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Pendragon - The Window Of Life CD (album) cover




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4 stars In 1993 PENDRAGON performs back in France and for the first time in Portugal (Lisboa), and in November they released "The Window Of Life". The second album from what I calls the "new" PENDRAGON. I think that PENDRAGON took a big step forward with their previous album "The World". The music changed to the better just like their artwork, and their albums became a perfect unit. I have to admit that initially I wasn't a big PENDRAGON fan, but I listened a lot to them and I found that they became better and better between every listening. Now I'm a big "fan" and I can listen to their entire back catalogue and enjoy them, although I think that they became really interesting with "The World" in 1991. This album is not as good as "The World" but almost, as "The World" had slightly better songs. Here they're continuing on their high quality neo-prog in the same vein as MARILLION, GENESIS and PINK FLOYD with nice keyboards and guitar. The best tracks are "The Walls of Babylon", "The Last Man on Earth" and "Am I Really Losing You". This is not their best album, but a must have for every Pendragon fan.
Report this review (#5741)
Posted Friday, January 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
1 stars I have never heard such a band that gets away with ripping off other peoples material, how this band has not been sued for copyrights I will never know. The opening track starts with pink floyds shine on you crazy diamond and starts singing supertramps dreamer. And the final track starts off ok, and half through bursts into Steve Howes riff from gates of delerium. I do not have anything about bands sounding like other bands, but this is way to far, cause here they have nicked the actual music, note for note and word for word. The band on a whole are totally boring and have no sense of direction, and the singer is more suited for traditional folk music and sounds far to out of place here. This music is a long long way from progressive music and is far to mellow. If you want a mellow prog band have a listen to something like Barclay James Harvest who write there own material without ripping people off and are excellent at it.
Report this review (#5743)
Posted Tuesday, March 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was the first Pendragon cd I bought. And, from the gorgeous Nolan/Barratt, keyboard/guitar intro to 'Walls Of Babylon', to the lovely starry guitar ending to 'Am I Really Losing You?', the album doesn't let up for one minute in quality. As I have stated, 'Walls Of Babylon' is a masterpiece. A long, beautiful intro, in the best Genesis vein, suddenly explodes into an epic, up tempo song, filled with musical passages and time signatures that change at the drop of a hat, but never allow the song to fragment. A wonderful opener. Listen to it lying down in the dark, or through headphones. For some reason, this song matches the cover of the album perfectly. The next track, 'Ghosts' is another beauty, again reminding me somewhat of Anthony Phillips, around his 'Wise After The Event' period. Very nice! Then comes this album's answer to 'The Voyager', off the last album. 'Breaking The Spell' starts off slowly, and makes one hold one's breath, wondering when the tide will break! And when it comes a magical rhythm from Fudge and Peter, overlaid with superb and delicate guitar from Nick, the entire lot washed in the backdrop of Clive's subtle keyboards. An excellent guitar solo dominates this part of the song, before it ends with a fitting climax. Another classic! Next up is the epic 'The Last Man On Earth' another excellent, long, and intricate track, mixing subtlety and passion. I will say no more, listen to it and decide yourself! Nostradamus is the next song, beginning with lovely guitar work again, then turning into another up temp number. Maybe a little repetitive, but still very good. Finally comes 'Am I Really Losing You?' which rounds off the album nicely, a slow, romantic song, with that lovely guitar ending the album. Enough from me, get out there and buy it!
Report this review (#5746)
Posted Monday, April 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I found this album by chance, I liked the album cover and decided to listen to it at the record-shop. After 1 minute of listening I realised I was listening to a classic album. It blew me away on the spot, I went home with an album that I knew would become one of my all time favourite albums, and I still feel the same after more than 10 years.

Pendragon sound like a soft version of Marillion and Eloy, with influences from Genesis, Moody Blues and Pink Floyd. Very melodic and dynamic guitarplay by Nick Barret, sounding like a cross between Steve Rothery (Marillion) and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), great symphonic atmospheric keyboardsounds, with a huge variety of moods and structures by Clive Nolan. Great pulsing-dynamic bass-play from Peter Gee and solid drumming by Fudge Smith.

1. The Walls of Babylon (10:50) Beginning with some atmosperic keyboards, with a slow high-pitched breathtakingly beautifull guitar, somewhat similar to the intro of Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" slowely evolves into a rocking showopener. 2. Ghosts (8:02) Great piano opening by Clive Nolan, with subtly ever changing melodies and tempo, bursting into a heavy rocking show-piece. Great Song, one of my fav. Pendragon tracks. 3. Breaking the Spell (9:18) Great track, again some great keyboardplay, with a gloomy atmosphere, together with the dynamic bass and drum play creates a perfect background for one of Nick Barret's best guitarsolo's ever, just listen to it, hypnotising.

4. The Last Man on Earth (14:46) The epic of the album, it summarises all qualities present in this album, great keyoards, tantalising guitars, all instruments in perfect harmony, overlapping melodylines, tempo and mood shifts, just great. 5. Nostradamus (Stargazing) (8:23) starting slow, with some nice keyboards and guitar, evolving into an anthemic rocking finale, with a great sing-a-long chorus. 6. Am I Really Losing You? (4:47) A soft smooth ballad, with a great repetitive guitarsolo by Nick Barret closes the album perfect.

Summarising; The Window Of Life is a beautifull melodic progressive soft-rock album, with superb guitars and keyboards. Pendragon will always have a special place in my neo- progressive rock collection. And the window of life is for me their best work yet.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to all who like (soft) melodic/symphonic rock.

Report this review (#5748)
Posted Friday, February 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars The old question again: is there any need to copy old prog rock songs note for note in order to be considerd a great neo prog band? "The Walls of Babylon" intro is taken directly from Pink Floyd's "Shine On...", when the intro finishes we have "Watcher of the Skies" riffs all around -disapointingly the singer is not a copy of Gabriel-... I guess that there's nothing wrong in being influenced by those old bands but these guys have gone a bit too far... However, Nick Barrett is a good guitar player and he plays some nice solos (e.g. "Breaking the Spell"). There are some nice melodies but very poppish. The last guitar notes Barrett plays ("Am I Really Losing You?") should remind Steve Howe of something he played a long time ago. They should try to be more creative or they'll soon be sued by an offended old prog star.
Report this review (#44848)
Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I notice some reviewers have trashed this album merely because some of the songs sound like pieces from other bands. I'd like to point out in defense of this album that although there are some "quotes" from other prog bands peppered throughout it, they are generally well integrated into Pendragon's own music.

The seasoned Proghead will spot a line from Supertramp here, a quote from the Moody Blues there, but these never last more than a second or two and merely serve to jog the listener's memory. To me they sound like a homage to some of the best prog tunes from the 70's, and although I can spot maybe half a dozen, I bet there are plenty more hidden in the music that were just too subtle for me or were references to albums I have never got around to hearing. It's a case of settling back and letting the music wash over you, then you suddenly hear something familiar and go "Hang on, that sounds like...?" - then almost before it registers in your memory, Pendragon have morphed back into their former selves and moved on.

This sort of thing is perfectly acceptable so long as the quotes are kept short (which they are), in fact it is a tradition that goes back to the time of Mozart and Haydn. Also, as far as I am aware this is the only album of theirs where they quote other bands like this. It's simply a tip of the hat to their prog roots, and I congratulate them for it.

I give this album 4 stars out of 5 - a satisfyingly well-written and well- played album throughout.

