17. Bob Catley's Towering Solo Efforts
After their first meeting at the Gods Of Rock Festival in Wigan 1997, which had been arranged by Bruce Mee of Now And Then Records, Gary Hughes told Bob that he had always been a big MAGNUM fan and that he would like to produce a solo album for him. At first Bob wasn't sure because of his engagement in HARD RAIN but when he asked Tony he answered: “Go ahead.“ Gary already had some songs in stock who sounded more like MAGNUM than the material he wrote for TEN or his own solo projects. So they got together in Manchester's Startrack studios to record what was to become Bob's first solo album. Except Bob and Gary, who played keyboards and bass, there were two other TEN members, Vinnie Burns (guitars) and Greg Morgan (drums) who performed on the album. The recording work had to be interrupted in April and May for a very sad reason. Bob's father Sidney suddenly died, which hit Bob really hard; he then decided to dedicate the new album to his dad.
Bob's debut was entitled “The Tower“ and came out on the 5th of October 1998. Gary had written 10 songs for Bob: “Dreams“, “Scream“, “Far Away“, “Deep Winter“, “Fire And Ice“, “Madrigal“,
“Steel“, “The Tower“, “Fear Of The Dark“ and “Epilogue“. The songs had mostly fantasy lyrics with some “Lord Of The Rings“ (The famous book trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien) elements in them.
The monochrome cover photo with a bluish touch showed Bob with a much shorter haircut than before in front of a tower and a big sword. “Scream“ had previously been published in an edited version on a sampler of a German rock magazine. A sound sample of “Steel“ could be listened to on the HARD RAIN internet homepage. Tony told Bob that he liked the songs very much and so did the press and most of the fans. Most of this was due to the fact that Gary tried to write in the style of MAGNUM's most successful albums, “On A Storyteller's Night“ and “Wings Of Heaven“.
The album was issued by the Now and Then label in the UK and by Frontiers Records in the rest of Europe, which was Ten's and Gary Hughes' label, too. Later, the album was also issued in Japan as a double CD with “Live At The Gods“
Originally there were no plans for a live performance of the album but then Bob was asked to headline the Gods Of Rock 1998 festival. After having thought about it for some time he agreed and it was arranged that Paul Hodson would become part of his live band, too. As time was to short to hire more musicians and because it was insecure whether this live outfit would continue beyond a few concerts around the festival, Canadian rockers EMERALD RAIN were asked to back Bob with Vinny Burns playing the guitar. The gigs, especially the festival performance were so successful that an official bootleg live album called “Live At The Gods“ was published in early 1999. The cover was a monochrome photo of Bob live on stage. Almost all tracks from the setlist were on the album except “Epilogue/Madrigal“, which was performed after “Fear Of The Dark“. The other tracks were: “Dreams“, “Scream“, “Far Away“, “Deep Winter“, “Lonely Night“, “Fire And Ice“, “On A Storyteller's Night“, “The Tower“, “Fear Of The Dark“ and “Just Like An Arrow“. It was obvious that three old MAGNUM songs in the set were distinctly different from those performed with HARD RAIN and underlined Bob's intention to carry on with the pomp rock style of the successful eighties period.
Even before the live album came out there was another CD in the shops that featured Bob Catley. Rick Wakeman's son Oliver had teamed up with ARENA keyboarder Clive Nolan to record a progressive rock musical called “Jabberwocky“. This album was based on a nonsense-poem by Lewis Caroll. Bob did a great job singing the role of the “boy“ who goes on a quest to a magic forest to liberate a nearby village of an evil dragon. Rodney Matthews had designed the album cover which showed the boy, the forest and the dragon. The album was published by Verglas Music and came out on 4th January 1999. Among several well-known progressive rock musicians like LANDMARQ's Tracy Hitchings and Rick Wakeman of YES. The musicians even planned to perform “Jabberwocky“ live, but that was impossible due to the different engagements in other bands. As the first album had been a success, the same team decided to do another concept album called “The Hound Of The Baskervilles“ after Arthur Conan Doyle's famous book, which was recorded in 2001 and put out by Verglas in February 2002. Bob sang the role of Sir Henry Baskerville.
