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PENDRAGON

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Pendragon biography
PENDRAGON were formed in Stroud, England in 1978. Originally known as ZEUS PENDRAGON it was decided fairly early on to drop the "ZEUS" as co-founder Julian Baker felt it was too wordy to fit on a t-shirt! There were several line up changes in the early days, members included Julian Baker (co-founder/guitar) Nigel Harris (drums) Stan Cox (bass) Robert Dalby (bass) John Barney Barnfield (keys) Rik Carter (keys). The one constant key element was Nick Barrett. The line up then remained the same for almost 20 years, featuring : Nick Barrett (guitar/lead vocal) Clive Nolan (keys) Peter Gee (bass) and Fudge Smith (drums), until 2006 when PENDRAGON and Fudge Smith parted ways.

Todate there have been 21 releases from PENDRAGON who set up their own label "TOFF RECORDS" in the late 1980's following the release of "The Jewel" and "KowTow" (as well as a couple of mini albums). "The Masquerade Overture" is probably their most acclaimed work todate. Although a recent change of direction with "Believe" has seen opinions somewhat split, it is definitely a remarkable album and maybe showing a move away from classic Neo-Prog.

I would highly recommend this band to anyone enjoying neo-prog.

Pendragon official website

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Buy PENDRAGON Music


Masquerade OvertureMasquerade Overture
Madfish Records UK 2013
Audio CD$6.39
$8.99 (used)
IntroducingIntroducing
Recall Records UK 2013
Audio CD$5.48
$9.46 (used)
PassionPassion
CD+DVD
Snapper Madfish 2011
Audio CD$7.89
$17.78 (used)
Out of Order Comes ChaosOut of Order Comes Chaos
Metal Mind 2013
Audio CD$11.17
$11.17 (used)
CONCERTO MAXIMO (LTD. EDITION)CONCERTO MAXIMO (LTD. EDITION)
METAL MIN2 2009
Audio CD$13.18
$80.14 (used)
Not of This WorldNot of This World
Madfish Records UK 2012
Audio CD$6.61
$5.96 (used)
WorldWorld
Snapper Classics UK 2005
Audio CD$6.44
$4.50 (used)
PurePure
Snapper Music Group 2011
Audio CD$8.85
$8.42 (used)
Men Who Climb MountainsMen Who Climb Mountains
Import
Imports 2014
Audio CD$35.47
BelieveBelieve
Madfish Records UK 2011
Audio CD$6.58
$6.44 (used)
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More places to buy PENDRAGON music online Buy PENDRAGON & Prog Rock Digital Music online:
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PENDRAGON shows & tickets


  • Pendragon + Gary Chandler at Le Moulin, Marseille on 21 Oct 2014
  • Pendragon at Carpa del Forum, Barcelona on 22 Oct 2014
  • Pendragon + Gary Chandler at Centre de Musiques Actuelles Ampli, Billčre on 24 Oct 2014
  • Pendragon at Rock School Barbey, Bordeaux on 25 Oct 2014
  • Pendragon at Ninkasi, Lyon on 27 Oct 2014
  • Pendragon at Divan du Monde, Paris on 28 Oct 2014
  • Pendragon + Jadis at The Ferry, Glasgow on 6 Nov 2014
  • Pendragon on 7 Nov 2014
  • Pendragon at 229 The Venue, Venue 1, 229 Great Portland Street,, London on 8 Nov 2014

PENDRAGON discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

PENDRAGON top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.28 | 229 ratings
The Jewel
1985
2.57 | 172 ratings
Kowtow
1988
3.74 | 313 ratings
The World
1991
3.90 | 352 ratings
The Window Of Life
1993
3.94 | 493 ratings
The Masquerade Overture
1996
3.85 | 373 ratings
Not Of This World
2001
3.53 | 323 ratings
Believe
2005
3.89 | 518 ratings
Pure
2008
3.70 | 441 ratings
Passion
2011
3.90 | 56 ratings
Men Who Climb Mountains
2014

