Catley, Bob - Middle Earth

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Frontiers Records
Catalog Number: FR CD 071
Format: CD
Total Time: 56:02:00

On the verge of a 25th anniversary reunion album and tour with Magnum, Bob Catley releases another solo album. Based on Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings Catley has once again surrounded himself with members of AOR band Ten (Gary Hughes, Vinny Burns, Steve McKenna) augmented by Dante Fox drummer Jon Cooksey.

Already the opener "The Wraith Of The Rings" continues where Magnum and Hard Rain left off, featuring some astonishing guitar work from Vinnie Burns. That same inventive guitar playing is omnipresent during "Emissary," also sporting some great synth tunes as well as neatly timed percussive breaks. Next to his backing band, Catley only uses one guest on the entire album and that's Landmarq vocalist Tracy Hitchings during "Against The Wind." Obviously the two know each other from the Jabberwocky project and numerous activities at the Thin Ice studios. Here Tracy adds a certain Celtic feel to her singing which to my liking is mixed a bit too far in the back.

For a song as "grand" as "Where You Lead I'll Follow", certainly Gary Hughes should have used a grand piano instead of the cheap sounding toy piano he serves here. For a demo this would be OK, but for a finished album it certainly doesn't do the end result any justice, especially as this is a very well crafted song. It blends nicely into "Stormcrow And Pilgrim," which is based on the same melody but more powerful, more rock dominated, making it the pinnacle of this new album, what with Bob's singing being very theatrical. Another powerful concert favourite certainly has to be the melodic "Return Of The Mountain King." Another strong melody forms the nucleus of "The End Of The Summer." Based around Galadriel, the vocals follow the pattern as laid out by the piano. The album closes with the ballad "The Fellowship" which comes across as a traditional Irish folk tune backed by a classical arrangement.

Middle Earth is a much better album than Legends and gets closer to the Magnum feel. However, I would have loved to hear more authentic acoustic instruments such as violin and cello on this album as opposed to the synthesized sounds present. Sometimes restricted budgets can be a nuisance. Here it results in making Middle Earth sound like a "middle of the road" album. An opportunity missed.

The Wraith Of The Rings (7:05) / I. The Fields That I Recall - II. Emissary - III. The Fields That I Recall (Reprise) (8:02) / City Walls (6:11) / Against The Wind (5:15) / I. Where You Lead I'll Follow - II. Stormcrow And Pilgrim - III. Where You Lead I'll Follow (Reprise) (8:48) / Return Of The Mountain King (6:40) / The End Of Summer (Galadriel's Theme) (5:51) / This Gallant Band Of Manic Strangers (3:46) / The Fellowship (4:24)

Bob Catley - all vocals
Vinny Burns - guitars
Gary Hughes - keyboards, backing vocals
Steve McKenna - bass
Jon Cooksey - drums


Tracy Hitchings - vocals (4)

The Tower
Live At The Gods
Legends (1999)
Middle Earth (2001)

Genre: Melodic Rock-AOR

Origin UK

Added: July 26th 2001
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 997
Language: english


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