Nick Magnus - Hexameron
I was considering writing an ultra short review of Nick Magnus's Hexameron just using the words 'buy it'.
Nick will be known to most prog fans as the man behind the keyboards in Steve Hackett's band for 11 years up until 1989, but he was also in The Enid and Autumn before then. The latter part of the 80's saw Nick in much demand as a session musician, working with a bevy (is that the right collective term?) of artistes including Renaissance and Pete Bardens. The 90's followed with a variety of projects and the release of two solo albums, Straight On Till Morning in 1993 and Inhaling Green in 1999.
Nick's third solo album, Hexameron (released on 30th August 2004), is a journey of prog ecstasy. Like all journeys, what you see and hear on the way, and the thoughts and recollections invoked, will differ in some way for each person.
For me, that journey starts in the present day, swiftly jumping back to the late 70's to the time when only a few mainstream prog bands held onto their musical integrity, delighting the faithful who, like now, relish relinquishing themselves to powerful emotional melodies.
Opening track, Singularity, sets that journey in motion returning memories of those epic Hackett band gigs, touching on themes from Voyage Of The Acolyte and Spectral Mornings, or at least that is the feeling that I am getting. Notwithstanding Nick's wonderful composition and arrangement, the sound has the added 'Hackett' touch of Steve guesting on guitar with brother John on flute which, with Nick on keys, makes up half of the original Hackett band.
Dancing On Waters commences with a typical eerie Genesis/Hackett air but with Geoff Whitehorn on guitars. The theme continues with voice (not of NECAM but of Clare Brigstock) reminiscent of Sally Oldfield, followed by a terrific keyboard and guitar breakaway (plus that programmed 'ping, ping, ping, ping' sound reminiscent of the end of Karn Evil 9).
Unless you are unfortunate and are paralysed from the waist down, your feet and ankles will already be aching from the involuntary tapping, (from observation and habitual people watching to which I am prone) something which one in every six members of a prog audience appear to be afflicted with, myself included. No rest from the tapping yet as we move on to Marduk (a double-headed sun god), at nine mins the longest track on the album and one of those types of song with a story and characters (Debi Doss the voice of Chaos and Clare the voice of order). Starting with a tempo similar to Steely Dan's Night By Night off Pretzel Logic, the piece quickly 'progresses' into prog with the Gabrielesque vocals of ReGenesis' Tony Patterson and has that ageless quality and could have been written at any time within the last 35 years. Some great keyboards here, typically 'Nick Magnus' though the man himself touches on the Dave Sinclair and Tony Banks styles at times.
At the halfway point in the album, the lilting Sophia's Song takes on a Celtic theme with Siobhan McCarthy guesting on vocals and Ninian Boyle on violin.
Ninian (violin, viola) also appears on Double Helix, a delicate little instrumental featuring John Hackett on flute, at times classical sounding with the odd 'finger down the spine' feeling thrown in for good measure.
Original Hackett band vocalist, Pete Hicks, dusts off his vocal chords for Brother Sun Sister Moon, a song which wouldn't be hard to imagine Tull's Ian Anderson singing prior to his vocal chord problems. No such problem for Pete whose voice seems stronger now than it was 25 years ago (hope Nick can persuade him to participate on future albums).
Seven Hands Of Time sees guitar master Mr Hackett create some of his wonderful sounds over the floating Magnus keys. Bearing in mind that everything on this album is composed by Nick Magnus, one starts to wonder just how much of an influence or participant he was on some of Steve's albums. The two certainly appear to be of a similar mind musically.
Journey's end comes with The Power Of Reason with choral work by The Bears' Choir and featuring Steve, John and Clare. The theme first heard at the start of the album with Singularity makes an emphatic return here (along with the obligatory spine tingling!) leaving all but the hardened listener with a tear in the eye.
As I stated at the start of this review, just buy it. This is one stunning album. If you are a Hackett fan, you must also be a Nick Magnus fan.
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