After the second HARD RAIN album and tour Bob returned to work with Gary Hughes as the success of the first album had earned them a contract for at least two more records. The second album was recorded and produced in spring and summer and came out on 20th November 1999.
It was a concept album whose tracks were all dedicated to famous people, events or stories that had become legends. So that term became the album title and the fitting album cover, designed by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law showed a green-faced elf sitting in a candle-lit vault and writing a book.
Recording and production was done in the Startrack Studios the Viper Room Studios and in Gary Hughes' own studio in Rossall. Gary played the keyboards, his TEN-colleagues Vinny Burns and Steve McKenna joined them on guitar and bass and the drummer was John Coorsey of DANTE FOX. Bob also contributed some backing vocals to TEN's 1999 album “Spellbound“.
”Legends“ contained the following songs: “The Pain“, “Shelter From The Night“, “Carpe Diem, “Tender Is The Night“, “Medusa“, “Hydra“, “A Beautiful Night For Love“, “Too Late“, “The Light“ and “Where The Heart Is“. Each song had it's own story to tell .“The Pain“ was about Elvis Presley, “Shelter From The Night“ about Dracula, “Carpe Diem“ was based on William Shakespeare's
“Henry V“, “Tender Is The Night“ was about Marilyn Monroe ,“Medusa“ and “Hydra“ were based on ancient Greek mythology as told by Homer, “A Beautiful Night For Love“ retold Emily Bronte's story “Wuthering Heights“ ,“Too Late“ was told from the point of view of Gaston Leroux' ”Phantom Of The Opera“, “The Light“, a song about what man does to himself and to the earth instead of sticking to (Christian) basic rules of humanity and finally ”Where The Heart Is“, which was based on R.L.Stevenson's “The Master Of Balantray“.
Most music magazines liked the album very much and wrote about Bob as MAGNUM's legitimate heir. Bob saw now that it would be impossible to pursue his solo career and stay with HARD RAIN. So in September 1999 he told the Tony and the others that he was going to leave the band. His solo albums suited him better as he had always liked the old MAGNUM style and the solo albums were very much like that.
The album was promoted on a short UK tour on which Bob was backed by EMERALD RAIN again. He also headlined the Gods Of Rock 1999 festival in November, on which the album was officially released. In summer 2000, after some gigs in Spain, Bob played at the Lokerse Festival in Belgium, this time backed by NATIVE CAIN, but as always with Paul Hodson on the keyboards. That concert was filmed and published on an official live video that came out in autumn 2000. The video covered the entire tour set that consisted of “The Light“/ „The Pain“/ „Dreams“/ „Scream“/
”Far Away“/ „Too Late“/ „Start Talking Love“/ „Lonely Night“/ „On A Storyteller's Night“/ „Fear Of The Dark“/ „Les Morts Dansant“/ „Just Like An Arrow“ and “A Beautiful Night For Love“. One song was different from the winter concerts. “Medusa“, that had been played in the set before “Far Away“ was dropped and replaced by “Too Late“, which was now played after “Far Away“.
Bob and Gary started to work on their third album in late 2000. Both had always been fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantastic novels, so the new album became another concept album, this time based on Tolkien's “Lord Of The Rings“. The album was produced and recorded by the same team and in the same studios as the last one. The only new musician was Tracy Hitchings who had already worked with Bob on the “Jabberwocky“-project. She contributed the female vocals to the duet “Against The Wind“.
„Middle Earth“ was in the shops on 26th March 2001. Although the title was pretty obvious there was a funny misprint on the promotional discs that were distributed before the official release. The cover was o.k. but on the CD the title ran “Middle The Art“(?). I assume that someone misunderstood the title on the phone... The cover showed a mysterious black castle framed by fantasy ornaments and creatures. The tracks on this album were “The Wraith Of The Rings“, “The Fields That I Recall/Emissiary/The Fields That I Recall (Reprise)“,“City Walls“, “Against The Wind“, “Where You Lead I Follow/Stormcrow And Pilgrim/Where You Lead I'll Follow (Reprise)“,“Return Of The Mountain King“, “The End Of Summer (Galadriel's Theme)“,“This Gallant Band Of Manic Strangers“ and “The Fellowship“. Whereas the guitars had dominated “Legends“, the keyboards were predominant on “Middle Earth“.
