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Nick Magnus - N'monix CD (album) cover


Nick Magnus

Symphonic Prog

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4 stars Four years after the truly excellent, and one I still play with some regularity, Children Of Another God, former Enid and Steve Hackett Band alumni Nick Magnus makes a welcome return to our aural senses with this thoroughly enjoyable, and intelligent, album.

The inner sleeve has a definition of mnemonic as a system or device for aiding memory. Much of what you hear and read is truly memorable, as well.

Magnus and his keyboards are at the heart of everything in this album, and parts of opener, Time, are almost industrial in parts, certainly not particularly typical of what one might have expected, but the surprise is welcome. Contrast this with album closer, Entropy, in which his keys bring a mysterious sense of warmth as they lead a track which is Celtic in its heart, and brings all of the thoughtful lyrics of the work (aiding memory) full circle.

In the predecessor album, there was a gorgeous track called The Others featuring the beautiful, almost operatic, vocals of Linda John-Pierre. Well, on N'Monix, he has gone one further, with Memory, the sister of time, by including the most gorgeous aria sung by Kate Faber, a soprano with the most incredible voice. This is the utter highlight of the album to me, a track which celebrates and fuses all that is best about traditional symphonic prog with its classical inspiration. Truly beautiful, and worth the price of admission alone.

What remains is a fascinating mix of the modern, traditional, pastoral, and clever all in one new package. Kombat Kid is a knowing nod for those of us with boys who love console games, but framed marvellously cleverly as a historical paradox of Richard III, whose remains were recently exhumed. Tony Patterson's vocals are sumptuous and extremely knowing.

Headcase ends the first side of the album (as would have been in days of yore), before, in Eminent Victorians, we hear the first appearance of three by Steve Hackett, once again lending his old friend a hand. This is, on this track more than any other, extremely appropriate, because this is the first of a side of music I think could quite easily have fitted alongside classic Genesis of circa 1971 Nursery Cryme vintage. You know, that marvellously quirky and eccentric pastoral English to its core rock. The vocals provided by another old Hackett collaborator, Pete Hicks, simply add to the atmosphere created, this in addition to those trademark Hackett licks working in tandem with Nick's keys so reminiscent of that period.

Talking of Hackett licks, just listen to his incredible solo work on the short instrumental, Shadowland, which combines this with the feel of Memory to provide us with an almost Gothic hymn of remembrance. Quite stunning, really.

This joy, though, itself pales into comparison with Broken, the longest track on the album, clocking in at just over eight minutes long. Steven Wilson collaborator Tim Bowness contributes a delicate and thoughtful vocal to a track, with flute, soprano sax, arpeggio guitar, and a wall of keyboards simply taking one on a magical life journey, told through said instruments and children's nursery rhymes, and this is key, because, through all the joy, this is, essentially, a dark track designed to make one reflect upon events of one's past. A huge clap, then, to a wonderful lyricist, Dick Foster.

This is a memorable album, and comes thoroughly recommended to anyone who enjoys that feeling of listening to an album which brings the feel of a classic period right into the modern era with aplomb, thought, production, and warmth. An album which demands attention, and brings the rewards that such attention should provide.

Four stars, but would have the extra half star if we had such a rating on the site. Yet another album which will stay with me and on my playlist for years to come, and proof positive that 2014 continues to develop into a vintage year for exceptional intelligent progressive rock.

Report this review (#1190183)
Posted Tuesday, June 10, 2014 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars "Let's not be hasty, some insects are tasty!"

Four years after the very good Children Of Another God, Nick Magnus has released a new album in a similar vein. Many of the same people are involved again this time, including Steve Hackett - with whom Magnus used to play in the late 70's and early 80's on albums like Spectral Mornings, Defector, and Highly Strung - and Pete Hicks who also sang on some of Hackett's early albums. Tony Patterson, who sang some of the best songs on Children Of Another God, is also singing some songs here. Patterson has a rather Peter Gabriel-like voice and Gabriel-era Genesis is indeed a noticeable influence on the music of N'Monix. Other apparent musical influences include Gentle Giant, Alan Parsons Project, and The Beatles. Not surprisingly, some of the classic Hackett albums also provide a good reference point.

The opener Time is the album's best track in my opinion and it holds up well in comparison with the better songs off Children Of Another God. The same could be said about a couple of the other songs here, but overall N'Monix is not as good as Children Of Another God (but the cover art is much improved here!). Memory is out of place here with its high female vocals and Classical music, non-Rock sound. The next three tracks are all good though, Kombat Kid beginning in Neo-Classical territory but changes into full-on Gabriel-era Genesis style. Eminent Victorians also has some of the whimsy of Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot, and Headcase reminds me of some of Gentle Giant's "bouncy" tunes.

The final three tracks of the album slows things down considerably and I feel that, even though they are all of good quality, the album feels a bit "thin" towards the end. After the lovely Broken it feels as if they've already offered their best and that the rest is less essential. Also, with the exception of the misplaced Memory, all of the more Rocking tracks come at the first half or so of the album and this makes the rest come across as being not entirely connected to what went before. Perhaps, I would have arranged the tracks in a different order. But this is not major criticism, there are several eminently good moments even in this part of the album. The instrumental Shadowland reminds me of Brian May's Bijou from Queen's Innuendo album.

