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Pendragon The Masquerade Overture album cover
4.07 | 774 ratings | 67 reviews | 45% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1996

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Masquerade Overture (3:03)
2. As Good As Gold (7:15)
3. Paintbox (8:39)
4. The Pursuit Of Excellence (2:37)
5. Guardian Of My Soul (12:41)
6. The Shadow (9:55)
7. Masters Of Illusion (12:51)

Total time 57:01

Bonus CD from 1996 SE:
1. As Good As Gold (Edited version) (3:27)
2. Masters Of Illusion (Edited version) (3:33)
3. Schizo (6:59)
4. The King Of The Castle (The Shadow part 2) (4:45)

Total time 18:44

Bonus track on 1999 CD:
8. The Last Man On Earth (Live In Kraków)

Bonus tracks on 2013 double-LP:
8. Bird Of Paradise (6:55)
9. Midnight Running (7:44)
10. A Million Miles Away (3:22)

Line-up / Musicians

- Nick Barrett / acoustic & electric guitars, Kurzweil K2000 orchestration & programming, lead & backing vocals, arrangements, Fx
- Clive Nolan / keyboards (Korg 01W FD & Wavestation SR, Moog, Kurzweil K2000, EMU Vintage Keys & Proteus 2, Roland Vintage Keys, Orchestral Roland D110, D50 & JD800, Yamaha SY77 & 35)
- Peter Gee / fretted & fretless basses, Taurus bass pedals
- Fudge Smith / drums

- Anthony Plowman / vocals (1)
- Simon Clew / vocals (1), backing vocals (2,7)
- Gwen Ross / vocals (1), operatic voice (2.4)
- Tracy Hitchings / backing vocals (6,7,2.3,2.4)
- Tina Riley / backing vocals (7,2.3)

Releases information

Artwork: Simon Williams

2xLP Madfish ‎- SMALP997X (2013, UK) With 3 bonus tracks

CD Toff Records - PEND 7 CD (1996, UK)
2xCD Toff Records ‎- PEND 7 CD (1996, UK) With bonus CD
CD Toff Records ‎- PEND7DP (1999, Europe) With a bonus track

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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PENDRAGON The Masquerade Overture ratings distribution

(774 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(45%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (14%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

PENDRAGON The Masquerade Overture reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Prognut
4 stars Modern Symphonic Progressive Rock as it's best. This is the ONE to get if you are new to Pendragon. Their best to date. From the beautiful pastoral "Paintbox", to the Symphonic "Shadow" into the neo-prog "Master of Illusion". The musicianship is just fantastic. Nick Barrett gives enough space to everybody in the band to shine, and that's what in my opinion makes this band great...They got out of the shadow of Marillion to become Pendragon and their music. You con not argue, however Genesis or Marillion influences, but heck I do not mind at all. Strictly speaking this is a "neo"-progressive band, music based on guitar and synth rich and melodious, rather not complex (no GG here) while lyrics are more in the realm of fantasy and soul-searching, but I can hear symphonic touches in their compositions; being said that I have to agreed and respect that Pendragon music and Nick voice are a Love or Hate affair, and sometimes is difficult to fully appreciate. No place to gray zones (at least this album) but, laughing!! About it is actually preposterous by itself. Especially if you consider that neo-progressive by definition is a bit more mainstream and accessible.

I still give it 4 stars, one of the best releases of 1996 and the 90'.

Review by Greger
4 stars "The Masquerade Overture" is Pendragons tenth release and in my opinion the best to date. This is a real progressive melodic rock adventure. From the powerful opening track "The Masquerade Overture" to the closing "Masters of Illusion". In between them you've got 5 other tracks that is equally good.

I still think they sound like early Marillion, but since Fish left Marillion I think that Pendragon is the better of those two bands, if you don't count Marillions "Brave" album.

The best tracks is the opening "The Masquerade Overture", "As Good As Gold", "Paintbox" and "The Shadow" (This track is a real progressive masterpiece). Pendragon seems to get better and better for every new album, but to beat this album must be a hard task.

Progressive rock bands must have the most beautiful and most interesting sleeves of all genres. And this is for sure not an exception. I love the illustrations to Pendragons albums: "The World", "The Window of Life" and "The Masquerade Overture".

If you never have heard Pendragon before, and would like to get a taste of them, this album should be your first pick.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars A gold record

Pendragon have never (yet!) received the recognition they undoubtedly deserve.

"The Masquerade Overture" is probably their best album to date, but the quality of virtually all of their product is very high indeed. There are certainly all the right ingredients here for a good neo-prog album with similarities to MARILLION, ARENA, IQ etc, and derivative influences of GENESIS and to a lesser extent YES. Long tracks, time changes galore, swirling keyboards, melodic guitars, choral overtures, etc., there all here by the bucket load.

For me, the best track is "The shadow" a definitive prog track if ever there was one. It opens with an "Entangled" like vocal section with acoustic guitar and keyboard orchestration. As the sound builds, through synthesiser breaks and guitar interludes, the pace quickens slightly, the track at times being suddenly but briefly set free in bursts of heads down rock. The impact of these bursts is quite magical, giving the track a unique identity. The track closes with a symphonic cascading vocal refrain, quite magnificent.

The opening section of the album is also highly notable. A brief operatic overture leads into "As good as gold" another piece of classic symphonic neo-prog, Clive Nolan creating layers of lush keyboard sounds on which the track is based.

The remaining tracks are all excellent slices of neo-prog at its finest, there really is not a weak offering to be found here. That said, unlike other similar albums, "The Masquerade overture" does not demand to be heard as a complete piece, the tracks being equally enjoyable when heard in isolation.

Clive Nolan spreads his talents among many projects but with all of them, while there's a diversity, there is also a consistency of quality. If you are unfamiliar with Pendragon's work this is an excellent place to start, you will not be disappointed.

The version I have includes a "bonus disc" which includes acoustic versions of a couple of tracks. This second disc is good to get, but not essential.

Review by loserboy
4 stars PENDRAGON's release of "The Masquerade Overture" represents one of the 90's strongest prog releases yet! This brilliant recording sets new heights for neo-prog acts in terms of complete recordings. "The Masquerade Overture" really does capture the essence of concept-like story line and takes the listener into a completely new world. I love the mix of opera, orchestra and the symphonic tendency of PENDRAGON which seems to work to perfection on this release. There are some nice and tasty guitar / bass parts scattered throughout all of the songs. At several key points I get a strong PINK FLOYD feel, but I may be the only one who gets this? Nick Barrett adds some great vocals throughout which give it that unmistakeable PENDRAGON feel.
Review by lor68
3 stars Well this kind of progressive is closer to such mainstream music than the whole 70's Romantic-Progressive stuff. Nevertheless you can find some songs with taste, pleasant melodies and also the guitar style in the vein of Andy Latimer by CAMEL in some circumstances. It adds a certain personal imprinting, even though if you compare the present album to their debut "The Jewel", it is not completely equal from the point of view of its composition. "The Jewel" was a true promise, regarding the birth of a new style (except on the first commercial track "Higher Circle" and the weak production as well!), some years later abandoned for a secured operation of emulation.

This "Masquerade Overture", apart from a certain lack of ingenuity in some passages, is worth checking out!! Listen for example to the stunning interplay between the keyboards and the guitar within the track "The Guardian of my Soul" or the sensible "As Good as Gold" which is characterized by another interplay between Clive Nolan and NIck Barrett, this latter being anyway more in evidence from the point of view of the harmonic solutions, even though the structure is simple. Instead the song "The Shadow" is the most accessible one, within this good album.

It's recommended to the fans of the "melodic New-Progressive genre" only!!

Review by chessman
5 stars Let there be no doubt - this is a tremendous album! On first hearing this, I wasn't so sure about it as it is not quite so easy to listen to as the previous two albums; but that is only my opinion! Nevertheless, once you have heard it two or three times, you realise the incredible compositional skills of Mr Barrett. A concept album ( the concept I will leave to you to discover as I don't like to spoil these things!) it is in the great tradition of The Lamb, (still maybe the greatest concept album of all time, from the greatest prog group of all time!) The opener is a truly operatic affair, and may deceive the first time listener, but it is pure quality. Then comes Mr Nolan's quite piano, followed by the bursting into life of As Good As Gold. Tremendous. This is an excellent track. Then comes one of the highlights for me, Paintbox. Beautifully constructed, with an excellent melody and absolutely superb layered guitar in the beautiful solo, leading into the end of the song, this is sheer class. (The acoustic work at the beginning is something else too!) I have always felt that, in some ways, this band are far closer to the spirit of Genesis than Marillion, even in the Fish-era days. And a lot of this is down to the acoustic guitar work, I think. Steve Hackett could easily be playing on some of these tracks. Next comes The Pursuit Of Excellence, which conjures up precisely what it is supposed to, a turn of the century family, sitting round a table in an old barn, drinking ale and staring out at a dusty road. (Well, that is what it brought to my mind!) Then comes Guardian Of My Soul. Another wondrous piece, though maybe more fragmentary than the others, probably because of its sheer size. Lots of changes in the time signatures here, with supreme guitar and keyboard work, especially the nice tinkly piano near the beginning. Now comes another highlight for me, The Shadow! As another reviewer has already said, this is prog at its best! Very Genesis in its feel, with brilliant acoustic guitar, a memorable melody, and a guitar solo to weep for in the middle. Awesome! Masters Of Illusion finishes off the album in grandiose style and brings to the fore the other major influence in Pendragon's music, one I have often detected - Pink Floyd. Something to do with the girly backing vocals I think, and the cutting Gilmourish solo. The song almost reminds me at the beginning of Run Like Hell, from The Wall. Then comes a quiet, and quite mysterious, ethereal middle, followed by a classic prog ending, with a fabulous guitar solo and heavy chords fading out. This is unmissable. Buy it! Hard to improve on this!
Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I never liked Neo Prog', because IMO most bands that ascribe to this sub-genre are too derivative from the 4 men Genesis (being A Trick of the Tail probably the first neo prog' album) but without the imagination and complexity of the original. Pendragon is an exception to this rule, a very symphonic band with obvious Genesis influence but they don't stop there, they have their own style, unique and far more complex than almost any neo progressive band.

"Masquerade Overture" is an out of time album, if released in the 70's would have been considered an essential masterpiece by every prog' fan, but being recorded in the 90's is absolutely underrated by most progheads who used to believe the genre died in the 80's.

Clive Nolan surely follows the school of Tony Banks, but has developed a strong and individual style, softer but absolutely unique. He's not just a copycat; he's a complete musician. Also a great artist Nick Barrett, who is stronger with guitar than with vocals, his voice lacks of depth, ideal for softer tunes but I doubt he could deal with more frantic music. Perfect for Pendragon but maybe not for other bands.

Fudge Smith is a very good drummer, fast and accurate, but a bit weak with his feet and Peter Gee is an average bass player but nothing else, the important thing is that like Genesis, they all are band players who leave their soul when playing with Pendragon.

All the songs are in a good level, but my special favorites are:

The opening track "The Masquerade Overture" which is a magnificent song, absolutely symphonic and great beauty that always brings some tears to my eyes, I could swear Clive Nolan uses a mellotron or novatron, but not sure, because I bought a Latin American release that doesn't mention it and still can't verify. I always wished this track was 3 or 4 minutes longer.

