Pendragon - Not Of This World - Round Table Review
If I Were The Wind
Mark: An initially very Floydian intro starts off If I Were The Wind [And You Were The Rain], which sets the tone for the album. Long instrumental passages, emotional lyrics and symphonic composition. Fine backing vocals by Tina Riley (who's also credited for various ethereal vocal input!). A comfortable piano solo bridges between the first and last movement, which section, starting with the lyrics "It's all so fearless now", if only for a moment, strongly reminds me (and not just lyrically) of the end-piece of Roger Waters's 5.06 AM (Every Strangers Eyes): "It's oh so easy now...". But soon it's pure Pendragon again.
Dance Of The Seven Veils
Mark: Dance Of The Seven Veils is a gorgeous song in two parts. The transition from part 1 to part 2 is so closely reminiscent of Arena, it can't be mere coincidence, although Clive Nolan has again left the entire writing process to Nick Barrett. part2: All Over Now mixes more uptempo parts with tranquil middle and end sections, which again seems very like Arena to me. In this manner the track is comparable to Solomon or Sirens.
Not Of This World
The first part flows naturally into Give It To Me, another catchy part and another highlight of this opus. The third part, Green Eyed Angel, is a much slower part and although it breathes a romantic atmosphere, it doesn't really grab me. Like the first part of Dance Of The Seven Veils it sounds very familiar, which is comfortable, but as a result it doesn't really explore new territories. Fortunately, a lovely guitar-solo lifts this part up towards the end.
Mark: Although presented as a three part song, the long instrumental introduction of Not Of This World might be counted as a seperate part in itself. part 1: Not Of This World again shows the typical transition from uptempo music to delicate and sorrowful composing, with Spanish guitar in the latter segment. Then it's back to the fore with part 2: Give It To Me resulting in a return to the chorus of part 1. The last vocal piece seems (again briefly) awfully like part of Marillion's Incubus, while the opening notes of part 3: Green Eyed Angel are right out of Pink Floyd. But this third part is an obviously very personal song for Nick Barrett.
A Man Of Nomadic Traits
The following instrumental part is another of my favorite parts on the album. Especially the keyboard-solo by Clive Nolan is very tasteful, followed by another of those sweeping guitar-solos. A final redemption of the chorus finishes it off in style. As a whole, my favorite track off the album. Not a single dull moment.
Mark: A Man Of Nomadic Traits takes a bit of time before it builds up steam at the two minute mark, when it becomes much better as the chorus gets gripping. A short chanting piece by Tina Riley might have been drawn out a bit for better impact. In between: a long instrumental section, driven by acoustic and electric guitar. Sounds quite good, but unfortunately it takes too long to really seem to be going anywhere. Still a good song, but with some minor points.
And Finally is the second part of World's End. Accompanied by piano, Barrett sings a slower variation to the first lines of Not Of This World. The melody fits much better here, for some reason. It's emotional and intense and another highlight of the album. The grand finale features a long guitar-solo and lots of "oooh's" and "aaaah's": the real thing. Personally, I regret the fact that a fade-out ends this song, and -by that- the official album.
Mark: World's End is another two-part track. part 1: The Last Children starts out as a sensitive track 'til the very end segment when Nolan and Smith set the pace for a grand finale, while part 2: And Finally... is in fact a return to the tunes of the earlier track Not Of This World.
Paintbox & King of the Castle
Mark: As bonuses Pendragon includes the acoustic versions of Paintbox and King Of The Castle, released last year on the Polish compilation album The History:1984-2000. If you'd bought this album solely for these tracks, you might feel a bit cheated. Which doesn't change the fact that as a compilation album, it's still a splendid product. Besides that, the inclusion of both songs on the new studio album seems a nice gesture from Barrett and co.
Dare I be critical? Well, I do have some criticism as well. Where this album is a very warm, personal and emotional album, I think its predecessors were a bit stronger on the melodic side. Also, I think Barrett doesn't leave familiar grounds with this album. As a result, Not Of This World is a very comfortable album, but at moments at the verge of being predictable. I will recommend this album to prog-fans in general, but as starting point I would still advise the more versatile Masquerade Overture.
Mark: A rare occurence indeed: an album that I immediately liked from the first time I heard it. A delicacy that keeps getting better each time you take it in. It doesn't blossom into something more pleasing, rather it matures in stable form at once evident of solid musicianship and good composing. Light and delicate parts intermingle with rawer material in fine symbiosis. Not Of This World sports many fine pairings of acoustic and electric guitar. Clive Nolan shows us some of his most melodic, though maybe not his most interesting, work and Peter Gee and Fudge Smith join in this high level of musicianship.
Not Of This World may not be a very innovating album and Nick Barrett does seem to have drawn small bits of inspiration from various other progressive acts, but really: Who cares! This surely is one of the most enjoyable neo progressive rock album I've heard in some time, better for instance than Arena's latest, Immortal?. With its eye-popping artwork by Simon Williams and solid production by Karl Groom and the band itself, this product will no doubt delight many a fan.
Remco: It has been a long time since the last release of Pendragon (The Masquerade
Overture, see the
Counting Out Time article I wrote about that album).
I was hoping for something refreshing after such a long time, for instance
a darker album than the previous ones (which would not be unlikely regarding the
troubles of a personal nature Barrett has gone through the last couple of years and
of which the lyrics of the album give a clear testimony) or a return to the style of
the early (The Jewel) years, which could be very effective combined with the
skills that Barrett et al. now have. In that respect I have been quite disappointed
with this album, it's The World part 4. In ten years time apparently not a lot
has happened in the musical development of Barrett, but also the uninspiring
keyboard work of Clive Nolan on parts of the album is worth a negative mentioning.
Was I prepared to see the charm of The Window Of Life and The Masquerade Overture,
now the time had come to do something radically new. Come on, after The Jewel,
then the completely different KowTow, followed by brilliant The World, shouldn't
we expect some originality of this once so great band? The tracks in themselves
are good, when you don't know Pendragon very well yet, you will probably be
thrilled by this album, but the few original moments this album has to offer
are not enough to make this an original release. It also makes it a very hard
release to do a track by track review of, probably my mates that do this Roundtable
take the trouble of doing so, I do not. The fact that the acoustic bonus tracks
(which already appeared on the History 1984-2000 album)
are one of the highlights are not a recommendation either.
Now, let's continue on a more positive note: let us look at the album without its historical context. I think it is fair to say then that this represents one of the major releases of 2001, both musically and artistically. The long, highly melodic tracks are catchy and stick in your mind at once. Barrett plays a fine piece of piercing guitar on almost all tracks, it is pompous all through the album and it features all the classic style figures of (Floyd-based) prog rock, from the Camel-like opening of Not Of This Wold to the Floydian (Division Bell like) Green Eyed Angel. Man Of Nomadic Traits, a combination between Paintbox and The Voyager presents the artistic highlight on the album, in my opinion. Not as blownup like some of the other tracks, which have their roots deeper in the soundwalls of The Window Of Life.
As you may have guessed I have very mixed feelings about this album. In itself it is a wonderful piece of music and people who have little knowledge of the previous albums of Pendragon will probably enjoy it very much. I too enjoy it in itself a lot, but the constant idea that you are listening to something that you have heard before, the fact that it is a variation on the same theme, for the third album in a row, now forces me to not recommend this album to people who already own the other albums but are not enormous fans.