Report this review (#54838)
Posted Saturday, November 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, all said above (good things) about Pendraon is true, I've first listened to pendragon when I was 11, and was awsome! The window of life is a great album, not only because it let's Nick, Clive, Fudge and Peter go even further with their dreams, show that to their fans, etc, but it also shows pendragon's evolution over the years once again! And that's the magical thing about this band and the others too, but this band over all, 'cause it shows how they keep trying, keep working for what they want... sth they will show more and more evidently as albums are released... I cannot avoid saying I'm a great Pendragon fan, as well, I know they may not be virtuous musicians as steve hackett or rick W... but in this case, what we are looking at is how strong does our heart beats when we listen to "Am I really loosing you'" Nick's guitar solo..and not looking for perfection...isn't it?? if not.. computers do a great work guys!
Report this review (#64372)
Posted Thursday, January 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3.75 stars.

Let me just say that it is perfectly acceptable for a band to create a unique sound, immediately recognizable within a few seconds. However, if the band employs the same way of presenting that sound (i.e., song structure, arrangements) for every one of their albums, it can cease to be enjoyable, and can even boarder on being annoying. This problem has plagued Pendragon for a good amount of time. Sometimes, I wonder if they have to force themselves to not write the same song over again! But this is a generalization. Pendragon write fairly varied songs, and I find most all of them very enjoyable. But every so often, a certain passage from a song of theirs will remind me of a moment from a different album of theirs.

There are some sporadic moments like that on The Window of Life, yet most of the time, I can't pin the specific songs that these moments allude to. But nevertheless, I can still sense them, and the impact of The Window of Life is diminished slightly because of it. But that doesn't mean that The Window of Life is a bad album that can please no one. Far from it! It is a completely solid album, with a decent number of jaw-dropping moments-not so much in virtuosity, but in excellent chord progressions or crescendos. It's not as perfect as its successor, The Masquerade Overture, one of the true highlights of the Neo-Prog genre, but it is definitely up there with the best of them.

To begin, "The Last Man on Earth" may quite possibly be Pendragon's greatest song, rivaling such great tracks as "Master of Illusion" and "Good as Gold" for the honor. It is incredibly epic, with multiple sections. It may seem overlong for a Pendragon song at a lengthy 15 minutes, but none of it is wasted or useless. I'll emphasize: "The Last Man on Earth" is Pendragon's "Supper's Ready."

There aren't very many other standout songs on The Window of Life, or at least there aren't as many that are as immediately disarming as "The Last Man on Earth," but this is only because that song is so incredible. Most rest of the album falls into typical Pendragon territory: Airy, wispy, floating-in-the-clouds keyboard textures courtesy of Clive Nolan with the ever-reliable Nick Barrett soloing over them. This is all good, mind you, but it can be a bit tiresome after awhile. But there is one exception: the opening, "The Walls of Babylon." At the beginning, there isn't much to set it aside from what is typical of Pendragon, but at around 4 minutes, the main theme arises with a bang and after that, you're hooked until the end.

The Window of Life is a valiant effort from Pendragon, and I do enjoy it a good deal. There are plenty off great moments (did I mention "The Last Man on Earth?") and all around solid tracks, but simply put, it isn't as good as The Masquerade Overture, which is on a pedestal all its own. But I still recommend this to any fan of Neo-Prog. Who knows, you may even like it more than The Masquerade Overture? Enjoy.

Report this review (#64992)
Posted Monday, January 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars First I must admit that the cover painting must have been made by a genious! That's beatiful, realy.

"The walls of Babylon" shows that our dear Pendragon musicians know perfectly Pink Floyd's "Shine on You crazy diamond" and "Watcher of the sky" by Genesis. Just like I do. But what an excellent, fresh idea - to make a mix of these two great songs! Guitar and organ playing, as well as singing here is the one of the most stiff, plastic and boring things I ever heard. I'm also not very sure about the genre. I'd rather call it regressive pop.

Don't waste Your time on it.

Report this review (#69299)
Posted Monday, February 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars My first Pendragon album. The first song remind me of "Shine On you Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd, but i dont think that it is a copy of it. Rest of the album is also nice and "the last man on earth" is just a masterpieace. Organ playing it's familiar to Marillion, but i like it anyway. Very Nice progressive album, It deserve to waste your time on it...
Report this review (#73958)
Posted Monday, April 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After the strength of their comeback album in The World after a lackluster performance on Kowtow (they actually considered changing their name to Kowtow), they returned to the studio and in 1993 released The Window of Life. Now the group still hadn't reached the cult status they achieved until 1996 when they released The Masquerade Overture, but this album acts as an... excuse the bad pun... an overture to The Masquerade Overture. The keyboards are lush and diverse, the guitars are soaring, searing, and emotional, the drums and bass are precise and dynamic. This album has it all, but it is only marred by a few miniscule things.

The 6 songs of the album all show (sometimes in a subtle manner, sometimes more outright) the influence of certain bands over Pendragon's main sound, but no song really shows that influence more than The Walls of Babylon. The introduction to this song sounds like a modern version of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, with an extensive guitar solo with varying organ chords underneath it. After about 5 minutes of soloing, though, the song really gets cooking. A strong hooking chorus and some great riffing from Barrett keep the listener in for the full 10 minutes of it. Ghosts has some great piano and keyboard work from Clive Nolan, who always seems to keep himself busy with some kind of subtle work with every project he works with. Some emotional acoustic guitar work from Barrett and some solid work from Gee and Smith round out this track. The dynamic synthesizer work towards the end works well with the wah-washed guitar of Barrett and the mellotron-esque choirs. Not the strongest track on the album, but not a bad track at all.

Breaking the Spell begins with some simple yet effective keyboard from Nolan and some swelling leads from Barrett during the first vocal section. Searing and emotional leads from Barrett are highlights of this track. The Last Man on Earth is as fellow reviewer stonebeard said, "I'll emphasize: "The Last Man on Earth" is Pendragon's "Supper's Ready". A sprawling 15 minute epic that begins quietly with a nice piano motif from Nolan and emotional vocals from Barrett. One can hear the despair and sadness in Barrett's voice as he recites the moody lyrics that are filled with melancholy. A great riff and instrumental breakdown occurs from the 8:30 mark and really takes the listener on a ride of well timed guitar chords and nice double bass from Smith, as well as some well placed harmonica (courtesy of Simon Forster). Expect very dynamic and Tony Banks-esque keyboards from Nolan, Gilmour-esque guitar from Barrett, and some solid and precision rhythm work from Gee and SmithThe showpiece of the album and one of my personal favorite Pendragon's songs.

Nostradamus (Stargazing) is a bit of a throwaway number, and one of the weaker tracks on the album. About 2:30 of guitar noodling before anything really happens, this track seems more like filler than anything else. Am I Really Losing You? has single potential written all over it. Interesting synthesizers gently add layer upon layer of soft textures underneath Barrett's gentle vocals. Again, Barrett's sadness can be heard in the vocals, which while not the best, are better than any average vocalist. A triumphant yet emotional solo rounds out this song that brings this album to a wonderful close.

In the end, Pendragon's The Window of Life is an interesting look into the group before they hit their break (at least in the neo prog scene) with the Masquerade Overture. I really enjoy this album a lot, there's a lot of variety in the songs and there's a lot of creativity in every second of every song. The thing is, though, that this album simply isn't as good as The Masquerade Overture. They are very close to each other in quality in my opinion, though. 4/5.

Report this review (#81910)
Posted Sunday, June 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars How do you begin to put into words the musical experience that is The Window Of Life? This was my first encounter with Pendragon, and right from the opening chords of The Walls of Babylon - sinister, filled with menace and foreboding - I knew this was a band I needed to hear more of.

There is an emotional power in this music which must surely touch you unless you are made of stone! There is joy, despair, hope and loss all bound up in these songs - particularly in Nick Barrett's guitar which alternately seems to be on the verge of weeping real tears, or rising to cry out in triumph eg. in Nostradamus, the most optimistic piece on the album. Barrett's vocals add to this emotional intensity. Listen to his declaration of love to last beyond time and grave in Breaking The Spell. Hear the desperation and loss in the final track, balanced by the beauty and hope in the guitar solo which plays us out. And throughout the album this is all underpinned by Clive Nolan's layers of keyboards, and the solid rhythm section of Smith and Gee.