"As Good as Gold" starts with a soft and sentimental piano that blends slowly with vocals for about two minutes when explodes with energy and powerful drums, Genesis influence is evident in this very good track.

"Paintbox" is another soft track that reminds me very much of A Trick of a Tale, especially the keyboards at the end that are very similar to Entangled.

"The Pursuit of Excellence" is also a very good track but absolutely different to all the other songs from this album, sounds a bit Irish or Celtic with some Pink Floyd reminiscence.

Last to comment but not least, "The King of the Castle", ar song with a clear Genesis sound, is a bit sad and melancholic but extremely beautiful.

Every decent prog' collection must have at least a couple of Neo Progressive albums and "The Masquerade Overture" is one of the best releases of this sub genre, absolutely essential, four solid stars.

Review by Hibou
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars As we speak (2004), PENDRAGON have already graced us with many wonderful albums but never have they attained such heights of musicality, inspiration and versatility as on "The Masquerade Overture". There is not a single track on it you could dispense with: every one is pure candy for the ears.

This is the album that probably best illustrates the concept of 'neo-prog': easy-listening prog characterized by often bombastic, spacious arrangements, ultra-catchy melodies, uncomplicated but timely tempo changes, lots of bluesy crescendos with plenty of biting guitar and buckets of soaring keyboards, ending in resounding grand finales. For example, you can't get any poppier than the almost radio-friendly "As Good as Gold", the romantic "Paintbox", the ethereal "King of the Castle" or the anthemic "Masters of Illusion"; yet all of these feature spine-tingling musical phrases, multi-layred choruses, superb guitar play and a variety of themes you'll only find in prog. Speaking of variety of themes, I dare you to count how many you'll find on the amazing "The Shadow"- and notice how naturally they all flow into one another. This particular track is a jewel of neo-prog, a real tour de force and a veritable rock operatta in a nutshell. In addition, the album also contains "Guardian of my Soul" and 'Schizo, two superb tracks with floydian guitar play that still bear the purest PENDRAGON signature.

Alongwith ARENA's classic "The Visitor", "The Masquerade Overture" offers the ultimate musical rollercoaster ride for anyone into neo-prog. It is, in my opinion, the definitive PENDRAGON classic and fully deserves its 5 stars.

Review by Alucard
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I think there are few records who give the overall feeling of perfection: nice compositions, nice songs the way the songs fit together and a nice coverwork.The Masqerade Overtoure is one of them. This is for me with the first Flower Kings record a modern Prog Classic. A majority of ballads(which remind me Trick of the tail) and very nice 12 string guitar work. Clive Nolans Keyboard work fits very well with the excellent compositions of Barrett. My favourite tracks are Paintbox and the last two Bonus Tracks Schizo and King of the castle.
Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Somehow other people's acceptance or tastes are mysterious to me (but to most of us because I make no exception to the rule also) but how can somebody taking his "nom-de- plume" as Alucard (obviously a Gentle Giant fanatic ) can give five stars to such a simple and uncomplicated music. IT JUST BAFFLES ME , for those group are the absolute end of the spectrum of prog - GG almost looking to make inaccessible stuff and Pendragon going out of its way to spread their fishing net as far wide as possible as to make as making as many fans as possible while remaining in the prog galaxy.

About the music on this album , you will find here one of the best example of neo-prog at its best , in fact I would say that this epitomizes the genre. If I was to recommend five neo albums to youngster wanting to discover , this would be one of them as well as Arena's debut , Script etc.. However for this older proghead, this is still not the stuff I would put im my deck . I never owned a single one of their album but did borrow those albums from the library and friends and made a cassette compilation that I have yet to hear a second time.

So in a way here , I am confronted with a dilemma about the rating system: As you read above this is a real classic in the sub-genre (essential) but I am not willing to give it more than three star on basis of my tastes but also of the historical relevance of this album (in prog's history , Masquerade will only be a footnote at best ) . so 5+3+3 / 3 = ???? Give me a break I was never good in math.

Review by Fitzcarraldo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Is it possible for music to be too melodic, almost too catchy? Perhaps the music on this 1996 album falls into that category. Excellent songs showcasing good tunes and first-rate musicianship almost leave me feeling I've had a surfeit of music by the end of the album. Lest I leave you with the wrong impression, I should say that I like this album a lot and play it often. All the tracks are highly accessible; it's almost an album of singles, although 'As Good As Gold' and 'Paintbox' are the crème de la crème. You could whistle or hum along to this album from start to finish if you were so inclined. The music is slightly reminiscent of the music on GENESIS' "A Trick Of The Tail", although I prefer "The Masquerade Overture" to that album. I have to say that I find Nick Barrett to have a very slightly whining voice, but that's a very minor grumble.

The CD I own (Toff Records PEND7CD) has 7 studio tracks plus one bonus track recorded live ('The Last Man On Earth' from the band's 1993 album "The Window Of Life", which is also a very good song although Nick Barrett's singing is a bit strained on this live recording).

I find it a real pleasure to listen to this album. If you are a fan of neo-Prog and enjoy very tuneful music then it's likely that you'll like this album too. The band's Web site says that this album is the band's bestseller to date with "over 60,000 copies sold worldwide"; peanuts compared to album sales by mainstream artists, and the band deserves better than that for an album of this calibre. Easily a 4-star album (Excellent addition to any Prog Rock collection).

Review by Menswear
4 stars Shares a lot with Diet Pepsi.

Oh yeah, another project for Clive Nolan, 'the bizziest man of the 90's'. And just like Diet Pepsi, you can swallow a lot of that without worrying about calories or prog proteins. The Masquerade Overture is a good progressive hypocaloric record. The low amount of complexity is as equal as the sweetness itself. This fine piece of music won't stimulate the technician in you BUT will definitely arouse the imagination. Pendragon has the knack to plunge the listener into a fantasy land, where fiddlers, jesters and harlequins caper in rainbow meadows.

LOTS of sugary mind scenes just waiting to come to life is at your reach.

Once again, just like Pepsi's alternative, The Masquerade Overture = low calories but not much aggressiveness.

Pop lovers, musically and drinkable, will find this enjoyable, colorful and as light as the bubbles of your favorite sparkling soda.

Review by Tristan Mulders
3 stars Pendragon - The Masquerade Overture

I bought this disc after hearing the song Paintbox on a Dutch radio show a couple of times and I really liked it. So when I came across an edition (with a bonus live track) of the disc I bought it. At the beginning I thought well it has its moments of glory, but overall I find it a bit pretentious and not very original.

The album starts of really nice with the song The Masquerade Overture which is actually only a keyboards-based song with halfway through some Opera vocals. (The 'lead' synthesizers do remind me somewhat of KAYAK's Overture on their 2005 release Nostradamus.) I like this overture a lot. The operatic part is actually just a few singers but the way it is mixed makes it sound like there's a whole bunch of them. I don't actually know what they are singing about - since it ain't in the English language - but it does fit the mood of the song.

Then the album gets in a bit of a dip. As good as Gold was a song that I quite liked at the beginning but it's mainly the vocals that turn me off. The vocalist isn't one of the best I think. The song does gain a bit of credit from me because I think Clive Nolan's keyboard parts (and those are many!) are well played and well thought out!

As said above I bought this album after hearing Paintbox a couple of times. Now after hearing the song a lot of times I must say this is one of the album's outstanding tracks. Again, the vocals are the worst part. I don't know what it is that I don't like about Barrett's voice, maybe it's a bit too 'romantic' or mellow. This is one of the only tracks on the cd I like because of both the keyboards as well as the guitars. I saw that this song is available for download through progarchives. I suggest you listen to it as it's mostly instrumental so the annoying vocals aren't there. There's a superb synthesizer solo around the 4 min mark which kind of remembers me why I think Nolan is such a good player. This song is also much more atmospheric than the other songs on the album. If you can find this cd for a few bucks grab it, it's worth it only for this song!

Now The Pursuit of Excellence might be the most annoying (neo) prog song I've ever heard. The vocals are terrible and Nolan's cheesy accordion sounds don't make it any better.

The intro to Guardian of my Soul reminds me a bit of the 70's prog, until the guitar starts a smashing solo; I just have to admit that the guitar playing gets better throughout the album. The first minutes are also very dreamy and this is a quality I really adore in prog music. The vocals are better than on the previous songs, maybe because he sings in a lower key?! The chorus is really too cheesy though. It's too happy compared to the first part of the song. That's a complete disappointment to me. Immediately after the chorus the song gets good again, too bad the chorus is so weak and over-happy. The guitars on this track are a bit Floydish if I may say so. This is very positive to me. I like the guitar riff just before the 7 min mark a lot. Why doesn't Barrett play his guitar this good all over the album?

Although the drumming on this cd is relative simple 7.30 min in Guardian of my Soul the drummer gives a smashing solo. This certainly gives the listener an idea of what Smith can do behind his kit, than why doesn't he use his talent????! Maybe he's not allowed?

The sixth song starts very promising with nice piano playing accompanied by another 2 synthesizer parts which is a trademark for this cd, it's mostly keyboard based with the occasional guitar leads. This is the first song that really has nice vocals! The song has a couple of typical 70's influences, especially on some of the vocal parts. The synthesizers (effects) around the 3.26min mark are very cool I think. Also when the guitar is a bit more in the foreground instead of adding to the rhythmic it's, again, having this typical Floydish sound.

The final track on the album is called Master of Illusion. The song's title does sound very promising so I'm curious if the song is good. It starts of like we are in a David Copperfield show. so that lives up to my expectations regarding the track's title. The drumming at the beginning reminds me of "On the Run" from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album. Again there are multiple layers of keyboards and there's a really cool on at the foreground. This song has a lot of different spheres. Most of the time it really sounds like an Illusion; that's something I like a lot. But the vocals. they're annoying. This guy just hasn't got enough variety in his singing style for me to truly enjoy listening to him. Somewhere around the 7 min the song has a break down and continues with a very minimal approach to space rock. This is so totally different compared to the rest of the album, although Paintbox also has this type of approach. I like this. Too bad there's too few of those moments on the cd. The album ends with an amazing guitar solo which is about 2 minutes long.

Overal there are a couple of things I can say about the album as an overall view:

The rhythmic guitars are a bit like Mike Oldfield's as on the song Moonlight Shadow, this isn't a positive fact! I find it sounding like the guy just learned to play the instrument! Remember, this is about the appearance on the whole album and about the rhythmic guitar playing, when it's more of a lead guitar it sounds quite nice, not outstanding, but nice.

I think I have to give a special mention to the cover of the cd, since the front cover is amazing. One of the most beautiful cd covers I've ever seen! This doesn't interfere with me rating the album, since I rate it based on the music, not the artwork.

I'm giving this cd a 3 stars rating because I find it to have a good second half but it's not essential or excellent. Pendragon's Pursuit of Excellence finally didn't really succeed (for me at least).

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What an impressive outing from this English Neo-Prog group. It certainly feels more symphonic in structure and in the music, but it is tagged as Neo-Prog because of the group's past. Anyway, The quasi-concept The Masquerade Overture is one of the masterpieces of the neo-prog genre, and should not be missed out by anyone. From the structured guitar riffs from Nick Barrett, to the over-the-top Tony Banks-esque keyboard work from Clive Nolan, this album is dripping with progressive nods from Genesis and Pink Floyd. The lyrics are also very well done, many of the tracks discussing the battle between good and evil, only to end in a climatic and rewarding ending.