Bob now assembled his own band for a forthcoming tour. It consisted of Paul Hodson (keyboards), Al Barrow of HARD RAIN (bass), HARD RAIN's former drum roadie Colin Alltree on drums and Vince O'Regan, in whose band the Barrow brothers had played before, on the guitar. In May and June 2001 this new outfit went on a double Headliner European tour with TEN. They started in Germany, then went on to Belgium, Italy, Spain and the UK. Both bands took turns in performing first and the concerts were really successful. The European fans hadn't seen Bob for five years so he was hailed back, especially when his band started to play some of the old classics.
Bob‘s and HARD RAIN‘s keyboarder Paul Hodson also joined TEN during this tour replacing Don Airey who first had to back Uli John Roth in Japan and then replaced Jon Lord in DEEP PURPLE. Paul will record a new DVD and album with TEN soon and a solo album called “This Strange World“ to be out in early in 2004
The German rock magazine Break Out did not only present the tour but even published a small Bob Catley-poster, the first one since the golden times with MAGNUM. The setlist on the tour was “Intro“/ „Return Of The Mountain King“/ „City Walls“/ „The Pain“/ „Dreams“/ „Scream“/ “Stormcrow And Pilgrim“/ „Vigilante“/ „Start Talking Love“/ „Lonely Night“/ „On A Storyteller's Night“/ „Fear Of The Dark“/ „Epilogue/Madrigal“/ „The Fellowship“ and “Days Of No Trust“. In interviews Bob gave on this tour he stated that Tony and he had reformed MAGNUM and had already started to record a new album, so there wouldn't be any more solo gigs in the near future. Bob's last solo concert for the time being took place at the Gods Of Rock 2001 festival, where he stood in because several American bands had cancelled their appearance due to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in September. As a special addition to his tour set, Bob played a cover version of the TEN-song ”After The Love Has Gone“. Meanwhile Bob had also contributed vocals to the second part of the rock opera AVANTASIA which was composed by EDGUY mastermind Tobias Sammet and that included Eric Singer (Ex-KISS) and other famous Metal musicians. Bob lent his voice to the “Tree Of Knowledge” and sang two songs: “The Looking Glass” and “In Quest For”. “Avantasia Part II“ was released on 26th August 2002. It charted on position 17 in Germany and Sweden.
After the “Breath Of Life”-Tour had finished, Bob decided that there was enough time for a solo album until the next MAGNUM-album would be out in 2004. Paul Hodson gave him some demos and asked him whether he would like to record these songs, and Bob gladly agreed. Bringing in Paul as the new songwriter gave the album an fresh and heavy touch, that Bob described as :” Classic Heavy Metal, like DIO or Iron Maiden”, something he had always wanted to do. The album was out on May 26th on Frontiers Records, now distributed by Edel instead of Point music in Germany. It was called “When Empires Burn“. This time his whole live band played on the album: Paul Hodson (keys), Al Barrow (bass), Vince O’Regan on guitar and Jamie Little on drums, whose father had been in SLENDER LORIS with Mickey Barker. The songs were: “The Torment(intro)“,“Children Of The Circle“, “Gonna Live Forever“, “The Prophecy“, “I’ll Be Your Fool“, “Every Beat Of My Heart“, “When Empires Burn“, “Meaning Of Love“, “This Is The Day“, “Someday Utopia“ and ”My America“. The limited digipack version contained two more tracks: “Heaven Can Wait“ and “When The Earth Lies Still (demo)“. The latter two had been intended as bonus tracks for the CD-single “I’ll Be Your Fool”, but the plan was dropped to make way for the limited edition. The promotional copy didn’t feature the bonus tracks, but a CD-ROM part that included several photographs and a band biography.
