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Pendragon - Pure CD (album) cover





3.92 | 671 ratings

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4 stars |B+| A diamond in the rough!

After having listened to this album since it came out back when I was a teenager in high school, I felt it was high time that I wrote the glowing review (for my context) that this justly deserves. I have had very little taste for neo-prog at all compared to the other prog styles, but I think of this album as one of its only bright-shining stars. Keep in mind that this review is coming from someone whose main experience with the band's work is the album about which I'm writing, though I have heard songs from their earlier and later material and was less impressed. What's more, this is an album which seems to be standing the test of time since it came out.

First off, this is actually, if I'm digesting the lyrics right, essentially a concept album about the loss of childhood purity (purity regarding innocence) as a person matures into adolescence, and the consequences that this can have. This an album with real depth in the relationship between these ideas conveyed by the lyrics and the way that they are expressed in the music, which is my main reason for such praise for this work of art.

Indigo is a clever and fluid song, with some heavier guitar riffs, great vocal melodies and lyrics, great contrast between sections themselves, very smooth and natural transitions between sections (which is difficult given the previous point), clever keyboard work and sound effects, gradual shifts of mood, and an interplay between the textures of the instruments that just hits the spot. Very little music can pull off having most of the instruments playing most of the song and simultaneously achieve such diverse and dynamic textures as can be found in this track, whilst never deviating from the general mood of the song overall. Wow! What's more, the melody and effects of the vocal track really dig into the ideas created by the lyrics, which as a classical singer is always a huge plus for me. My only complaint is that there are parts where the musicians' timing with each other's parts isn't always quite right on, and this is true for other parts of the album, but this is something that is probably only noticed by more advanced ears. The composition is brilliant though, in my opinion.

Eraserhead is a pretty effective use of the division of seven, as far as the composition is concerned, though it's speedy enough that the musicians seem a little on the edge of being off sometimes (unless the composition is tricking me into thinking that... hm). A very lively introduction, with singing that is mostly in tune most of the time, and great effects on the guitar. I like the more calm section that it transitions to, some nice guitar work. The strange voice is indeed strange, but works well for the context of the song somehow. Good work on the cymbals from the drummer for sure. The vocal harmonies on this track are well placed and sung, and put emphasis on the lyrics where it is due, which I appreciate! The lyrics have the theme of teenage rebellion mentality, playing into the theme of the album. The keyboard sections is very creative and great, and leads in splendidly to a solo trade off with the guitar. I love the modulation about 8:10 or so in. Great song with a nice ending.

Comatose, all three parts, represent in my mind some of the best, most classy, and most creative work from progressive rock from the past century so far. This is where the theme of the album really comes into play: the lost of childhood purity. "Where is the boy who used to write his name in the sand? Where is the boy who used to smile and wave to all the passing strangers?" This is followed by a beautiful, sad sounding violin, expressing this sentiment, which creatively transitions to the more active section of the song, with the lyrics "become the dark skies" leading into a dark heavy metal section, expressing, perhaps, this transition into a more chaotic and emotionally turbulent stage of childhood development? Then this heavy section turns into a more positive and energetic, almost AOR sounding section. I love the growing energy toward the end of the first movement, what a fantastic guitar riff! And what a dramatic transition to the soft section with a string section, ended with fast string playing. So creative, and that's just the first movement! Movement II: Space Cadet does indeed conjure the image of an astronaut flying into space in my mind, with the keyboard bends and what not. I love the variations on the vocal sections, every time they repeat the main vocal line, the instruments are doing something slightly different (yes, this is a neo-prog album, believe it or not...). Interesting how a drone is used toward the end of the song underlying the other parts. How creative, ending the movement a Capella, I would've never thought of that, and it puts due emphasis on the lyrical content. III. Home and Dry starts off with a very unique song texture that I don't think I've heard in my many years listening to even progressive rock, with the keyboard and sound effects over the acoustic guitar. The chorus is beautiful, with effective, almost perfectly placed echo and reverberation effects on the vocal parts. So many great things so say about this three-part epic overall, especially the masterful use of sound effects. My only complaint is sometimes the theatricality of the vocalist isn't all that convincing, but he's making a good effort to put personality into the lyrics that he's saying, which is only commendable and isn't done nearly enough in rock music. To me, this is some real masterpiece material coming out of neo- prog, which is a huge compliment coming from me.

I find the last two songs, Freak Show and It's Only Me, to be sort of the tapering-off-the- album material after the band has already shown us their most masterful stuff that they've made for the album. I do like the use of material from Indigo on Freak Show, though the chorus is a bit drawn out and lackluster with the vocal melody, and the ending is kind of (okay, very) abrupt. It's Only Me is a better track, and starts off with a harmonica that plays oddly similar style and even some of the exact same notes as the harmonica on first song on Supertramp's Crime of the Century (perhaps another reference to the theme of the album, as that song that's perhaps referenced is about children becoming disillusioned growing up in School. Hm...) I like their use of the opera voice and strings in the background, and the chorus is really very nicely voiced with the vocal harmonies and the harmonic progression, which modulates the key very subtly and beautifully. The band does some cool stuff with the song ending this rock-solid album.

I consider this album essential for anyone interested in Neo-prog, because I regard this album, quite frankly, is some of the most masterful material by not only the band but the entire style in general. I'd almost call it essential just because it towers over almost all other neo-prog out there, even the other albums of the same band, but I do not think of it as a masterpiece of prog music, though much of what can be heard on this album definitely is.

Isa | 4/5 |


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