There is everything the neo-prog fan could want in this album. Listen to the long guitar solos on The Walls of Babylon or Last Man On Earth. They seem to go on for ever, but yet never long enough. Although the tracks all begin quite slowly, the music builds and there are several passages of blistering virtuosity. Pathos balanced by power.

For me, this is Pendragon at their peak. Perhaps its just because this was the first I heard of them, but none of their other albums touched me quite so powerfully. If you haven't heard this band, start here...and enjoy!

Report this review (#114896)
Posted Monday, March 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Window Of Life sounds very much as a logical follow up to the acclaimed The World, and justifiely so. Te production is better, the artwork is more intricated and the songs are more a unit them just a bunch of different ideas thrown together. Wheter if their quality is better than the previous one is debatable. For me both CDs are fantastic and clearly showed how much Pendragon in general and Barrett in particular have evolved.

I really don´t understand some reviews who seem to be written by people who listens to this band just to critisize it and give a bad impression. Take Gates Of Babylon for exemple. Yes, the beginning is quite similar to Floyd´s Shine On Crazy Diamond, but it is not a rip off. To me is just an influence and a good one. Show me someone totaly original and I´ll give up hearing music. But I can understand those guys. When I first heard Marillion they just seemed a Genesis copy. And this applies to Pendragon which, at first, I thought that sounded too much like Marillion! Fortunaltly, I was able to see through those misleading prejudices and found the great band they werer very quickly. Or do you think they´d have all this fame and prestige being just a copycat?

Back on the Windows Of Life: wonderful lush guitar and keyboards interplay, a very tigh and precise rhythm section (Fudge Smith really shines on this CD) and some great tunes that are in Pendragons repertoir to this day. Highlights? Hard to tell, the whole disc is a gem, but let´s point out two of the most beautiful and inspired melodies this band has ever produced: The Spell and Last Man On Earth. Both show how much Pendragon has matured over the years without losing any of their passion and freshness. A classic album that paved the way to one ofthe top progressive bands of all time. Highly recommended!

Report this review (#115061)
Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Their last album "The World" was a brilliant effort, and after a short break in terms of Pendragon (two years), they couldn't deceive their fans. And they won't.

From the very first notes of the opening number, we know that the direction they have taken in "The World" will be investigated again. We are heading towards another great album, apparently. The very long and beautiful instrumental introduction is one of the moment during which I am really thankful to the giant bands we all praised to have inspired some of their followers. This part is spacey, emotional. In one word : superb. The vocals (which won't be too many here) are a bit naive and not really on par with the beauty of the music, but it is a very impressive start.

Did I mention that the intro is reminiscent of a Floyd song and then evolves into a well known Genesis riff ? Ouuuups, I forgot this ! Well actually, I do not really care. When I listen to this type of music, it just remind me my youth (yes, I am bloody old), and I am not too much of a purist. Just a music lover. And I will be satisfied all the way through with this album. From the cover artwork to the last track.

The format of the songs (each being a long piece of music, except the closing number) tend to please me. Their poppish and boring "Kowtow" is definitely forgotten.

"Ghosts" is very much "Cinema Show" oriented at times. The song has many different tempos and lacks a bit in unity. But at least, one can not say that it is boring. Just a bit less achieved than most of the other songs. It does not have the splendor of the opener but it is much more than a filler.

"Breaking The Spell" is another beautiful moment. Very much symphonic. It is amazing to notice the different role played by Clive in Pendragon compared with the one he will have later with Arena. He has a much discreet role here, playing most of the time great backing keyboards, but scarcely having a prominent role (except during some songs, but really not a lot).

With Arena, it will be another story. Being at times even too much dominant like in their album "Immortal". The leading role in Pendragon, Nick holds it. Like he holds and plays the guitar somptuously. Just have a listen to his guitar solo in "The Spell". Great job, my friend. One of the best song of this album (but there will be more).

"The Last Man on Heart" is one of the longest Pendragon track ever. I know that there are a lot of people out there that can't stand this band and his lead singer. In my case, his guitar play and tone of voice are deeply touching me. And this from the very first time I listened to Pendragon. And the same feeling applies when playing live as well. He is funny, relaxed, and very human. Thanks, Mr. Barrett (Nick).

This song holds any aspect of the music I love in Pendragon. it even refers to ELP during one of the rockiest moment of the song, while Nick mentions "welcome to the show that never ends". But it is just a wink.

We will really get the most symphonic and emotional side of the band here. It is definitely the inspirator of their later "Paintbox" from "the Masquerade". They will justify as well their entry in the neo-prog genre during more nervous passages.

It really forms the core of this album together with "The Spell". These two numbers only, make this album a must own for prog lovers.

The least interesting song from this work is "Nostrodamus". It starts with a long and spacey instrumental introduction; but it does not reach the same level than "The Walls Of Babylon". The second part is dynamic and poppish. It sounds a bit flat when compared with some other numbers. But after all, it is not a bad song. Nice to hear when you drive or as background music. Not something to concentrate on and depict it as I am doing here !

The closing number is the shortest of the original album. Nick's vocals are very sad (but I must admit that he hardly sounds funny on a studio album), while Clive's keys are superbly filling the background. Truely poignant. The final guitar break is extremely melodic. A pure jewel of symphonic prog music. I just love it very much.

The remastered editon features four bonus tracks that can be found on their EP "Fallen Dreams And Angels". It is a worthy addition and it sells for cheap, so ...

Just be aware that there is nothing really new in their music. Yes, Pendragon sounds at times like some great bands we all know and respect, but if this feature does not hurt you too much, this album is very much recommended. Still, I preferred the consistency of "The World" and therefore rate this album with four stars.

Report this review (#123192)
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album has lots of good, moderately progressive music on it. If I base my rating only on the music, I think this probably warrants four stars. If I directly compare it to Yes and Genesis, then it gets three. Great keyboard arrangements, nice guitar (as always from Pendragon), and for the most part well-written songs describe The Window of Life. This is still a ways away from their best, The Masquerade Overture, but here they show definite progress from earlier work: more concise songwriting and more restrained vocals.

The Walls of Babylon. Yes, there are Genesis, Floyd, and Yes influences here, but I really don't mind that. What lowers my appreciation for the song is that it's just not as good as its influences. Great guitar and synths, but the lyrics and vocals knock this one down a peg. Still, an effective opener.

The Last Man on Earth. Pendragon's magnum opus, this is an excellent epic--just know that it takes multiple listens to appreciate this gem and not get hung up on minutae (the average vocals, for example). This is also a slow-builder--it's about halfway through the 14 minute run-time that it properly gets going, but when it does, you're in for a great ride. Special note goes to Fudge on drums for really moving this along nicely.

Everything else... There are no bad songs (or even parts of songs) on this album; however, these songs really fail to distinguish themselves as the two extended pieces do. Ghosts alternates nicely between mellow and rocking bits, Breaking the Spell contains a super-extended guitar solo (quite derivative of other guitarists), Nostradamus has a catchy chorus (though you really have to wait for it), and Am I Really Losing You? ends the album with a nice guitar run (though again very derivative).

If you haven't been exposed to Pendragon before, you should probably avoid them if you are sensitive about borrowing from other works and/or you have no tolerance for music that is often slow (and even boring). I like what Pendragon has done here, though there should be no illusion about their obvious flaws.

