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Legend - Cardinal Points CD (album) cover

CARDINAL POINTS

Legend

 

Neo-Prog

3.75 | 112 ratings

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progrockfreak
4 stars Legend - back with a bang!

It is approximately 15 years since UK progressive rock band legend delivered their stunning "Triple Aspect" album with it's blistering guitar solos, driving rhythms, catchy melodies and operatic female vocals. Now at last we have the follow up, "Cardinal Points" - originally conceived as long ago as 1998, but following the loss of their label, Pagan Media Ltd in 1999, the project was consigned to the hands of the Gods, where it has remained ever since right up to the early part of last year (2010). And thus at last, with a re-jigged line up featuring no less than four previous contributors, Legend the band was reincarnated, and the material that was to have become "Cardinal Points" all those years ago thrown back into the cauldron, the witches summoned - and the spell was re-cast...

And how!! - "Cardinal Points" is billed as a concept album exploring the 4 points of the compass and their relationships to the Elements of Western Mysticism; Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The four epic tracks are linked together by the sounds of wind and thunder, & the album is designed to be listened to as a complete entity rather than the collection of individual songs which made up the band's previous works.

"Carved In Stone" opens with a snatch of birdsong and what sounds like a didjeridoo, before the drums, new vocalist Kerry Parker, and finally the rest of the band join in. The track builds slowly, alternating between the stripped back sound we heard at the start, and the band in full flight. When I said Kerry was a new vocalist, she was actually involved in the very embryonic stages of the first incarnation of Legend, but was not able to continue to record anything with them at that time. Eventual vocalist Debbie Chapman's unique vocal style was very much a hallmark of Legend's sound on the first three albums, and whilst Kerry has a very different range, she sets to the task with much aplomb here - helping to give the album's sound a much darker edge than the previous ones had - a sound perhaps more fitting to the subject matter upon which the songs are based than was previously the case.

Legend Mk1 were regarded as a neo prog band, but their new sound to me is something much more than this. There are elements of world music thrown into the mix, many changes in tempo within the songs, some magnificent purely instrumental sections in each of the four tracks, and Kerry's excellent vocals - sounding not at all unlike Heather Findlay, who used to front the prog-folk band Mostly Autumn.

Each track is written around one of the four elements - track two is called "Whisper on The Wind" and starts with just the sound of the bass (and the wind!) before the rest of the band join in. It is quite an up-tempo track for the first 2 and a half minutes, then it slows right down into an atmospheric instrumental section with a slightly Eastern flavour to it until Dave Foster gives his guitar a bit of a workout and the tempo picks right up again.

It is the wonderful variety within each song which helps maintain interest throughout, and allows these quite long compositions to work so well, & it is quite easy to imagine the closing instrumental section of "Whisper On The Wind" being blasted out to raise a cone of power at a pagan ritual!

"Spark To A Flame" is probably the most complex track on the album musically - certainly regarding its ever-shifting time signatures, and it contains a beautiful ethereal mid-section where drums are absent altogether - we are treated to some wonderful organ sounds here before the "dark" aspect takes over again with some brief chanting leading us back into a repeat of the song's main lyric, and finally the most amazing full-on instrumental ending - brilliant!!

"Drop In The Ocean" finishes the album off. This is another track with ever changing moods and nuances - this one above all others gives Kerry the chance to show what a fine voice she has - there is no chanting in this song - the vocal parts are slow and deliberate, and she sings them beautifully. There is a quiet acoustic interlude with just a guitar and a synthesised wind instrument (possibly a flute?), and a full symphonic ending during which Kerry sounds just like Anne-Marie Helder; indeed it is quite easy to imagine you are listening to Panic Room here! The album ends with the sound of crashing waves.

Overall an excellent album, full of twists and turns & well worth the 15 year wait, though for anyone expecting "Triple Aspect II", this isn't what we have here at all. Legend have moved on since then, and in my opinion gained in stature even more. The album deserves to do well, and I hope the band enjoy some long-overdue success in the UK with it.

Digital release via iTunes, Amazon etc. was on 4th April 2011, and the CD itself is due for release on 21st April.

4 and a half triple moons! - enjoy!!

progrockfreak | 4/5 |

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