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Pendragon - Not Of This World CD (album) cover





3.90 | 514 ratings

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3 stars Pendragon, along with IQ and Marillion, are yet another English neo-progressive act that owe a large debt of inspiration to Genesis (and, to a lesser degree, Pink Floyd). Unlike the very good discs which I have reviewed by those bands, however, Pendragon's NOT OF THIS WORLD doesn't consistently captivate me to any prolonged extent. In struggling to assign a numerical rating to this album, I have vacillated from a low of two stars, to a high of four, and thus "strike a balance" with a mark of three stars.

As the rating implies, this is a "good" CD. It is neither bad, nor great, but nonetheless warrants repeated listening. I find much of merit here: unlike some earlier reviewers, I have no problem with singer/guitarist Nick Barrett's vocals, and I think that he is a fine guitarist whose playing often favourably evokes that of Steve Hackett. Clive Nolan does an accomplished job on the keyboards, and the remainder of the group nicely fill out the overall "neo-prog" sound.

While the musicianship may be of a reliably high quality, the songwriting is rather uneven in comparison. NOT OF THIS WORLD is a concept piece, with each track flowing into the one that follows. The lyrical subject of the album is a lofty one: that of the nature of mortality, the quest for worldly enlightenment, and the hope for a higher order of existence after death. In general, the thoughtful lyrics do justice to the ambitious theme, and are delivered with passion and sensitivity, but the music is at times less than gripping, overtly bombastic, and upon occasion seems to ramble and re-hash itself. The album proper (not counting the two "bonus" songs, which are pleasant, acoustic re-workings of previous releases), at over seventy-seven minutes, would have carried more impact and immediacy if it had been condensed from its near double-album status to a shorter, more direct and focused version. Tracks such as the overblown "The Lost Children" and "And Finally" seem to be overlong merely in an attempt to be "progressive" -- almost as if the band had reasoned: "Hey, we're a serious progressive band, and serious progressive bands write long songs." Trim off the "fat" next time, Pendragon, and just give us the meat!

The "meat" here, is represented by strong efforts such as the impassioned "If I Were the Wind," the catchy "All Over Now," the title track (with a soaring instrumental opening section that is quite reminiscent of classic Genesis) and -- my favourite -- "A Man of Nomadic Traits," which is a very worthy piece of multi-textured progressive rock.

In conclusion, NOT OF THIS WORLD is a good, but somewhat overlong and uneven album -- a fine choice to practice your "track programming" skills on. It should not disappoint the band's long-term followers, and offers many passages and "vistas" of power, intelligence and beauty to those who are patient enough to accompany the band on their roundabout musical journey.

Peter | 3/5 |


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