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Pendragon - Acoustically Challenged CD (album) cover

ACOUSTICALLY CHALLENGED

Pendragon

Neo-Prog


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5 stars The longer the Autumn lasts, the more I like this record. Acoustic concerts are good tests for bands - you cannot hide behind studio production, there's only you, the simpliest instruments and the audience. You have to show your musical ability, but also build a relationship with fans - much closer than during electric performances. Pendragon takes you for an one hour trip to wonderland.Barret and Gee's guitars play main role, but Nolan knows exactly when he should put one more delicate shade to the palette of sounds. And Nick's vocal is more unique than on any studio album. He doesn't speak much between the songs, but his singing is enough to put a spell on the Polish. Marvelous!
Report this review (#52357)
Posted Wednesday, October 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Just got my hands on this one. And I must say, I'm impressed. Mostly the unplugged sessions end up in dull covers (the beatles seem to be hot in those circles) but none of this. All familiar Pendragon songs, with the familiar Pendragon voice, nothing fancy. So if jou like an album just to relax, this is one to buy. No electronics to be found (not even a bass). So if you are looking for screaming guitars, pass this one over. Then again, acoustically in the title gave it away..hihi.
Report this review (#68946)
Posted Friday, February 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars This album was recorded during a radio show in...Poland of course. Pendragon like this country pretty much and the band is always well received there. I usually am NOT a fan of acoustic sets and this one won't fundamentally change my mind.

Clive and Nick will also record a DVD made of an acoustic set, recorded in ...Poland (called "A Rush Of Adrenaline" and released in 2006). For this set, Peter Gee will play the acoustic guitar as well which adds value.

When you look at the tracklist, very few of the great "Pendragon" songs are featured. A very, very old song is recorded here : "Dark Summer's Day". It was released on the first Pendragon mini-album called "Fly High Fall Far". A song from "Kowtow" : "Two AM". Very quiet and melancholic. It is not the best here.

The best moments of this CD is when the band starts "The Voyager" and "Alsaka". I would have liked to get a bit more of "Masquerade" as well but in this live set only "The Pursuit of Excellence" is featured. Nick will tell that it is the first time that "Pendragon" plays this song live (and you'll know why when you listen to it).

There is an unofficial version of this set which includes "King Of The Castle" (which is very nice) but it is not featured on the official version which is a bit of a shame. But it is included on "Not Of this World" as a bonus track just like an acoustic version of "Paintbox". They should have been featured here IMO.

This recording took place in 2001, so the band will play two songs from their newest album : " A Man of Nomadic Traits" and "World's End" but none of these songs are advantagely converted into acoustic, I'm afraid.

The last song of this set is "Unspoken Words". It is a song from Peter Gee and is featured on his first solo album ("Heart Of David", 1993). Nothing from the other ...World I would say.

Nick is of course pretty much at ease with the audience and even says a few words in Polish. Poland is important for "Pendragon" : there is a full section in Polish available on their web-site (as well as French, Spanish, Dutch, German and Portuguese). I guess that these guys have understood how each band should handle his fans : in their own language. Great job.

This acoustic album can only please die-hard "Pendragon" fans. Therefore, two stars for this peaceful but not essential work.

Report this review (#137774)
Posted Tuesday, September 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars The next track has acoustic guitar, vocals and a keyboard

With Pendragon being such a bastion of pompous neo-prog, the decision to strip down their sound and perform an unplugged set could be perceived as a brave one. They had however set the groundwork for such a venture over the years, notably on the bonus CD which came with "The Masquerade Overture" which included acoustic reworkings of parts of tracks from that album.

Reduced to a trio for this recording due to the complete absence of Fudge Smith on drums, the instrumental line up extends to twin acoustic guitars plus a keyboard (complete with a tell tale electric cable!).

The recordings here are taken from a special acoustic show performed in Poland during the 2001 "Not of this world" tour. The tracks come from a reasonable selection of the band's albums, including two tracks from "Not of this world" and a couple from "The world".

