodson this time and not Gary Hughes as has been the case with bob’s earlier solo offerings.

Yes they were great albums, but that was more down to Bob being such a wonderfully gifted vocalist than a reflection on Gary’s talent. For a large part these earlier albums smacked too much of ‘Bob does Ten’ for my personal liking. Indeed the songs were just that, Ten songs with Bob singing as opposed to Gary. They have their highlights but they didn’t really set the world alight for me.

Someone once said to me that Bob was the musical equivalent of a tin of Cupinol. That was that he was a good quality product that did exactly what it said on the tin. I blame Gary for leading the masses to such comparisons as many of the songs he wrote for Bob were just too safe and perhaps even bland in places to fully explore and push Bob into new regions of his mighty talents.

Back to the here and the now though and Bob’s new album. Having religiously followed bob throughout his Magnum, Hard Rain and solo career, I know what types of songs I like to hear him do. ‘When Empires Burn’ is so fresh and alive compared to the earlier solo albums that it leaps out at you and shakes your senses awake once more.

At last Bob had found someone who, like the wonderful Tony Clarkin, truly understands what it is to be the mighty Bob Catley. Paul has delivered an album that will entrance fans both old and new. He has provided Bob with the words and the music that his followers have long bayed for. The words and music that are brought to life to paint pictures in the imagination and fills you with that warm contented feeling as you sing along to them.

One of the biggest things that struck me with this album is that the band that appear on the recording are the band Bob will actually be touring with. Apart from new guy Jamie Little taking over the role of beatmaster on the drums, the band remains very much the same as we’ve seen tour with Bob so many times with his earlier solo albums.

This album is much more a ‘family’ affair with bassist Al Barrow designing the cover and inlay booklet, Paul Hodson not only writing and producing the album, but also recording and producing it at his studio in Stourbridge. The wee guitarist with the huge personality Mr. Vince O’Regan has been well and truly let off the leash on this album to leave his indelible mark on the songs. The result of which is astounding.

This is an album I feel is truly worthy to be included in Bob’s catalogue. Gone is the feeling of Bob’s live band being classed as second class citizens. Anyone can make an album sound good in the recording and production if you have a grand master mixer on the desks. However it was these guys that time and time again did Bob proud when he was on tour. It was all thanks to Paul, Vince and Al that the songs were brought alive and had so many of Bob’s fans in raptures at the live shows.

Showing your thanks and gratitude to their devotion to you and your music time and time again it is great to see you’ve finally come to your senses and declared them to the world to be ‘YOUR’ band. For that’s who we’ve always thought of when we heard the songs, forget the ‘big name’ session musicians you used on the albums in the past, they meant nothing to us compared to this bunch of loveable rogues.

The album kicks off with ‘The Torment’, a cross between the theme from Jaws and some grand epic drama. No doubt the band will make full use of this tune as the opening piece the live gigs on the tour. Moving swiftly onwards we have ‘Children of the Cirlce’ which lifts the mood instantly and sets the scene for what is to follow. Although anthem like it’s upbeat tempo prevents it from being heavy going and instead weaves a strong addictive thread which is sure to have the fans singing along to it at the live performances.

‘Gonna live Forever’ and ‘I’ll be your Fool’ could so easily have been written during the Magnum ‘Vigilante’ days, like old familiar friends they warm the cockles of your heart with their pomp-rock appeal. ‘I’ll be your sunshine on a rainy day …’ the words flood out from the speakers and indeed just like sunshine on a rainy day they instantly bring a smile to your face and lift your spirits.

This album has been touted as Bob’s ‘heavy metal’ album. The two just don’t seem possible in any sense of the term, however if you check out the harder guitar edge on songs like ‘The Prophecy’, ‘This is the Day’, and ‘Someday Utopia’, perhaps it’s not that far from the truth. However I’d prefer the description hard rock to heavy metal myself.

Famous for his softer more gentler songs we have the reflective ‘Every Beat of my Heart’ and ‘Meaning of Love’. Such beautiful poetry that stands strong side by side with past delights ‘The last Dance’ and ‘Les morts Dansant’.

All told this album is a must for all traditional Magnum/Bob Catley fans. Bob’s work has continued to surpass our wildest hopes and dreams with this album. He has brought alive the songs with a voice that never fails to deliver and a band to be proud of. Yes this is the true Bob Catley band and wow, what a mighty combination these five musicians make when they set their minds to it.

Tracklisting:

  1. The Torment (Intro)
  2. Children of the Circle
  3. Gonna live Forever
  4. The Prophecy
  5. I’ll be your Fool
  6. Every beat of my Heart
  7. When empires Burn
  8. Meaning of Love
  9. This is the Day
  10. Someday Utopia
  11. My America

                  

 

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