Some lyrics of the songs were quite remarkable. “Children Of The Circle” was about the druids from the Celtic age, The title track dealt with real empires as well as personal relationships breaking up and “My America” was about Irish emigrants to the USA during the great potato famine.
A UK followed in May and June. Bob decided that the new material was so strong, that he rendered as many as six songs from the new album! The setlist was: “The Torment”/”Children of The Circle”/”This Is The Day”/”Return Of The Mountain King”/”Stormcrow And Pilgrim”/”When Empires Burn”/”Dreams”/”Scream”/”I’ll Be Your Fool”/”Far Away”/”Start Talking Love”/”Lonely Night”/”My America”/”The Pain” and ”Fear Of The Dark/Madrigal/”.The first gigs were a little difficult as the new CD was not available before 26th May, so most fans couldn’t really sing along to these songs.
Nevertheless the album was hailed as Bob’s best so far by the press. Everyone agreed that newcomer Paul was an outstanding songwriter talent and that the songs were very well chosen and produced. One reviewer even wrote: “If there is a place like heaven, this must be the soundtrack!”
Along with the European leg of the tour which was to be staged in Germany, supported by LOST WEEKEND Bob’s next solo appearance was out. He contributed to a double concept album by Gary Hughes that was based on the legend of king Arthur with the title “Once And Future King”. Bob played Merlin the wizard and contributed various backing vocals, a duet with Sabine Edelsbacher “Believe Enough To Fight” and two songs he sang himself, “King For A Day” and “In Flames”. Paul Hodson played keyboards on most of the songs. Part I was out on August 25th, Part II on the 6th o of October 2003.
The setlist on the German leg of the tour in September was the same as in the UK. Bob played smaller venues but seemed to enjoy himself thoroughly. In October, after a short break and the “Magnumania”-festival, Bob and Vince played a few acoustic club gigs in Spain and in the UK in November supporting M3, featuring Mark Stanway. In the same year Bob contributed backing vocals to two songs of the debut album “Time After Time” by newcomers DOUBLE CROSS. In April and May 2004 a few more solo gigs with Vince followed. Supporting Jeff Scott Soto from TALISMAN they played “Children Of The Circle”/ “This Is The Day”/ “Stormcrow And Pilgrim”/ “My America”/ “Start Talking Love”/ “Lonely Night”/ “Days Of No Trust” and “On A Storyteller’s Night”.
In July 2005 the next solo album “Spirit Of Man” (earlier announced to be called “Temptation”) was announced for early 2006. The first songs were performed on a few acoustic gigs in September featuring only himself on vocals, Vince O’Regan and Dave Thompson on guitars. The album was recorded in Vince’s KRT Studios in Wolverhampton and released on January the 27th 2006 by Frontiers records (Marquee/Avalon records in Japan) who had meanwhile signed up Bob for several future albums. Irvin Parratt replaced Paul on keyboards (most probably because of his engagement in his own band HODSON) and Bob and Vince produced the album themselves.
The new album followed the Hard Rock course set by its predecessor “When Empires Burn” and the track titles were: “Heart Of Stone”, “Moment Of Truth”, “In The Name Of The Cause”, “Blinded By A Lie”, “Last Snows Of Winter”, “Spirit Of Man”, “The Fire Within Me”, “Judgement Day”, “Lost To The Night, ”Beautiful Mind”, “Walk On Water”, “End Of The Story”. The Japanese version contained one more track called “Temptation”. The songs were written by Vince o’ Regan and two LOST WEEKEND band mates, Dave Thompson and Paul Uttley. The cover artwork which showed Leonardo da Vinci’s study of human anatomy was designed by the world-famous artist Ioannis of Dangerous Age Graphics who had already crafted designs for DEEP PURPLE, STYX and UFO.
Bob Catley on his fifth album: "Every album is as important to me, the last one, “Spirit Of Man” took over a year to make, I'm very proud of it and want it to be the very best it can be, it's my 5th solo album but the first one on my new label Frontiers, so that makes it pretty important too."
