Out January 6

(Steamhammer/SPV)

In the light of Magnum’s surprise parting of the ways with keyboard magician Mark Stanway last month it’s impossible to appraise this supreme collection of ballads without recognising the artistic contribution of one of rock’s finest tinklers.

Ironically Stanway is one of the stars of the show on The Valley Of Tears – his soft touch and astute timing adding an emotive undertone to many of the most affecting songs here. And right now it’s difficult to comprehend how Magnum will fill a 36-year void should they seek to replace one of progressive rock’s true characters.

Regardless of the ‘irrevocable circumstances’ that forced December’s split one thing’s for certain: as a tribute to Stanway this 10-song collection couldn’t be better timed for fans of the versatile veteran.

From the subtle intro. to set opener Dream About You, thru vibrant epic The Valley Of Tears and into the simple yet powerful chord progression at the heart of A Face In The Crowd, this is a compilation that feeds off the keys from start to finish. Stanway has never sounded more relevant at the forefront of a mix mastered by Tony Clarkin and Bob Catley – it’s almost heartbreaking that such a fruitful partnership appears broken beyond repair.

If there’s one criticism of The Valley Of Tears it’s that there’s no room (or desire?) to include 80s chart hits Start Talking Love, It Must have Been Love or Heartbroke And Busted. As ballads go all three were bona fide world beaters.