Report this review (#140080)
Posted Sunday, September 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars So I decided to do the reviewing of three essential Pendragon albums in a very short time because these three are related in my opinion. And not just in mine, many people believe that the three albums after The World were more or less like The World. I must say I can only partly agree with this. Where the general style is concerned this statement might be correct but to call this album The World part II and Masquerade Overture The World part III, added with: nothing new under the sun is really rediculous to me. I believe all three albums are different enough and I even detect a sort of development in the three albums and then I mean a development in the right direction, Pendragon getting better and better in the end culminating in Not of this World, their magnum opus to me.

But enough about the general story, time to review this album. This album has two different faces to me. There are the longer tracks that are absolutely wonderful to me and the shorter that are hardly more than average imho. The album starts with Walls of Babylon, a track that has a very heavy keyboardpassage that works really nice to me. The rest of the song is a bit slow but not really annoying in that sense. Next is Ghosts, a track I count in with the shorter tracks, it doesn't do much for me, it's more of an interlude to the next great track, my favourite of the album actually: Breaking the spell. This track shows Nick Barrett at his very very best. What an amazing guitar player this man is. I have seen him playing this song live recently: it's absolutely shivers down the spine. Neo prog at its best ! After this the only real epic of the album: Last man on earth. This my second favourite and also an absolutely fantastic effort by this band. Brillant composition with some tempo changes that make it even more interesting. The last two are less interesting to me though I have to say: Stargazing is a very popular live track (to the rest of the audience).

So it's one of those 50-50 albums but unless my final outcome with The World I am a lot more positiv about this one. If an album contains 3 great tracks I think it's fair to say it deserves at least 4 stars. (4,25)

Report this review (#154243)
Posted Wednesday, December 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The 80's years were really frustrating for Pendragon.The band suffered from line-up changes and struggled to find a specific style of playing,but with the excellent ''The world'' things seemed to be back on track.Now the band's leader Nick Barrett had a stable core to base his ideas on and in 1993 ''The window of life'' sees the light on Pendragon's own label Toff Records.The album has been re-issued by Toff in 2006,including the upcoming 1994 EP ''Fallen Dreams And Angels''.

While ''The world'' was the first step into a succesful career,''The Window of Life'' established Pendragon as one of the most talented and unique bands of the neo progressive style with a very personal sound.Six mainly long compositions of heaven-sent atmospheric progressive rock guarantee a fantastic listening.Barrett's guitar style draws influences by the best moments of PINK FLOYD and is very sensitive and emotional,while his vocals are more than bearable,beginning to be a major part of the band's music.To criticise Clive Nolan's keyboard work is quite sinful.His performance is a pleasant experience,from ethereal background keys to classical-inspired light piano passages,every note coming out of his keyboards is magnificent.The arrangements of the album are well-crafted,inspiring and fully complete,featuring heart-felt solos,atmospheric parts,expressive vocals and changing moods.Of course to be totally honest,there are definite MARILLION and GENESIS influences throughout the listening,but the overall style is very very personal.

I really don't know how many times I've listened to the previous and the presented Pendragon albums,but I think the ''The window of life'' is slightly more complete and progressive,featuring longer compositions and being more adventurous as a result.Highly recommended espevially to fans of neo/symphonic rock and anyone seeking for lovely melodies in an easy-listening mood.

Report this review (#163757)
Posted Wednesday, March 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Breaking the Spell was my introduction to Pendragon in 1996 , three years late , but , never too late , In fact , as an Arab , this release was able to put me in the mood of the british band ( Pendragon ) that they were capable to give me the feeling that they have been in Egypt somehow . A pure Anglo -- Arab Progressive rock , in extreme sence . Nolan / Barrett team was able to give many Excellent releases during there long career , also to create a new dimensions in prog , related to middle eastern musical culture , with a pure heavy rock load . I will try to review some of there excellent other albums in later stages . This album is my favourite one for Pendragon , in addition to there Masterpiece Masquerade /// Best tracks in this album /////// All of them with no exception ///// 5 Stars for the songs & the new genre of progressive created by this team ////// Tracks Toni /////
Report this review (#172674)
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars PENDRAGON are one of my favourite Neo-Prog bands, and this album is one of their better ones. It seems like such a long time since i've listened to this band, so when I put this on last week it was like an emotional meeting with my old friends Nick Barrett, Clive Nolan, Peter Gee and Fudge Smith.

"The Walls Of Babylon" opens with powerful organ runs then Gilmour-like guitar joins in. This is very PINK FLOYD-like with those guitar melodies and the organ floating in the background. It isn't until after 4 minutes that we get a change as drums and vocals come in and the tempo picks up. A full sound before 5 minutes is the result. It settles a minute later and it sounds fantastic ! Blistering guitar 8 1/2 minutes in. "Ghosts" opens with piano and synths before it kicks into gear with vocals. I can't help but think of GENESIS 2 1/2 minutes in. A calm with piano and vocals before 4 minutes. The tempo picks up again after 6 minutes. This is the most GENESIS-like track on here. "Breaking The Spell" is mellow to start with as vocals, synths and guitar lead the way. The guitar 2 1/2 minutes in reminds me of Latimer. The soaring guitar after 4 1/2 minutes is great. A nice rhythm follows. Barrett starts to light it up after 7 minutes. Nice. Vocals are back with passion before 8 1/2 minutes to end it.

"The Last Man On Earth" is my favourite track on here. It's almost 15 minutes long and has some powerfully emotional sections. Keys and synths to open as Barrett starts to sing so beautifully. The lyrics and vocals are so moving. Gulp. The chorus is both touching and so uplifting. Guitar then comes ripping in at 2 1/2 minutes as the melody changes. Lots of atmosphere after 5 minutes. Fragile vocals 6 1/2 minutes in and the backup vocals recall FLOYD. It kicks back in after 8 minutes. Fudge shines during this section. Back to the chorus after 12 1/2 minutes. Amazing ! "Nostrodamas(Stargazing)" opens with guitar and synths that create emotion and wonder for almost 2 1/2 minutes. Then vocals and a new soundscape take over. Waves of synths 6 minutes in to end it. "Am I Really Losing You ?" again is filled with so much emotion as keys and synths float in the background of Nick's reserved vocals. The lyrics suggest he's losing his faith in God. Passionate guitar after 2 1/2 minutes as drums join in. This continues to the end.

A solid 4 star album and a must for those seeking out melodic and passionate music.

Report this review (#187974)
Posted Wednesday, November 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Echoes of the past and a vision of the future

Released in late 1993/early 1994, Pendragon's fourth full album "The window of life" sees the band consolidating and refining their neo-prog sound which will remain with them on subsequent albums.

The opening "The walls of Babylon" sets out very much in the vain of Pink Floyd's "Echoes" before the rhythm of Genesis "Watcher of the skies" takes over and Nick Barrett delivers the first vocals. Pendragon have never made any great attempt to disguise their influences and the Gilmour like lead guitar and Banks like keyboards here are as familiar as they are enjoyable. Interestingly, we also get a bit of Supertramp ("Hide in your shell") in the vocal melody as the 10+ minute track takes us through a delightful segue of rhythms and moods.

The 8 minute "Ghosts" which follows is introduced by an unaccompanied piano recital by Clive Nolan, the track later including what sounds like a "Dance on a volcano" (Genesis) reference. The song is lyrically intense, Barrett getting into full flow as the song builds climactically. "Breaking the spell", which runs to over 9 minutes (yes prog this album most definitely is!), sets out as a reflective, slightly downbeat song before Barrett's Floydesque guitar leads the development of a more symphonic sound. Structurally, the song is along the lines of the later "The shadow", and just as enjoyable.

The longest track on the album is the 14˝ minute "The last man on earth", a two part suite which includes the album's title lyric. Once again, the symphonic structure of the piece is complex yet remarkably easy to listen to. Here there is a Moody Blues like melody in the "I'm never gonna lose your precious heart (love)" vocal line, which reflects a similar line in "Watching and waiting".