PENDRAGON Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.21 | 46 ratings
9:15 Live
1986
2.32 | 30 ratings
The Very Very Bootleg Live In Lille France 1992
1993
3.58 | 39 ratings
Utrecht ...The Final Frontier
1995
3.92 | 44 ratings
Live In Krakow 1996
1997
3.34 | 47 ratings
Acoustically Challenged
2002
3.90 | 23 ratings
Liveosity
2004
4.07 | 57 ratings
Concerto Maximo
2009
4.41 | 38 ratings
Out of Order Comes Chaos
2013

PENDRAGON Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.11 | 55 ratings
Live At Last ... And More
2002
3.93 | 57 ratings
And Now Everybody To The Stage
2006
3.93 | 59 ratings
Past And Presence
2007
4.42 | 81 ratings
Concerto Maximo
2009
4.56 | 32 ratings
Out Of Order Comes Chaos
2012

PENDRAGON Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.87 | 35 ratings
The Rest of Pendragon
1991
2.38 | 7 ratings
1984-96 Overture
1998
2.50 | 31 ratings
Once Upon A Time In England Volume 1
1999
2.42 | 27 ratings
Once Upon A Time In England Volume 2
1999
3.42 | 25 ratings
The History 1984-2000
2000
4.09 | 4 ratings
A História
2001
4.29 | 7 ratings
The Round Table (1985-1998)
2001
4.67 | 3 ratings
Introducing Pendragon
2013

PENDRAGON Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.20 | 43 ratings
Fly High Fall Far
1984
1.63 | 20 ratings
Red Shoes
1987
2.25 | 16 ratings
Saved By You
1991
2.38 | 7 ratings
Nostradamus
1993
3.65 | 74 ratings
Fallen Dreams And Angels
1994
3.38 | 58 ratings
As Good As Gold
1996

PENDRAGON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Window Of Life by PENDRAGON album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.90 | 352 ratings

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The Window Of Life
Pendragon Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

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

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 Men Who Climb Mountains by PENDRAGON album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.90 | 56 ratings

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Men Who Climb Mountains
Pendragon Neo-Prog

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Collaborator Post/Math Rock and Crossover Teams

5 stars 4.5 stars, actually.

I've decided that progarchives really needs a half-star option. Pendragon's newest album "Men Who Climb Mountains" is a case in point of this, as I fully believe that this incredible work of art deserves more than four stars. It is not, however, as good as their masterworks, such as "The Window of Life", "The Masquerade Overture", or my personal favorite "Not of This World". Or perhaps it is as good as those fantastic albums, except Pendragon underwent a change in style with their 2005 album "Believe", which is amazing, too, by the way. The last couple albums, however, although solid and still in my regular playlist, do not have the sweeping, majestic sounds of the older albums. They are darker, grittier, somewhat more technical, and also somewhat heavier. So is it really that they are not as good, or is it just that I like the old style better?

Pendragon, however, have finally convinced me to love their new style. Although "Believe" was a change in style, it had enough of the old ways to satisfy me greatly. "Men Who Climb Mountains", though, is an album of the same quality, yet it retains the new style, and does so with gumption and gusto. Indeed, this is the best, most confident album since at least "Believe", if not "Not of This World". Pendragon have proven that these aged gentlemen still have everything it takes to claim a top spot in the best prog releases of the year.

"Men Who Climb Mountains", first and foremost, is a thoughtful work that contains my favorite lyrics of this year so far. Nick never disappoints in lyrical content or themes, and so I expected it. Yet, this album is deeper than the last two, as I see this album as focusing on those people that are truly one with the world around them. They hear, see, feel, smell, and taste the world in all its glory, and so see the divine, spiritual nature and connections inherent in everything. These people never lose hope. They never despair. They are ready for "When the Zombies Come", and they know where they are going after death. These are the nit and grit of this world, the people that keep it running at all costs, and that love it all. These are the people that we all are, except many of us have forgotten. This, of course, is all my own interpretation.

Of course, the music is important, too. As I said, the newer style is still here, but it has been perfected. Nick sounds great on vocals, even more melodic in many perfectly performed hooks, too, if I do say so myself. His flawless guitar work is again a highlight, too, whether it be soulful solos or acoustic brightness. Clive Nolan (probably my favorite keyboardist) seems to be more present on this album than the previous two. He sets many beautiful, soaring atmospheres to match the theme, but he also presents some awesome solos, too, such as on "In Bardo". Peter Gee, bassist, lays down his signature grooves, and he sounds great with Nick's riffing in the heavier portions.

