"Nick Magnus - Living With Mellotrons" - A brief look at some of the albums which Nick has been involved with by Alan Hewitt.

With our in depth chat with Nick about his latest album: Hexameron in the bag, I thought it might prove useful to examine Nick's recording career in little more depth. There is more to this guy than a fetish for Mellotrons, ya know!

Nick had already been in several bands before he joined the archetypal Prog Rockers; The Enid for Two albums one of which: Aerie Faerie Nonsense is one of the quintessential English Progressive albums. His talents already established as an exponent of the growing keyboard technology he was soon enlisted into Steve Hackett's first touring band in 1978 when Steve undertook his first solo tour in support of the Please Don't Touch album. Nick had had no involvement in the recording of this album but he soon made his mark as an essential component in the live set up and his talents gave Steve's live performances an edge lacking in many of the bands around at that time.

Nick's first recorded contribution to Steve's work came with the 1979 classic: Spectral Mornings, which, to many fans is still the yardstick by which Steve's albums are measured. Nick made good use of Steve's interest in soundscapes to create a textured and layered sound which augmented the musical atmospheres which Steve was creating and once again in the live context, Nick's contribution was enormous as you can clearly hear on the Live Archive recordings which have recently been issued from this tour.

Taking the aural landscape still further, Steve's next album: Defector is even more of a showcase for Nick's talents. The piano on Hammer In The Sand and his manic chords in Jacuzzi are classics as indeed was my favourite from the album: The Show which was such a stunner in concert!

Steve's next album: Cured is one which has divided fans ever since it was released in 1981. Disbanding the touring band but retaining Nick, Cured took fans by surprise not only as Steve's first testing of the vocal waters but also by its emphasis on the latest technology including those early drum machines so reviled by many musicians these days. Nick's mastery of this technology was strongly in evidence on this album and the onstage favourite Overnight Sleeper even saw Nick sharing compositional credits with Steve. Once again, listen to the Live Archive recording from this tour if you are in any doubts about Nick's contribution to the live sound.

Highly Strung, the 1983 album even gave Steve a "Hit" single in the unlikely shape of Cell 151. Nick's compositional credits included the live favourites Camino Royale which was still in Steve's live set until very recently and the gloriously tongue-in -cheek, Hackett To Pieces both of which were superb in concert.

1984's Till We Have Faces album has to be the album that most Hackett fans dislike with a passion. I admit that it is not a personal favourite of mine either. Steve's brief flirtation with the world of Brazilian Samba music and Ambisonic recording techniques did not a happy blend make in my opinion. Nick's obvious talents in the field of programming were given full rein here although not to the great delight of many Hackett fans, I'm afraid!

That was to be Nick's last studio involvement with Steve and the next time fans were to see his name on a Hackett project was on the 1992 live album: Time Lapse which featured part of a live stage gig from New York in 1981 along with the Central TV Studios "Bedrock" performance of 1990. This was the live album that Hackett fans had been crying out for, for so long and the combination of two separate gigs worked as an admirable show case for all of the musicians involved.

Click to enlarge
Since leaving Steve's band, Nick has continued to work on a variety of production albums including several generic albums of mood music and has even won awards for several of them. His own solo recordings began to appear with 1993's Straight On Till Morning album… one of that year's best kept secrets in my opinion and sadly unavailable at present. This is a cracker of an album featuring Nick in a wide range of musical styles from the delightfully Classical-tinged Lac Lucerne and the driving rhythms of the title track . This album deserves a re-issue at some point.
Nick's production work meant that there was a lengthy gap between this album and his next offering, 1999's Inhaling Green. I thoroughly enjoyed this album then and I still do now. This is a wonderful mix of music from the wonderfully evocative Conquistador and Free The Spirit to the Disco Diva meets High Latin Mass of Cantus… a bizarre combination but it works! The album's title track is one of the most intriguing pieces I have ever heard…
Click to enlarge

And now of course we have a brand new album: Hexameron which Nick talks about at length in this edition and which I have already reviewed. Certainly an album which will please his existing fans and one which deserves to reach a wider audience… Do your ears a favour… give it a listen you will NOT regret it!

For further information on Nick's career and recordings check out his web site: www.magnus-music.com