The album opens up with the operatic Masquerade Overture, in which a choir sings and gives the album a more epic feel. A very tasteful introduction into this album. The next track, As Good as Gold, has a very floydian intro, in that it is very atmospheric. When Nick Barrett's first solo comes through, the neo-prog bonanza begins. The song soon takes a very upbeat shape and a catchy chorus. The Genesis influence is apparent, with sprawling organ and synth work from Nolan. The next track, Paintbox, has a very Supper's Ready type intro, with 12 string guitar and flute added to the mix. Within the 1st minute, there has been a chorus and a guitar solo. Nolan's keyboard work (mellotron, I think) on this track shows the Genesis influence even more. As soon the song picks up in pace, the listener is taken on a ride through various textures, expansive guitar solos, and some standout bass work as well. The Pursuit of Excellence could quite possibly be the cheesiest song ever written. A very emotional vocal performancedoesn't really help the overdramatic/cliched synths. The next track, Guardian of My Soul, begins with some standout drum work from Fudge Smith, and right from the beginning, the guitar work from Barrett takes the forefront. With a memorable riff and some of the best lyrics on the album, this song is a treasure to listen to, all 13 minutes of it. To conclude the album are two songs, perhaps the best songs on the album, The Shadow and Masters of Illusion. The first one starting very quietly with grand piano from Nolan, and soon evolving into a very emotional piece with a great vocal performance from Barrett. The final track features a catchy chorus, and some great work by all of the members of the group.

Overall, this is a great neo-progressive work of genious. My only complaint is that Barrett's voice can get a tad on the annoying side, and The Pursuit of Excellence (makes me cringe every time I listen to it). Almost a 5/5. 4.5/5.

Review by chopper
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is the first album I've heard by Pendragon and I'm impressed. This is a collection of nice melodic songs, reminiscent of IQ in places. I would agree with some of the other reviewers that the vocals let it down a bit. I also find the drum sound (especially the toms) a bit "80s". Other than that, it's definitely worth a listen for fans of IQ and Marillion.
Review by The Crow
3 stars I have a little problem with Pendragon: I think the Nick's Barrett voice isn't very good, like the weak sound of his guitar. Some guitar solos are nice, but the rest sounds very low and without force. I know that he is a good compositor and the Pendragon's soul, but I think he isn't a good musician... In addition, the album can be a little repetitive and boring sometimes if you listen it without a pause, because all the songs are very similar...

But Peter Gee's bass is very nice in all the record, like the great bass solo in the song Paintbox, and some Clive Nolan's keyboards melodies too, a lot in a 80's way (The Shadow is a good example of it...). The Fudge Smith's playing it's aslo cool, with some fragments with double pedal... But this good facts are a little dimmed by the lethargic Barrett's way of singing and his weak guitar riffs.

Best songs for me: As Good As Gold (very commercial and enjoyable song...), Paintbox (the best of the album...) and Masters of Illusion (very nice guitar melodies at the ending of this song...).

Conclusion: recommended for lovers of Neo-Progressive in its most commercial face.

My rating: ***1/2

Review by Prog-jester
4 stars Very nice. I like more dark-sounding albums, but this is almost excellent anyway. Only track 4 is a bit weak (sorry, but it really is), while others are awesome. My favourite here is The Shadow,it is absolutely astonishing. I also adore Masters' conclusion and Paintbox (though it is too long I think). That was my third and the most succesful attempt to get into Pendragon's music. They're great, I must say. Seen them live this year, and they've blown me away - so sincere and so emotional! Highly recommended to all Proggers around!
Review by progaeopteryx
4 stars After listening to the awful The World, I had some lower expectations for what has been claimed to be Pendragon's best release, The Masquerade Overture. Fortunately, this time I'm in agreement with other listeners out there, so maybe I'm not so strange after all (except for merging into sofas).

The Masquerade Overture starts off with a wonderful operatic beginning. This is truly promising. It gets even better with As Good As Gold. Barrett's vocals are significantly better than The World (the only other release I have and so the only one I can compare this with). The production and mix have greatly improved and Clive Nolan delivers some great keyboard playing, living up to the expectations I have become accustomed to from his work with Arena. Paintbox features some great guitar solos from Barrett and again, more great keyboard solos from Nolan. A great song! The Pursuit of Excellence is sort of like an interlude. It's nothing special, just something to tie things together.

The fifth track is Guardian of My Soul. Other than the aforementioned interlude, this is the weakest track on the album. It's good, but seems rather disjointed. It lacks direction and is quite wordy (similar to songs by Citizen Cain, but lacking the musical direction). However, the album recovers with another great song in The Shadow, again featuring some great guitar playing and excellent keyboard solos. The finale is Masters of Illusion, strong in Genesis and early Marillion influences and ending with a fantastic guitar solo.

Having only heard The World and this album, I can't yet make the determination if this is the best Pendragon release, although from reading other reviews, it may very well be. It sincerely is much, much better than The World and one of the better neo progressive releases I've heard in recent years. It's not quite a masterpiece, but well deserving of four stars, thus an excellent addition to any prog collection. It is a must have for neo prog fans.

Review by Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I bought 1996's THE MASQUERADE OVERTURE with high expectations. I had found much to enjoy on the first Pendragon album I'd heard (NOT OF THIS WORLD - see my review), and overwhelmingly glowing reviews here had led me to believe that "MASQUERADE" was the key Pendragon disc to own, and supposedly and as good as, or better than its 2001 successor. Some months and many listens later, however, I am more disappointed in my purchase than not.

Don't get me wrong: this is not a bad effort, as such, but I find it to be quite "safe," with a pronounced "prog by numbers" quality. This instant familiarity likely won't be as much of an issue for listeners who are newly come to prog, but I have been avidly listening to this kind of music for some thirty-odd years. Having cut my prog teeth on such classic acts as early Genesis, Yes, Floyd and ELP, I can't help but feel a distinct sense of déjà vu when I spin THE MASQUERADE OVERTURE. Many critical prog ingredients (including soaring, Hackett-like guitars, generous dollops of synth, "deep" introspective lyrics, and some fetching cover art with pleasingly retro fold-out cardboard packaging) are indeed present, but -- what is perhaps most essential to good art -- originality is decidedly sparse.

Still, if you can forgive the band's cookie cutter character (an issue for me, to varying degrees, with neo prog in general) there's some passably good material here -- but also a plentitude of padding. The opening title track has the requisite "sweeping" synth strings, and an over-the-top (hey, where would prog be without a conviction in its standing as "serious" music?) choral section that gets matters off to a pretty promising start, and the following "As Good As Gold" and "Paintbox" are nice enough (if a bit sugary) stabs at prog pop.

"The Pursuit of Excellence," with its near-histrionic vocals, is overblown, and does precious little for me, while "Guardian of My Soul" is predictable and overlong. (It's as if the band were drawing heavily upon some "Idiot's Guide to Making Prog" for their "inspiration" and determined to visit every chapter: "Hmmm. I think we need a good old wash of majestic mellotron here, then another faux-Hackett lead break, followed by some bombastic drums and another time change. Now cue the triumphant choir and synth solo...") Been there - done that!

As others have indicated, "The Shadow" is perhaps the high point here: this is what "progressive rock" used to sound like, and what much "neo" prog ("regressive progressive?") sounds like today. Good, but a tad overlong, and for me, not quite as grand as it seems to think it is: "Cue the Tony Banks Lamb-era synth break. now bring up the choir again. There! That should make the old progholes misty for the halcyon days of yore!"

At long last, the album proper (there is one bonus track, the live but bland "The Last Man On Earth" on this recent re-issue) ends with "Masters of Illusion." (I wonder if the song's title is self-referential; but it's probably not - such winking self knowledge would only puncture the band's obvious sense of their own importance.) All of the "how to make progressive rock" tricks are pulled out yet again for this near thirteen minute "epic," but once more I find the material to be uninspiring, eminently predictable, and too long. Clearly, Pendragon are aiming for a majestic and moving end to the album here, but again they fall short of the mark, and even resort to a forced-sounding fadeout to end the piece.

I know this review won't win me any friends among Pendragon's many devoted fans, and I can say that those fans will no doubt thoroughly enjoy this disc. Still, this album has been done before, and better, many times in the 70s. The sound was new and exciting then, but this is mere pre-chewed, regurgitated, spoon-fed imitation.

Not one I play often - though I'd really hoped it would be. Better than "poor," but not quite "good" -- let's call it "fair." Two-point-four-nine stars, ruthlessly rounded down to two: followers, younger prog fans, and those on an unabashed prog nostalgia-trip only!

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars PENDRAGON had some commercial success with this record, which is no surprise, as it is very melodic with catchy choruses. I must admit I skip the first song a lot, a bombastic, orchestral song with Italian vocals.

"As Good As Gold" is quiet in the beginning, but things get cooking about 3 minutes in. There is a keyboard melody throughout and some tasteful guitar. The chorus though is what makes this song so good as gold. "Paintbox" is a slower paced, mellow tune with good guitar and synths. "The Pursuit Of Excellence" is an emotional song that is all about the lyrics. "Guardian Of My Soul" is definetely a highlight, with a guitar solo right off the top, followed by keyboards. The song gets quite gentle and the chorus is so good ! I love the guitar and keys 8 minutes in.

"The Shadow" features those wondrous vocals with a great guitar melody. "Masters Of Illusion" is my favourite song on this record, it features lots of keyboard passages and a guitar solo that goes on for about 3 minutes that rivals some of the best guitar solos i've ever heard. David Gilmour does come to mind during this beautiful song and album ending event ! This may be the highlight of Nick Barrett career.

The whole band deserves mention, Clive Nolan on keyboards, Peter Gee on bass and Fudge Smith on drums all contribute to this excellent record.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
5 stars Best Pendragon release until now. Best release of 1996 and one of neo progressive biggest classics. Beautiful, bombastic, melodious, a winner from the first note to the very last chord. The group has been developing a very unique sound since 1991's The World, and Masquerade Overture is their crowning achievement. It's still my favourite Pendragon CD and after all this time it still makes me shake with emotion when I hear it. All tracks are winners, even if some people don´t really get the greatness of this work of art. Even the operatic introduction, sung in latin and without the band, fits very well into the concept. This and the short Pursuit Of Excellent (which serves as a link between Paintbox and Guardian Of My Soul) are the only tracks that did not become instant classics of the Pendragon cannon.

NIck Barrett surpasses himself both as songwriter and guitarist here. And should I not forget the unbelievable guitar, bass and synthesizer interplay on Paintbox. Everything works and I specially like Clive Nolan´s majestic keyboards that gave The Masquerade Overture the symphonic landscape that made it famous.

Well produced, well played (the group as a whole is in top form), brilliant music. The cover art is also iconic beautiful. Everything works here. A classic in the pure sense of the word.

If you're into neo prog this is a must have. If you like music in general, give it some spins.

Rating: 5 stars, no less. A masterpiece of progressive music.

Review by Eclipse
2 stars This album is inconsistent, unoriginal and empty. It was my first try on PENDRAGON and i never want to listen to them again. It is not even emotional, the "beautiful" songs here manage to become cheesy and don't show many remarkable melodies. It is sad that a band feels like making music this directionless and be praised so much.