Perhaps the most significant thing about this new album, however, is the exit of drummer extraordinaire Scott Higham and the entrance of Craig Blundell. I'll say it right down: Craig has laid down the best drum performance I've heard this year. He's unbelievable, and everything I could have hoped for with Scott leaving. Everything from his genius fills to his tasteful tempos to his breath-taking romps are all brilliantly performed. Craig, welcome!

One of the things that was missing from the last two albums, especially "Passion", was the presence of great choruses. I feel that Pendragon has again nailed them, with wonderful structures that culminate into catchy choruses, such as "Beautiful Soul" or "Explorers of the Infinite". Yet, even the instrumental portions are inspired and catchy, such as "In Bardo", "Faces of Darkness" or the oddly structured "Come Home, Jack". It's honestly difficult to pick favorites, as all the tracks are worthy. I do especially love, however, "Faces of Darkness" and the slow-burning catchiness of "Explorers of the Infinite", a song that I cannot stop singing (however horribly). I also really like the slower, thoughtful "Netherworld", as I'm a sucker for Nick's vocals.

"Men Who Climb Mountains", then, is a true Pendragon album with lush atmospheres, hard-rocking portions, and a certain level of oddity that is so endearing and addictive to me. I can only rate albums based on how I feel about them, and I haven't felt this way about a Pendragon album since "Believe". Indeed, I can't stop listening to it, and I never feel the urge to skip a track. It's all so good. Give this album a chance, then, and don't judge it based on how you feel about albums that were written fifteen or twenty years ago. This band has progressed to a new style, and they are finally fine-tuning it to great results.

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 Not Of This World  by PENDRAGON album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.85 | 373 ratings

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Not Of This World
Pendragon Neo-Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars In 1997 another live album by Pendragon was released, ''Live in Kraków 96'', recorded in Poland (and later issued by Metal Mind in DVD format), which became one of the favorite destionations of the band.What followed though would have a huge impact on Pendragon's next studio release.Nick Barrett had to face the procedure of a long and painful divorce, a reality that influenced him on the writings of ''Not of this world''.Propably this sad experiene was the reason Pendragon would wait for a number of years to launch the album, which was released in 2001.

While the familiar Pendragon style dominates the album, let's get one thing clear: This is definitely one of the most emotionally loaded albums of the group, Nick Barrett's divorce being the main reason, serving as a somewhat autobiographical release.The huge display of sentimental vocals, the constant use of dreamy keyboard and piano parts and the obvious tendency towards atmospheric and melodious textures are the instant reflections of the fact.As a result they sound as close as it gets to GENESIS circa 76'-77' and mid-70's PINK FLOYD, offering extended, melodic pieces with smooth guitar plays and lovely synthesizer work by Nolan.On the other hand the choice of such a switch resulted to a reduced exhibition of symphonic arrangements and more complicated parts, the second being far from the band's priorities.The sound is less epic and more into melodic Neo Prog, but with such extended running times some more grandiose parts would be unavoidable.In pleasure of the band's thousands of fans worldwide the longer pieces still contain some powerful keyboard parts, some bombastic sections and some trully efficient guitar solos with the flawless touch of Nick Barrett.It is unbelievable that at this point Pendragon still sound like an 80's group, never giving up to the light symphonic aura and pure energy of the early Neo Prog movement, the atmosphere is great throughout and the melodies are mostly of first class.

Nice little treasure with GENESIS, PINK FLOYD and even some discreet CAMEL overtones.Among the most melodic albums of the British veterans, this would be a masterpiece if some of these melodies were left behind for a more symphonic approach, but this is still a strongly recommended and solid effort by the band...3.5 stars.

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 Men Who Climb Mountains by PENDRAGON album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.90 | 56 ratings

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Men Who Climb Mountains
Pendragon Neo-Prog

Review by lgoffine

3 stars Same opinion as the other reviewers. This album is good but well below Pure or Passion. No melody sticks in my head, which is a pity as Nick Barret is one of the best melody makers of the neo-prog arena. After three or four listens, I can't remember a lot of the songs I've heard. They sound ok but lack the genius behind songs like "This Green and Pleasant Land" or even "Indigo".