The album closes with two relatively shorter songs. "Nostradamus (stargazing)" has the now familiar Gilmour like lead guitar intro backed by orchestral keyboards leading to an upbeat, melodic anthem. "Am I really losing you" is a delicate (keyboards) orchestrated ballad offering a peaceful end to the album. The guitar work here is more along the lines of the weeping guitar of George Harrison, the simple refrain being as effective as it is straightforward.

In all, a magnificent collection of beautifully crafted songs which sit together perfectly. The richness of the sound and unagressive nature of the arrangements results in an album which is easy to listen to, yet which demands repeated listening. Recommended.

Report this review (#194236)
Posted Thursday, December 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ithink all can agree on the extrordinary level of music on this one. For me...I was just beginning my Prog journey...and my first efford to get more off the track and look more outside the box...My Genesis and Pink Floyd journeys were just ended and I just was about to begin with Yes, more Marillion and King Crimson. In the myst of this I came across this album....and right from the beginning I was totally blown away.

Right from the beginning of The Walls Of Babylon we know that we are on for a real thread, and its nothing short of that...there really is no filler on this album and song after song they take you into heaven...I think that over the years this album grew out as a strong contender of one of those albums you keep on playing and that you can never hear enough.

The Walls Of Babylon......what a song, what an opening and what a guitarwork. The song begins with the church organ that is soon accompanied by guitar....what results in something that clearly sounds like a homage to Floyds Shine On Your Crazy Diamond. When the drums and bass are kicking just keeps getting better....once the song is on speed...what melody...and what a powerfull and tight playing....All of the 4 do shine here and do their part.

Ghosts is the only song, that in my opinion would would be one of the lesser better songs. However still very beautifull...right the start...with a really beautifull into of Nolan...that gets very powerfull after a while...and only then...I loose interest in the song a it its keep on hanging a bit and never really gets extremely good.

Unfortunatly Ghosts is the only lower point of the song...and alot is made up with Breaking The Spell...what a hell of a song....a song now extremely apreciated for the middlepart where Barrett really pulls out all stops ans shows once again, that he masters the Fender equally good to Rothery and Gilmour.....whjen it comes to playing touchy solo's...this guy knows how to deliver.......But also in that famous middlepart I must say that I really like Gee's basswork, and I think its one of those rare moments where you can really hear him playing really obviously....a song that on the next album will be some's opinion better with Paintbox... The song builds up perfectly taking us a step higher and higher untill that moment comes when all the breaks are released and we get treated to an amazing solo.

The Last Man On Earth does not have a very happy theme...and is not a very happy song.....However it grew out to one of the band's livefavorites and is the only real epic on this album. Its a song with alot and alot of different paces, moods and rythms....I think one even better than the other......taking us into prog heaven...

The last 2 songs on this album 2 shorter pieces and are more poppy....and in a way quite simular to the EP that followed shortly after this release, Falled Dreams And Angels...Neither shorter or not. But once again some great guitarwork here......

With this...I can only say that its a album that extremely easy to recomend and certainly belongs in every serious prog collection. I think one of the hallmarks of Neo Progressive Rock.

Report this review (#211531)
Posted Friday, April 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, when we begin to listen this album, we remember Pink Floyd Ouverture in Shine on you crazy diamond but when singer begin to sing, we see the diference. Very comercial album, with boring second song but with a good thirth and last arrangements. I realy apreciate the guitar in Breaking the Spell and in Am I Really Losing You. Very melodious last song. I'm in love, first time I listening this album, but just like comercial songs, I just can listening 2 songs in this work, today. Quite good arrangements made by keyboard Clive Nolan, that I see in a live concert in Gouveia, Portugal with Camoora Project and to me he is a very good player. This album is a neo progressive made in 90 years in a final live of good neoprogressive, and i give 4 stars because 2 musics are very good but this album deserve only 3 stars because is very comercial, and don't give nothing new in neoprogressive world.
Report this review (#219641)
Posted Wednesday, June 3, 2009 | Review Permalink

With the addition of 'The Fallen Dreams and Angels' EP on the Pendragon Toff Records version of the cd you can't ask for much more! I wish I had known that before buying 'The Fallen Dreams and Angels'/'As Good As Gold' cd. One of the things that I like about 'The Window of the World' album is the fact that the music doesn't sound overtly Neo-Progressive if you can understand what I mean. RPI is really more my style. I'm not a big Neo-head although I do have a number of Neo cd's in my collection to round it off. It's not that I don't like Neo, it's just not my fav. category.

Now with that said, getting to the heart of the review. Plagiarism, as defined by Webster's Standard Dictionary: 'misappropriation of the works or ideas of another'. It's hard not to say that there are at least 4 specific places where this definition could apply. The opening of 'The Walls of Babylon' does have a distinct Pink Floyd 'Shine on You Crazy Diamond' essance to it and not long after that you can distinctly hear early PG era Genesis. They are both to some extent suspect, although it would seem to me to be accidentally possible but when lyrics are used nearly verbatim, well that is to me another story altogether. There are 2 near lyrical quotes that are backed by nearly the original melody as well. First in 'The Walls of Babylon' there is a near direct quote of the Supertramp song 'Hide in your Shell' from their classic album 'Crime of the Century'. Secondly, there is also a very close, though not perfect lyrical quote in 'The Last Man on Earth' of the Moody Blues song 'New Horizons' from the album 'Seventh Sojourn'. These two quotes jumped right out at me as I, to some extent, grew up with the music of these two groups. They also use a slight stretch of a reference to ELP with some lyrics in 'The Last Man on Earth' and one might be able to discern the famous opening Supertramp 'School' harmonica riff in this song also. I must say that I find it difficult to believe that a group with as obvious of talents as Pendragon would find this to be necessary and thus I believe, and I have been wrong before, that this is actually a conscience effort to show reverance to a few of the groups that came before them and were influential on their music and musical tastes. Once again, I could very well be wrong and I just wasted the past 45 minutes hunting down the reference to the Moody Blues song on my cd's not to mention the hour and a half of one finger typing to createw this review and it was all just a terrible accident of the sub-conscience intruding in on the consciece act of composition. Oh well, we may never know for sure, but I stand by my hypothesis as a viable answer.

Anyway, with all that, I still really like this album a lot! It's nearly a perfect album IMHO, even better than the acclaimed 'The Masquerade Overture'. I give it a solid 4.4999 repeating. Enjoy God's gift of music!

Report this review (#219826)
Posted Thursday, June 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Window of the world

After two weak albums, Pendragon had finally found their musical direction with the previous The World. And why change a winning formula? The Window Of Life follows closely in the sonic footsteps of The World (and the basic formula, with minor changes, would be used again on The Masquerade Overture and Not Of This World. Even the sleeve pictures of these four consecutive albums are very similar in style). You could probably take a song from Window Of Life and put it on The World or wise versa and it would be hard to detect. That's how similar these two albums are.

The sound of Pendragon has as its essential components the distinctive vocals of Nick Barrett and his slow, sustained David Gilmour-like guitar sound as well as the ever pleasant and lush keyboard washes of the great Clive Nolan. Also quite characteristic is Barrett's particular song writing and the very high production values. As I said in my review of The World, in order to see what makes this music progressive you have to look both at the "micro" and the "macro" level. That is, both in the small details and in the larger structures. In between the finer details and the bigger picture there is really not much "progression" going on.

As I also remarked in my review of the previous album, I have always found the music of Pendragon to be too lightweight and light-hearted for my taste, somehow lacking in depth and substance and especially it lacks a much needed edge. It somehow is too tame, almost as if it is "children's Prog"! The cover art picture could just have well been the cover for a children's fantasy novel which doesn't help either (BTW, isn't it Harry Potter in the lower right corner?). However, there is no denying the talents of the musicians involved and the appeal of the sound they produce.

