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Pendragon - Pure CD (album) cover





3.89 | 634 ratings

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3 stars When you decide to check out a band for the first time and you see they have nearly a dozen albums, how do you choose which one to start with? Do you listen to samples on YouTube or download it from somewhere? Do you read the reviews on PA or other sites? Do you choose by the cover or year of release? When I first decided to purchase a Pendragon album, I listened to bits on iTunes, read some reviews, and decided that I would probably like "Pure" best because of the cover.

Pendragon are known as one of the big neo-prog bands from the early eighties, but it seems that by "Believe" they shifted their sound to something heavier. Indeed, I now own two of their older albums and "Pure" (as well as "Passion") are much heavier and rock out more. By now, heavy prog would be a better subgenre to put them in, at least as far as their last two albums are concerned (and I see a new album is due out anytime).

For me, a fan of heavier stuff, "Pure" was an excellent choice for getting acquainted with Pendragon. The guitars rock, the drums are exciting, things get pretty bombastic at times and there are nice shifts in the music to lighter shades as well. The guitar solos sound like Nick Barrett was a big fan of David Gilmour; however, he puts a lot of his own feeling into his playing and there's an extra bit of "umph" that sets him apart from the Pink Floyd legendary guitarist. This is refreshing as I have heard a couple of Gilmour clones in the last couple of years and though I am sure the flattery is nice, original playing is appreciated.

About Barrett's vocal abilities, it's been said that he can be an acquired taste. Having heard a couple of the older albums by now, I have concluded that he is stronger when he sings harder. The slow, gentle approach is his weakness, or rather perhaps it could be where his uniqueness shows through better. I, however, think he holds a note better when he puts more power in his voice. Barrett doesn't do slow and gentle well in my opinion.

The first three tracks are for me where the real highlights are. "Indigo", "Eraserhead", and "Comatose I: View from the Seashore" show the band steeped in their heavier new sound. Of course they shift to melodic passages and show off lots of emotive guitar soloing. That's part of Pendragon's legacy to have such pleasant interludes. But the guitars have more crunch than before and the drum sound is ripe for the energetic bursts and fills that Scott Higham blasts in. "Comatose I: View from the Seashore" begins with some slow piano but after a bit the song thunders into an almost metal section. I love how the heavy minor chords abruptly change to bright major chords, giving the song a 70's AOR rock sound for a few moments.

Parts II and III of "Comatose" begin to loose me a little, especially in the third part. All those spoken lines about being alone make me wonder if I have misunderstood the song. Then things get weirder. "Fear is the most powerful weapon we have," says someone. "This world is an illusion." "Are we alone?" asks another voice. "What does it mean? Nothing can save you now. The beginning of the end." OK. The song ends.

"The Freak Show" is a normal length song with a very heavy intro but soon changes to a melancholy tale of someone's insecurity. I like this one quite a bit, though it's not as "progressive" or shall we say musically complex as the previous tracks.

I've read a fair bit of praise for the last track "It's Only Me", a slower number with a strong melodic chorus. Personally, I find it a little non-captivating. I gave it a good listen again the other night and it's pleasant enough but still the first half of the album is where it's at for me.

This album has received some great reviews and is an excellent effort by the band. I am wavering between calling it an excellent addition to any prog collection or good but not essential. I'll say it's very good but not essential and give it three stars. But I may decide to change that to four later.

FragileKings | 3/5 |


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