I give credit to songs like "Paintbox" and some parts of "Guardian of my Soul". But i see no reason of adding that title overture track - is Neo Prog ripping off power metal album's structures here too?

Review by Matti
4 stars (Edited in 2019) This is a school example of the Neo-Prog genre. Mighty and heroic to the point of being slightly pretentious and somehow pubertal. It all tastes like Marvel's superhero comics. I think most of this music is gorgeous and very enjoyable if you are in the right mood. Nick Barrett writes great prog compositions and plays guitar quite well, but his vocals sound ridiculously boyish. I could imagine for example John Wetton's strong voice fit this album's music much better. If you think of a more progressive cousin of Asia (1982-), you get some image of Pendragon.

Some brief notes on chosen tracks: 'Masquerade Overture' is an overblown opener with a keyboard orchestration and mini-choir vocals in Italian. 'Good as Gold' is very catchty and glorious. 'Paintbox' may be my favourite with its deeply emotional instrumental part. 'The Pursuit of Excellence' is again awfully overdramatic little interlude, and as it leans heavily on Barrett's theatrical singing I usually skip it. 'Guardian of my Soul' and 'Masters of Illusion' are the longest and proggiest tracks; they have some fantastic moments on their rollercoaster ride.

My copy includes a live version of 'Last Man on Earth' instead of the here mentioned bonus tracks. That track is actually my favourite, because I love the way it cites the Moody Blues song 'New Horizons'.

Now it's 2019: I was surprised to see how harsh my review 12 years ago was. But Pendragon was a recent acquaintance for me back then, and at first I was irritated by Barrett's boyish vocals which apparently made me see the music a bit juvenile too. Over the years Pendragon has become a bigger Neo Prog favourite of mine, and Masquerade Overture has almost become a minor classic as the first album I heard from them. I realized I had to raise my rating from three stars to four after I had rated The World the same. As I said in that review, the songwriting is sharper and more inspired here, resulting as a more dynamic album (though it sometimes is a bit overblown).

Review by ZowieZiggy
5 stars I started my reviewing process almost five months ago now, and I am ready for my fifth-hundredth review. And it will be dedicated to "The Masquararade Overture".

Simply because I love Pendragon, and that this album is one of the best of the sub- genre in which it is categorized here : neo-prog. I always have considered though that Pendragon holds more symphonic sides in their than neo-prog ones (except for the poor "Kowtow").

When you listen to the "Overture" you will definitely brought into an abnormal mood for a neo-prog band (although Arena will also produce similar parts). It sounds almost like an opera. Grandiose and pompous. Not the best track indeed on this get great album, but different, unusual.

The first "true" song is their extended version of the single "As Good As Gold". It is far more interesting : a great and very pleasant intro will lead to this very catchy song. A jewel of a poppy track. A perfect description of its title.

Most (if not all) of the songs featured on this album will be extremely melodic and symphonic. We won't need to wait for long to get the following example; as soon as with "Paintbox" the same beautiful atmosphere is fully present. Admirable guitar solo of course. The finale of this track is very spacey and yes, it sounds as Floyd.

Keyboards will play a bigger role on this album (which might increase this full symphonic sound). Clive being really superb on the keys on this work (as he almost is BTW). As far as Nick's voice is concerned, I guess it is like a hate or love case. It happens that I just love it. His guitar play is of course extremely passionate. It reminds Latimer who is also a passionate man, as I am.

The only weaker number is "The Pursuit Of Excellence" a sort of folkish little tune. Since it clocks at less than three minutes, no real harm is done.

The brilliant intro for "Guardian Of My Soul" is another symphonic jewel. After a low tone vocal part, Nick returns back to his most emotional one. This song is maybe a bit harder than most of Pendragon song for a moment, but we'll revert to the symph side with great and effective keys. Although this song is rather long, I never feel it is boring. It is not my preferred track of the album : it is only one song out of five excellent ones.

The mood of "The Shadow" starts a bit sadly. Nick's voice is of course perfect to convey this feeling. Still, he is such a positive person (at least when I saw Pendragon live in 2006) and the sadness will disapear to leave the room to a more optimistic tone with loads of keyboards and, of course, the wonderful guitar as usual. Some might say, another mellow guitar break but when a band is capable of aligning so many great instrumental parts, it becomes almost a second nature. And I have the greatest respect for this.

The closing number is another long and sublime track. I don't know if Pendragon is a "Masters Of Illusion". But for sure they know how to write nice pieces of music. This one is a very fresh symph pop song. The same structure of course (this is easy music, isn't it) ? But so effective and wonderfully played (with heart and soul, not by a tortured intellect).

Apart the original CD featuring these seven songs, there is one release with a live version of "The Last Man On Earth" from the previous "The Window Of Life" (it is the version available on "Live ...At Last! released in 1997). Apart from some audience participation, it is almost equal to the studio track (which was brilliant, FYI).

A third packaging features a bonus EP with four numbers. Shorter versions for "As Good As Gold" (the single format which skips the brilliant intro) and a very short edit of "Masters Of Illusion". The track "Schizo" is very much Floyd oriented (Gilmour era). It must be a tribute I guess since the backing vocals are really typical floyd one from that era. Another great song. Even bonus tracks are gorgeous ?

So, what else do you want ? A nice artwork ? You'll get it as well !

Finally, we'll get a final part for "The King of the Castle" which will definitely puts an end to this very nice epic. This part is 200% symphonic. Quiet all the way through with an incredible duet between Clive and Nick on the acoustic guitar. Really nice and another great bonus track.

Highlights are too numerous to be named.

"The Masquarade Overture" closes a fantastic trilogy of albums started with "The World".

I can only can be thankful to Pendragon to have brought me these musical sensations. Yes, they might play simple music, so what ! As I have said in my review for "Time Honoured Ghosts" (BJH), during the old times of prog (1975) BJH was one of my favourite bands (together with Genesis, Yes, Floyd, Van Der Graaf and ELP in my order of preference). I referred that such an old freak like me needs to get some breaks from time to time and listen to less complex music. So unlike Hughes, I am not at all baffled that a person like "Alucard" can rate this album with five stars. So, will I.

Review by Atkingani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars After a late discovery of PENDRAGON by means of their 1991 release, "The World", which grabbed me totally, I went back and forth looking for other band's works - a fine and respectful output, indeed. Amid so many albums, I found one that constitutes in my opinion, their magnum opus: "The Masquerade Overture". This gentle and well-produced album settled definitely what we could call the PENDRAGON's signature, something that was evolving since the band's early days and exploded gracefully here.

The album starts with the title-song bringing some dreamy and beautiful symphonic tunes in its intro; then a bombastic and operatic section appears dominating the track and taking us to a majestic and unforgettable voyage to unknown lands. A sudden silence and 'As good as gold' starts with its romantic and enjoyable initial segment leaving room for another great song - one of the best in PENDRAGON'S catalog. Voice, drumming, guitars and keyboards: all work magnificently. The flow of fortunes continues with 'Paintbox', a balladesque and catchy song that keeps high the album's climate. Here the fine arrangements transform a simple plain track into a remarkable one.

The short 'The pursuit of excellence' is a good refreshing moment to mark album's middle point. 'Guardian of my soul', a lengthy track, blends hard-rock with neo-prog waves, with some peaceful and semi-acoustic parts; the song is fair but a bit weary, if it was shorter could work better. Powerful guitar action saves the song.

'The shadow' is the hidden jewel in the band's crown; what an awesome track! The crescendo melody is really pretty and the final section returning to the poignant initial vocals favors greatly the song appreciation. 'Master of illusion', the album's longest track, is also the most neo-prog moment here, which sounds a little weird since the album is mainly set in eclectic & symphonic prog-rock vein. Anyway, a neat and hearable song.

For the CD bonus tracks I'd recommend 'Schizo' that bears a certain Floydian atmosphere except for the vocals and 'The king of the castle', dubbed as the second part of the amazing 'The shadow' hence a fine adieu to this output.

I don't know if after other hearings of PENDRAGON's works can my opinion change but "The Masquerade Overture" is band's finest hour up to now; let's wait, cause they're able to produce more albums with the same quality and excellence; PENDRAGON have still many years ahead to reach the summit of another masterpiece, just like that. Final rating: 5 well-deserved stars.

Review by Flucktrot
4 stars This album was my second stab at neo-prog. Unfortunately, Marillion's Script had left a bad taste in my mouth (though admittedly sweetened in the proceeding months), and after viewing the cover art, I knew there was a huge potential for musical and lyrical lameness. On the positive side, that's not what I found! Here are the highlights:

The Masquerade Overture. This song starts out as if it was a long-lost cut from Handel's Messiah, and opera-style vocals come in shortly. Certainly this piece sets a nice atmosphere, though I"m not sure how related that atmosphere is to the rest of the album. Nice mysterious segue into the following song.

As Good as Gold. When the guitar first comes in over the blaring keyboard, I finally began to understand that these guys had some talent and knew how to write a catchy melody. Very pleasant and interesting song, especially from the guitar and keyboard (a recurring theme with Pendragon's work).

Paintbox. Initially my favorite song from the album, I still quite enjoy it. Nice guitar runs and keyboard flourishes throughout, and another set of fine melodies.

The Pursuit of Excellence. Nick Barrett returns to the form of previous albums: singing WAY out of his range and doing things his voice is just not meant to do, in the studio or anywhere. Very unfortunate, because his accent and pronunciation allow him to be a pleasant vocalist when he restrains himself. Thank goodness this song is short, or it would affect my overall rating.

Guardian of My Soul. Probably my current favorite of the album. The Gilmour comparisons with Barrett's guitar are very apparent here, but I love the style, and I don't find it to be completely derivative. The uptempo section about eight minutes in is especially nice: Fudge cuts loose on the drums a bit, Notan has a killer keyboard riff, and the melodies are especially well intertwined, when then lead to a well-executed, majestic slow-down to end the song.

The Shadow. This one is a slow-builder, but definitely worth the wait. Possibly a bit formulaic after the previous song, but still I don't hold it against the band. I know a line has to be drawn with this group, but I'm unwilling to do that here.

Masters of Illusion. I really want to like this whole song, and I think it's well-done throughout. However, I think the band had used their best material in earlier songs, and the first eight minutes of this song are basically setting up the fantastic guitar solo. I'm one who believes the best guitar solos are not just about technical playing, but about the arrangement, melody, and build- up. From the perspective, this is an awesome solo, especially to end the album. Some may be correct in calling it a Gilmour/Floyd rip-off, but I think that unnecessarily cheapens it.

After purchasing many more neo-prog albums, I still probably rate this as my favorite (not considering historical importance or similar factors). I love big guitars, great keyboard arrangements, and catchy melodies that build and evolve in extended songs, and by those criteria, the Masquerade Overture delivers in abundance! If you're in the same boat, this album is highly recommended.

Review by progrules
4 stars Time for the magnum opus to many people that review Pendragon albums: Masquerade Overture. And in fact this album really gets me in big big trouble. Why ? Because I already reviewed Not of this World at an earlier stage and I (fully deserved ) gave it 5 stars as the ultimate masterpiece. Why is that a problem ? Because this is also more or less a masterpiece but it's absolutely less than Not of this World and I want to express that in the score. And I already gave Window of life 4,25 and this MO is absolutely better than WoL. So there's my problem. What can I do ? Giving ratings is very important to me, I consider each rating very seriously. So that's why I'm in a bit of trouble here. Whatever I do, it's not quite right !

