In May 1999, Pendragon released two Archive CDs, called "Once Upon a Time in England". These two CDs consist of material from 1978 onwards... Some of these recordings have been released as "The Beginners Tapes", but have never been available on CD. Other tracks have been added on special request. This is Volume Two...
Time For A Change
Derk: This track later appeared on the Kowtow album. The music was written by Peter Gee. In structure, the track appears here very close to its final version. The keyboards are quite different, though, which isn't very strange considering the fact that Clive Nolan did not play the keys on this version. Also the drum computer was replaced by a live drummer for the album! The guitar solo in the middle of the song is distorted, as opposed to the one on the album version.
JJ: I am Dutch if this isn't 80's pop-music. (Hmm... well, I'm Dutch anyway). Even the vocals got that special 'get into the groove' touch. High notes on keys, low 'electronic' bass notes, electronic drums, it's all there. It could have been on an AHA-album, but it wasn't. I think even like this version better than the 'official' version, because it's so catchy sounding.
Last Bus Back
Derk: This short song is in fact an instrumental ballad consisting of a melancholy keyboard line with a Hackett-like guitar on top of it.
JJ: One of the most recent tracks on the album ('88), hence sounding good. It would even sound better without a too fast and programmed hi-hat. Could be a nice introduction to a longer song. Everything done by Nick again.
Derk:Another demo of a track that would later appear on the Kowtow album. Many of these demos were recorded by just Nick and Pete, when Pendragon had just lost their drummer and keyboard player and hadn't found replacements yet.
Apart from the hideous drum computer, this version is very close to the album version.
JJ: It's the drum computer that gives this song it's outdated sound, even if it's from '86. This song was also played live on the '99 tour and represented the second disk in the set. I like it better live in a concert-hall than here in my living-room.
Derk: A solo instrumental by Nick, in the vein of Last Bus Back. The first part is very cosmic indeed: Brian Eno could have had a hand in it! The rest of the song is quite atmospheric: maybe Pendragon should take up filmscoring!
JJ: I think I should do a meditation-course in order to 'become one' with the track. The guitar is a bit Gilour-ish. Again, this could have been a lovely introduction to a longer song. The second guitar-bit is a bit heavier than the first.
No More Tricks
Derk: Nick says in the booklet that this is the first incarnation of Higher Circles. This song indeed contains the well known guitar riff from that track of The Jewel. I think this version sounds even more like Marillion's Market Square Heroes than Higher Circles.
JJ: It's the riff that's true genius! The rest is not very special and the chorus (including the band's girlfriends!) is really horrendous!
I Walk The Rope
Derk: This has always been one of my favourite old Pendragon tracks. Really nice ballad which makes good use of the saxophone. Except for the start of the song again very close to the final version on Kowtow.
JJ: For some reason the KowTow-album never was one of my favourite Pendragon-albums. I don't know what it is, maybe production, maybe something else. Nevertheless, I like this song and, apart from the programmed drums, this is a very decent version, with good sound and ditto vocals.
Derk: So Nick did at one time try to break into the soundtrack business of which this song is proof. Nick intended to send it to a television programme to have them use it as the opening tune.
JJ: This song features several layers of both acoustic and electric guitars, that combine in a nice. It's short (less than 2 minutes), but nice.
Victims Of Life
Derk: Another track of the BBC Radio One Friday Rock Show session in 1983. Again slightly different (mainly the keyboard parts) from the final version that appeared as bonus track on the CD version of The Jewel and on the rarities compilation The (B)Rest of Pendragon.
JJ: A great track, which is presented here in a version that displays the true spirit of the song, not unlike the version on 9:15 Live. It's a pity that this song is presented apart from The Pleasure Of Hope and The Black Knight, which are from the same BBC-session.
More Than Just Freedom
Derk: Really old song from 1978. Sound quality is not too good. Nick says in the booklet that he doesn't really know why he bothered writing this song. Frankly, it hasn't much going for it.
JJ: Great change from the former song, both sound-wise and style-wise. This key-dominated song would fit better in between Melody and Dream of Tomorrow on Volume One. The keyboard-melody sticks in your mind, but the vocal-melody is not 'that special'. The backing vocals are terrible.
Derk: Another oldie, from 1979. Nice track featuring a lot of acoustic guitar.
JJ: Another 'Do It Yourself'-song by Nick. Drums are real but don't really add. The high background-vocals almost sound like he used Helium!
Derk: Piano piece with some weird synth sounds and a little bit of acoustic and electrical guitar. Pieces like this one and Last Bus Back remind me a bit of Anthony Phillips who also tends to put little musical snippets like this on his albums.
JJ: Indeed a typical Ant Phillips combination of synths and acoustic guitars. Although very old ('80) the sound-quality isn't very bad. Very atmospheric. Meditation-time again!
Derk: Quite a poppy track recorded in 1979. Quite a special Pendragon track in that it contains no keyboards at all. The song is carried by different layers of guitar and a saxophone.
JJ: This one has DIY (Do it yourself) all over it. Strange oriental theme has been incorporated in the chorus. Some nice bass-notes every now and then. Funky guitar-parts on top of them.
Derk: Short guitar-only piece. Nick's first experiments with an echo unit and chorus pedals.
JJ: Not much to say about this one. Nice instrumental from 1980.
The Black Knight
Derk: The definitive early Pendragon track. This version is from the BBC Radio One Friday Rock Show session in 1983 and has some great drumming by Nigel Harris.
JJ: Together with Alaska this is one of my favourite 'early' pieces by Pendragon. Again the sound is very good and I think John Barnfield even is a better keyboard-player than Nick Carter. When Pendragon would have had the chance to record this to an album in 1983, things might have been very different. This recording show they were ready for it.
Son of Sun
Derk: Nice slow track, although sound quality isn't too good. A bit in the vein of the songs from the Fallen Dreams And Angels EP. Parts of this song were later used for Sister Bluebird and Dune.
JJ: Pretty good sound quality for a 1979 recording, if it hadn't been after the even better sounding The Black Knight. Like with 'volume one', I think this is the wrong song to end the album with. Better stop your CD-player after The Black Knight.
Derk: See the review of Once Upon A Time In England, part 1. This is really a 2-CD set split into two separate CDs (for the reasons behind this, see the Nick Barrett interview). I have no clear favourite among the two albums, although I might be a bit biased towards the second volume because it contains The Black Knight, one of my favourite early Pendragon tracks.
JJ: After listening to both albums, I think they should have been released as a double album, or at least have been presented in a different format. A chronological order (or at least: periods together) would have presented the history and development pf the band in a much clearer way. The whole thing seems put together in bit of a hurry, to be honest. Still it's great that these recordings are available and especially that you get one of these CDs free with your membership of The Mob, the Pendragon fanclub.