We Are Legend – Magenta
The latest album by neo prog rock band Magenta We Are Legend was originally set for release on the 20th April was held back 6 days and it’s official release was on the 26th April to which it also arrived through my letter box on that day being as I had it on pre-order from the bands website.
It’s been quite awhile now since the bands previous album The Twenty Seven Club which was released back in 2013. Since then the bands main man Rob Reed has made two magnificent solo albums Sanctuary 1 & 2 as well as work on various other projects. I heard that the bands main singer Christina Booth has been very ill and had a few problems. I have no idea as to what Chris Fry as been up to, but I do hope he has been working on another solo album to follow up his magnificent solo debut album Composed.
I cannot remember where I read or heard this, but prior to the latest albums release earlier this year Rob Reed made a statement that new album would contain 3 tracks only and is more real 70’s prog rock based. That I have to say is a pretty bold statement to make, and does the album live up to those high standards? Find out in my well detailed descriptive honest review of the album We Are legend and just how it comes across and speaks to me.
Packaging & Artwork…
I can honestly say that with most Magenta releases and Rob Reed solo releases you get 100% value for your money. He is without doubt one of the only artists who gives you more than what you could possibly expect for the buck.
OK! So the packaging is not made out of high quality thick cardboard such as Arjen’s is like we seen in my review of the latest Ayreon album The Source. But what is most important to Rob is that you as the listener can get to hear the contents inside it, and he can get his music across to you in the cheapest possible way so that most people can afford to buy it. He could quite easily package it in the same high quality packaging just as Arjen did with his latest album, but just like his album you are going to be paying more money for it.
But one massive difference between what you get for your money between Rob & Arjen is the fact that with Rob you get a bang on quality 5.1 production of the album to which he does not skimp on, and he also knows exactly how to mix a 5.1 recording where as Arjen is very much an amateur in that field I am sorry to say. No disrespect to Arjen because I am also a fan of his great music too.
But overall the packaging we have here for the latest Magenta album is a damn site better than just looking at a booklet inside a plastic CD jewel case. I very much like how the CD’s and booklet are housed inside making it a lot easier for you to grab hold of the discs inside to play them. The fact that the cardboard has a glossy finish also means that it’s not going to be scratching any surfaces of the disc when removing and replacing the discs.
Regarding the artwork for the latest album even though it has some references to great prog rock bands from the 70’s placed around it’s scenario and is perhaps apt to the word legend as Mr. Reed pointed out. I myself think it looks rather childish and the sort of comic hero thing one would read when they was a child. It also looks graphically like something out of computer game more than anything suitable for an album cover.
I have to confess that I have never been that impressed by any of the artwork Rob has chosen for any of the Magenta albums and even the artwork for their previous album The Twenty Seven Club nearly put me off buying the album completely, simply because it looked more like a pop album or something out of a DJ Disco bar. I actually even thought the title was referring to that as well because at the time I had never heard of the 27 Club and how it related to all those greats who died at the age of 27.
Even the artwork he chose for his first solo album Sanctuary I actually thought was dreadful, simply because I had seen that blob of water plastered all over the internet many years before hand, and if he paid an artist to do that thing he could of just simply of used what was on the net already, because there was not one bit of tiny difference at all in that. Though I did like the artwork he chose for Sanctuary II and that was much more interesting I felt.
The Album Review…
The latest Magenta album We Are Legend comes with 1 CD containing the stereo mix and a DVD that contains the 5.1 mix of the album along with an array of other great features. The album itself contains 3 lengthy tracks just as most classic prog rock bands such as the band Yes would do back in the 70’s and it gives you a total playing time of 48 minutes and 26 seconds.
Early Thoughts & Memories…
Upon my first listen to the album We Are Legend I have to confess I was not liking it one bit. For me personally it was hard to focus on most of the things that was going on and nothing seemed to be hitting me in the face and standing out as to what to make of it all. There even appeared to be a much more modern approach with some of the keyboard effects that were used and it was perhaps more familiar with the pop charts. Something that is not to my personal taste at all.
To be perfectly honest Gem Godfrey sprang to my mind with what he had done with the latest album by Frost* Falling Satellites that was released last year, especially the track “Towerblock” to which I totally despised at first upon hearing that for the first time and felt he had completely ruined what could of been potentiality such a brilliant track, if it was not for the stupid reverse effects he had used on it.
That was an album believe it or not that took me at least 7 complete spins of the whole album to get to enjoy and make any head or tail of it at all, and even though I gave it a good review on amazon back then I honestly think a bit different about the album now, and for me personally the best album Frost* ever made was their debut album back in 2006 and quite personally I do not believe they have ever been close to it either.