We'll do the review first and see what comes out of it in the end. I will give a rating for each track here:

1. The Masquerade Overture. I can imagine not everybody will like this, but I think this is very interesting and highly original. 4 stars.

2. Good as gold. A very smooth sounding track, executed in an absolutely perfect way. Great performance. 4,25 stars.

3. Paintbox. I'm very ambivalent about this one. This extremely popular song amongst their fans is not really my personal favourite, I'm almost a bit bored by it. But objectively: it's a real class act. 4,5 stars.

4. Pursuit by excellence. A very short one but still very nice. Vocals significant in this one. 3,5 stars.

5. Guardians of my soul. For a long time my favourite track of the album, in the end surpassed by the final track. Still 5 stars.

6. The Shadow. Another superclass composition. Goodness me, what an album. 4,75 stars.

7. And the best was yet to come. Masters of Illusion. Mainly caused by a superb guitar solo at the end of the song by mr. Barrett. Sheer brilliance. 5 stars of course.

So what can you say, what can you do ? I'm afraid what counts in the end is the proposition by progarchives to give just the 5 stars to the ultimate best. In that case it will be 4. But I'm already regretting it !

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One would not forget Pendragon because it released the "Jewel" album in 1985 when neo progressive music was emerging with the existence of Marillion, IQ, and Pallas - the bands that wanted to continue prog rock flag in the middle of punk and new wave attacks. Even though Jewel was a good album, my focus at that was more toward Marillion because I fit with the music of Marillion. "Masquarade Overture" came out in 1996 and I consider it as the best album out of all albums by Pendragon so far.

The album kicks off wonderfully with "The Masquarade Overture" which has intense elements of classical opening through an excellent combination of keyboards and female vocal line. Listening to this track I suddenly have a high expectation for the music of the entire album because the opening track is so promising. My expectation was fulfilled satisfactorily when the second track "As Good As Gold" enters. It has an excellent opening with long sustain keyboard sound accompanying Nick Barrett voice in low register notes. The music flows with a bit pop style but the keyboard work by Clive Nolan makes it sounds like Marillion's "Garden Party". Of course I also like the stunning guitar work by Barrett.

"Paintbox" starts with guitar fills in the vein of Hackett followed with flute-like sound (from keyboard) that brings the music into atmospheric nuance. The tagline melody of this song is excellent especially when it's coupled with guitar solo. The combined bass guitar and keyboard solo happens in the middle of the track. "The Pursuit Of Excellence" is a song that serves a nice bridge to the next energetic song "Guardian Of My Soul". Oh yes, this is really a great track as it starts with something attractive, percussion, followed with a blast of music. The music then changes to a break with nice combination of piano and guitar in relatively long period until Barret voice enters. The singing part and the music that accompanies form a very catchy music, overall. It's a joy listening to this track. "The Shadow" is a mellow track with catchy melody and nice lyrics. I like the acoustic guitar work. "Masters Of Illusion" is the best track from this album and also the longest because it consumes 12 minutes duration. Clive Nolan keyboard work is really superb, enriched with Nick Barrett's stunning guitar work.

Overall, this is the best album from Pendragon I have known so far. The strengths of this album include its tight composition, great songwriting and variety of styles in the corridor of neo progressive music. Highly recommended. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW (i-Rock! Music Community)

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars In pursuit of excellence

After two similar albums in The World and Window Of Life came this one which is by many considered to the the peak of the band's career. And it certainly was their best at least at the time of its release and thus a step up from the previous two. This album was released in 1996. But listening to this album now and looking at the cover art could easily make you believe that it was recorded some time in the 80's. Some obvious influences on this music are 70's Genesis and 80's Marillion with some traces of Pink Floyd. But while other bands with similar influences - perhaps most notably Clive Nolan's other band, Arena - adds a much harder edge and darker tone to the Neo-Prog sound, Pendragon almost does the opposite and strips their sound of any heavy or hard edged aspirations, making the Genesis-influenced sound much more lightweight, sweet, lush and polished. Not very powerful but highly enjoyable nonetheless.

The guitars are strongly Steve Hackett-influenced here while Nick Barrett previously sounded more like David Gilmour. But the music of Pendragon clearly lacks Hackett's occasional proclivity for free-Jazz experimentation. While the lead guitar has a wonderful sound, the few attempts at "power chords" come off as ridiculously thin. 6:50 into Guardian Of My Soul is, for example, a passage that I just have to laugh at! The keyboards have a modern, lush and symphonic sound and apart from the solos, they remain mainly in the background. I would not say that this is particularly challenging music, but there are several really lovely melodies. This is really a case of taking an established formula and trying to "pursue excellence" within its narrow frames. And they actually succeed very well!

Some people undoubtedly find this music too derivative, staying too close to the sounds of the 80's and 70's, while others would say that it is a timeless masterpiece. I fall somewhere in between, I guess. This surely provides a nice listening experience, with memorable melodies and high production values, but it is hardly a very challenging experience. This is a rather light-weight progressive Rock but most of the songs have absolutely gorgeous melodies that cannot be ignored.

Painbox is a fantastic song and the best of the lot. The short The Pursuit Of Excellence is basically a Folk song, which is quite nice but very light-hearted. This music is never aggressive and the sound lacks a much needed edge. The songs at the end of the album are perhaps slightly darker. When played live these songs have a bit more substance compared to how they sound on this studio recording.

Very good and surely recommended, but not really masterpiece it is often claimed to be.

Review by TheGazzardian
3 stars This is an excellent album, but according to progarchives, I cannot rate it higher than a three. The definition of four star is 'excellent addition to any prog rock music collection', and while this is an excellent album, it is not much of an addition (perhaps more of an addendum).

What you will be getting with Masquerade Overture is something that you've probably heard before. What we have here is excellent, well played theatrical music, with excellent playing by all members of the bands and great singing. But one cannot listen to this album and be unaware of their influences. Some of the songs clearly make me think of '80s Marillion ... and I've only heard Misplaced Childhood so far. At the end of the third track, I expected to hear Fish singing "And the man in the mirror has sad eyes", it was so reminiscent. Another part that sounds like a kickback is the end of the last song, Masters of Illusion. The female backing vocals sound extremely similar to those used by Pink Floyd.

Alright, so I have explained why I don't consider this album an 'addition' as much as an 'addendum'. So what makes it excellent? The song quality here is very high. Ranging from outright operatic (The Masquerade Overture) to epic (Masters of Illusion), the album never really has a dull moment. My personal favorites would be Paintbox, Guardian of my Soul, and Masters of Illusion, each which manages to effectively convey the intended emotions in a catchy manner.

If you are looking for a four star album to spend your hard earned cash on, this could still be the album for you if you love album art. This album is a stunning joy to look at, and from what I've seen, most of Pendragon's albums are. The cover could be almost considered Progressive Album Art, for each time I look at it, I notice some detail or tidbit that I missed in previous examinations (which is one of my favorite features of prog rock).

As a final note, I got the edition with The Last Man On Earth (Live) as a bonus track, and now I know I need to pick up the Window of Life as well. I imagine it would be rated similarly.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Perfect candidate to compare it to "Not of This World", because where "Not..." is mostly darker in atmosphere and over-synthesized (which is in fact positive thing, because you can do good music which draws energy from both sides, pos., or negative) and I can imagine how many were disappointed by this. I like it that way, I gave "...World" full rating, but here, I just don't know. Also this is fine, because this album is not instant catcher (by my opinion, it took few listens to get into it).

So instead of dark, I feel more of playful melodies (except melancholic Paintbox of course) and different kind of synths, maybe even altered guitar solos. It's different, that's for sure. There's even Irish sound-like The Pursuit of Excellence and very, very optimistic and uplifting epic Guardian of My Soul, which can really improve your mood. But something is not right here. Of course, there's a trademark Pendragon sound and atmosphere, but it works with less intensity, than "...of This...", simply - I don't like this one so much. I like the fact that there's again some kind of story, not so interesting for me than "Not...", but it's here for those who can understand it. Also, third in a row of magical covers.

4(-) for decent Pendragon album, which means that it's almost masterpiece in terms of prog. But not

Review by EatThatPhonebook
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!! I was quite surprised for this album, I really thought it wouldn't be so great: in fact, at my first listen, I wasn't so thrilled. Turns up it's a fantastic album, with all the elements that I love about Neo Prog.

The style is typical of the genre, very theatrical, with a lot of keyboards, and dreamy atmospheres. The structure of the album though is amazing, like no other Neo Prog album(maybe there are a few exceptions). I honestly haven't got a really big experience for the genre, but I have to say that this, in my opinion, is one of the most defining albums. The melodies are epic, beautiful, majestic, with a touch of emotive feeling, especially in songs like "Paintbox".

The album starts off with the title track, a very interesting intro that imitates the italian opera. "As Good As Gold" is a great, great song, where Nick Barrett's unique vocals dominate the scene. The melody is beautiful, the musicianship is great as well. One of my favorite songs of the album. "Paintbox" is another amazing song, especially the middle part, all instrumental till the end. Maybe my favorite song of Pendragon. "Pursuit Of Excellent" is a beautiful singed interlude, where Nick really gives his best performances, in my opinion. "Guardian Of My Soul" is a twelve minute song, great in some moments, less in others, but still worth your time. "The Shadow" is another beautiful track, especially in the piano part, but even the middle part is amazing. "Masters Of Illusion" is another long song, as long as "Guardian Of My Soul". It has the same song structure, even though in some parts it's generally better and in a way more mysterious.

A great, fantastic album, I recommend it to any Neo Prog fan, but even to whoever wants to explore for the first time this wonderful genre.

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Lush and melodic

It won't take you long to decide if you like "The Masquerade Overture." Pendragon, the band led by Nick Barrett features one of the most non-offensive sounds I've ever heard, unless of course non-offensive offends you. The seven pieces that make up this listener-friendly album are carried on the backs of Barrett and keyboardist Clive Nolan. Nolan paints a very lush background of keyboard atmospheres, lots of floating, smooth, peaceful sounding backgrounds. Atop of these keys and a typical neo-prog rhythm section, tasteful but rather tame, we have Barrett's superb guitar work. I won't use Gilmour as the predictable reference but Barrett has that dreamy and soaring lead guitar sound, with plenty of sustain, emotion, his notes often held for quite some time. The overall effect is not unlike Sebastian Hardie or some of the more melodic, less fusiony Camel moments. The album has a fantastic symphonic opening segment with delightful operatic vocals, starting the album off on a very high note. Barrett's playing is really my favorite component though, and I love the playing on the standout track "The Shadow." Some listeners take issue with Barrett's singing voice but I can't imagine why. Like everything else about Pendragon it is very pleasant and soothing. Overall the mood of Pendragon is very uplifting and celebratory, a nice change of pace for me since I listen to a lot of "dark" themed music.

In fair disclosure I am not a huge fan of neo-prog personally, so my rating may be tempered somewhat by that. But certainly this is a lovely and consistent album of mostly relaxing and melodic prog rock. It does rock out in a few places but for the most part this is a mellow to medium-gear rock. The 2005 issue comes with an illustrated lyric booklet and live bonus track.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I remember getting The Masquerade Overture after my supply of Marillion albums began to run dry and I felt the crave to explore other Neo-Prog acts. I don't have the exact recollection of how I stumbled on Pendragon but my guess is that it had to do with the band's release of Believe that received a great deal of attention on Prog Archives at the time. Since Pendragon's albums were pretty hard to come by I settled for the only release I could track down not realizing that this also happened to be the band's most popular record at the time!

