Classic: Pendragon, The Jewel, 1985
Riding on the waves of the so called neo prog movement (don´t ask) Pendragon is a band that alas never reached the heights of the likes of Marillion or Pallas.
Yet I always had a soft spot for the band, and their first album in particular. In recent years I again picked up on them, and was surprised to find how good they still are.
This album started the career of Pendragon. First tracks Higher Circles and The Pleasure Of Hope succeed into merging pop sensibilities with prog arrangements. Thus creating songs that are instant. No mean feat.
Next tracks to me are the real core of the album. Singer Nick Barrett is no Peter Gabriel but delivers his songs with the panache a front man needs. His guitar playing is very worthwhile though, as he so aptly demonstrates in tracks like Leviathan, Alaska or Circus.
Alaska is a true masterpiece with awesome fret-less bass, long instrumental parts with beautiful keyboard arrangements and a thought provoking lyric. Circus has a great tension and a very varied structure and build. This track is impossible to resist to any serious prog lover. Next Track Oh Divineo opens with a stunningly beautiful guitar solo over a soft keyboard sound. When the band picks up, the soloing continues and the song gets a spellbinding hook and minutes pass without you looking at the clock… The feel than evolves into soft as is the playing. But as you´d expect, moods swing back and forth, without losing momentum. The original album is closed with the epic The Black Knight, almost 10 minutes of pure symphonic bliss. Again Barrett tortures his six string to much excitement.
This 1990 edition features 2 bonus tracks and was issued by Toff Records, the bands own label. I recommend this album and band to any prog lover, they deserve far more credit than they get.