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Legend - Spirit CD (album) cover





3.90 | 115 ratings

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kev rowland
Special Collaborator
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars I probably need to put some sort of disclaimer at the top of this review, as I have been involved with these guys one way or another for some twenty years now, and keyboard player/composer/band leader Steve Paine is one of my closest friends from the music scene. A few months ago he sent me a mix of this album and asked me for my views and opinions before he undertook the final mix as he was looking for a fresh set of ears. Listening to the album for pure production as opposed to trying to formulate ideas on the music was an interesting challenge, but I played my part as best as I could, and in the fullness of time the final product arrived and this time I could listen to it as it was intended.

When the band reformed for 'Cardinal Points' it was quite a different line-up from the one that recorded 1996's 'Triple Aspect' (well it was fifteen years between the two). Steve Paine was there of course, as was drummer John Macklin who had been involved since 'Second Sight', but original singer Kerry Parker (who left the band before they recorded their debut 'Light In Extension' in 1991) had returned instead of Debbie Chapman, and there was a new bassist in Dan Nelson and new guitarist in Dave Foster. Dave of course is guitarist with Mr So & So, a band that was originally signed to Steve's Pagan Media label. Well, that was 2011, and now here we are in 2013 with more changes, which actually makes the band more like the original. Anyone who has ever seen Legend in concert, or has seen the cover of 'Playing With Fire', will know that while Dave is one of the most incredible guitarists you will ever find (I have a memory of him holding a conversation with John Wetton's manager while playing an incredible solo at the same time) the one person who should be there is the original metal god himself, Paul Thomson. And he's back. His interplay with Steve and connection only comes about from many hours spent sharing the same stage, and many years sharing the same musical dream so it is great that he is onboard once again. Then, we also now have a new singer in Beck Sian (who apparently is Kate Bush's cousin). Apart from having extremely positive impact of reducing the average age of the band, she has also brought with her a new depth and vitality as she not only has a powerful voice, but an incredible range. Although she often reaches into soprano, she also has a firm control of alto so while at times she comes across as a mix of Debbie, Talis Kimberley and Anna Ryder she also belts it out in the lower registers. Macca is back again, while Steve provides bass as well as keys.

So what of the album? I have seen a few reviews of this album that have stated that in many ways this is a logical progression from 'Cardinal Points', but I'm not sure that I agree with them. In many ways this feels to me that it has much more in common with the earlier period, especially 'LIE', but taken to a whole new level. It is more complex, more layered, with Paul relishing the opportunity to yet again provide crunching riffs that take the music further. Although they are definitely more progressive than symphonic, these guys use Paul's heaviness to move them more into that arena while multi-tracked vocals also provides additional edge. Macca shows no sign at all of the RSI that he has been suffering, and is never content to sit on a 4/4 beat but instead really works the kit, providing a level of intensity that the rest of the band have to lift themselves to match. He can often be found matching the complex arrangements note for note, emphasising the melody. Steve is, well, Steve. His songs and arrangements are distinctive, they just couldn't be by anyone else. One of my favourite songs is "The Wild Hunt" from 'Second Sight', and there is quite a lot on this album that reminds me of that approach, and that can only be a great thing in my book.

So after saying all that about the music, it would not be the same without a great singer at the front and in Beck they have a real find. She can be clear and fine, she can be powerful, she can throw her voice around as if it is another instrument, be contrary to the melody or absolutely bang on. She is an incredible talent, and the combination of her vocal style, wonderful songs, and great musicianship, has made this a more than worthy addition to Legend's canon. In fact, it may well be their finest hour. But I will have to live with it for a few more years yet before I can confirm that.

This is an album of incredible depth and passion, and the five songs (the album is just over an hour long) pass by far too quickly. A real triumph.

kev rowland | 5/5 |


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