Funny enough it was going to see Frost* for the first time play live last year that I bumped into Rob Reed the man himself who was supporting them with another one of his sideline project bands who go by the name of KIAMA. Here is a picture that my brother took on my phone of me and him at the Robin 2 in Bilston. Wolverhampton.
I thought the band KIAMA were pretty good that night and they was not hampered as much by huge volume levels that Frost* had at the venue that completely killed any belief they were a great live act for me. They never even represented anywhere near the likes of the great Rockford Files DVD from 2014 of what was supposedly a live in the studio session that was actually filmed and produced by Rob Reed himself.
The whole show they put on live at the Robin 2 was that disappointing it brought back memories of seeing the band Transatlantic live at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire in London back in 2010. Another show that was so badly hampered by huge volume levels that you would think the sound engineers was setting up a gig at Wembley Stadium rather than any smaller venue. Once again the whole experience was ruined for me and no way on this earth would I waste my time and money paying to see bands such as these two ever again.
The DVD that Transatlantic put out a year later of the live show that was filmed that night was 100 times better than actually being there live. Least I could hear what the hell they was playing and singing, and it appears to me that all these new neo prog bands play at these ridiculous levels to hide all the mistakes they are making on stage and then overdub the production of the DVD they later put out.
I am sorry to say this but never in all my life have I ever experienced such a bad set up for any live gig I have seen and witnessed with my own eyes and ears. I have only once or twice heard lesser unknown experienced bands who play in pubs not having their levels set up right, and the biggest majority of those sounded a 100 times better than what the likes of Frost* and Transatlantic ever did and I am not in any way joking either.
I have also seen many bands play live in my lifetime including the likes of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath whose music in reality being more rock based needs to be played at more higher levels than any prog rock music needs to be and yet I could hear those bands and every note they played clearly.
You may even think that because I am getting older that I am going deaf and cannot listen to loud music any more, but I can assure it’s far from the case at all.
In 2015 and 2016 I went to see a real prog rock band namely Gryphon from the 70’s who had reformed for a few more gigs in those years and I got to see them at the same venue I seen Frost* at the Robin 2. On both occasions they sounded purely fantastic.
I even seen the Italian neo prog rock band The Watch who were also very enjoyable to see and you could perfectly hear what they played. You never had any of these ridiculous sound levels at all, and it just goes to show these guys really can play, and do not have to try and hide themselves by completely drowning their audience out with their sheer stupidity.
I have yet to see Magenta play live and so much wanted and had planned to see them with both of my brothers this year at the Robin 2. But on the night in question my one brother who has the transport could not make it, which left me and my other brother with no way of making it there and back from Birmingham.
Back To The Album Review…
Just as I stated earlier upon my first listen to the album We Are Legend it was not instantly appealing to me. But I never buy albums just to listen to once and it would be extremely bad of me to make a review of any album upon just one listen, especially as most really good albums do take awhile to have an effect and actually grow on you. Another couple of spins on and more positive things were beginning to shed more light from the albums material, and after about 7 spins there is no doubt that this album is certainly another great album by Magenta.
I have lost count of how many times I have played it now, but what I can tell you is that its certainly a most enjoyable album as many of the bands other albums are that’s for sure.
But does it live up to that statement that Rob made before the album’s release about it being more of a genuine prog rock album from the 70’s rather than any neo prog rock band does these days. Personally I do not think it does at all, and I shall even point out a few of things Rob himself said in his own interview that’s on the DVD in this package.
First up I should point out that in the making of the album We Are Legend it took a good 3 years or more work. Many of Robs original ideas he never felt happy with even to the point of having the drummer Andy Edwards (who had played on some of the previous Magenta albums) play the drums twice over to the material and later scrapping it cause it still was not saying the right thing or giving him the right feel he wanted for the new album.
Rob had decided from the offset that he wanted this album to be something completely different, and to achieve that it even meant that he had to tell Andy he was not going to be on it even after all his hard work. A most extremely difficult decision to make and to actually tell the poor guy he is no longer required takes pure guts.
The other decision he made was that even though Rob himself loves to play the bass and does do on all of the bands studio albums, he felt it was time to bring in a completely new backline to try and achieve this difference he was after.
So he brought in a couple of younger musicians namely Dan Nelson on bass who is no stranger to the band and has previously played bass for them on many occasions for their live shows. Also drummer Jon Griffiths who appeared playing live with Rob last year when he played his solo album Sanctuary live.
There is no doubt in my mind that this new album is different. But if like myself you have the bands complete back catalogue I am pretty sure you will find every album by Magenta different. I honestly with all my heart do not see how Rob has achieved anything he has not already done in the past.
