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Legend - Playing With Fire CD (album) cover





4.05 | 9 ratings

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Symphonic Team
3 stars A "legendary" performance!

Legend's 1991 studio debut album Light In Extension apparently generated much interest over in Japan, much more so than in their British homeland. Due to this interest in the band a Japanese tour was planned, but for some reason it never materialized. Instead of bringing the band over to Japan, their Japanese label decided to film one of the band's UK shows and release that as a live concert video aimed at the Japanese market. I don't know how well the video did on that market and it is apparently a very rare item today(?). Now, almost 20 years later, we have the audio of this concert film as a live album appropriately called Playing With Fire after the name of the 1992 tour.

With only one studio album to their credits, the set list naturally relied heavily on material from that album. Six out the 11 songs performed here were taken from that album and according to the booklet these live versions of the songs are "as the band wanted them to be heard". Four of the songs here would later appear on the band's second album Second Sight that was in the making at the time. The songs from both albums are slightly different from their studio counterparts, but not considerably so. The remaining number is an instrumental "improvisation" called Toccata & Blues, credited to J.S. Bach. This is not that unlike something that Ritchie Blackmore would do live in Deep Purple and Rainbow with various keyboard players over the years.

The set list is varied and alternates between faster and slower tempos. The sublime vocals of Debbie Chapman are as clean and powerful as on the studio albums and the keyboards and guitars of Steve Paine and Paul Thomson respectively are equally impressive throughout. They certainly are a tight band and their music works very well in both studio and live form. It is hard for me to pick out favourite tracks as I love all of these songs, but the eight minute Prog Folk of Windsong is certainly one of the highlights. It does sound a bit more powerful here than on the studio album. The ballad I Close My Eyes, the only cover the band has recorded I think, stands out as being different from all the other tracks with its anti-war lyrics and bombastic chorus. But it works well as a counterpoint to the hard edged, "Pagan" Prog of the rest. The title track from the Light In Extension album closes the show on a very high note; it may not be overtly progressive, but boy do I love this song! Otherwise, it is not so much specific songs, but rather certain passages within almost all of the songs that stand out to the degree they divert from the studio versions.

It is impressive how Legend could put up such a great show with only one and a half albums worth of material to choose from. It was perhaps slightly premature to record a live album so early in the band's career, but this is still an excellent live document from a great and "hungry" band yet to reach their peak. While the sonic quality of this recording is not perfect, the energy and power of the performance is well captured. It might not sound as flawless as many latter-day live recordings, but the sound quality holds up very well among many classic live albums from the 70's, for example.

Since the band's studio debut is quite hard to find now, Playing With Fire will function as an excellent way to get hold of several songs from that album. I would, however, recommend to start with the band's studio albums (in reverse chronological order), but this live album is an excellent addition to any collection that already holds those albums. Indeed, all the albums by this criminally overlooked band are very highly recommended!

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |


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