Even the guitar parts are not surprising me, whereas they were a lot more inspired some years ago... I'm waiting for the next album, as I like most of the previous work of Nick.

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 Men Who Climb Mountains by PENDRAGON album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.90 | 56 ratings

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Men Who Climb Mountains
Pendragon Neo-Prog

Review by robbob

3 stars Well . So it is good that Pendragon is still playing...one of the oldest high class survival neo prog bands. But I must say I miss the old Pendragon...the one that made it one of the founders of the neo prog rock ...one of the best neo prog bands....as Marillion, IQ, Pallas.. żWhat happened to the very inspired music we listened in The World, Not Of This World, The Masquerade Overture, The Window Of Life...? Since Believe Pendragon had tried to renew their music style and trying to mix their music with the one that play some crossover prog rock bands as The new Porcupine Tree,The Pineapple Thief, Anathema maybe...,Frequency Drift..etc.......but I think they shouldn't try to leave their roots. So ..yes...they are some good songs as Come Home.....and Explorers....but the other ones I feel they are erratic... Please return to the old Pendragon. For this work 3 stars in my opinion.

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 Men Who Climb Mountains by PENDRAGON album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.90 | 56 ratings

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Men Who Climb Mountains
Pendragon Neo-Prog

Review by Kevman28

3 stars I was over the moon when I read in Prog Magazine that Pendragon were returning with a new album. Apart from Kowtow I love every album, with the signature guitar, and also the latter albums which provide a louder, but memorable experience.

Men who climb mountains was delivered to me directly from the Pendragon store (lucky me got it before the official release date - signed by NB), and was thrust into my car stereo with high expectations!

Unfortunately after several plays from start to finish, I still feel disappointed by the end. I can appreciate that there will be many people who will take to this album, but for me it never gets going. A similar tempo and feel throughout, with no stand out moments (think the latter parts of 'this green and pleasant land' etc). Lets not get carried away here, this is a very well written and produced album, and the musicianship is of a real high standard. Indeed some of the guitar and drum work is the among the best they have done, but I guess for me it is a little plain as a whole. I felt it needs a bit of extra oomph to break out in places.

I hate myself for giving these guys three stars for this release, but for me 'Good, but non-essential' is a fair reflection. I am very keen to hear other reviews, and I will be listening to it again tomorrow to see if it's a grower. The star rating is a tricky one. I believe others will love it and give it 4-5 stars, but I cannot rate it that high because that is what I would give previous efforts that I simply love more.

Either way I will still proudly own my signed CD in my collection, and cannot wait for the next instalment from this amazing band.

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 Pure by PENDRAGON album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.89 | 518 ratings

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Pure
Pendragon Neo-Prog

Review by FragileKings

3 stars When you decide to check out a band for the first time and you see they have nearly a dozen albums, how do you choose which one to start with? Do you listen to samples on YouTube or download it from somewhere? Do you read the reviews on PA or other sites? Do you choose by the cover or year of release? When I first decided to purchase a Pendragon album, I listened to bits on iTunes, read some reviews, and decided that I would probably like "Pure" best because of the cover.

Pendragon are known as one of the big neo-prog bands from the early eighties, but it seems that by "Believe" they shifted their sound to something heavier. Indeed, I now own two of their older albums and "Pure" (as well as "Passion") are much heavier and rock out more. By now, heavy prog would be a better subgenre to put them in, at least as far as their last two albums are concerned (and I see a new album is due out anytime).

For me, a fan of heavier stuff, "Pure" was an excellent choice for getting acquainted with Pendragon. The guitars rock, the drums are exciting, things get pretty bombastic at times and there are nice shifts in the music to lighter shades as well. The guitar solos sound like Nick Barrett was a big fan of David Gilmour; however, he puts a lot of his own feeling into his playing and there's an extra bit of "umph" that sets him apart from the Pink Floyd legendary guitarist. This is refreshing as I have heard a couple of Gilmour clones in the last couple of years and though I am sure the flattery is nice, original playing is appreciated.