I learned some interesting facts that I did not know before from this educational album, for example that Richard of York was addicted to a video game and that old people from Texas eat spiders!

Recommended, but get Children Of Another God first; the latter is Magnus's best solo album.

Report this review (#1192481)
Posted Saturday, June 14, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 stars for sure

NIck Magnus is without hesitation one of my fav keybordists from rog music , his contribution to Steve Hackett albums is essential. For more then 20 yesrs he has a solo career with 5 albums released so far under his name. From what I've heared from him Children of another god is his most acomplished album so far. His latest work issued this year is N'monix after 4 years silence from previous album. Well, this is another elegand old style prog reminescent a lot from glory days of this music '70. Guests are present again Steve Hackett, Tony Patterson or Rob Townsend among others. As I said this is mid tempo , laid back prog, but composed with grace and elegants passages are all over, showing that Nick Magnus even is in his late 50 , next year he will turn 60 is still a well respected figure in this genre and still with plenty of good ideas. Two pieces stands for me as really really great , the opening Time and the fabulous , I think one of his better and most intresting pieces he ever wrote is Eminent victorians, kick ass tune, the lyrics aswell are intresting, Steve Hackett providing some tasty guitar parts remind me in places of Gentle Giant atmosphere, special in instrumental sections. The rest are also strong but not great. All in all another worthy album from this talented musician, I do not think that this is his best album but close enough, Children of another God is his his prime release, at least for me. 3.5 stars, and a good aqusition. Nice art work and all.

Report this review (#1286587)
Posted Thursday, October 2, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I didn't know who Nick Magnus was until I read a review about his newest record and then I saw he played with Steve Hackett at his record "Spectral mornings"(and many more) which is one of my favourite records. I tried to listen to a couple of Nick Magnus' own songs and I heard from first moment it was great music. Nick Magnus plays keyboards and has done that for a long time in many prog bands and elsewhere. Since 1993 he has also made some solo records (with a band of course). This year's "N'Monix" is his fifth record and fans of him have waited for four years. The cover shows a stone box with a watch in the bottom and an insect in front of it. It has a length of a long vinyl and features a long row of great musicians such as Steve Hackett(guitar), Rob Townsend(saxophone and flute) and the vocalists Tony Patterson, Pete Hicks, Tim Bowness, James Reeves, Kate Faber and Andy Neve. Nick Magnus sings as well on "Headcase".

Nick Magnus here has created a very pleasant prog record with music it's hard to not like. "N'Monix" contains symphonic rock with great vocalists, empathetic lyrics and a big variation that keep your interest high during the whole listening sessions. My favourite song is found in the middle of the album: "Eminent Victorians" with Pete Hicks on vocals. That is in my opinion the most symphonic and exciting track here and it is almost as good as it can be(9/10). "Entropy" is a fine closer(8/10) and the saxophone of Townsend and the guitar of Hackett shine on "Broken"(8/10). "Kombat Kid"(8/10) is the fourth of the greatest songs on the album, a song with an inspiring poetic text too. When this album is so even, there are no sights of bad songs and the seet "Memory" gets my lowest rating(6/10).

I recommend the whole record to prog listeners who like symphonic rock of the old style or fans of Steve Hackett as well. Nick Magnus should be proud of this album and I rate it 3.75 which becomes four stars! Best song: "Eminent victorians"

Report this review (#1300602)
Posted Wednesday, November 5, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars UK composer and musician Nick MAGNUS have been an active solo artist for more than two decades, with five full length productions to his name at this point. He's also known for a brief tenure with progressive rock band The Enid back in the 1970's, as well as working with Steve Hackett. "N'Monix" is his most recent album, and was released through Esoteric Recordings imprint Esoteric Antenna in 2014.

Nick Magnus tends to be described as a creator of symphonic progressive rock, and those with an affection for this kind of music will not be disappointed by this latest album of his. This is a production that have just about everything you could ask for from an album of this kind, especially if you have a special love for the British variety of the style as explored in the 1970's.

Fans of Genesis will adore the guitar and organ combinations that are used throughout, and alongside those with an affection for Camel they will also be swooned by the softer, layered mostly vintage keyboard arrangement used in some of the gentler escapades. Delicate piano and vocal passages have their place, and the emotional, controlled and fairly delicate lead vocals fits this type of music perfectly, perhaps not what one might describe as a great vocalist in terms of voice and range, but as far as I'm concerned vocals that are perfectly adapted to the sequences in which they are used, and able to convey emotions just about as perfect as one could ask from a human being.

In addition to the expected we have occasional dips into pastoral territories, as well as quite a few visits into stunningly beautiful orchestrated passages, where the second half of the pair Time / Memory is among the most beautiful experiences on a production that is breathtaking in it's beauty more often than not.

As this CD nears the end we're also treated to moods of a more sacral character. Shadowland most likely a rather well planned run through such a landscape with it's haunting guitar and choir backdrop, while the darker textures that opens Entropy, which then shifts into a song that in overall mood and atmosphere wouldn't be out of place on a Neal Morse worship album perhaps is more accidental, although I have to admit that I didn't follow the lyrics on that song all that closely.