The mere fact that he still continues to rearrange former classic prog rock bands melody lines from that magical decade of the 70’s does not make this album any different at all. It’s plastered with them (LOL) Please, please tell me when he has not done such a thing for gods sake.
Now I am not having a go at the guy or trying to put him down, as matter of fact it’s this genius side of him of how he can can rearrange such classic melody lines from other peoples music that have already been done that I love about him so much. Simply because he does it so bloody well.
If you listen to how well he has managed to make an album such as his solo works he did with both Sanctuary albums to sound exactly like a classic Mike Oldfield back in his heyday. It’s a truly remarkable achievement. Some may call it plagiarism but if you want to hear what true plagiarism sounds like go out and buy one of Clive Nolan’s sideline project bands he calls Pendragon albums. Then you will hear what real plagiarism is for sure and I cannot abide it and detest everything that band does.
Simply because you could be listening to what appears to be a very good piece of music, then all of a sudden it breaks out of nowhere into say a Yes song or other prog rock bands song from the 70’s. Only they are actually playing the actual song instead of constructing their own melody lines around the music which is what Rob does 100%. to make it that much different and more of his own.
Now I love what Clive Nolan does with his band Arena and with that it is very much their own melody lines and yet they sound remarkably like early Marillion in the days when Fish was with them. They even have the bands original drummer. I also think this is the best band John Mitchell plays in as well. But as for the crap Nolan does with Pendragon I myself could never entertain, and they may as well go around as a tribute band for all the good it is.
Analysing The Tracks…
The album opens up with the longest track on the album Trojan a 26 minute monster epic of track that is also my favourite track of the album. There are plenty of musical influences along its path and it opens up with one straight away and sounds very much like the Greek Monster Vangelis with every detail of the synths sounds used here.
Then the song opens up with its main theme thrusting it’s power along with sharp lead lines from the guitar and the bass and drums doing their part in the backline supporting it all. Then we get this little Yes like transitional passage which is verging a bit on the bass line of Heart Of The Sunrise just before Christina comes in singing the words:
Eyes bright shining
Eyes wide searching
She could almost sing the following words and they would still work in the manner she is presenting them.
Bluetail, tail fly
Luther in time
It’s not quite like Siberian Khatru by Yes but is verging on it a bit and there is a lot of their influences around this whole section. The track continues in great style weaving in and out of its theme with some lovely come down transitional changes with some very tasty keyboard work too, especially around the 9 and half minute mark and changes it’s mood styles very well and builds up and chants its way out into the next section which just before its final change around the 11:11 mark we get a little touch of Machine Messiah and a bit more Vangelis perhaps playing a bit of Awakening by Yes around the 11:24 before finally leaving its main theme and coming down into a fabulous sectional change.
This next section is perhaps more Pink Floyd influenced more than anything else. There is a beautiful guitar solo around the 15:30 mark that then runs into some more familiar Floyd melody lines from Breathe which then runs into a lovely acoustic section and builds back very well into some lovely hammond organ and guitar work which is by now playing over Breathe once again but also blending in The great Gig In The Sky up until the 20 minute mark which lead into a nice little section with Nick Mason style drums that he originally played on the track Time only here it’s not to that melody line at all. This section runs up till the 22:30 mark and then runs back into the main theme we at the beginning that builds up with even more power to put an end to a really great track.
Colours is the shortest track out of the 3 songs at 10 minutes and 50 seconds. It’s a fine song that once again as a load of Pink Floyd influences about it and on this occasion I feel that Rob maybe overstepping the mark a bit by more or less by playing too close to the melody line of Money especially on it’s beautiful guitar solo, though there is perhaps a very tiny bit of Into The Lens by Yes thrown in for good measure too. It’s a great track but never the less is my least favourite out of the 3 on the album.
The album is then ended off with what I can only presume is the albums self titled track which is shortened down to one word. Legend. This one starts off quite dramatically and because of some of it’s more finer ballad sections it’s perhaps more of a catchy number than the previous 2 tracks and Christina’s voice works on it the best as it does in many more of their fine ballads such as Pearl. This Life and The Ballad Of Samuel Layne though it’s perhaps not quite in the same league as those songs. Never the less it’s another really great track and much more of their own thing rather than anything that as heavy influences as we seen on the both previous tracks.
Overall the album We Are Legend by Magenta is another truly great album. It’s perhaps one that certainly needs a good 3 complete spins of the album to appreciate it more and an album one very much as to allow time to grow into. Regarding it being more of a 70’s Prog Rock album I think personally Rob only ever got that close to those days with the bands first 2 albums Revolutions and Seven.