About Barrett's vocal abilities, it's been said that he can be an acquired taste. Having heard a couple of the older albums by now, I have concluded that he is stronger when he sings harder. The slow, gentle approach is his weakness, or rather perhaps it could be where his uniqueness shows through better. I, however, think he holds a note better when he puts more power in his voice. Barrett doesn't do slow and gentle well in my opinion.

The first three tracks are for me where the real highlights are. "Indigo", "Eraserhead", and "Comatose I: View from the Seashore" show the band steeped in their heavier new sound. Of course they shift to melodic passages and show off lots of emotive guitar soloing. That's part of Pendragon's legacy to have such pleasant interludes. But the guitars have more crunch than before and the drum sound is ripe for the energetic bursts and fills that Scott Higham blasts in. "Comatose I: View from the Seashore" begins with some slow piano but after a bit the song thunders into an almost metal section. I love how the heavy minor chords abruptly change to bright major chords, giving the song a 70's AOR rock sound for a few moments.

Parts II and III of "Comatose" begin to loose me a little, especially in the third part. All those spoken lines about being alone make me wonder if I have misunderstood the song. Then things get weirder. "Fear is the most powerful weapon we have," says someone. "This world is an illusion." "Are we alone?" asks another voice. "What does it mean? Nothing can save you now. The beginning of the end." OK. The song ends.

"The Freak Show" is a normal length song with a very heavy intro but soon changes to a melancholy tale of someone's insecurity. I like this one quite a bit, though it's not as "progressive" or shall we say musically complex as the previous tracks.

I've read a fair bit of praise for the last track "It's Only Me", a slower number with a strong melodic chorus. Personally, I find it a little non-captivating. I gave it a good listen again the other night and it's pleasant enough but still the first half of the album is where it's at for me.

This album has received some great reviews and is an excellent effort by the band. I am wavering between calling it an excellent addition to any prog collection or good but not essential. I'll say it's very good but not essential and give it three stars. But I may decide to change that to four later.

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 Concerto Maximo by PENDRAGON album cover DVD/Video, 2009
4.42 | 81 ratings

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Concerto Maximo
Pendragon Neo-Prog

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Collaborator Post/Math Rock and Crossover Teams

5 stars Sometimes, there is nothing more richly rewarding than sharing your favorite music with your children. My son, Atlas, is six months old, but he and I have been watching this wonderful DVD for the last few months. Pendragon have taken my world by storm lately, and I had to have this DVD. Even though the guys are looking old, this 2.5 hour+ concert is incredibly detailed and the sound is wonderful. Atlas, being a baby, cries and fusses, but NEVER does any of that when this DVD is playing. He enjoys it thoroughly, and I can't get enough of it either.

The band plays marvelously. Nick sounds sublime, though his attempts at being a "rocker" (that usually only last a second or two) are kinda funny. His guitar work is simply out of this world. I can sit and watch his fingers play for hours and hours. It's mesmerizing, and he is easily one of the best there is. Amazing. Then, of course, you have his partner in crime, Clive Nolan, one of the very best keyboardists. His keys sound so rich, and do not get buried in the mix at all. He impresses me to no end. Peter Gee is outstanding on bass, and also love when he uses his keyboard to create an environment in which Nolan's solos can feel alive. Lastly, but certainly not least, is Scott Higham on drums. My friends, this guy is absolutely incredible. His leadership, power, and passion seem to know no bounds. I especially love watching him play the complex time signature changes, as you can see all the tricks he uses to keep in time. As a whole, then, the band is a machine that just chugs on and on, but the musicians are unbelievably talented on their own, and this shows very clearly in this DVD.

The track list of "Concerto Maximo" is pretty good. Some of my favorites are on here, such as "Walls of Babylon", "Learning Curve", "Breaking the Spell", "Sister Bluebird", and the entire suite of "Wishing Well" (amazing work!). This DVD, however, has an uncanny way of making me fall in love with other songs even more deeply than on the albums themselves. "The Shadow" might be my favorite track from Pendragon now because of the intricacy and passion with which it is performed here. "Masters of Illusion", too, has gotten this treatment. I believe that this DVD has elevated my love for the entire "Masquerade Overture" album in general.