The absence of Clive Nolan's banks of keyboards leaves the overall atmosphere sounding rather one dimensional. Indeed Nolan's role is very subdued throughout, generally consisting of low in the mix atmospheres. This, combined with the absence of lead guitar, means that instrumental solos are few and far between. This in turn places a great emphasis on the vocals of Nick Barrett, which dominate much of the album. I enjoy Barrett's singing, but for me the singularity of the sound quickly becomes wearing.

The selected tracks have a certain uniformity too, leading to the conclusion that this album can be enjoyed best by listening to a couple of selected tracks, rather than the complete performance in one go. For me it is the shorter tracks such as "The pursuit of excellence" which work best, with longer pieces such as "The voyager" and "Alaska" crying out for some aggressive pruning.

The album is completed by an old Peter Gee song "Unspoken words" which was rehearsed for the show, but is not actually a live recording. It is actually a lovely little song, sung with appropriate emotion by Barrett.

It is difficult to know who to recommend this album to. Fans of the band will generally prefer the volume driven sound of the full band versions of the songs, while those who enjoy stripped down acoustic music will be unfamiliar with the songs (which it has to be said do not necessarily lend themselves to the adaptation).

Report this review (#157432)
Posted Wednesday, January 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Perhaps this album should be called Pure, instead of their latest studio effort. Cos its nothing of the pomp and bombastic Pendragon that we know from other albums.....no long and amazing electric guitarsolo's, or Wagnerian keyboard parts, the very recognisable bass style of Gee, that I think so clearly hearable on middle parts as in songs as Paintbox or Breaking The Spell...not to mention the agressive drum sound of Fudge smith.........but rather back to the roots, delivering a bunch of incredible pieces of music that truly add something to the collection. Live usually Pendragon is blamed for simply play the version as its recorded on CD, and don't add much difference or improvisation....but here with songs that are completely stripped down its a whole different story.

The choice of songs are totally unexpected, or atleast they were for me. No King Of The Castle, what I think would have been a nice audition to this set, although perhaps too predictable.....they chose for some more famous, as we'll as unfamous songs here.....I think songs as The Man Of Nomadic Traits, Voyager and Alaska, really shine here.....and work out on who whole new level........Nick shows himself as once again, a incredible guitarplayer...It once again shows she is not only the master of the electric guitar but also of the accoustic one. To this Clive adds alot of very sensitive parts on piano and what sounds like a hammond.

Also very nice are the last 2 songs.....2 AM, a song I think that not many people know. I think the song from Peter Gee's first album is another great idea.

They should have played a longer set...or...do it more often....top notch......and excelent sound.

Report this review (#211457)
Posted Thursday, April 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
3 stars If you want to hear clear sounds of Pendragon, or how good acoustic guitar can sounds with P.'s music for example A Man of Nomadic Traits sounds almost like album version (from previous year's Not of This World). The reason is simple, whole NoTW uses acoustic guitar a lot in combination with Nick Barrett's voice. But also uses keyboards a lot, which can't be here heard so much, to prevent ruining acoustic vision. And if Clive Nolan play them, it's not this heavy, space sounding synth tone, it's rather calm and background-like type. It's nice to hear it from another point of view.

3(-), songs are rather calm. Not that I can't stand hearing Pendragon like that, but I don't think their songs are suitable for this version. There are many better. Listenable, but Pendragon fan will lack a lot. Maybe unfair, but it's sad truth.

Report this review (#239545)
Posted Wednesday, September 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars The pursuit of acoustic excellence?

This acoustic live album originally recorded for Polish radio is probably a pleasant listen for many Pendragon fans, but it does not compare very favourably to their studio output nor do these acoustic live versions add anything of significant interest to the original studio versions. The line-up here is reduced to only Nick Barrett on guitars and vocals, Clive Nolan on keyboards and Peter Gee on extra guitars. As Nolan plays not only acoustic keyboards, the "unplugged" label is not entirely accurate. But it is surely a toned down affair and with such a restricted musical palette, the songs are naturally stripped of their complexity and most of their splendour. The instrumental flourishes that normally are so important to Pendragon's music (and to most progressive Rock in general) are either eliminated altogether here or considerably abridged and simplified. This is notable throughout the whole performance, but it is nowhere as evident as on A Man With Nomadic Traits. This song was the highlight of the Not Of This World album, but here it is transformed into a rather generic number, albeit with strong vocals. Had I not known the greatness of the song beforehand, it could probably have passed through my ears without leaving any particular impressions at all.