"I think my three songwriters this time, Dave Thompson, Paul Uttley and Vince O'Regan have done a wonderful job for me, I'm extremely happy with it. I think the new album has got elements of When Empires Burn and The Tower and some of the older Magnum albums as well. That's what I'm known for, a mixture of hard and heavy, soft and melodic rock." The critics gave the album another very warm reception, it was even “Album of the Month” in the German Breakout magazine.
A UK tour was announced which would feature Bob, Jamie Little, Vince o’Regan, Steve Williams of POWERQUEST on keyboards and Gavin Cooper of STATETROOPER on bass.
The first reviews loved the songs but criticized the production heavily for not laying the stress on Bob’s voice the way it should have been. The newly formed Bob Catley band (supported by DEMON) embarked on the tour of Britain in April 2006 with the following setlist: “Moment Of Truth”/”Blinded By The Lie”/”Dreams”/”Scream”/”Spirit Of Man”/”Far Away”/”Return Of The Mountain King”/”Stormcrow And Pilgrim”/”Days Of No Trust (acoustic)”/”Sleepwalking”/”Lonely Night”/”My America”/”The Pain”. More gigs were to follow in autumn, this time acoustic concerts featuring Bob, Vince and Gavin.
In the meantime Vince O’Regan decided on forming another new band called EDEN with Nick Workman of KICK and started writing songs immediately.
In January 2007 Bob said in an interview for Totalrock radio station that he was already planning another album. He mentioned Magnus Karlsson (STARBREAKER, Allen/Lande) as a songwriter. Dennis Ward, Jorn Lande’s producer would take care of the album and recording was to be started in late 2007 for a 2008 release. He also did some songs for the new AVANTASIA and AYREON albums.
His contributions for AVANTASIA were the lead vocals on “The Story Ain’t Over”, a great ballad from AVANTASIA’s EP “Lost In Space Part I”. On the album “The Scarecrow” he shared lead vocals on two tracks, “Shelter From The Rain” and “Cry Just A Little”. Afterwards Bob joined AVANTASIA for some festival performances in Summer. Their 2011 headliner show at Wacken/
Germany was even released on DVD.
On AYREON’s “0101101” he could be noticed singing bits and pieces all over the album, e.g. on “Beneath The Waves”, “The Fifth Extinction”, “Liquid Eternity”, “Newborn Race”, “Ride The Comet”, “River Of Time” and “Unnatural Selection”. Bob could also be seen and heard on two bonus DVDs that came with the limited versions of both albums.
Bob’s next album was out on September 19th 2008 after having been recorded in Karlsruhe, Germany in Dennis’ studio several Months before. The title was “Immortal” and the songs were: “Dreamers Unite”, “We Are Immortal”, “End Of The World”, “Open Your Eyes”, “The Searcher”, “One More Night”, “Light Up My Way”, “You Are My Star”, “War In Heaven”, “Win The Throne” “Haunted”, and “Heat Of Passion”. The Japanese fans were treated to a bonus track: “The Searcher”(acoustic version). Rodney Matthews did his first album cover for a Bob Catley solo album. It showed a blonde warrior sitting on a huge dragon, brandishing his sword. The musicians on the album were Magnus Karlsson himself (keyboards and guitars), Uwe Reitenauer of PINK CREAM 69 (guitars) Dennis Ward (bass and guitars) and Dirk Bruineberg of ELEGY on drums. Bob stated that the album was his heaviest yet and that the direction was leaning towards the sound of RAINBOW and DIO. Lyrically is was much like its forerunners with fantasy tales and dreams about a better world. Interestingly, as Bob stated in an interview, some guitar solos had to be exchanged for “more melodic ones”. So Uwe Reitenauer replaced these guitar tracks.
The production was much better than the last album which really pleased the fans. Most of them really liked it and the album sold rather well during the first weeks.
