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Pendragon - The Masquerade Overture CD (album) cover





3.98 | 598 ratings

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4 stars This album was my second stab at neo-prog. Unfortunately, Marillion's Script had left a bad taste in my mouth (though admittedly sweetened in the proceeding months), and after viewing the cover art, I knew there was a huge potential for musical and lyrical lameness. On the positive side, that's not what I found! Here are the highlights:

The Masquerade Overture. This song starts out as if it was a long-lost cut from Handel's Messiah, and opera-style vocals come in shortly. Certainly this piece sets a nice atmosphere, though I"m not sure how related that atmosphere is to the rest of the album. Nice mysterious segue into the following song.

As Good as Gold. When the guitar first comes in over the blaring keyboard, I finally began to understand that these guys had some talent and knew how to write a catchy melody. Very pleasant and interesting song, especially from the guitar and keyboard (a recurring theme with Pendragon's work).

Paintbox. Initially my favorite song from the album, I still quite enjoy it. Nice guitar runs and keyboard flourishes throughout, and another set of fine melodies.

The Pursuit of Excellence. Nick Barrett returns to the form of previous albums: singing WAY out of his range and doing things his voice is just not meant to do, in the studio or anywhere. Very unfortunate, because his accent and pronunciation allow him to be a pleasant vocalist when he restrains himself. Thank goodness this song is short, or it would affect my overall rating.

Guardian of My Soul. Probably my current favorite of the album. The Gilmour comparisons with Barrett's guitar are very apparent here, but I love the style, and I don't find it to be completely derivative. The uptempo section about eight minutes in is especially nice: Fudge cuts loose on the drums a bit, Notan has a killer keyboard riff, and the melodies are especially well intertwined, when then lead to a well-executed, majestic slow-down to end the song.

The Shadow. This one is a slow-builder, but definitely worth the wait. Possibly a bit formulaic after the previous song, but still I don't hold it against the band. I know a line has to be drawn with this group, but I'm unwilling to do that here.

Masters of Illusion. I really want to like this whole song, and I think it's well-done throughout. However, I think the band had used their best material in earlier songs, and the first eight minutes of this song are basically setting up the fantastic guitar solo. I'm one who believes the best guitar solos are not just about technical playing, but about the arrangement, melody, and build- up. From the perspective, this is an awesome solo, especially to end the album. Some may be correct in calling it a Gilmour/Floyd rip-off, but I think that unnecessarily cheapens it.

After purchasing many more neo-prog albums, I still probably rate this as my favorite (not considering historical importance or similar factors). I love big guitars, great keyboard arrangements, and catchy melodies that build and evolve in extended songs, and by those criteria, the Masquerade Overture delivers in abundance! If you're in the same boat, this album is highly recommended.

Flucktrot | 4/5 |


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