But personally for me that’s all besides the point, because the band Magenta for me have never been just about progressive rock at all, and Rob is really a superb songwriter who is also capable of writing great pop songs which have always spoken to me very well too. There is no doubt each Magenta album brings to the table for it’s fans something new and different all the time with every album they have made so far, and I honestly could not fault anyone of them.
Personally regarding progressive rock from that magical decade of the 70’s. That decade will never ever be repeated by anybody, not even those great bands who did that way back then are even capable of doing it all again. If Rob really wants to aim to achieve it, then he has to approach his music differently.
For example I feel he may have had a good go with the first track on this album Trojan by trying to construct it as one piece of music. But it’s influences and the fact that there are way too many words and singing sections in it, instead of more musical structures is where he is going wrong.
Robs approach to progressive rock half the time is very much like my own personal favourite neo prog writer today who is Neal Morse. They seem to construct music out of many songs put together instead of making one whole piece of music like the band Yes did back in its heyday. There is no doubt the Yes created their own unique music even to the point of rightly calling it Yes Music to which it was. Nobody else ever made such music and their styles were also familiar with many other genres. Yes was a genre of its own and that’s why it stood out so well and made them by far the best prog rock band on the planet. You would have to go back to the classical greats to hear the type of music they so cleverly constructed.
The new album We Are Legend by Magenta does not disappoint one bit and is another fine body of good work done by Rob Reed and the guys playing their part on it. It’s a very good album that’s well worthy of the money and provides everything about what good music is to supposed to do, and no doubt is another truly great album that stands up well with the rest of the material this band as produced over the years. It’s perhaps not as adventurous in relation to some of their earlier material but does have the bands stamp all over it, even with the new backline of the couple of new musicians brought in to try and make it different.
On a final note to conclude my review of the album I would just like to say. That it’s very much an album that’s on par with what one might expect to hear from such a great band, and no doubt just like their previous albums will provide hours of good listening and bring pleasure to ones ears, just as it does for mine.
01. Trojan. 25:58.
02. Colours. 10:48.
03. Legend. 11:22.
Lee’s overall score rating 8/10.
The 5.1 Mix…
Certainly one of the best features that comes with any of Robs albums over near enough a decade now, is that he not only gives you the album in a stereo format, but also provides a 5.1 mixed version. This is something I would love to see from all the artists I love so much but is very rare they will provide you with one apart from the odd live concerts they put out on DVD & Blu Ray from time to time.
Being a surround freak myself this is the very thing these days that tempts me even more so to buy such albums, even again in most circumstances with older artists now and again re-releasing some of their back catalogue in this format. The very fact that Rob does it all the time with both his solo albums and the Magenta albums puts him above every artist there is out there today by a long shot.
Most artists will even argue the case that it’s too expensive, or there is not enough people interested in the format. To which Rob as certainly proved that it’s not expensive at all if a much lesser known artist like him can do it and afford to sell it more or less the same price of a conventional CD album release.
For me personally no CD album is worth £12 or even £10 when you could get a CD that also comes with a DVD with a 5.1 version of the album and a lot more on it besides for the price even this one comes at for £13. To be honest I would not pay £10 for a lot of Artists new CD’s these days and would rather wait till they are older and you can get them for about a fiver on places like Amazon. Unless it was an artist who I love so much that I want the album right away instead of waiting.
The 5.1 mix for the album We Are Legend is done by Rob himself and I have to admit there are not many artists who produce and mix their own stereo albums who are capable of doing a great mix in 5.1. But thankfully Rob knows exactly what he is doing by taking on such a thing himself, and you’re not gonna get no piss poor job here that’s for sure, and once again he has done a grand job on this 5.1 mix of the album.
The only thing I would love to see though regarding his 5.1 mixes is more DTS 96K mixes rather than the DTS 48K quality he has been doing lately. He has in past done 96K mixes in 5.1 and for me they are better quality and I have no idea why he as stopped doing them. For example his first solo album Sanctuary was done in 96K and even though Sanctuary 2 states on the back cover that it’s a 96K mix it’s not at all and only in 48K.
But regardless of this being 48K it does no doubt still sound great, very well detailed and is more satisfying and loads better than the stereo mix and your certainly getting your moneys worth here. he has done a superb job of it.
Other Features On The DVD…
The DVD also contains a 22 minute interview with Rob Reed speaking about the process of the album to which is way shorter than a lot of his interviews that are on his previous albums. But it also comes with a good 45 minutes worth of older videos and promos which are all very good and well worthy of seeing. Making it a really great overall package and bang on money for the buck.
Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…
The Album: 8/10
The 5.1 Mix: 8/10
The DVD’s Other Features: 9/10
The Packaging: 8/10