Just about the only sour note I have are the lyrics for Kombat Kid. I've had computer games as a hobby for 30 years or thereabouts, and while I sympathize with the message I think the point of view is rather dead wrong in the lyrics department on that one, at least from what I could hear. Yes, games causes problems and even addictions but no, children aren't the main victims. Game addiction is rather more common among adults. Games like Football Manager and World of Warcraft will be familiar turf for people dealing with game addictions, as will so called social games on Facebook, cell phones and tablets.

If you have an interest and affection for symphonic progressive rock in general, and for the archetypical English 70's variety of it in particular, "N'Monix" is a CD you should note down on your short list of albums to inspect and most likely purchase, and those who love Genesis and Camel should probably be among the very first in line.

Report this review (#1431187)
Posted Saturday, June 27, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars I absolutely love N'monix. One can say it's not terribly innovative or risk-taking and so on, and they'd be right. It's not.

Instead, it's one of the best descendants of the 1970's epic British prog and it carries that tradition on brightly and warmly. I'm something of a romantic, so the open emotion and quiet beauty of the album speak to me strongly. Especially the short guitar/choir piece Shadowland is extremely moving - it's music I'd like to be played in my funeral (hopefully not very soon though!). And that's a positive compliment, mind you :)

So, not necessarily progressive in the strictest sense of the word but as excellent an album as you might wish for in its slightly retro genre. Thank you, Mr Magnus.

Report this review (#1454416)
Posted Tuesday, August 18, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Nick Magnus returns with a crafty follow-up to his 2 last successful albums, 2004's "Hexameron" and 2010's "Children of a Lesser God", the oddly titled "N'Monix". The recipe has not changed one iota, still a lovely collection of Gabriel-era material, fully loaded with mounds and mounds of Banksian mellotron/organ/piano/synth flourishes, some spicy Steve Hackett cameo appearances (is there anyone in prog busier than the Cured Defector?) and a cast of lead singers such as stalwarts Tony Patterson and Peter Hicks , as well as a cameo appearance by Tim Bowness (No-Man fame) and again, according to tradition (Siobhan McCarthy of "Sophia's Song", Linda John-Pierre on "the Others"), Magnus includes the scintillating operatic soprano of Kate Faber on the Gregorian "Memory" , a piece that will have you see angels in flight, whether you are a vampire or not. The crackling fragility blends with authorative power to completely encircle the senses and render one helpless.

As per his formula, the album opens with a glittering symphonic piece, "Time", a slowly developing maelstrom of sound and effects, bullying forward in a very choppy Genesis style, a smoking mellotron blazing a classic Tony Patterson sung theme, this is damn delicious! This could easily have been a song off an early Genesis album, without even a hint of doubt. Euphoric, bruising, clanging, massive and pastoral, all rolled into one. A modern/historic video game soundtrack is to be found on the galloping "Kombat Kid", at least until the vocals come in and the veer into Genesisian landscapes becomes ultra-obvious. Patterson again leads his subtle voice to the mix, depicting the gallant story of Richard III, whose recently found grave caused quite a stir in historical circles (yeah and the Net, too), the lyrics are quite clever, a twist that will rekindle fond memories of progressive giants past.

Each album has a slight weak link, strangely generally always sung by Magnus himself, such as the wonky urban schmooze of "Headcase", which does have some rather nice synth and bass lines. There is a kind of Supertramp meets the Tangent feel, I guess. No big deal, because the next four tracks are just plain splendid. "Eminent Victorians" combines that playful 70s British story-telling prog style (a la "Harrold the Barrel" and "the Battle of Epping Forest"), led by Peter Hicks, experienced voice, followed by some superlative guitar licks, courtesy of the Hackett man. Unusually complex and breathtaking, his glistening glide is just plain sublime.

The epic "Broken" is most definitely the highlight track here, a smoky and seductive Tim Bowness (owner of the most immediately recognizable voice in prog) doing what he does so very well: emote convincingly! The enchanting lyrics by Mr Dick Foster are to be commended, both very clever and creatively obscure. Rob Townsend performs a sultry sax solo that will please the brassy crowd. A masterpiece to say the least, fueled by a lovely piano etude. The altogether way too brief instrumental "Shadowland" has Steve Hackett caressing his guitar with masterful intrigue, Magnus' choir mellotron in desperate tow, a thoroughly mesmerizing slice of electric pleasure. It's so gorgeous, you may want to cry.

The cinema show soundtrack "Entropy" closes out the disc in sandwich style, reprising the "Time" melodic theme. The lush guitar sounds are not Steve's but emanate from Nick's bag of ivory trickery, and showcases new singer hitherto unknown James Reeves, who does a masterful job on the microphone. Magnus' guitar patch sound is both raw and crystalline, searing into the marrow of the theme with impunity.

Another successful canon in the symphonic prog catalog, nothing earth shattering but super dependable and rock solid. This is entertainment, mate!

4 measures of disorder

Report this review (#1497477)
Posted Monday, December 7, 2015 | Review Permalink

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