MAGDALLAN - Big Bang (Limited Run Vinyl)
In 1992, when Big Bang was released, the album received many accolades and was touted as one of the best AOR/melodic rock/metal releases of the era. In the 2 years prior, vocal talent/music and film producer Ken Tamplin (Joshua/Angelica/Shout) and guitar extraordinaire Lanny Cordola had each released a few albums as “solo” artists, with limited success. Tamplin’s debut album in 1990 An Axe To Grind was solid, but the 1991 follow-up Soul Survivor just didn’t live up to the hype. On the other hand, Lanny Cordola released the instrumental Electric Warrior/Acoustic Saint in 1991 which served well to showcase his eclectic and diverse talents as a guitarist, but it lacked memorable songs with great hooks and melody. Fortunately, these guys were already working collaboratively in the studio on the project that would be called Magdallan. Needless to say, combining their individual skill sets resulted in a synergistic explosion in the quality of the music.
To say that Big Bang is one of the top produced melodic rock/metal albums from that era is not an understatement – one of the best, if not the best. I distinctly remember being ecstatic over this record when it was new. The problem, however, is that much of the music that sounded “good” in the late 80’s and early 90’s hasn’t held up well over time. I think that there is always the risk when you reissue something melodic from this time that it won’t sell well, but this recording was never previously released on vinyl. And the biggest problem with the original was its treble-y master for CD. The music stands for itself, but I always thought – as with most of the Shout/Tamplin releases – that there is a lack of bass drum punch or low-end bass in the mix.
I predicted Big Bang would be the first of the LRV records to sell out, largely because of its popularity and the fact that many would hope to hear significant improvements in the EQ balance in the mix. Turns out I was wrong on the first account – Sixpence None The Richer’s This Beautiful Mess was the first to sell out surprisingly, but Big Bang was a close second, and both titles sold out before they arrived from production.
At this point many of you may be wondering why review a product that is no longer available. Fair enough. However, this album is an important part of the Limited Run Vinyl series for several reasons. Fortunately, I was right on the second account I mentioned above – the vinyl version sounds so much more balanced. The harsh trebles are mostly gone and there is a significant improvement in the bass – the bass guitar and kick drum seeing the biggest improvement. In fact, I almost didn’t recognize some of these songs because they sound so different. Also, the higher frequencies are not as compressed either and so the songs really don’t sound as dated as they do when I listen to the CD version from 1992.
Since the original release was nearly 57 minutes in length some songs had to be cut and I think the choices to eliminate “Wounded Hearts” and “This 1’s 4 U” are solid. The former is a decent ballad, but not as strong as the other tracks on the record, and the latter, while featuring some nifty guitar noodling and vocal harmonies, always sounded to me like Ken was trying too hard to mix Freddie Mercury with David Lee Roth. However, I would have kept the 30 second reprise at the end as a nice bookend – the album ends kind of abruptly with “Heartbreak Woman.”
In retrospect, I think this title would have sold at least 150 units, maybe even 200. The record itself (pictured) is very cool with a little bit more color variation than some of the other LRV random mixes, the songs have held up well over time and most importantly, this is the best they’ve ever sounded! What’s missing? No insert with lyrics and credits, which isn’t critical, but would have been a nice inclusion on an audiophile release at this price level.
A Note About Packaging
We have not previously talked about packaging in any of the LRV reviews so I would like to mention a few things. First off, the Buffer zone mailers work. None of the 12 titles that I have received so far have damaged corners. A few did have some minor seam damage from where the records (these are heavy) push outward on the jacket edges somewhere in the shipping process. My observation so far is that each label handles the records differently, but ALL of them are using the Buffer zone mailers. Girder shipped mine in the original shrink wrap with the hype sticker on the outside (pictured at top of review) and some extra internal packing to prevent movement. They arrived in perfect condition as a result. The Vengeance Rising vinyl from Roxx were not in shrink and the records were taken out of the jacket and placed in an outer poly bag alongside the jacket to prevent seem ripping during shipping. Retroactive used polybags also, but the records were left sealed in the jacket.
Finally, let this review also serve as a reminder – don’t wait to order these titles as many of them will be gone, like Big Bang, in a flash!