Reviews in this issue:
- The Jewel
- 9:15 Live
- The Rest Of Pendragon
- The World
- The Very Very Bootleg
- The Window Of Life
- Fallen Dreams And Angels
- Utrecht ... The Final Frontier
- The Masquerade Overture
- As Good As Gold
- Live In Krakow 1996
- Live ... At Last ! (video)
Two additional reviews of Pendragon' s Once Upon A Time In England, volume 1 and 2 rarities albums can be found in the DPRP Pendragon Special.
I'd like to thank Nick Barrett (Pendragon) for providing me the review material. I (and the rest of the team) hope you get well soon so we can enjoy new Pendragon music. Good luck and thanks again !
Dirk van de Hout
The Jewel is in fact the second Pendragon album (released 1985) after their mini-album Fly High Fall Far, the mini-album appeared on The Rest Of Pendragon which will be reviewed later.
Pendragon's The Jewel was their first effort on EMI Records. In the slipstream of Marillion, they were responsible for the revival of Progressive Rock in Europe.
The album opens with Hi gher Circles, a very progressive song with the typical Pendragon guitar sound and the more typical Nick Barrett vocals. The Pleasure Of Hope is a more romantic song with a melancholic approach while Leviathan is the all-time Pendragon fans favourite and is still played at their concerts nowadays. Alaska is divided in two pieces At Home With The Earth and Snowfall. This is one of my all-time favourites; very good keyboards and a very good composition. Circus is a very dramatic song with great instrumental parts and breaks. Oh Divineo is the worst song of the album but the best is yet to come The Black Knight is Pendragon's masterpiece and is still loved by Pendragon and progrock lovers nowadays !The album ends with two bonus tracks: Fly High Fall Far and Victims Of Life, two songs from their debut mini-album Fly High Fall Far. See Pendragon - The Rest Of Pendragon for a full review !
Still one of the best Pendragon albums ! This was also their break-through album. If you love progrock this one must be in your collection !
Tracklist: Victims Of Life, Higher Circles, Circus, Leviathan, Red Shoes, Alaska, The Black Knight, Please, Dark Summer's Day, Excalibur.
After one mini-album and a full album two members were replaced in the band: Rik Carter by (the well-known) Clive Nolan and Nigel Harris by Fudge Smith.
Pendragon's first live album was recorded live at The Marquee in London (UK) on 24, 25 and 26 July 1986. Please is a left-over from studio recordings and Dark Summer's Day and Excalibur are the two remaining tracks from Fly High Fall Far (bonus tracks). The live tracks show what a great live band Pendragon is (and was at that stage). After intensive touring as a support-act for Marillion this was a gift for the fans (the number of fans were growing very fast at that time) and gives a good view about Pendragon's live capabilities at that time.
Please is a nice instrumental track with great guitar parts.
A very good live album. Especially the new members fit in very well in Pendragon's music. Lots of classical Pendragon songs are included (The Black Knight, Alaska and Leviathan).
After being dropped by EMI Records Pendragon (i.e. Nick Barrett) decided to go for an own record label, called Toff records. After a few years this was the first (studio) CD with Clive Nolan and Fudge Smith. This album indicates a slight difference with the earlier albums. Nick Barrett tries to write some shorter, more single orientated songs, but he doesn't forget the long epics ! Therefore this must be one of the most varied Pendragon albums, unfortunately not all the songs do have my interest !
KowTow opens with Saved By You, a very simple track, and very poppy ! The Mask, Time For A Change and I Walk The Rope are a little "best of both worlds": very good compositions but a little shorter (4-5 minutes) than the songs on previous albums. An indication that Pendragon goes a little more song-orientated.
2.AM starts with a saxophone and is a very sad, melancholic ballad. Next tracks Total Recall and The Haunting are long, progressive songs which make me think of the "old" classical Pendragon songs. Especially The Haunting is a FANTASTIC song (by far the best on this album); Pendragon at it's best ! Solid Heart is a very nice sing-along song while KowTow is a statement about war in which Nick Barrett proves he can write good lyrics.
A great (re)start for Pendragon at this stage of their career. Especially the nice keyboard sound of Clive Nolan and the aggressive and subtile drum sound of Fudge Smith makes it a very good album. But you have to like the song orientated direction Pendragon shows on this album.
