When I reviewed Hexameron back in 2004, I wrote that it was a must for all lovers of great progressive rock music. What Nick Magnus did on this album was just awesome. It brought back a lot of fine moments from the seventies, but also still sounding very modern from time to time. The keyboard player that worked with Steve Hackett from 1978 until 1989 can be seen as a real musical genius. He proved it again on his recently released fourth solo album Children Of Another God. After Straight On Till Tomorrow (1994), Inhaling Green (1999) and Hexameron (2004) we can again hear what a wonderful composer, keyboard player and producer Nick most of all is.
The nine tracks that we can enjoy on this new release are of a very high level and thereís never a dull moment. Again do we hear a lot of influences from the wonderful seventies progressive rock acts such as The Enid, Genesis, Yes and Steve Hackett. Good examples are the title track, Babel Tower (on which the theme of the title track returns) and The Colony Is King. On the last mentioned title we hear fine guitar playing from the wonderful Steve Hackett. So itís very obvious that a lot of elements from his music are included. But I also did hear some music that reminded me of a band in which Nick played himself: The Enid. This again happened when I heard The Others. This song most of all shows how Mr. Magnus can make his music sound very orchestral. On the same track we also hear the beautiful female voice of Linda John-Pierre which lifts the song to an even higher level. But she was not the only person who is a guest vocalist on the album. Nick again made the right choice to use more excellent singers as he did on Hexameron. On track three he gives Tony Petterson another chance to show that he is not just a great singer in some Genesis tribute band. Also Pete Hicks-his friend from the Steve Hackett days-can be heard on two tracks on which he proves that he still can sing very properly. The most impressive vocal performance however comes from Andy Neve on the already mentioned The Colony Is King. His operatic sounding voice worked very well together with the fantastic flute playing done by John Hackett. Nick is a rather strong vocalist himself displayed on Identity Theft (lead vocals) and Babel Tower (backing vocals). Just like on his other releases, he knows how to sound very modern in a beautiful way, using modern keyboards and equipment the right way. Fine examples are the instrumental piece Twenty Summers and Doctor Prometheus.
But not only the music is important on Children Of Another God as Nick himself explained to me. He told me that the album does have an overall concept - it's an examination of uniformity/conformity versus diversity. The basic message is that whilst uniformity brings power, it also brings stagnation and, in the most negative cases, corruption. We need diversity in order to evolve as a species. The increasing globalization of society is in danger of making us all identical. The album also has an underlying narrative - the tale of ten genetically engineered brothers who embark on a life of crime, but whose identical nature is ultimately their downfall.
In many ways I have a lot of respect for how Nick managed to get a real live sound on his album realised most of the time by himself. Never does the album sound as if it was made with the help of computers and keyboards only. Bravo!
For example only one guitar player is mentioned on the entire album. His former boss Steve Hackett only contributed on The Colony Is King. But still you hear a lot of very melodic guitar parts. All were just done with the help of modern keyboards and played by himself. Listen for example to the fine solos on the title track and Babel Tower or the strong guitar riffs on Doctor Prometheus. †
Nick told me that like many musicians, he is always on the lookout for new, cutting-edge technology, and finding interesting solutions to new challenges. In this case he gave himself the challenge of performing the guitars using virtual instruments, and in particular an amazing instrument called RealStrat. I suppose you could blame it on Jan Hammer who in the 1980s made a big feature of doing guitar impersonations on a Moog, and this is my own 21st Century equivalent! As Nick also added to the question how his guitar sound was made.
But not only do the guitar sounds sound very realistic. When you hear the album you get the idea that a real drummer is playing along on all of the strong compositions. Anybody who has a copy of Cured by Steve Hackett knows that Nick was responsible for the drums at the time of the recording of the album. So you can say without any doubt that he came a long way to do the rhythm job properly. He explained to me that all the drum and percussion parts were done by using virtual instruments on the computer. There are no preset patterns used. All the drums are his own real performances and arrangements. Although he admitted that he can play real drums and percussion but prefers using virtual drum instruments for numerous reasons. Most of all he is much better on those than on the real thing. The virtual drums allow him to experiment, combining and treating sounds in a way that's impossible with a real drum kit. Recording real drums to an acceptable standard is very costly - you need a great studio, a good engineer, lots and lots of time and a top-class drummer. All those things are very expensive, and he can't afford them! But above all, he really gets a lot of pleasure from doing virtual drumming.
But how do you judge an album that has no weak tracks at all and was done with a lot of passion and creativity? I asked myself this several times. There was only one solution to show that I liked Nickís effort so much and that was to give him the highest rating possible. Itís the only score I can give to an album that certainly will end in the top 10 of my favourite albums of 2010. Again highly recommended to every body who loves great progressive rock music and enjoys the music made by the names I mentioned above.
A final tip is to watch the three music videos that were made to promote this release on YouTube or Nickís own website. In many ways you will enjoy Children Of Another God even more. I certainly did and I certainly hope you will too.
***** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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