I'm pretty sure that I already owned some of my Arena albums but still failed to recognize the familiar name of Clive Nolan among the credits. This might have made me reconsider my initial valuation of this music since I honestly didn't think much of it at the time. After about 3-5 weeks in my portable record play this album was swiftly replaced by Dark Matter from IQ making me almost forget that I heard The Masquerade Overture all together. I did in fact return to this album on a few occasions like the time when I had huge Arena rediscovery with the purchase of Contagion and the time when I took a spontaneous leap of faith by purchasing Pure. Those revisits did make me reconsider some of my original thoughts and now I actually started to enjoy The Masquerade Overture to a certain level even if I still consider it to be a rather flawed Neo-Prog release.

My initial reaction to the album-titled intro piece was a positive such since it reminded me of my old Power Metal albums. This operatic composition was of course an interesting choice of introduction to the record even if it made much less sense after hearing the rest of the material. As Good As Gold and Guardian Of My Soul are pretty decent songs although not really among my personal favorites. It's as if the band always keeps a safe distance between itself and the listener without fully engaging me with their music. All the right Neo-Prog elements are in place but they don't add up to that excellent experience that this album receives its recognition for. Paintbox gets closest to a great composition but even here I lack more of a personality from Pendragon's performance. Playing it safe is one thing but doing so while keeping a safety distance makes thing just even more difficult.

The album's criticized short interlude titled The Pursuit Of Excellence has always sounded a lot like Dire Straits' song Brothers In Arms and I'm sure you'll understand what I'm talking about if you try to hum the tunes. The albums concludes with two longer compositions which seem to be the highlights of the album and, based on the later live releases, Pendragon likes to perform them in a live setting. These two pieces do very little for me, featuring many different song fragments that never seem to stick together as self-sufficient compositions. Masters Of Illusion is definitely the biggest sinner in terms of stalking a bunch of ideas together without paying much attention to the big picture. The Shadow is slightly more consistent and I'm finally beginning to see some of its charm, although there are sections that still sound too cliché even for Neo-Prog.

This album has never been a favorite of mine and even if I can't exactly dismiss it for being a poor effort from Pendragon, but there are quite a few moments that make me question its praise. The Masquerade Overture is a good, but non-essential record that will most probably remain as such for me.

**** star songs: The Masquerade Overture (3:04) As Good As Gold (7:15) Paintbox (8:39) The Pursuit Of Excellence (2:37) Guardian Of My Soul (12:41) The Shadow (9:56)

*** star songs: Masters Of Illusion (12:51)

Review by lazland
5 stars As fans of the band await the new release, Passion, with baited breath, it should not be forgotten that they have a lush and rich back catalogue of albums, and I have been revisiting many of them in anticipation of the new work. This one stands tall as perhaps their finest, and certainly most uplifting, release. It is a good thing when I say with utter certainty that Pendragon have a lot to live up too, and that I fully expect them to do so.

As with the best of their neo-prog peers, Pendragon have a knack of reinventing their sound, and remaining relevant. The opener is a lush symphonic treat, which leads us into a quite magnificent, catchy, and, dare I say it, commercial slice of neo heaven in As Good As Gold. Nolan's keyboards lead the way with a fantastic ensemble piece backing Barrett at his poetical best. A joy to listen to from start to finish, I defy anyone to not be cheered by this track. I will be most disappointed if it is not played live on the forthcoming tour.

Pendragon have always been a very atmospheric band, and this is perhaps best fulfilled on Paintbox, which offers a slightly more melancholic feel than much of what precedes and follows it. it is, however, quite gorgeous, with the sampled flute particularly effective in backing Barrett, who I believe is perhaps the most underrated vocalist in progressive rock music. His voice here is so full of feeling and clarity that you find yourself living his music, perhaps the finest accolade that one can give to a rock vocalist. His guitars aren't half bad either, and the solo that bursts out midway through is achingly beautiful.

It would, however, be wrong to pick out certain tracks and especially the two main protagonists of the band, when offering praise. Peter Gee & Fudge Smith offer a very tight rhythm section, and the various artists providing backing vocals offer a distinctive feel to what is, essentially, a crackingly good symphonic prog album. As with the best symphonic albums, the work flows from start to finish without a dull moment in between, with moments of pure passion catching the ear and lifting the listener to some marvellous heights.

The band also anticipated much of the Celtic tinged prog music of bands such as Mostly Autumn in the short, but lovely, The Pursuit Of Excellence. What follows is some 34 minutes of symphonic excellence. Guardian Of My Soul is slightly misleading in its introspective opening passage, because what follows as the main track builds up is a tub thumping track, with passages perhaps reminiscent of mid period Genesis and latter day Camel in their pomp. The Shadow is simply a gorgeous upliting piece of atmospheric excellence, and I doubt that Barrett has ever sounded better on this both vocally and in terms of his guitar breaks, with passages that remind me of Hackett at his best on Wind & Wuthering.

The album closes with Masters Of Illusion, the longest track on the work at just short of thirteen minutes, and Nolan simply shines in, once again, leading the band in much the same way as Banks did with Genesis, creating a massive sound that a brilliant ensemble feel confident in following and adding to. Barrett's end solo is incredible.

Pendragon are a very important band in one of my two favourite sub genres of prog, and I actually think that they have matched, at times, the creativity and intensity of my favourite band, not just from that era, but of all time, Marillion. As with my favourites, they have avoided the trap of merely sticking to the same formula, constantly moving forward. For sure, there are distinctive elements of classic bands here, especially the four piece Genesis, but not to the exclusive detriment of what stands out as a great band playing their own music very well.

I am pretty sparing with five star reviews these days. But, I think that this is Pendragon's finest hour in a, thus far, illustrious career, and none of the others that came before or after have been less than four stars, so the ultimate accolade for this fine piece of work. Five stars - an essential album which fans of symphonic prog rock, especially, simply must own.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The much-maligned Pendragon has had its monuments in my collection for quite a spell but never really warranted any further comment from me. Together with Marillion, this important band kept the barely flickering progressive flame alive when the punk/new wave typhoons were busy blowing off 'pretentious' (read= music students as opposed to guys just wanting to get laid) artists from the scene. They are a talented lot as Clive Nolan needs certainly no introduction while Nick Barrett is an accomplished fretman (not always a very good singer though IMHO). Bassist Peter Gee (great solo album, the religious Visions of Angels) and Fudge Smith complete the deal quite nicely. The Masquerade Overture remains their best release, even though some nitpickers will claim this music to be too poppy (hence the ugly neo-prog shackle-name tag) but truth be said, extended tunes such as the flamboyant 'As Good As Gold', the lustrous 'Paintbox', the stately The Shadow', the glossy 'Masters of Illusion' and the epic 'Guardian of My Soul' have a deserving place into the prog hall of fame as well as seeping through fans' headphones. The hallmarks are definitely the overall quality of the material (no filler here) , the memorable melodies and the exciting lead guitar solos , the mellotron touches (On 'the Shadow' par exemple) and the solid rhythmic foundation that are rock steady as opposed to mathematically complex. The songs have been nicely broken down by previous reviewers, suffice to say, this is a most worthy purchase. Strange that my fave track is the bonus Schizo , a PF dedication of the highest order, WOW!

What makes Pendragon unique here (and less so on the previous The Wind of Life and the following and disappointing Not of This World) is a perfect calibration of Genesis and Pink Floyd tendencies as well as some generally stellar instrumental explorations that never seems to want to hurry to any preconceived comfort zone. It is definitely one of the must-have albums in any prog collection, as it can be used as a perfect intro lecture for the uninitiated rock/pop fans looking for a little more depth to their muse. A more accomplished vocalist would have made this an easy perfect score.

Definitely 4.5 ballroom blitzes

Review by J-Man
5 stars I'm sure anyone reading this review has a few albums they'd consider 'essential masterpieces'. Albums that have defined an extended period in their life, have been listened to literally hundreds of times, or are absolutely impossible to review from a solely objective point of view. Pendragon's 1996 masterpiece, The Masquerade Overture, holds all three of these traits to me. Here's an album that has hardly left my rotation for almost two years, it's dominated my headphones in long car rides, and it just puts a smile on my face whenever I'm having a lousy day. Is it possible for me to review such an album from an objective point of view? No, probably not. But I'll try my best to leave out fanboy rhetoric and senseless babbling about how great this album is - which, trust me, it is.

Pendragon (at least at this point in their career) plays a style of symphonic neo-progressive rock. Expect layers of symphonic keyboards, melodic guitar solos, and British-accented vocals to characterize The Masquerade Overture. Pendragon has obvious influences from bands like Marillion, IQ, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Yes, but their upbeat attitude gives them their own unique sound. Pendragon never fell into a 'clone band' category, and this album arguably shows the band at their creative peak. Every one of the songs here is a 5-star masterpiece in my book. The album opens with the operatic title track before segueing into 'As Good As Gold' - a symphonic prog tune filled with abundant keyboards and an unforgettable chorus. 'Paintbox' is a bit more of a melancholic tune with an excellent instrumental build towards the end featuring some top-notch guitar work from Nick Barrett. 'The Pursuit of Excellence' is a short, but extremely powerful, piece featuring lush keyboard work from Clive Nolan and commanding vocals from Nick Barrett. 'Guardian of My Soul' is a more upbeat neo-prog track that focuses on its excellent choruses and tremendous interludes. 'The Shadow' and 'Masters of Illusion' close the album off with long epics that serve as true emotional rollercoaster rides.

Pendragon is one of the most talented bands in progressive rock, and that's certainly visible on The Masquerade Overture. I've heard some people complain about Nick Barrett's vocal delivery, but I happen to find his pipes to be charming and often times extremely powerful. Of course, not to mention his fantastic guitar playing that could give some of the prog rock legends a run for their money. Clive Nolan is the 'modern day Rick Wakeman', so to speak - he uses tons of keyboard tones throughout this album and always adds the perfect lush atmosphere to each song. His synth solos (particularly the one in 'Guardian of My Soul') are also mightily impressive. Peter Gee (bass) and Fudge Smith (drums) serve as an excellent rhythm section and often play some complex stuff as well. This band is simply a joy to listen to on all fronts - seldom do I come across such a professional and great-sounding act.

The production has a synthetic feel that will likely be a bit unnerving to audio purists. I don't mind it at all; I think it fits the mood of the album perfectly, and the synthetic, overblown atmosphere still sounds crystal-clear and powerful. I tend to generally prefer more authentic 70's productions, but I can still appreciate the excellent sound on The Masquerade Overture.

Pendragon is one of my favorite bands in the neo-prog revival, and The Masquerade Overture is probably their magnum opus. This is the epitome of the genre - a classic that can rival the likes of Script For a Jester's Tear and The Wake for sure. This is a near-flawless effort that's essential in any self-respecting prog fan's collection. The Masquerade Overture is a 'desert island' disc for me; giving any less than the essential 5 star title would be criminal. If you're going to take a venture into Pendragon's discography, this should undoubtedly be your first step.

