Pendragon, Passion, 2011

pendragon - passionRecent years has seen Pendragon release albums in a regular time frame. As it has seen them do that with albums that could, or better, should, be considered progressive. 2011 release Passion is an example for this development.

If Pendragon in your mind is still that promising band with a neo-prog touch and some beautiful lyrical solos, you only see part of the picture. The title track for instance has some more modern touches to it. Both in riffage and vocals (sometimes those are processed to the extend you don´t even recognize Nick Barrett´s voice) and the keyboards (giving it a more Porcupine Tree like ambient feel). First epic Empathy also adds more modern almost emo like sounds to it. And I must say, as it turns out I think it works just great. Of course the more traditional parts are present as well. So in a way it is not progressive in the sense that something totally new is created. But more in the sense of adding new influences and make them work well with the sound of the band. And a lot of good things are still in place. Beautiful guitar solos, strong choruses (just check second epic This Green And Pleasant Land), dynamic songs and plenty of variety.

So another damn solid release  of a band that refuses to stand still. In fact, I am inspired to go pick up the few releases I have missed over time (of which some are considered classics in the genre…). Great album.

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Classic: Pendragon, The Jewel, 1985

pendragon - the jewelRiding 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.

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