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Pendragon - The Masquerade Overture CD (album) cover





3.98 | 597 ratings

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5 stars As a rule, I feel that five stars are deserved by those classic albums that reside in the top twenty percent of the all time best progressive albums referenced on the list to the right, and almost all of the true classics were recorded during the peak of progressive music in the seventies. That being said, The Masquerade Overture from 1996 is such an outstanding album, I feel it deserves the full five stars. If anyone asks me for an album to add to their progressive collection outside of the traditional choices, this is the first item I would point them to. Below are my thoughts on the tracks making up the original version of The Masquerade Overture.

The title track starts out the album. This is my least favorite track, and in my opinion a strange way to open an album of this caliber. Some new listeners might be turned off before this one finishes, even though it is only a couple of minutes long, thinking that they had gotten an Italian opera disk accidentally placed into the sleeve by mistake.

The second track, As Good As Gold, is where I usually start this album. I really enjoy the buildup early in this song, from the slow opening, through the heavy chords, to the keyboard accompanied by drum rolls. The song peaks, and then exits as slowly as it began, winding down in a very Genesis-like way, and providing an excellent segue to the next number.

Paintbox is the third track, starting out in a similar way as Entangled on A Trick of the Tail by Genesis. Once again, Pendragon build from a slow near-ballad, to a rousing middle section, and going back to the original theme with a much heavier treatment. The progression in this song is similar to that found in Firth of Fifth

The Pursuit of Excellence is a neat little track, reminiscent of Irish folk songs from the turn of the 20th century, and with guitar effects similar to those found in early Queen songs from their first two albums. Some reviewers don't like this number, but I find it enjoyable, and after all it is only a bit over two minutes long - a little break between the heavy tracks that precede and follow it. If you like the songs on the album And Then There Were Three, you will enjoy this track.

Guardian of my Soul is one of the masterpiece works in this album. After a thunderous set of opening bars, one is treated to a very brooding intro, with some nice arpeggios, and good backing harmonies. Reminiscent of Pink Floyd, with the extended guitar riffs overlayed with nearly screaming guitar high notes. The song is filled with tempo changes, and it is hard to resist singing along. After about nine minutes, the theme that opened the song returns, and carries on until the song ends at twelve and a half minutes.

The next track, The Shadow, makes the Masquerade Overture worth the purchase price for just this song. Harking back to classic Genesis, with beautiful twelve string arpeggios, and haunting lyrics, the opening of the song reminds me slightly of Snowbound, but with truly beautiful transitions. At the four and a half minute mark, the song breaks into a harder version of the theme, with some artful guitar work. As the song progresses, it brightens in a similar manner as Cinema Show, and the keyboard work is outstanding. One can see some influence by Genesis in this song, but I would not call it a derivative work, just an excellent progressive song.

The last track on the original The Masquerade Overture is The Masters of Illusion, in keeping with the album theme of good versus evil. I am reminded of Styx early in this song, but as it progresses, it takes on a style more reminiscent of Pink Floyd. There is some truly outstanding guitar work around the seven minute mark, where the emotion is pushed to the listener through simple yet powerful notes.

Overall, I find myself listening to The Masquerade Overture several times a month, and like many classic albums of this genre, it lends itself to being played in its entirety and in order (although I do often start at track two). The music here grows on you like the classics from Genesis and Yes, and does not grow old. This album proudly resides in my short list collection of CDs that travel with me everywhere, alongside such items as Foxtrot, Nursery Cryme, Selling England by the Pound, and Close to the Edge. If you have not heard this album, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy.

Foxtrot | 5/5 |


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