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Legend - Cardinal Points CD (album) cover

CARDINAL POINTS

Legend

 

Neo-Prog

3.75 | 112 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
5 stars To bear the name Legend, you must possess an uncanny sense of proud accomplishment, a vision of musical dedication and then, live up to the moniker. This British band certainly has followed the long, at times lonely road of surviving in a fickle uber- mediatized universe, starting out in 1988 with their first release "Light in Extension" in 1991 and slowly building a discography in hushed confidence. I started out discovering the band with Triple Aspect, stunned by the quality of the music (as per my radiant review) and thanks to leader/keyboardist Steve Paine, I have received their entire discography to enjoy and critique. Their latest volume of work has already garnered rave reviews here and elsewhere, mainly because it's a definite progression from those early heady days. As per the liner notes "Cardinal Points" explores the compass and the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water, the four unshakable cornerstones of Western mysticism. There are therefore 4 extended pieces that foliate each constituent. All the hallmark symphonics are here to behold, from delicate acoustic folk passages to storming crescendos, solidly humanified by powerful female vocals. Keyboardist Paine is no slouch on the ivories, weaving majestic mellotron torrents, aided and abetted by some swirling organ work as well as some shimmering synth solos. What makes Legend so different from other similar groups (Karnataka, Breathing Space, Panic Room, The Reasoning etc..) is they prefer a more Gothic, dare I say dark substance to envelop the audiophile, as if some ethereal spirit recoils in the shadows, just waiting to pounce. It's not a 'lah-di-dah' ride, in other words. The tone can be spooky such as on the magical, bass-led "Whisper on the Wind" a 14 minute epic piece that is the optimum example of their craft, a rambling expression where guitarist Dave Foster really gets to unleash some fiery licks, paralleled with some sizzling solos (fast and deadly!), tossing in mighty mood shifts and shrewd vocals, all combining to deliver a scintillating prog masterpiece, in my opinion. The nimble bass solo from Dan Nelson just forces me to kneel in numb respect. When they blast forward towards the end, it's like a relentless Hawkwind on steroids, insane synthesizers ablaze! Need to catch my breath after this spellbinding adventure! "Spark to the Flame" has a volcanic feel (listening to Magma, Steve?), spewing liquid fire vocalizations, drummer extraordinaire John Macklin bashing away with authority, remorseless rhythmic touch and go signatures (way too complex for a Neo label BTW!) , a third epic track in total opposition to the previous two exercises, showing a sense of exuberant exploration that is refreshing. The spacy mid-section is completely unexpected and a masterful stroke as Kerry Parker shows off a softer microphone stance, as the synths swoosh one moment and ping-pong the next in the harrowing background. The screaming guitar outro solo is truly amazing to boot! I need to retrieve my breath again, I am panting! The fourth epic is the massive 17 minute + "Drop in the Ocean" which starts out with a seductively gentle vocal within a squall of ringing synths and then morphs into a spiraling osmosis of rapid-fire everything (drums, piano and guits), exhibiting some lucid mastery of chops and unambiguous artistic energy. Kerry really has the lungs to evoke deep passions and exhibits here convincingly. The serene mid-section bravely espouses almost medieval tendencies, with sumptuous flute caressed by tender acoustic guitar, a contrast of lovely sounds and merging trumpet-synth symphonics that add bombast and poignant depth that is entirely congenial. The orchestral accent here remains purely on sonic beauty and on an "ocean of emotion", with a final coda to expire for. This is just legendary and worthy of their name. An effortless 5 prime peaks
tszirmay | 5/5 |

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