The Rest Of Pendragon
The Rest Of Pendragon is a collection of their first mini-album Fly High Fall Far (1984) plus singles and B-sides. The diversity of Pendragon music is best shown on this CD.
First we get the 1988 single Saved By You (also bonus track on the KowTow album; see review). Next song is a very Genesis a-like song Lady Luck, which I think has been written after the KowTow album, together with Chase The Jewel and Elephants Never Grow Old. Chase The Jewel is a long uptempo song with great breaks while Elephants Never Grow Old shows the more balladish side of Pendragon. Elephants Never Grow Old is not my favourite Pendragon song because it don't have the aggression and passion compared to other songs !
Next tracks are three tracks from the Red Shoes single (is this a collector's item ??!! I have it on vinyl !): Red Shoes is the poppy Rock & Roll song; nothing special but nice ! Searching is the three minute ballad which can be avoid although this song certainly has it's moments. While Contact is the rock track; very agressive, very good drums by Fudge ! Red Shoes was released before the KowTow album and I think it was the last try to get commercial succes. Fortunately they made the right decision to start Toff Records afterwards and continued to record good music (KowTow).
Next are two tracks from the 1984 mini-album Fly High Fall Far: Fly High Fall Far is a very agressive prog rock song with great tempo breaks and outstanding keyboards by Rik Carter. Victims Of Life is a very melodic instrumental piece with superb guitar parts and again a lot of tempo breaks in the song ! Dark Summer's Day already appeared on the 9:15 Live album (see review). Excalibur is an instrumental piece with a very nice keyboard sound in which Pendragon shows their skills, I think this is the song with the most authentic Pendragon sound of all ! This album end with a live recording of Fly High Fall Far, a left over from the 9:15 Live album. Notice the difference between the original version and this version with Fudge and Clive Nolan.
Very good compilation of Pendragon music that didn't appear on any album ! If you like to hear music from Pendragon's early years this is a must have !
After a few years of inactivity Pendragon released this MASTERPIECE ! The World is also a return to longer, more progressive songs.
From the beginning, Back In The Spotlight, a very Pink Floyd a-like song but you can hear the almost typical Pendragon sound, till the end, the very atmospheric song And We'll Go hunting Deer this is a great album and almost a standard for Progressive Music ! But what's in between ?? The 12-minute epic The Voyager is a very good song with steel guitars opening, afterwards this song turns in what has to be one of Pendragon's best songs ever ! Shane sounds very much like Pink Floyd (the band didn't deny that by the way) and together with Prayer this is the prelude to the 20-minute song Queen Of Hearts which is divided in three parts. Part 1, Queen Of Hearts, is the more balladish opener of this epic and turns into Part 2, .. A Man Could Die Out Here .. which has the greatest instrumental Pendragon break ever ! Part 3, The Last Waltz, is the more sing-along part of this song.
Nick Barrett did a great with the lyrics for this album (he even recalled the place where the songs were written !) and because the production by Tony Taverner is very good this has to be the Pendragon classic album !
Like I said before: this is classical Pendragon ! If you have never heard Pendragon before this is a great album to start with !
The Very, Very Bootleg
Tracklist: Excalibur, Total Recall, Queen Of Hearts, And We'll Go Hunting Deer, Solid Heart.
After the release of The World Pendragon toured Europe. These are recordings of their concert in Lille, France on Sunday 12th April 1992. Due to the very bad (but pure !) recordings this album was only released as a "fan club only" CD !
Excalibur is a golden oldie and sounds very good in this '92 version. This song fits very well with the rest of the songs which were played during this '92 tour. Total Recall is a very good song from the KowTow album but this live version is almost the same as the album version. Queen Of Hearts (total version) is a great song and shows the ability of Pendragon to play these long songs during their concerts. And We'll Go Hunting Deer is a live favourite while Solid Heart is a great encore.
Unfortunately the sound quality of this album is very bad. Therefore not all fans will be able to get this CD while it was only released as a fan club release. Because of the use of two track DAT the recordings sound very pure (no remixes, overdubbing, etc.) and because of the songs on this album I think it is worth a try to get a copy of this album !
The Window Of Life
On The Window Of Life Pendragon continued in the style of The World. Pendragon established with this album their name worldwide and because of that a world-wide tour followed.