I must comment on the camera work, Most DVD concerts don't have much in the way of special cinematography, let alone camera movement that syncs with the musical flow. "Concerto Maximo" does. I especially love the drummer cameras, and the camera that is on a track at the top of the venue. They always switch to the latter and produce some cool, twisting movements during a really cool keyboard solo, and it just feels so organic. It pulls you into the experience.

Pendragon are one of my top 5 favorite bands, and I'm so glad I can share this experience with my son. I see myself enjoying this DVD for many, many years, and I want to buy all of the rest of their DVDs, too. Someday, though, I hope to take my son to see them live. Here's to hoping...

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 Pure by PENDRAGON album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.89 | 518 ratings

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Pure
Pendragon Neo-Prog

Review by Isa
Prog Reviewer

4 stars |B+| A diamond in the rough!

After having listened to this album since it came out back when I was a teenager in high school, I felt it was high time that I wrote the glowing review (for my context) that this justly deserves. I have had very little taste for neo-prog at all compared to the other prog styles, but I think of this album as one of its only bright-shining stars. Keep in mind that this review is coming from someone whose main experience with the band's work is the album about which I'm writing, though I have heard songs from their earlier and later material and was less impressed. What's more, this is an album which seems to be standing the test of time since it came out.

First off, this is actually, if I'm digesting the lyrics right, essentially a concept album about the loss of childhood purity (purity regarding innocence) as a person matures into adolescence, and the consequences that this can have. This an album with real depth in the relationship between these ideas conveyed by the lyrics and the way that they are expressed in the music, which is my main reason for such praise for this work of art.

Indigo is a clever and fluid song, with some heavier guitar riffs, great vocal melodies and lyrics, great contrast between sections themselves, very smooth and natural transitions between sections (which is difficult given the previous point), clever keyboard work and sound effects, gradual shifts of mood, and an interplay between the textures of the instruments that just hits the spot. Very little music can pull off having most of the instruments playing most of the song and simultaneously achieve such diverse and dynamic textures as can be found in this track, whilst never deviating from the general mood of the song overall. Wow! What's more, the melody and effects of the vocal track really dig into the ideas created by the lyrics, which as a classical singer is always a huge plus for me. My only complaint is that there are parts where the musicians' timing with each other's parts isn't always quite right on, and this is true for other parts of the album, but this is something that is probably only noticed by more advanced ears. The composition is brilliant though, in my opinion.

Eraserhead is a pretty effective use of the division of seven, as far as the composition is concerned, though it's speedy enough that the musicians seem a little on the edge of being off sometimes (unless the composition is tricking me into thinking that... hm). A very lively introduction, with singing that is mostly in tune most of the time, and great effects on the guitar. I like the more calm section that it transitions to, some nice guitar work. The strange voice is indeed strange, but works well for the context of the song somehow. Good work on the cymbals from the drummer for sure. The vocal harmonies on this track are well placed and sung, and put emphasis on the lyrics where it is due, which I appreciate! The lyrics have the theme of teenage rebellion mentality, playing into the theme of the album. The keyboard sections is very creative and great, and leads in splendidly to a solo trade off with the guitar. I love the modulation about 8:10 or so in. Great song with a nice ending.