We find on this album several Pendragon classics that would become fan favourites and take permanent place in the band's live set. These songs include Nostradamus (Stargazing), The Last Man on Earth, Breaking the Spell and The Walls of Babylon which are also the best songs here. The other two leave very little impression on me to be honest.

Overall, this is another good Pendragon album in their typical style. But they certainly did a bit better latter on.

Report this review (#223851)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Re visiting the earlier (mid?) catalogue of Pendragon I'd forgotten what stunning music they had been producing. 'The World', 'The Window Of Life' and 'The Masquerade Overture', are three superb albums by anyone's standard, soaring guitar work, tempered by ethereal keys and excellent melodies; though, unsurprisingly some were better than others. Moreover they have withstood the test of time as displayed by their current live set (Concerto Maximo (2008) and more recently Lorley (2009)). I shall review each in turn.

The Window Of Life: 5 stars

Genesis springs to mind, with the skill to transport the listener to other places, the only exception perhaps is that Genesis had developed their sound over their albums, as well as changing personnel; this is no detraction to Pendragon at all who have remained static in that department, currently Nick Barrett 30, Peter Gee 29 and Clive Nolan 25 apiece. Fudge having only recently retired. I think this has actually helped Pendragon immensely, as demonstrated with this album, the knowledge of what each member can achieve has been utilised fully here. The tracks all fit together with remarkable similarity.

Opening with the epic 'Walls of Babylon', which still gets the live treatment (as does the majority of this album), organ chords introduce a guitar sequence, the organ gives way to what I believe are known today as 'phat' keys all over which Nick continues to meander then with the return of the organ the track finally hits tempo. Various ideas and tempos are introduced and developed together with those catchy melodies. 'Ghosts' continues in the same vein, the emphasis placed firmly with Clive (Tony Banks?) on keys. Between the vocal passages Nick adds plenty of melodic licks on the guitar; he is so good at that, (think of Gary Moore at his best ? The Joker). Not afraid to stop and change direction mid song the song is allowed to develop to great satisfaction. There are many nods to Genesis throughout this track, some perhaps a little too close? 'Breaking The Spell' (mostly instrumental) clocking in at over 9 minutes, we are given another lengthy introduction allowing Nick to ramble before a laid back soulful guitar melody is given full rein, together with excellent backing from the others. 'Last Man On Earth' the next epic, containing the album title, this track is broken into interweaving sections again with superb melodies and guitar breaks, returning to the central theme that acts almost like the glue to bind it all together. The backing vocals are reminiscent of perhaps Clannard with the close harmonies. An extended central development before returning to the more laid back beginning section style with the sonorous guitar brings this longer track to an end. 'Nostradamus (Stargazing)' a haunting guitar followed by gentle vocals introduces the listener to what becomes a foot stomping track. Now a staple diet of the live set. (Think of Opus ? Live is Live, BJH ? Life is for living, Mike & The Mechanics ? Word of Mouth, not the same at all but you probably get the idea). 'Am I Really Losing You? A gentle closing to the album starts with gentle vocals before a very catchy but mournful repeating guitar lick that continues over to an extended fade out. 'The Third World In The UK' (originally part of the EP ? Fallen Dreams and Angels) continues in the same vein, gentle vocals leading to an opportunity to develop through soaring guitars. Adequate opportunities are given to each of the members, through variations in both tempo and dynamics the listener is brought to a satisfactory end. 'Dune' (originally part of the Fallen Angels and Dreams EP) perhaps more 'poppy' than the other tracks, but yet with the trademark Pendragon sound and melody. Set over a chuntering rhythm guitar before a catchy chorus with obligatory keyboard fills. Pleasant track, but nothing special. 'Sister Bluebird' (originally part of the Fallen Angels and Dreams EP) has been played extensively during live sets, reminiscent of 'Last Man On Earth'. Pleasant listening with gentle overtones, quite a lengthy track but never seems to really go anywhere apart providing another superb opportunity for Nick and his guitar work though. Layered vocals again are used towards the end of the track as part of the repeated fade out. 'Fallen Dreams and Angels' (completing the original EP listing) excellent track in the vein of the rest of the album, predominantly gentle and relaxing again with the sonorous guitar and well executed keyboard fills. Perhaps with the 'poppy' feel as with 'Dune' but here it is not quite so obvious or blatant.

Fully deserving of the full five stars.

Report this review (#228493)
Posted Sunday, July 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars While "Not of This World" proved to be a pleasant enough album, if not exactly an innovative one, "The Window of Life" is utter dross, almost a complete failure on every front except for the charming album artwork. Bad singing, boring, derivative instrumental passages and absolutely horrendous songwriting...this is the full Monty, folks.

"Babylon" starts out as either a ripoff of "Watcher of the Skies" or "Shine on You Crazy Diamond", depending on who you talk to-I say it's both, since the guitar work blatantly copies Gilmour and the bass blatantly copies Rutherford. It turns out that once the song gets into original material, things don't improve even slightly as the song proceeds to be a forgettable, trite tale of seizing the day, or something along those lines(like I said, forgettable-I heard this song not a half hour ago and I don't remember anything about it except the intro).

"Ghosts" is an absolute calamity of a song, so bad that it actually warrants its own paragraph-Nick Barret tries doing that pop-star vibrato thing that you hear a lot of bad R&B singers do and it goes without saying that, considering his vocal style, he absolutely does not pull it off. I don't know why he thought he could, but he sounds like less of an impassioned lover and more of a sad housecat. The lyrics are equally laughable-I understand that heartbreak is a good source of songwriting material, but the degree to which Barret wallows in self pity is pathetic, throwing hammy cliche after hammy cliche in an attempt to sound angry, when you can't help but get the impression that this dude was probably blubbering and hanging onto his ex-girlfriend's pant legs until she walked out the door. It's so desperate and pitiful that I almost feel bad making fun of him for it. Almost.

"Breaking the Spell" is maybe the least notable song on the album-it's so boring that I probably wouldn't be able to tell you what those ten minutes sounded like if you paid me. "The Last Man on Earth" is one of only two songs on the album approaching tolerable, in that it's legitimately sort of sweet and is the only song that manages to grasp at that epic "Foxtrot" feel that the band so clearly, desperately wants to achieve. "Stargazing" is an eye- roller, so full of pre-fab cheer and uplifting messages that it would feel more at home in an anime than anything else. "Am I Really Losing You?" is the only other song that's sort of okay, and that's only because the guitar riff that closes the album out is actually pretty good. The rest of the song is completely unmemorable.

That, I think, is the word of the day regarding "The Window of Life". When the only parts of your album that are at all memorable are the ones that were the most blatantly awful, that's a sign you've got a real stinker on your hands. I'm going to venture and say that if you've heard any other progressive rock album before in your life, you've heard a better version of what Pendragon were trying to do here. If you own even one neo-prog album or album from the '70s, steer far clear of this one.

