PETE HICKS & NICK MAGNUS: FLAT PACK Dave Shoesmith - CDS Most   prog-rock   fans   will   know   of   Nick   Magnus    from   his   1999   album;   the   wonderful,   almost   all-instrumental,   synth/prog crossover   that   is   ‘Inhaling   Green’    (still   one   of   my   personal   all-time   favourites).   Then   you’ll   probably   remember   that   in 2004    came    the    equally    amazing    follow-up    ‘Hexameron’ .    This    latter    of    the    two    albums    leaned    more    towards    the Progressive   Rock    end   of   the   music   spectrum   and   featured   guest   vocalists   from   the   world   of   Rock    and   Prog ,   one   of whom   was   Pete   Hicks ,   the   guy   who   was   vocalist   for   Steve   Hackett ’s   band   on   the   ‘Spectral   Mornings’    and   ‘Defector’ albums,   and   was   a   member   of   the   same   Hackett    touring   band   that   Nick   Magnus    was   such   a   vital   part   of   at   the   time.   For those    unfamiliar    with    Pete    Hicks ’    voice,    you    have    to    think    loosely    along    the    lines    of    Paul    Carrack     meets    Colin Blunstone . Now,   although   what   we   have   with   ‘Flat   Pack’    is   certainly   not   a   Prog   Rock   album   by   any   stretch   of   the   imagination,   (Prog fans   DON’T    stop   here),   it   is   however   an   album   of   unbelievably   good   songs   -   quality   songs   with   a   capital   “Q”.   Each   and every   one   has   a   strong   melody-line,   well   crafted   lyrics,   catchy   choruses,   middle   eights   and   everything   else   that   you   would associate   with   a   good,   memorable   song.   These   songs   are   delivered   in   a   similar   style   to   that   of   90’s   Mike   and   the Mechanics , several of which have their roots fixed firmly in the past. Pete   Hicks    penned   most   of   the   tracks,   with   Nick   Magnus    co-writing   two   and   composing   the   closing,   one   and   only instrumental on the album. Each   and   every   track   is   superbly   arranged/produced   (as   you   would   expect   when   Nick   Magnus    is   at   the   control   desk)   with the superb singing voice of Pete Hicks  dealing with the lyrics and playing guitar. Nick   Magnus    plays   keyboards   and   synthesizers,   and   practically   everything   else   you   hear   on   the   album   with   the   exception of one track where Dik Cadbury  ( Steve Hackett Band ) plays bass and Dave Storey  ( The Enid ) the drums. If   you   bought   either   of   the   two   Nick   Magnus    albums,   then   you   obviously   like   a   good   tune,   and   that   is   what   you   get   with ‘Flat   Pack’ ,   but   with   well-written   and   well-executed   lyrics   to   go   with   them.   If   like   me,   you   really   enjoyed   tracks   like:   ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon’  from Nick ’s ‘Hexameron’ , then you’re certainly going to enjoy almost everything on ‘Flat Pack’  as well. Let’s briefly go through each of the tracks… ‘Outside   Looking   In’    is   a   catchy,   jaunty   type   of   song   with   a   well   crafted   and   stylishly   delivered   vocal   by   Hicks    and some amazingly slick keyboard work on organ with added brass sounds from Magnus . ‘Am   I   Fooling   Myself?’    is   a   catchy   pop   song   with   a   strong   Latin   American   feel   and   is   a   bit   90’s   Mavericks    meets 60’s Dave Dee, Dozy Mick & Tich ! ‘The   Leaving   [Derek’s   Song]’    is   a   truly   beautiful   sentimental   song   that   opens   in   a   Celtic   atmosphere   with   the sounds   of   " Magnus ized"   Uilleann   pipes,   which   bring   a   strong   feeling   of   melancholy   to   the   track   straight   away.   Once   into the   vocal,   it   started   to   somehow   take   me   back   to   the   late   60’s   with   a   ballad   sung   in   a   style   of   one   of   the   big   torch   songs from   someone   like   Dusty   Springfield ,   but   there’s   just   that   hint   of   Celtic   music   hidden   deep   in   the   arrangement   that   makes it   different   again.   Hicks    delivers   a   truly   heartfelt   vocal   performance,   with   Magnus    adding   light   and   shade   with   superb choral backdrops that strengthen the feeling you are listening to an updated 60’s classic. The   track   closes   with   the   truly   melodic   sounds   of   a   weeping   electric   guitar   solo   surrounded   by   organ   and   sweeping symphonic   string   sounds,   and   when   the   Uilleann   pipes   appear   once   more,   only   to   then   fade   away   into   the   misty   horizon, there’s not a dry eye left in the house. ‘Just   Remember   Where   You   Heard   It   First’    is   a   real   toe-tapper   that   was   co-written   by   Nick   Magnus ,   coming across   like   a   modern   Genesis    style   rock   song.   The   rhythm   section   of   Dik   Cadbury    on   bass   ( Steve   Hackett   Band )   and Dave   Story    on   drums   ( The   Enid )   is   tight   and   driving,   while   the   chorus   is   catchy   and   extremely   memorable.   Magnus lopping   synthesizers   take   a   strong   lead   here,   scorching   through   the   melody-line   at   pace   and   sounding   just   a   little   Tony Banks -ish in the process.
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