18. Breath Of Life - The Reunion
By the end of 2000 rumour spread that the old MAGNUM members were planning a reunion. At first that seemed pretty far-fetched but - amazingly -there were no official denials. In March 2001 the rumours proved to be true! Bob Catley stated in several interviews that Tony had in fact phoned him and had suggested to work together again, because 2001 was the year of MAGNUM's 25th year in the business. Tony said that Derek Kemp, their manager, had convinced him that a market for MAGNUM still existed. So he had changed his mind concerning MAGNUM and that he wanted to do a new album. Bob told a journalist in an interview: “I can't tell you how glad I was when Tony suggested the reunion. Now I have got Gary and Tony, two great songwriters who want to work with me...“. They contacted Mark Stanway, who immediately agreed to join them and set off to work on some demos in the Mad Hat studios.
Bob stated that the old magic was back at once and that the stuff was classic MAGNUM, but also with a new touch. He also announced that the new album was scheduled for October and that it would be called “Breath Of Life“.
Mickey Barker was asked to join the band ,too, but that proved to be difficult. Mickey had meanwhile become rooted in THE BUSHBURYS and had recorded two studio albums and a live album with them. After a concert in Nuremburg/Germany in Summer 2001 he declared, that up to that time, he had not even been asked to join MAGNUM, whereas Bob and Tony had stated that Mickey's participation was still being negotiated. Mickey also said that at present he was not really interested in MAGNUM and called his former band “something that was in the past“. So there were rumours around the new drum player that involved Mickey (would he change his mind?), Kex Gorin and Jim Simpson (would either of them come back?), Rob Barrow (Al's brother and drummer in HARD RAIN, who has meanwhile quit the music business altogether) and Nigel Glockler of SAXON, who was named by Mickey as a possible replacement. Tony finally met Mickey at the beginning of October and told him that they would love to have him in the band, but Mickey still wasn't able to give Tony his O.K. due to his engagement with THE BUSHBURYS. As time was short it was decided that Tony would do the drumming on the new record himself (with a little help from a computer), but also to ask Mickey to join MAGNUM on the following tour. However, it wasn’t to be. In January it was announced that MAGNUM would present a new drummer on tour, Harry James from the disbanded THUNDER. However, Mickey’s photo appeared in the booklet as he had played the drums on the bonus tracks which had been recorded before the split.
The only former member who was not interested at all in the reunion was Wally Lowe. As stated before, he had quit the music business on the day of the last MAGNUM concert in 1996 and was definitely not willing to come back. Al Barrow, HARD RAIN's and Bob Catley's solo project's bass player replaced him.
The new demos were sent out to several record companies to get a proper deal, but that procedure proved to take more time than expected. Compared with 1996 the situation for MAGNUM had changed to the better. Whereas they couldn't get a proper deal then, this time they even had several offers to choose from. Finally they signed a contract with SPV/ Steamhammer, a well-known German label, which had also marketed the “Last Dance“ album. Since the new contract was not signed until September 2001, the release date was postponed from October to 25th February 2002.The album was published on CD in 16 European countries on that day and in the USA and Canada on the 26th of February. In 2014 a double-LP-version was commissioned and published by Nuclear Blast Records. The song titles were “Cry“, “This Heart“, “Everyday“, “Still“, “Dream About You“, “Breath Of Life“, “After The Rain“, “That Holy Touch“, “Let Somebody In“, “The Face Of An Enemy“, “Just Like January“ and “Night After Night“.
Bob described the songs as in the style of “Sleepwalking“ and “Rock Art“. A sound sample of “Still“ placed on the official website in November gave an impression of what the fans could expect. It was an impressive mid-tempo song with a wonderful sing-along tune. More rockers like “This Heart“ and “That Holy Touch“ have an incredible drive and the two ballads “Dream About You“ and “Let Somebody In“ are just wonderful. “Night After Night“ is an eight-minute anti-war song, which makes it a typical MAGNUM epic. All in all - The MAGNUM fans were in for a real treat!
The first edition of “Breath Of Life“ was announced to be a double album with six older unreleased live and acoustic tracks on the second disc, which were “The Flood“, “Back Street Kid“, ‘‘We All Need To Be Loved“, “It Must Have Been Love”, “Only A Memory“ and “Born To Be King“. In the end, only the first three of them survived as “Bonus tracks“ for the European edition, only the Japanese version came out as a double CD.
The cover, designed by Al Barrow, showed a surrealistic picture with a huge stone block and some colourful open doors in front of a brown plain with some patches of water. The sun is just rising and you can see the “Wings Of Heaven“-logo on the stone block and in the lower right corner. There is also a hand painting a picture in an empty frame. MAGNUM is written in red letters across the black bar on top of the cover.
The critics hailed MAGNUM back with swell reviews and a lot of interviews. The album entered the German charts at No. 67, which was a considerable success.
Bob and Tony also stated that they were very serious about the reunion and that MAGNUM were here to stay. A full European tour was announced for March and April that covered the United Kingdom, Denmark, Holland, Germany and Switzerland. The band received a very warm welcome back by the fans and most venues were well-attended, if not sold out. The new setlist was: “Intro“/ „Vigilante“/ „Wild Swan“/ „Everyday“/ „Back Street Kid“/ „Les Morts Dansant“/ „Cry“/ „How Far Jerusalem“/ „Just Like January“/ „The Spirit“/ „Days Of No Trust“/ „Rockin’Chair“/ „Kingdom Of Madness“/ „Just Like An Arrow“ and “Sacred Hour“. MAGNUM were also booked to appear at the Sweden Rock Festival on 8th and 9th June and on the Bang Your Head-Festival in Balingen/Germany on the 29th and 30th of June 2002. In Sweden they did the full set except “Cry“ and “Just Like January“. The appearance at the Bang Your Head-Festival had to be cancelled due to a heart attack that hit Tony after the Sweden-gig. Although Tony had to stay in bed for some time, the UK Christmas-tour was staged as planned in December. The set was ”Intro (The Prokofiev one)“/ „Vigilante“/ „Wild Swan“/ „Everyday“/ „Back Street Kid“/ „Les Morts Dansant“/ „The Tall Ships“/ „How Far Jerusalem“/ „The Lights Burned Out“/ „On A Storyteller’s Night“/ „The Spirit“/ „Days Of No Trust“/ „Rocking Chair“/ „On Christmas Day“/ „Just Like An Arrow“/ „Kingdom Of Madness“/ „Sacred Hour“. “The Tall Ships“ had a new wonderful piano part by Mark but otherwise all songs were rendered in their well-known shape.