Report this review (#300628)
Posted Sunday, September 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Before to start my review, I want to say that she is made based just in 6 Tracks of 1983 original edition . The best analogies that I can do as the PENDRAGON's music is the following ; imagine a river whose course of the water makes curves in 90 degrees or still, a train that moves in high-speed and it tries to stop in a station reducing the speed to zero in less than one second. Such it is the form with that the different melodic passages that it composes each one of the tracks of the album are chained . Highly influenced by MARILLION (with to notable exception of Track 1 " The Walls of Babylon", that recalled me the opening of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" of PINK FLOYD) in the construction of melodic and rhythmic lines, however, without the same subtileness to organize them. PENDRAGON in spite of presenting in their music some very beautiful and pleasant themes , doesn't show, at least in this fourth studio album, ability in the crucial hour in that these same themes need to create an united line and to do the music flows easily, what would be a fort sign that this disk should be part of a progressive rock collection . In spite of that, due the beautiful passages that are how for instance, in Track 2 "Ghosts" with a guitar melody (with sustained notes) what does appear about the 2:28 min and repeat a little after that, in Track 5 "Nostradamus (Stargazing) ", and Track 6 " Am I Really Losing You? " that reminded me a lot "Soon" of YES. My rate is 3 stars.
Report this review (#357610)
Posted Sunday, December 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, this album is just amazing. No weaks moments. All in all is fantastic. Just neo prog at its best. In my opinion the best work of Pendragon. In addition the sound is superb. The window of life is what I could expect from the prog rock in the modern times. I bought the remastered album, wich has "Fallen dreams + Angels", and this set of songs are in an inferior level than the original album, so I will review only the original The Window of Life.

The album starts with The Walls of Babylon, and as in all the tracks Nick Barret fills everything with his extrarodinary electric solos, always supported by great mattres of keyboards by Clive Nolan. The track starts with something in the vein of Pink Floyd's Shine on you crazy diamond. A great intro that then flows into a Marillionesque motive with the fantastic voice of Barret. The 10 minutes of the song just pasts really fast

Ghosts is the second track. Good prog number but maybe one stair down than the rest.

Ok, and now is Breaking the spell. What can I say about this track? Is just incredible mainly because this stunning and long instrumental interlude in which the guitar seems to take life in a really emotional solo. The lyrics are very emotional too.

The last man on earth is another epic of almost 15 minutes long and is just superb. Modern prog at its best. Change of rhythms, solos, riffs, great drumming. Everything is here. An iconic track.

Nostradamus is the pop one. Based on a simple but effective guitar riff, Barret shines with the melody line. Really good track.

Am I really losing you? is an Emotional ballad with finishes with a non conventional guitar solo.

Some people says that Pendragon tries to imitate things from Pink Floyd, Genesis or Marillion. Maybe could be but I don't care about this, The Window of Life is just a Masterpiece

Report this review (#372320)
Posted Monday, January 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Another album from Pendragon. Well I don't understand why so high rated. The style of Pendragon is mellow and melodic, and has changed by their first debut, but while at begin it sound much bombastic and varied, now it sound almost repetitive and bored. The melodies are almost the same from 1 song to another, but you don't realize it soon, because it's enough change the tempo, the guitar riff or some keys passage, that can seems another different composition to the more shallow ears. No like the long and always mellow introduction, over 3-4 minutes where you can listen only dreamy background keyboards and pads with whispered vocals or bland guitar solos. In despite of that i said before there are some good things, like an excellent production, some nice guitar solos, and a perfect cohesion of all the musicians. The vocals is decent, and fit well with the rest of music. Recommended only for Pendragon's fans 2 stars.
Report this review (#411871)
Posted Sunday, March 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars 1993 was a fantastic year for neo-prog, with a number of top-flight bands - IQ, Marillion, and Pendragon - releasing absolutely amazing albums which saw them following their progressive instincts and spurn commercial considerations. For Pendragon's part, The Window of Life is a refinement of the heartwarming feel-good neo-prog sound that was test driven on The World, honed to perfection thanks to superior production, more intricate songwriting, and a bigger emphasis on lengthly progressive epics.

The end result might occasionally tip its hat to prog rockers of the past, Pink Floyd in particular, though I'm inclined to say the opening to Walls of Babylon has to be a conscious and deliberate homage to Shine On You Crazy Diamond as opposed to the plagiarism unkind critics have accused it of being in the past. Pendragon might not have been playing the most technically complex neo-prog out there at this time, but with this they showed themselves masters of creating moving, emotional music which deftly avoids degenerating into over-twee sentimentality. A treat for all neo-prog fans.

Report this review (#613488)
Posted Thursday, January 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars The "Window of Life" is a gorgeous sounding yet largely soulless album with virtually no melodies or themes that sink in even after multiple listens. Each little segment of sweet electric guitar, piano or organ would be fine if connected to a greater whole, but rarely is such the case. Others have spoken of blatant rip offs of GENESIS, PINK FLOYD, and MOODY BLUES (lyrics and solo right out of "New Horizons" off "Seventh Sojourn" on "The Last Man on Earth"), and in prog we can get desensitized to such issues especially when we long for the heydays of our original heroes. The problem is that our new heroes appear to long for those days even more than we do, and stretch idolatry to levels that even the biggest fanperson would deem tasteless if it was imparted in spoken form . Rather than make any new bold statement, they seem content with retread, but, why not, because apparently so do a lot of listeners.

The uninspired classic progressive rock inspiration includes nods to arena rock like STYX, KANSAS, FOREIGNER, insipid 1980s GENESIS, and even jangly alt rock, but to fit all this into one track requires at least 8-12 minutes of pastiche. Take each 2 minute or so segment and rearrange them into a different order and it might even sound better than the original, which doesn't speak well to the group's abilities in the composing and editing department. I have wondered how neo prog groups are so prolific in their output, but I guess it is easy when absolutely nothing is held back.

The only track here that really speaks to me is "Am I Really Losing You", a lovely song with a divine sense of sadness and dramatic flair. My real disappointment here is that I believe the band to be capable of producing an album of such material if they would just take the time. In spite of my disdain for most of this production, I cannot deny the beauty of the sounds and the individual skill of the players, as well as their earnest desire to replicate that which came before using modern glimmering production. Hence I round up and duck below my window before the bricks fly.

Report this review (#743900)
Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars Something I like to call "The Bookend Theory". Nothing overly complicated - it's just a phenomenon that leaves me a bit puzzled. Simply put - this occurs when an album falls chronologically in between two great-to-excellent albums, repeating many of the formulas of those great-to-excellent bookends but somehow failing to capture the magic they achieve. Gentle Giant's "The Power and the Glory" is one example for me - I love "In a Glass House" and "Free Hand", but TPatG simply doesn't do it for me, even though all the motifs of those surrounding two classic albums are present. Can't explain it - it's simply the way it is.

And, unfortunately, Pendragon's "The Window of Life" also fits this bill. "The World" is a great album. "Masquerade Overture" is a fantastic album. TWoL tries to use many of the same elements that made those two albums so enjoyable, but it just doesn't work. I can point something of a finger at what I believe is the album's shortcoming - a lack of memorable material. I will even be so heretical as to say that about the only memorable thing on here for me is "Nostradamus (Stargazing)", which many would probably call a poppish U2 knockoff. Yeah, but it's catchy, at least. "Am I Really Losing You?" tries too hard at the end with the slightly whiny guitar outro, but that at least sticks somewhat too. And there's a nice rippling keyboard solo in the middle of "The Last Man on Earth". Other than that? I've listened to the album maybe two dozen times, and nothing at all stands out.

They tried a similar formula to what was on the surrounding albums, but the substance simply wasn't there on this one. I don't want to dislike any album or rate it lowly - I'm a music fan, not a critic, so I want enjoyment. And I don't like criticizing what was obviously an honest effort by Nick Barrett and company. But this album simply doesn't work for me. And that makes me sad, honestly, because the material around it was so uniformly great. Two stars.

Report this review (#932433)
Posted Monday, March 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
5 stars "The Window of Life" is my second foray into Pendragon's discography. I began with "Not of this World", and was absolutely floored by the melody, the soaring atmosphere, and the profound statements. Naturally, this album will be compared to "Not of this World", though they are about 7 years removed from each other.