Review by Warthur
5 stars Having hit on their "classic" sound with The World, Pendragon spent the next few albums exploring the different dimensions of that particular album's approach. Whereas The Window of Life had a clear emphasis on the proggier, Pink Floyd-inspired aspects of that approach, The Masquerade Overture to my ears at first seems to lean on the poppier side of Pendragon's sound at the time, though with the passage of time I have come to better appreciate some of the subtleties they work into the mix.

See, it's not that the album is overtly commercial, it's more that it's highly melodic, and in its own way it's got just an ample share of progressive touches of its own; it's just that it also has some really delightful hooks and an (initially) sunny attitude which makes it look smoother than it actually is - a little sugar coating to establish an air of optimism before we get into darker realms as on The Shadow.

No, we certainly aren't dealing with anything as simplistic here as, say, the Red Shoes EP, but the vocal harmonies and comparatively simple musical backing to the vocal passages of the choruses to As Good as Gold or Guardian of My Soul took a while to grow on me. With more time I've gained a better appreciation of the hidden curves and passages sprinkled throughout the album, as well as its overall emotional structure - like more and more details being noticed as you study the delightfully busy cover art.

After reading some interviews with Nick Barrett, I think I've put my finger on why The Masquerade Overture seemed to elude me a little previously - and why, despite the plaudits they won for a while with the revision of their sound over the course of the next three albums or so, this is where I am inclined to get off the Pendragon train. Barrett has gone down on the record as this being the album he wrote when it was beginning to dawn on him that all was not well in his marriage - the doubts beginning to creep in informed the writing of The Shadow, and the trauma of the marriage actually collapsing followed, leaving this as the last Pendragon studio effort until Not Of This World some five years later.

Had this not impacted Nick's music, it would be utterly irrelevant to raise this - and had it not impacted his music, he'd have a heart of stone. As it stands, if you follow the lyrics of subsequent Pendragon releases (and note the personal and political nods he's worked in here and there), there's occasional moments of bitterness which come up here and there, whether this is about the collapse of personal relationships or getting angry about Shariah law or tut-tutting about how kids these days don't read enough books.

Perhaps that was a necessary maturation, but it still means that Pendragon albums after here lack the uncomplicated innocence that the albums prior to this had - and it was that appealingly sunny, innocent outlook which prized about their work. Though later albums have their happier moments - it's not like they've gone goth all of a sudden - it requires picking through a more cluttered emotional landscape, and with music which works as strongly on emotion as Pendragon does, that can be an issue.

What makes The Masquerade Overture really interesting in this respect is that it's the album where that innocence is being tested, but it hasn't been outright broken yet - and to my mind, that might make it the most compellingly interesting emotional landscape that the band have ever explored.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars For over half of "The Masquerade Overture", PENDRAGON seems to be righting the ship pummeled into the rocks by "The Window of Life". First and foremost, they seem suddenly aware that songwriting is an indispensable component of less complex prog, and several shining examples here include the memorably melodic "As Good as Gold" and the emphatic "Paintbox". The interjection of a short and reverent choral number "The Pursuit of Excellence", also affords variety and a break from the intensity. "Guardian of My Soul". is mostly impressive as well, looking back to MIKE OLDFIELD in its hypnotic keyboards and forward to SATELLITE, while incorporating unlikely world music influences, particularly of the Latin variety.

Unfortunately on the two lengthy closing numbers, the band reverts to old rambling habits and lazy compilations, with only a few respites, most notably in the "King of the Castle" segment as "The Shadow" winds down. This emotionally lilting vocal theme establishes the potential of PENDRAGON to humble most fellow neo prog acts, a potential hitherto rarely realized. For instance "Master of Illusion" is just as notable for its lack of inspiration and focus, from the stomping rhythms to the bland chorus and beyond.

I must say I am generally quite satisfied with this mid 1990s album and can understand its significance among aficionados of this style, even if it lapses into entrenched behaviors on occasion. For the most part "Masquerade" plays to PENDRAGON's strengths and doesn't attempt to dress itself up as something it is not.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Pendragon's fate was really on track in 1994.A deal with the Japanese Pony Canyon label in 1994 resulted in the reissue of the entire back catalog and the next year they appeared for the first time at the US Progfest.Another live album and a great example of Pendragon's energy came out in 1995: ''Utrecht...The Final Frontier''.All these positive affairs were mirrored on the band's upcoming release.The classic Barrett/Smith/Gee/Nolan line-up recorded ''The Masquerade Overture'' in 1996 and the album was issued in two different version by Toff Records, the second one containing some nice bonus material.

Here Pendragon offer some of their longest and most elaborate compositions, developing from deeply emotional moments to dramatic instrumental passages with both Nolan and Barrett being in a fantastic shape.The ability of the band to create pure progressive soundscapes with a very rich sound and blend them with softer and warm atmospheres, highlighted by piano and Barrett's vocals, remain the absolute trademark of the band.Pendragon continue to mix the fantastic keyboard/synth instrumentals of IQ and MARILLION with the soaring guitar solos of PINK FLOYD and the result is pure delight.Symphonic grandieur with organs and synths on the forefront, catchy and thrilling choruses, dreamy music pieces and a very steady rhythm section along with a crystal-clear production guarantee a fantastic listening.Not to mention that the composing skills of Pendragon might have reached their peak with this album, a great balance between atmosphere, melody and demanding instrumental music.

The bonus tracks feature different versions of known tracks or unreleased material, again this has no less better quality than the original album, containing all of Pendragon's trademark ingredients.

The album has seen several reissues through the years with different or even no bonus material, but be sure to get one of these issues, as the 7 original tracks are sure to leave you more than satisfied.Highly recommended, especially if you are a fan of PINK FLOYD and Neo/Symphonic Progressive Rock.Definitely a classic of its time...4.5 stars.

Review by Second Life Syndrome
5 stars "The Masquerade Overture" is my fourth foray into the world of Pendragon. Thus far, I've heard "The Window of Life" (5 stars), "Not of This World" (5 stars), and "Believe" (a strong 4 stars). So, I've been extremely impressed, to say the least. Pendragon is certainly a band that hasn't gotten as much recognition as I'm beginning to believe they deserve.

Anyways, back to the album. "The Masquerade Overture" is another strong album from this band. The sound is similar to that of their other 90s albums, so the overall style is sweeping, soaring melodies with great choruses, deep themes, and glorious artwork. This album in particular is often considered their best work, and I can see why that is.

However, I don't find myself enjoying this album as much as their other work. There are certainly some 5 star songs on here, such as "As Good as Gold" and the incredible duo of "Paintbox" and "The Shadow". Yet, some of the other tracks stoop a little lower, as I find it hard to discover much inspiration in them. They're just there: filler. "Guardian of My Soul" and "Masters of Illusion" just don't do it for me. So, the album ends on a lower note. That always has an effect on my view of the album as a whole.

I also find the concept to be a little more ambiguous and less memorable. This would be forgivable for other bands, but Pendragon has bulldozed my brain with profound concepts that I actually think about for some time, even when not listening to the album. Not said, the theme is pretty good notwithstanding, as it seems to be a celebration of those people that push and push for change and excellence in living, but also a warning about those that are only out for their own good. The sheer ambition and grace that the former possess is what this album emphasizes, but then it always reminds you of that king in his castle and his sacred cow--- those that rule others out of pure greed.

Overall, though, this is another strong showing for Pendragon. This band is becoming one of my favorites, and albums such as "The Masquerade Overture" are a fine showing of why that is.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Such better songs, such better constructs (especially with layer and sound palette), such better sound and production, even better vocals, and Nick is really coming into his own as a rising guitar master.

1. "The Masquerade Overture" (3:03) impressive with "church organ" and operatic choir! (9.5/10) 2. "As Good As Gold" (7:15) (13/15) 3. "Paintbox" (8:39) (18.5/20) 4. "The Pursuit Of Excellence" (2:37) a stolen Irish melody. (4/5) 5. "Guardian Of My Soul" (12:41) (20.5/25) 6. "The Shadow" (9:55) (16.75/20) 7. "Masters Of Illusion" (12:51) (22/25)

B/four stars; an excellent contribution to Prog World and Pendragon's ascendant moment: when they finally assert their presence among the top tier of the Neo Prog movement.

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars Since its inception by Nick Barrett and Peter Gee in 1977, PENDRAGON weathered the storm of the turbulent 80s as the neo-prog scene was gaining steam but it wasn't until the arrival of keyboardist Clive Nolan in in 1987 however the band would have to experience the utmost humiliation with the load of crap called "Kowtow" before it realized that trying to copy pop bands from the 80s was going nowhere. Luckily the band didn't need to repeat this mistake and totally turned their fortunes around beginning with 1991's "The World" which found PENDRAGON hitting its stride with a stellar mix of Pink Floydian space rock, symphonic prog a la 70s Genesis and a touch of Marillion inspired neo-prog that found a tight-knit delivery of emotive guitars, pounding bass and synthesizer-drenched atmospheres.

Having established its sound PENDRAGON wasn't content to rest on its laurels but rather took things even further and that's where the following album "The Window Of Life" came in with even stronger melodic flows in the compositional department and stronger displays of instrumental interplay and outstanding vocals. But PENDRAGON was still hungry for more and followed it up with an even more outstanding album! THE MASQUERADE ORCHESTRA appeared three years later in 1996 and displayed a band that had reached full artistic maturity with Nick Barrett's songwriting also reaching new highs and the chemistry between Clive Nolan (keys), Peter Gee (bass) and Fudge Smith (drums) attaining sheer perfection.

The artistic nature of THE MASQUERADE ORCHESTRA takes things to the next level with lush choirs offering beautifully rendered classical influences including the outlandish opening title track which crafts a mini-opera in Italian and sets a tone for a larger than life concept album that tackles the subject matter of the eternal battle between good and evil with album cover art to match. The album was originally released with six tracks that clocked in at 57 minutes but the neo-prog bands were learning that having a tiered system for hardcore fans was commercially viable therefore this album was also re-released with bonus tracks on mult-CD editions. While i personally don't care about such extras, this album still stands as one of PENDRAGON's crowning achievements that took the promise of Genesis' 1976 album "Wind & Wuthering" and brought it all into the modern era with crisp clean production values and a vibrant new slant.

After the operatic intro, the album begins the classic PENDRAGON neo-prog touches with "As Good As Gold" that finds rich dreamy atmospheric oozing from Nolan's keyboards as Floydian guitar lines weep as bantering bass bombast and crafty drum rolls conspire to craft irresistible melodic hooks that take for a ride that doesn't let up until the album ends as the tracks all conjointly pass on the rhythmic charm that delivers ample doses of prog bliss. While all the tracks are equally impressive, the lengthier final three are the creme of the crop which take the PENDRAGON sound into the larger league of compositional sophistication. "Guardian Of My Soul" for example starts out with a rather strange energetic tribal drumming sequence before generating an infinite supply of keyboards arpeggios, guitar-gone-sailing mojo and off-kilter bass / drum interactions and effortlessly jumps from sing-songy happy pastoral sections to heavy bombastic rock til you drop gusto.