Comatose, all three parts, represent in my mind some of the best, most classy, and most creative work from progressive rock from the past century so far. This is where the theme of the album really comes into play: the lost of childhood purity. "Where is the boy who used to write his name in the sand? Where is the boy who used to smile and wave to all the passing strangers?" This is followed by a beautiful, sad sounding violin, expressing this sentiment, which creatively transitions to the more active section of the song, with the lyrics "become the dark skies" leading into a dark heavy metal section, expressing, perhaps, this transition into a more chaotic and emotionally turbulent stage of childhood development? Then this heavy section turns into a more positive and energetic, almost AOR sounding section. I love the growing energy toward the end of the first movement, what a fantastic guitar riff! And what a dramatic transition to the soft section with a string section, ended with fast string playing. So creative, and that's just the first movement! Movement II: Space Cadet does indeed conjure the image of an astronaut flying into space in my mind, with the keyboard bends and what not. I love the variations on the vocal sections, every time they repeat the main vocal line, the instruments are doing something slightly different (yes, this is a neo-prog album, believe it or not...). Interesting how a drone is used toward the end of the song underlying the other parts. How creative, ending the movement a Capella, I would've never thought of that, and it puts due emphasis on the lyrical content. III. Home and Dry starts off with a very unique song texture that I don't think I've heard in my many years listening to even progressive rock, with the keyboard and sound effects over the acoustic guitar. The chorus is beautiful, with effective, almost perfectly placed echo and reverberation effects on the vocal parts. So many great things so say about this three-part epic overall, especially the masterful use of sound effects. My only complaint is sometimes the theatricality of the vocalist isn't all that convincing, but he's making a good effort to put personality into the lyrics that he's saying, which is only commendable and isn't done nearly enough in rock music. To me, this is some real masterpiece material coming out of neo- prog, which is a huge compliment coming from me.

I find the last two songs, Freak Show and It's Only Me, to be sort of the tapering-off-the- album material after the band has already shown us their most masterful stuff that they've made for the album. I do like the use of material from Indigo on Freak Show, though the chorus is a bit drawn out and lackluster with the vocal melody, and the ending is kind of (okay, very) abrupt. It's Only Me is a better track, and starts off with a harmonica that plays oddly similar style and even some of the exact same notes as the harmonica on first song on Supertramp's Crime of the Century (perhaps another reference to the theme of the album, as that song that's perhaps referenced is about children becoming disillusioned growing up in School. Hm...) I like their use of the opera voice and strings in the background, and the chorus is really very nicely voiced with the vocal harmonies and the harmonic progression, which modulates the key very subtly and beautifully. The band does some cool stuff with the song ending this rock-solid album.

I consider this album essential for anyone interested in Neo-prog, because I regard this album, quite frankly, is some of the most masterful material by not only the band but the entire style in general. I'd almost call it essential just because it towers over almost all other neo-prog out there, even the other albums of the same band, but I do not think of it as a masterpiece of prog music, though much of what can be heard on this album definitely is.

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 Pure by PENDRAGON album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.89 | 518 ratings

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Pure
Pendragon Neo-Prog

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Collaborator Post/Math Rock and Crossover Teams

4 stars I've been pondering this album for a couple months now, and I honestly don't fully know how i feel yet. This is Pendragon, but it isn't. This album doesn't contain the soaring guitar work (mostly), the keyboard nirvana, or even the delightfully profound themes. However, that does not mean that this album isn't good. In fact, it's excellent.

It seems to me that Clive Nolan decided to take a bit of a back seat on this album. Nick's guitars are front and center, as they feature a much heavier sound than Pendragon's previous albums. Indeed, it seems that they tried to inject a little metal into their sound, as the drumming is a little faster and a little more technical, too. I have no problem with this, even though I feel Pendragon didn't need this. All of this, however, doesn't mean the Nolan is absent. There are still some amazing keyboard atmospheres, such as on "Comatose" and "Indigo". Though, the guitar work is way more prevalent, if a bit sloppy when it comes to the metal portions.

Pendragon is no metal band. They get slightly heavy here, but they can never hide their roots when Nick busts out one of his old school soaring solos (that are sorely missing from most of this album). When you hear it, the Pendragon of old comes washing back over your mind. Ah. This album, though, is still a keeper. It features some amazing tracks like "Indigo", the multi- track song "Comatose", and my favorite "Eraserhead". This album has a funkier, darker groove to it, and features some strange violin interludes and plenty of subtle arrangements. So, it contains vital elements of Pendragon, but the guys are certainly trying new things here. I admire that.

The dark tone of the music is accompanied by a much dark theme. "Pure" involves a trip through the mind of a disturbed teen, perhaps the type that would go on a shooting spree at school. It's scary really, as we hear the apathy and the hopelessness of the teen's thinking.

All in all, this is an excellent album that represents a new direction for Pendragon. Gone are the light and airy instrumental fireworks, and in steps a grittier, dark feel for subtlety. It still hits on the right notes, but perhaps not as effectively as some of their older work.

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