Catley, Bob - Middle Earth

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

Perhaps it would be appropriate to confess that I have never heard anything by Magnum, or Bob Catley for that matter, before pursuing the arduous task of baring the bones of Middle Earth to the world. Actually, make that to the three people or so who will actually read this. Luck is on my side that I won't be lynched, it appears, but it is nevertheless a vital comment for those expecting yours truly to compare Catley's latest solo outing with the work of his recently reformed band. To all those, reports suggest that there is indeed more than a passing resemblance that should please all fans of Magnum. Now, with that aside, allow this ever-so-humble reviewer to continue.

It is almost too easy to throw cheap blows galore at a progressive rock concept album centering on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. After all, the genre is often chided for its fairy tale penchant reeking of cheap perfume and bad soap opera storylines, regardless of the fact that the greatest prog titans usually had things to worry about other than heroic Halflings. And on first listen one is indeed inclined to lay the full weight of one's fists on keyboardist Gary Hughes' compositions and the nine tracks that constitute the record, but upon close inspection, it turns out that Middle Earth isn't half bad. In fact, some of it, although not all, is actually quite enjoyable.

And a modicum of reflection reveals that much of the magic derives from the more epic and rocking material featured on the record, which is somehow aptly described as the perfect soundtrack for an animated version of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. In fact, one can almost picture the scenes taking place in a movie for children, and both lyrics and music fit the imagination perfectly on almost every single occasion. It is, however, that very same innocence that keeps the record from being anything more than a pleasant experience, as much of the material lacks true emotional fire, and Vinny Burns' wailing guitar ends up sounding like background shredding for cartoon music rather than actual collaboration.

Simply put, and to make a long story short (Tolkien isn't exactly known for his shortage of ideas), Bob Catley's third solo effort is a decent slab of epic-tinted progressive rock about a rather familiar theme, yet the result is more a puppet show than a full-blooded movie. A lot of pomp and not enough circumstance to boot, if you will. However, neither the veteran singer nor his comrades in arms can be faulted for trying, as they have still created a respectable concept album under a premise that would normally be scoffed at by all but the remaining hopeless fantasy aficionados of the world, and thus Middle Earth is to be viewed perhaps not as a resounding and grandly victorious success, but as a success nonetheless.

Similar Artists: Magnum

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 16th 2002
Reviewer: Marcelo Silveyra
Artist website:
Hits: 691
Language: english


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