The Walls Of Babylon starts with a very bombastic organ sound before the typical Nick Barrett guitar sound kicks in. A very nice intro and very unlike Pendragon to do it this way. After a mere four minutes the song finally 'begins' in the vein of the earlier Pendragon sound (The Jewel/KowTow). Ghosts is one of those songs which show what Pendragon stands for: very good compositions, emotional vocals and a very sing-along chorus.
Breaking The Spell is the ballad of the album and probably the best ballad Pendragon has ever written. The Last Man On Earth is the epic of this album; very good musicianship, very good lyrics and that for almost 15 minutes ! This song is still one of the live favourites of the band and not without reason ! Nostradamus (Stargazing) is the perfect concert opener; very touchy chorus, very rocky guitars although this song starts with a very ballad-ish intro. Am I Really Losing You? is another ballad which is not my cup of tea because I think Nick Barrett's voice is too "thin" to sing this sort of ballads.
With The Window Of Life Pendragon continues the line of KowTow and The World although The Window Of Life is not the best of these two albums together. Simply said The Window Of Life is a decent album with a few highlights; a logical step in their career. I'd have to mention the great production by Karl Groom, Nick Barrett and Gavin Greenaway that makes The Window of Life very enjoyable to listen to.
Fallen Dreams And Angels
After their The Window Of Life tour Pendragon released this 4-song mini-CD. Three songs were written during and after their Window Of Life Tour while one song was recorded for the second SI compilation Disc.
The Third World In The UK is a very rocky song in which the band finds the right balance between progressive rock and power rock. A stunning keyboard solo by Clive Nolan makes this a great song. Dune is a great ballad. Sister Bluebird is a song in the vein of Genesis, very melodic with guitars that sound like Steve Hackett. Fallen Dreams And Angels is a song many of us know from the SI compilation Disc 2. Great vocals, a great composition and very nice keyboard sounds make this song one of the highlights in Pendragon's carreer.
Although this is a mini-CD Fallen Dreams And Angels is my favourite Pendragon album. For some reason this album makes me play it over and over again. Maybe the relaxed compositions and the good lyrics are responsible for that; fact is that this my favourite Pendragon album !
Utrecht ... The Final Frontier
Tracklist: KowTow, Breaking The Spell, The Mask, The Last Man On Earth, Am I Really Losing You?, The Voyager, Nostradamus (Stargazing).
The Window Of Life Tour was the most extensive tour Pendragon had done till that date. They played the prestigious Muziekcentrum Vredenburg in Utrecht, Holland on April 30th 1994 together with Jadis and Everon. 10 years after their support for Marillion (Misplaced Childhood Tour) they returned to Vredenburg but now as headliner !
The album opens with a very animated version of KowTow that almost sounds the same as on the KowTow album. The live version of Breaking The Spell is, although it is not my favourite Pendragon song, very good. Especially the guitar sound is much "warmer" compared to the studio version. The Mask is a very common Pendragon song; a very sing-along chorus and a great version. The Last Man On Earth has always been a masterpiece and this live version is even better. The instrumental part proves why this is a Pendragon live favourite.
Am I Really Losing You? is close to the album version. The Voyager has always been a great live song and this version is played very aggressive without losing the impact of the song. Nostradamus (without ballad intro) was played as an encore and this version is much, much better than the album version; very enthousiastic and a very rocky version.
Compared to 9:15 Live this live compilation is a compliation from the more recent Pendragon songs (Kow Tow/The World/The Window Of Life). Nevertheless a great album with some great live versions ! This was a night to remember ...
The Masquarade Overture
This is the SPECIAL EDITION of The Masquarade Overture (with 4 track bonus CD), provided with the first press range. The Masquarade Overture is by far Pendragon's best album till now; in terms of production, artwork and booklet. But don't be afraid the music is superb too !
The Masquarade Overture opens with the title song (called, how strange, The Masquarade Overture) which is a very classical intro with great keys and a female church singer (Gwen Ross). Followed by As Good As Gold, a very "poppy" sounding song with a very sing-along chorus. Paintbox is a very atmospheric song with great melodies and superb guitar playing by Nick Barrett. The Persuit Of Excellence is a song you can ignore, this has totally nothing to do with the great music on this album !
Guardian Of My Soul is a great piece of music with great guitar playing and superb drumming by Fudge Smith. Almost 13 minutes of enjoyment ! The Shadow is a very relaxed song, almost a ballad with very sensative lyrics. After almost five minutes this song turns into a great progressive song with very good musicianship !
