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‘Back   In   Your   Arms   Again’    is   a   huge   slice   of   heartfelt   romanticism   –   ignite   the   lighters   and   get   your   hankies   out folks   because   this   is   a   beautiful   love   song   delivered   with   real   affection   by   Pete   Hicks .   You   have   to   think   a   bit   Beatles ,   a   bit Hollies    and   maybe   even   some   Hackett    at   times,   as   Magnus ’   sweet   rolling   piano   melody,   haunting   synth   siren   and ethereal   choir   sounds   light   up   the   sky   with   a   magical   instrumental   backdrop   for   one   of   the   sweetest,   most   anthemic   songs on the album – I love it, but then I’ve always was an old romantic at heart! ‘Chance   Encounter’    takes   us   on   the   “up”   again   with   another   Hicks/Magnus    composition   that   again   it   sounds   a   bit like   a   modern   Genesis    /   Mike   and   the   Mechanics    style   song   and   is   -   like   many   of   the   tracks   on   ‘Flat   Pack’    –   “a   real grower” as they say. The keyboard work is exemplary and Hicks  again sails through the vocal with absolute ease. ‘New   York   City   Winter ’   is   a   real   American   singer/songwriter   style   track   that   tells   its   own   little   story   (thinking Christopher Cross  / Harry Chapin  / Dan Fogelberg  and that sort of thing) and it has a really nice laid-back feel. ‘Jack-Knife’    opens   with   a   great   riff   that’s   a   bit   Genesis    Turn   It   On   Again’    and   breaks   into   another   rock   song   with   a strong   lead   vocal   and   chorus.   The   Magnus    music   machine   goes   into   overdrive   to   provide   a   tightly   arranged   dynamic backing for the song, with a fine guitar solo coming in the middle. ‘Run   That   By   Me   One   More   Time’    has   an   air   of   50’s/60's   style   nostalgia   –   a   catchy,   jazzy   song   that   is   smooth, slinky   and   quite   intoxicating.   It   has   a   fine   central   melody   line   and   in   general   provides   the   album   with   a   light   and   slightly different   atmosphere   from   the   other   tracks   on   the   album,   and   might   even   make   a   few   of   you   think   of   Steve   Hackett ’s ‘Sentimental Institution’  from ‘Spectral Mornings’ . Saving the best for last, ‘Absent Friends’   is arguably the strongest song on the album! It’s   a   sentimental   ballad   that   starts   out   with   strummed   acoustic   12-string   guitars   and   a   tender   Hicks    vocal   arrangement, then   Magnus ’   keyboard   strings   start   to   flow   in   like   a   gentle,   slowly   incoming   tide,   and   again,   the   track   starts   to   take   me back   to   something   that   I’ve   loved   in   my   musical   past,   but   can’t   quite   bring   into   focus   -   I   just   know   I’m   going   to   drive   myself insane   if   the   penny   doesn’t   drop   soon      -   Moody   Blues    (no   it’s   not   them!!),   especially   Justin   Hayward    fans,   will   love   this   it’s   a   kind   of   new   millennium   /   sixties   hybrid   love   song   that   is   both   tender   and   infectious,   with   an   emotional   edge   that   grabs you   and   doesn’t   let   go.   The   Magnus    orchestra   gradually   swells   and   fills   the   background   quite   beautifully,   with   some perfectly placed harmony backing vocals coming in here and there. The song moves seamlessly into the beautiful: ‘First   Light’ ,   the   album’s   one   and   only   instrumental   track,   and   it’s   a   stunning   arrangement   of   synth   strings   and choral   voices   that   builds   to   a   heavenly   climax   (much   in   the   same   way   as   Genesis ’   ‘Afterglow’   does),   and   then   leaves   just reflective   strings,   bass,   percussion   and   massed   choirs   to   sail   off   into   the   distance   to   disappear   over   a   beautiful   symphonic horizon - Pure Magnus  magic! In bringing this review to a close, I have to ask – where has Pete Hicks  been for the past thirty years? Like   other   well-known   vocalists   mentioned   throughout   this   review   he   has   the   kind   of   voice   that   really   adds   meaning   to   a song,   balancing   soul   and   sentiment   perfectly   for   the   ballads,   whilst   delivering   just   the   right   amount   of   energy   for   the   rockier tracks as well.  Now he’s back, hopefully we will hear more from his voice in the future. I   also   have   to   say   a   few   words   about   the   stunning   production   and   recording   techniques   used   on   this   album,   because,   apart from   Pete   Hicks ’   guitars,   plus   the   bass   ( Dik   Cadbury )   and   drums   ( David   Storey )   on   the   track:   ‘Just   Remember   Where You heard It First’ , all the instrumentation on this album comes courtesy of Nick Magnus ! The   keyboards   are,   as   always,   awesome,   but   the   brass   arrangements   and   the   rhythm   section   work,   again   Nick   Magnus , are   just   pure   genius!   Not   only   is   this   man   a   fantastic   keyboards   player,   he   produces   and   engineers   to   extremely   high standards, but then I do know he is a perfectionist in every sense of the word! So,   as   I   said   at   the   beginning   of   this   write-up,   this   is   an   album   all   about   songs,   and   the   quality   of   the   said   songs   are obvious   for   all   to   hear.   There   are   no   “fillers”   –   every   one   is   a   grower,   and   all   take   pride   of   place   is   a   well-balanced   finished production. Any   well   manufactured,   quality   “Flat-Pack”   piece   of   furniture   is   only   ever   as   good   as   the   person   that   assembles   it   -   These guys   have   carefully   crafted   all   the   component   parts   of   this   ‘Flat   Pack’ ,   put   them   though   quality   control   and   assembled   it   for you   as   well,   and   all   for   just   over   a   tenner.   Now   all   you   need   to   do   is   admire   the   classy   finished   product   –   You’ll   never   get service like this from IKEA Using the words from the 4 th  track on the album – “Just Remember Where You Heard It First” .
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