The selection of songs they chose to perform here are hardly the best or even the most well-known ones. Rather they concentrate on rather obscure songs, which is interesting but ultimately a not very wise move I must say. Some of the songs date back to the first half of the 80's, one of which - Dark Summer's Day - was only released on an EP that came out one year before the release of the band's debut album. Fallen Dreams And Angels is another song present here that was also only released on an EP. One song is taken from the 1985 debut album and one from the weak KowTow. Some of the band's later and more well-known and popular albums are represented as well, but not always by their best songs. The Masquerade Overture, for example, is represented by The Pursuit Of Excellence which is not a very representative song for that album. This version is not an improvement either with Nick being unable to handle all the notes properly!

This is a release that fits firmly into the "for fans only"-category. It will please the band's most devoted fans, but hardly attract any new ones

Report this review (#294950)
Posted Tuesday, August 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars In the 1990s and early 2000s Pendragon weren't exactly a name known for wild experimentation - sticking firmly to the fairly accessible style of neo-prog they'd first unveiled on The World, the band soon became the subject of sniggering from some prog circles because of a perceived sameness to their albums.

However, after Not Of This World the band started to change up their sound, and the first herald of this sea change was Acoustically Challenged, a live set recorded for Polish radio in which the band retool their songs for mostly-acoustic instrumentation - Nick Barrett and Peter Gee on acoustic guitar, with Clive Nolan using his keyboards mainly to mimic other acoustic instruments. The transition works remarkably well, and in some cases taps into hidden reserves of beauty in some of the songs - I like the version of The Pursuit of Excellence on here much more than the original, for example. A remarkably gentle and beautiful album and a neat counterpoint to the grittier territory the band were about to delve into.

Report this review (#652106)
Posted Friday, March 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars Over the last ten years or so there have been many 'unplugged' albums from hard rock bands, but this has to be one of the first from a prog band. No extra musicians, such as on the Galahad Acoustic Quintet release a few years ago, just the normal guys strutting their stuff acoustically (in fact only three of the band feature, as there is no room for Fudge's drums). With Peter and Nick on acoustic guitars, and Clive on keys, this was recorded for a radio show in Poland, hence the release on the Polish label Metal Mind.

The songs are taken from throughout their career, and works well in conjunction with the DVD (see review elsewhere) as none of the songs are duplicated. In fact, they actually play a non- Pendragon song in "Unspoken Words", which is from Peter's solo album. They start with a dreamy version of "And We'll Go Hunting Deer", which is one of my favourite Pendragon numbers, and played in this manner it gives it a more magical flavour than the original release. This album shows that prog music can be played in a more simple manner and still contain power and complexity (if that isn't too much of a contradiction).

Other songs of note are "Alaska" and "The Voyager", but while I wouldn't necessarily recommend this album to those who have yet to discover the joys of Pendragon, to those of us who have followed the band for years this is a delight. This digipak release contains a good booklet and photos, as well as a multimedia section that contains an interview with Nick and some live snippets, as well as extra information about this release.

Originally appeared in Feedback #68, Jun 02

Report this review (#975629)
Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars .A different approach to this fabulous but underrated band. I was stunned at the quality of sound and Nick magical voice sometimes almost talking ,other times macthing perfectly with the music.Nick's vocal is more unique than on any studio album. He doesn't speak much between the songs, but his singing is enough to put a spell on the Polish. It contains very good tracks .I love specially 2 A:M a song I think not too many people know and which is completely emotive. Nick Barrett shows here that he is not only the master of the electric guitar but also the acoustic one .To this Clive adds a lot of very sensitive parts on piano and what sounds like a hammond. I would beg them for another acoustically chllenged . Voyager, Alaska , A man of nomadic traits in these acoustic versions allow us to appreciate all the feelings lingering in their great lyrics due to the fantastic changing colours in Nick 's voice . Nick is of course pretty much at ease with the audience and even says a few words in Polish.Nick's empathy with the audience is wonderful and creates a gentle atmosphere.. Great job.
Report this review (#1774437)
Posted Wednesday, August 23, 2017 | Review Permalink

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