This album. *Sigh*. This album is gorgeous. After hearing it once, I thought it inferior to "Not of this World", but after many spins, I believe them to be perfectly aligned. Pendragon just has a way of bringing beautiful melodies, spurts of technicality, emotive and meaningful lyrics and ideas, and relaxing vocals all together to form an epic setpiece that pulls at every string in my heart. The acoustic guitarist is again spectacular, but I was even more impressed by the electric guitars and drums in this album. The drummer, Fudge Smith, really had his way here with amazing fills and awesome passages. Nick Barrett is always fantastic with his voice, and he is really leaping up the ranks of my favorite singers. Finally, I LOVED the inclusion of some rarely used instruments, such as the harmonica and the banjo (?). The harmonica sequences are soulfully delivered, and perfectly placed for maximum effect.

"The Window of Life", as best as I can make out, is a celebration of life. It's like looking through a window to see snippets of other people's lives. We see their dreams, their sorrows and pain: We see their hopes and loves, and their longings and losses. Most of all, we witness the wonder in every day life: something that many of us forget to see. It's difficult sometimes because our lives can seem so mundane. You know what? It's a wonder we are even breathing! Little things make our Creator's world wonderful, and this album is a monument to all that makes us laugh, cry, scowl, and smile. This album, with its musical brilliance and thematic vulnerability, moves me in ways that I don't often find in other music. Thank you, Pendragon, for such a stunning accomplishment.

Report this review (#1015439)
Posted Friday, August 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I loved their previous studio album (The World). Pendragon very quickly rose to the position of one of my all time favourite bands because of the quality of their later releases and because of the melody - this stuff is musical melody heaven.

"The Walls of Babylon" - Starts off very similarly to Pink Floyd's "Shine on you Crazy Diamond" but changes pace just before the halfway mark when the vocals come in where I'm taken into Fish era Marillion sound. This is nice indeed. The mournful lead guitar is the stand-out on this track as are the vocal melodies.

"Ghosts" - Gentle piano driven to begin. Still very much in Fish era Marillion turf however that for me is not a bad thing at all. The melody sparkles.

"Breaking the Spell" - Very nice keyboard intro from Nolan. The lyrics and vocals are emotionally dramatic. Nick Barrett is a lead guitar magician - not for technicality but for feeling and touch. Fudge Smith on drums shines throughout.

"The Last Man on Earth" - A giant of a track. Pendragon's "Supper's Ready" or "Grendel". Very melancholy in places. At the halfway mark the music livens up nicely taking the mood away from the sad, retrospective place that it was in. Harmonica and Banjo sound is brilliant and compliments the music wonderfully. To my mind Hogarth era Marillion should have paid attention to this band and what they were doing at the time.

"Nostradamus (Stargazing)" - Mournful lead guitar to start accompanied by Nolan's keyboard wash. I have found that where at first I battled to listen to Nick Barrett I have grown to very much enjoy his voice. The music segues into an upbeat almost joyous direction.

"Am I really losing You?" - Shortest track on the album but it is emotionally powerful.

Another very good release from the band. If you love melody and emotion in music this is for you. If you love Fish era Marillion this is for you. If you're into clashy, discordant, eclectic or heavy sound then this isn't for you. An emotional roller-coaster packed with neo prog musical goodness. For me another 5 star release for this band - easily.

Report this review (#1030235)
Posted Saturday, September 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I revisited "The Window of Life", this venerable classic, as I was somehow placed in a nostalgic mood for some outer-worldly experience that would relax my body and indulge my mind in unassuming fantasy. Pendragon needs little introduction, a fellow consolidator of the prog ideal at a lonely time in rock history, to be perfectly polite. 1993 was a revolutionary period, with very little excitement in terms of music, listening to stuff like still great Tangerine Dream, Oldfield doling out the Crises album, Saga's Heads or Tales and Solstice(prog) but precious little else, until the now-mythical "Script of A Jester's Tear" was unleashed on a totally unsuspecting public later in the year . Pendragon leaped to such higher echelons with this Pink Floyd meets Genesis album, a vehicle for Nick Barrett and Clive Nolan to make their music come hell or high water, a stand for which they were both adored and reviled. Finicky market. The fuse was lit and much to the chagrin of all the prog-rock haters (and trust me, there were many at the apparent funeral, spitting gobs of vitriolic abuse), the inevitable renaissance of prog was underway.

On the sleek "The Walls of Babylon", the lads even had the audacity to quote Supertramp's "Hide in Your Shell", a ballsy move that could have cost them a few quid had Hodgson and Davies been greedy bastards. While the sound certainly owes a lot to former icons, truth is the material was expertly played and muscularly delivered, conscious of the rock ethos needing to be preserved. Bassist Peter Gee and drummer Fudge Smith certainly pounded hard and fast when prompted, leaving Nolan's keys and Barrett's axe do all the brain damage. On the moving "Breaking the Spell", the fret-meister goes on a nice elongated foray, nothing too technical but oh so loaded with emotional discourse. A little hint of wah-wah and some spirited soloing really gets me every time, even 20 years later.

Epic monuments you ask, "The Last Man on Earth" is a nearly 15 minute colossus, with explosive vocals from Mr. Barrett (who never sounded better, before or after), mammoth Nolan symphonic bombast and mobile rhythmic agility from both Gee and Smith. This is, simply put, eternal and utterly fabulous, loaded with incredible imagery, dense space for contrast and breath, featuring glittering soloing, I mean the whole nine yards. Details, details, Watson! Slipping in some delectable harmonica, soothing backing vocal choir and some more overbearing emotions just steals the show, a true classic. The final earthshaking solo is gorgeous. In all honesty, this ought to have been the final cut (Oops!, sorry Roger), ending the album on an orgasm. "Nostradamus ?Stargazing" should have been inspiring with such archetypical prog subject matter but suffers from having to compete with the previous megalith, an unfair positioning makes this song seem weak in comparison. Guitar manipulations take their time in setting the controls to the heart of the song, but it's a fine diversion, The poppish texture should be more exciting in a live setting (in fact, Pendragon likes to do this in concert) but it's the necessary cream between the cookies. The final piece "Am I Losing You?" is delectable , a Pendragon ballad that finds itself drenched in serious bluesy affectation, a simple story that searches out all the questions we all ask ourselves, about love, life and the impossible pursuit of happiness. The Steve Howe ?like guitar motif sounds like a slip from The Gates of Delerium, these are clever lads indeed, reminding me of that classic Picasso quote "a good artist copies, a great artist steals", a little nasty perhaps but oh so true.

The upcoming Masquerade Overture remains my favorite Pendragon album, though I must admit I have lost interest after that. Maybe I should investigate, my dear Watson?

4 Panes of existence

Report this review (#1294373)
Posted Sunday, October 19, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pendragon's 'The Window Of Life' is for my opinion the second best album by the British neo-prog band - second only to their follow-up album, 'The Masquerade Overture'. What we have on this album is a refined and purposeful sounding Pendragon really coming into their own sound and maturing as a band with some beautiful progressive compositions.

Musically there is a great deal to love here, the songs have a brilliant identity, exploring a variety of progressive styles and even moving into more heavy metal moments from time to time! Clive Nolan's keyboard playing is brilliant, and some of the guitar solos from Nick Barrett are utterly divine, no-more so than on the third track, 'Breaking The Spell'. For my worth the final few instrumental minutes of 'Breaking The Spell' is the best moment on the album.

Vocally Nick Barrett sounds pretty good on here. There's no denying that Barrett isn't the greatest prog vocalist of all time, he's certainly no Fish or Gabriel, but having said that I do personally find something charming about his vocal style - it has a rustic and quaint style to it. Maybe as a British person I don't really have an issue with his accent but I can see why some people might be turned off.

A brilliant Pendragon album, bested only by their follow-up. 4-stars; I can't imagine any prog fan who wouldn't enjoy this album!

Report this review (#1442405)
Posted Saturday, July 18, 2015 | Review Permalink

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