Bob also promised to try and promote “Immortal” with a tour of the UK and Europe. However,
since he was already recording the new MAGNUM album, he couldn’t do that before early 2009. Consequently some acoustic shows with Vince O’Reagan were scheduled for spring. However, suddenly Vince drew out and refused to tour with Bob or his band any longer for “personal reasons”. A replacement was found in Vinny Burns, who had been the guitarist on Bobs first albums. The setlist of the acoustic tour in March and May 2009 was: “Light Up My Way”/ “Moment Of Truth”/ “Scream”/ “We Are Immortal”/ “Return Of The Mountain King”/ “Stormcrow & Pilgrim”/ “The Fellowship”/ “Spirit of Man“/ “Haunted”/ “Abandon”/ “The Pain”/ “Sign Of A Cross”/ “My America”/ “Fear Of The Dark”/ “Madrigal”
A big surprise was the inclusion of “Abandon”, a true melodic rock classic by Darren Wharton’s DARE. “Sign Of The Cross” from the first AVANTASIA album was rendered as a duet with AVANTASIA’S/EDGUY’s Tobias Sammet in Aschaffenburg/Germany. Amazingly, that was a song, Bob hadn’t actually sung in the first place as he hadn’t been involved in AVANTASIA’s debut album.
In April 2010 the new AVANTASIA double album was out, entitled “The Wicked Symphony/Angel Of Babylon”. Bob contributed to the tracks “Runaway Train” and Journey To Arcadia”. The 2008 world tour DVD was out in 2011 under the title “Around The World In Twenty Days Live” featuring several of the original musicians, including Bob, to coincide with another AVANTASIA tour. In October Bob hinted that there might be a new solo or even best-of-album soon. This hasn’t happened so far, as except his occasional appearances with AVANTASIA, as his full focus lies on MAGNUM.
When asked to help with a charity single for the Fukushima victims, Bob gladly agreed to participate. The EP called “Help For Japan”, a rocky cover version of the BEATLES’ classic, was out on 9th March 2012, featured musicians like Don Airey, Leo Leoni and Neal Murray and a whole bunch of singers, among them Bob, Tobi Sammet, Marc Storace, Claus Lessmann, Oliver Hartmann, Bernhard Weiss, Michael Kiske, Andi Deris and Tommy Heart.
The next project turned out to be another AVANTASIA album and tour. “The Mystery Of Time” was out on 31.3.2013 And featured Bob on the 10th song of the album, a 10-Minute epic entiteled “The Great Mystery”. Tobias Sammet stated in an interview that Bobs singing had always inspired him and that MAGNUM had composed the soundtrack to his younger years. He was proud to be Bob’s personal friend and felt privileged to be able to cooperate with him since the second AVANTASIA album. His favourite Bob song was “Les Morts Dansant” from the “Storyteller”-Album which he liked for its special atmosphere.
AVANTASIA including Bob went on a world tour in spring and summer 2013 to promote the album. Bob was on stage for some songs which he had shared vocals in on the albums and performed his lead vocals on “The Story Ain’t Over”. The band also headlined Wacken 2014 which was a lavish success.
Shortly before Christmas 2015 Rodney Matthews sent out a newly recorded version of his mini-album “Three Ships” out to family and friends. Bob had also contributed to that CD, which was later made available to the public.
0n 29.1.2016 the next AVANTASIA-album was published. Entiteled “Ghostlights” it featured once again a terrific cast of singers, including Bob, Dee Snider, Sharon del Adel, Geoff Tate, Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske, Ronnie Atkins, Marco Hietala and – of course – Tobias Sammet. Bob contributed to two songs, namely “A Restless Heart And Obsidian Skies”, on which he shared lead vocals with Tobi and “Wake Up To The Moon”, the bonus track. Bob was also present on the following European tour in March/April 2016 and the festivals in 2017 which culminated in another headliner show in Wacken. In February 2019 a new AVANTASIA-album, “Moonglow” was out in the shops. Bob contributed several vocals on the tracks “Lavender” and “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn”. He also accompany the band on the European tour in March/April 2019 and on several festival dates throughout the year. On the tour he performed “Lavender”, “The Story Ain’t Over”, ”Shelter From The Rain”, “Mystery Of A Blood Red Rose” with Tobi and “Sign Of The Cross/The Seven Angels” together with all other vocalists.