Masters Of Illusion is the longest track of the album and by far the best !! More than 12 minutes, exciting from the very quiet beginning to the moment Clive Nolan get loose ! Maybe this is the standard for Pendragon nowadays; the "old" progressive style combined with the more melodic songs of the latest albums. Nevertheless great track and a great album !
There were also a few songs left for the Japanese release of The Masquarade Overture, which appeared also on the bonus disc of the European version. As Good As Gold and Masters Of Illusion are two edits from the album versions, while the other songs are more interesting: Schizo is a great 7-minute track with Pink Floyd influences and great guitars by Nick Barrett. The King Of the Castle (The Shadow Part 2) follows the melody and mood of the album version although this version has a very recognisable, easy sounding chorus. Good track but it could have been a little more "rocky" !
As an album this must be Pendragon's best work till now ! Very consistent, good sounding music and a very good production by Karl Groom and Nick Barrett. A little point of critism: there are no real highlights on this album (although Masters Of Illusion is a great track).
As Good As Gold
As Good As Gold is an European 4-track single with left-overs from The Masquarade Overture album.
As good As Gold is the same edit that appeared on the Masquarade Overture bonus disc (see review !). Bird Of Paradise is a very nice track that reminds me of the older Pendragon style of writing. Especially Clive Nolan's keyboard sounds are very good in this track. This is a composition that varies a lot; quiet piano passages and very heavy and melodic guitar pieces (and also one of Clive Nolan's best solos ever).
Midnight Running is a track that could also have been on the Masquarade Overture album; very good decent track with very decent and tight musicianship. A Million Miles Away is not my favourite track. Nothing happens during that song: it ends the way it starts.
Nice piece of work by Pendragon. Although the As Good As Gold edit was already released on the Masquarade Overture bonus disc this "EP" has some nice moments. Especially Bird Of Paradise could fit in very well with the songs on The Masquarade Overture. The same goes for Midnight Running although this track is not so good as Bird Of Paradise. A Million Miles Away can be ignored.
Live In Krakow 1996
Tracklist: As Good As Gold, Paintbox, Guardian Of My Soul, Back In The Spotlight, The Shadow, Leviathan, Masters Of Illusion, The Last Waltz.
Recorded live in Krakow, Poland on Pendragon's 1996 Masquarade Overture tour. This tour even took the band to America ! This album has a lot of Masquarade Overture tracks and even played live it is difficult to find the differences with the album versions. Production and sound are very good ! This show also appeared on the Live.... At Last! video (see review)
As Good As Gold and Paintbox are played in a very easy way. In these tracks you can hear that Pendragon has also developed into one of the best live bands in the progressive rock scene nowadays. Guardian Of My Soul is a very good version (even better than on the album !) with very good backing vocals and some extended guitar and keyboards parts.
Back In The Spotlight is the first of the 'oldies'; a very nice version with very good bass by Pete Gee. The Shadow is a very common version; good but nothing special. Leviathan has alway been and will always be a live favourite and you can hear it ! Masters Of Illusion is played with even more power than on the album because they left off the intro part, they extended the last minutes instead and I must say that this song is GREAT in the way they play it live. After 'the Polish song', that Nick requested the audience, they end in a great way with The Last Waltz (Queen Of Hearts Part 3).
Great live album of a great performance. Although I would drop one or two Masquarade Overture songs for some 'oldies' this is the evidence that Pendragon is still one of the leaders in Progressive rock and still gets better !
Live... At Last!
Tracklist: March Of The Torreodores (intro), Nostradamus, As Good As Gold, Paintbox, Breaking The Spell, Guardian Of My Soul, Back In The Spotlight, The Last Man On Earth, The Shadow, Leviathan, Masters Of Illusion, The Last Waltz (Queen Of Hearts Part 3).
The liner notes say: "This video was recorded and filmed at a secret concert at Studio Leg in Krakow Poland on the band's Masquarade Overture Tour in 1996 in front of a TV audience". Although it is the same recording as the Live in Krakow 1996 CD there are more 'oldies' featured on this video. Especially The Last Man On Earth is awesome. This video shows how Pendragon really is: nice, decent lightshow (not very spectaculair) and a very hard working band playing for their audience. Although I am not keen on music videos I watched it with a lot of pleasure. See for yourself, you won't regret it !