"The Shadow" only reinforces the juxtaposition of dreamy lullaby melodies and angelic choir symphonic backdrops only punctuated by the tight rhythm drive of bass, drums and the wailing guitars. The inclusion of backing vocals offers Barrett's passionate vocal style the perfect harmonic cohesion. The closing "Masters Of Illusion" offers a dramatic finale with busy keyboard sections, excellent guitar dynamics and Barrett in competition with the choir. The beefy bass bleats come right out of the 80s Marillion playbook but are forgivable as the musical flow generates enough diverse artistic stylistic changes to give the album utterly engaging to the very last note. PENDRAGON perfected the tightrope act of sustaining interest as the track drags on for almost 13 minutes but keeps you hooked all the way.

It can be extremely difficult to explain how some of these neo-prog albums work so well in words considering the formula is pretty straight forward and by the books so to speak. While THE MASQUERADE OVERTURE doesn't deviate from the likes of IQ, Arena or even its own previous albums in approach, it simply takes all the possibilities of every aspect of the music and lights them on fire. Every melody is painstakingly nurtured through the slight variations of the instruments playing in tandem and the emotive lyrical score is highlighted with instrumental tugs to match. Nolan's assortment of vintage and modern keyboard technologies is unprecedented as he makes full use of the full spectrum range of sounds available and tames them to suit the overarching themes. THE MASQUERADE OVERTURE found PENDRAGON hitting one of its highest notes ever which succeeded on multiple levels but basically is just an extremely engaging listening experience. For me this album marks the highlight of the band's 90s run.

Review by VianaProghead
5 stars Review Nº 615

"The Masquerade Overture" is the fifth studio album of Pendragon that was released in 1996. It's in general considered Pendragon's best studio album till then, in terms of production, artwork, booklet and especially due to its lyrics and its superb musicianship. Pendragon, at least at this point in their career, played a style of symphonic neo-prog rock. Great layers of symphonic keyboards, nice melodic guitar solos, and the British accented vocals are the main features that characterize "The Masquerade Overture". Despite the influences, their upbeat attitude gives to them a unique sound.

The line up on the album is the same of their three previous studio albums "Kowtow" of 1988, "The World" of 1991 and "The Window Of Life" of 1993, their second, third and fourth studio albums, respectively. So, the line up is Nick Barrett (vocals and guitars), Clive Nolan (keyboards), Peter Gee (bass) and Fudge Smith (drums). The album had also the participation on backing vocals of Tracy Hitchings, Tina Riley, Anthony Plowman, Gwen Ross and Simon Clew.

"The Masquerade Overture" has seven tracks. All tracks were written by Nick Barrett. The first track is the title track song "The Masquerade Overture". It's a classical open to the album, with great keyboard work and the beautiful voice of a female church singer Gwen Ross. It's a fantastic way to open the album that reminds me very much Mozart. A classical overture is often used by progressive rock bands, especially on their live albums, of which Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe, Yes and Marillion used Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinsky and Antonio Rossini, respectively. The second track "As Good As Gold" is a great atmospheric song with nice melodies and good singing. Despite the very Floydian introduction, Genesis' influences are evident. This is a beautiful song perfectly structured that can keep the total attention of the listeners, from the beginning to the end. It's a song with a nice choral work that shows clearly the influences of the classical music on the group. The third track "Paintbox" is another excellent song with a nice musical atmosphere, great melodies and a superb guitar playing by Nick Barrett. It became truly a classic song on the repertoire of the band. It can be the best song on the album. This is a great symphonic song with good guitar and keyboard works. It has one of the most beautiful and sweetest melodies I've ever heard and the chorus is memorable. This is an amazing song that can keep all its freshness, even in these days. The fourth track "The Pursuit Of Excellence" is the shortest song on the album. It's a keyboard based song, nice and pleasant to hear, but that unfortunately it has very little to do with the great music of the rest of the album. Despite be a good song, it represents the lowest point on the album, really. The fifth track "Guardian Of My Soul" is another excellent piece with great guitar playing and a superb drum work by Fudge Smith, with almost thirteen minutes of full enjoyment. This is the epic song on the album that seems to be a great rock symphonic song. All the typical marks of Pendragon's music are really there. Thus, we have powerful music, tempo changes, great melodies, excellent keyboard and guitar works and some nice backing vocals. The sixth track "The Shadow" is a very relaxing song, almost a ballad with some very nice and sensitive lyrics. After almost five minutes, the song turns into a great progressive song with excellent musicianship. It's a song very calm and beautiful, with nice vocals and very beautiful keyboard and guitar works. The classic influence of Genesis' music is perfectly noticed on it. The seventh track "Masters Of Illusion" is the lengthiest track on the album and represents the second epic on it. This is, undoubtedly, one of the highlights on the album with more than twelve minutes of some very exciting music, from the very quiet beginning till the last moment. It combines perfectly well the old progressive style with the more melodic songs of their latest studio albums. With this track Pendragon closes the album in a great style, indeed.

My version of "The Masquerade Overture" has also an eighth track. This is a special bonus track, which is a live version of the song "The Last Man On Earth". The only thing I can say about the track is that we are in presence of an excellent live version of the song that can only help even further to improve the all musical quality level of the all album, really.

Conclusion: "The Masquerade Overture" is undoubtedly one of Pendragon's best works till now. It follows the same steps of their previous two studio albums "The World" and "The Window Of Life", but in a better way. This is a very consistent and cohesive album with some excellent sounding music and production by Karl Groom and Nick Barrett. The only Achilles' heel on the album is "The Pursuit Of Excellence", which is a little beat weaker than the rest of the songs on it. However it isn't enough to affect the overall the high quality of the all album. "The Masquerade Overture" is probably their magnum opus. This is the epitome of the genre, a classic that can rival the likes of "Script For A Jester's Tear" and "The Wake" for sure, only to mention a few. With "The Masquerade Overture", Pendragon reached the rare status to be one of the best neo-prog bands in nowadays. They joined their name to Marillion, IQ, Pallas and Galahad.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Latest members reviews

3 stars This album is not like its predecessor "The Window Of Life". It is hailed as their best by many and I like parts of it of it but I still favor "The Window Of Life" much more. The mid-90's was a great time for the new prog movement as more and more bands were emerging and much of the output was f ... (read more)

Report this review (#2904560) | Posted by Sidscrat | Tuesday, April 4, 2023 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I'm not going to do a song-by-song review of this one. There are already plenty of glowing reviews here, and justifiably so, so I'm not going to attempt to do much more than add in a rather thin, reedy voice to a lush, full-throated chorus and say that is Pendragon's masterpiece and an album most ... (read more)

Report this review (#1450944) | Posted by Mr. Gone | Sunday, August 9, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars As this is my very first review for Prog Archives I wanted to pick one of my all time favourite progressive rock albums for my first review. I've awarded The Masquerade Overture five stars, which is not something I'm planning on doing often with my future reviews. In my opinion this album deser ... (read more)

Report this review (#1432253) | Posted by AndyJ | Tuesday, June 30, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I've been meaning to review Pendragon's latest, Men Who Climb Mountains, but as usual went back a bit to refresh... Why I want to pinch in my 2 cents is that the Masquerade Overture is my favorite. Every song is a winner here, though they do have a tendency to sound long-winded, patchy and ove ... (read more)

Report this review (#1324199) | Posted by Progrussia | Sunday, December 14, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Hi, this is my first review in Progarchives and I want to start with this amazing work, "The Masquerade Overture". This was the first album I heard of this band, because of that I have special appreciation but I try to be as objective as possible. I have always considered this group with a very fres ... (read more)

Report this review (#1298149) | Posted by Radagast | Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Pendragon are one of those bands who should have been bigger than they were. Always displaying excellent musicianship and songwriting. Many people seem to have an issue with the west country matnill voice of Syd Barrett, but i find him refreshing as he is not trying to ape Gabriel or other voc ... (read more)

Report this review (#1034304) | Posted by Alard Charlton | Friday, September 13, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Pendragon has been one of my favorite groups for some time now. As much as I would like to give full credit to the album that got me interested in them in the first place, I feel I must point out its unmistakable shortcomings, without ignoring its obvious strong points that make it the incred ... (read more)

Report this review (#363412) | Posted by Lord Krodius | Saturday, December 25, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars An album you can share with friends even they have never heard of prog before. An album you can listen in the car or that the office without anybody saying "What a hell is that?" . There are no bad songs on this album, from start to finish the musicians keep our attention. To some prog officiados a ... (read more)

Report this review (#297673) | Posted by Theriver | Monday, September 6, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Re visiting the earlier (mid?) catalogue of Pendragon I'd forgotten what stunning music they had been producing. 'The World', 'The Window Of Life' and 'The Masquerade Overture', are three superb albums by anyone's standard, soaring guitar work, tempered by ethereal keys and excellent melodies; t ... (read more)

Report this review (#228494) | Posted by huge | Sunday, July 26, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars As good as gold ? This album is widely regarded as Pendragon's best ever album. I am not an expert on this band so I do not know. But I will now express my opinion on this album and this album alone. The opening title track promises a symphonic prog album, but the rest does not quite delive ... (read more)

Report this review (#201018) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Thursday, January 29, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Here we have a great album by Pendragon. Reminiscent of some of Marillion's early albums (especially Script), this is an album that grabbed me by the throat even on the first listen. A concept album, but not so heavily that the tracks do not stand up well on their own - far from it, you could pick ... (read more)

Report this review (#194522) | Posted by Staker | Saturday, December 20, 2008 | Review Permanlink

2 stars As a symphonic prog fan I've never really been fond of Neo-prog (I say that every time don't I?). However this album still is pretty good, at least for a few spins. The problem with this disc that there are no really memorable passages or parts or songs for that matter. It's all "ok" stuff that ... (read more)

Report this review (#109113) | Posted by Autoband | Saturday, January 27, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars As a rule, I feel that five stars are deserved by those classic albums that reside in the top twenty percent of the all time best progressive albums referenced on the list to the right, and almost all of the true classics were recorded during the peak of progressive music in the seventies. Tha ... (read more)

Report this review (#92831) | Posted by Foxtrot | Sunday, October 1, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Neo-Prog has been sort of an unapproachable genre for me with Marillion being the large exception to this rule. I thought Neo-Prog was simply pop masquerading as something much larger by extending song lengths and adding keyboards. However, out of pure dumb luck I bought this album, and many o ... (read more)

Report this review (#92703) | Posted by Equality 7-2521 | Saturday, September 30, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I had very high expectations for this piece of work. I listened the all the songs you can listen here many times. After careful thinking, I bought this album, and I was not disappointed. Very intresting, calm music with soft and enjoyable vocals. I bought this album some time ago, perhaps four ... (read more)

Report this review (#83976) | Posted by The Squirrel | Monday, July 17, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "I open my eyes and look up to the skies and I dream ..." Now that I got into the Neo Progressive sub-genre, after Arena's "Contagion", I got this CD, mainly because of the reviews and because it's listed on the "Top 10" Neo Prog albums. Also, I've heard on a prog sampler the first Pendragon ... (read more)

Report this review (#82320) | Posted by Barla | Friday, June 30, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Have you ever asked yourself if you had heared a poor album by Pendragon? Have you found one? No? Me neither! Opera-like intro is something unusual for this band. A little bit bombastic, but still nice. Then we get what we like the best - great SONGS. Pendragon plays SONGS, not COMPOSITIONS ... (read more)

Report this review (#74877) | Posted by | Thursday, April 13, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars For the past two years, I have been catching up on a lot of prog music that I never got around to listening to. All of this, thanks to the Internet, and especially this web-site. Otherwise, I would not have been aware of so many great groups and recordings that were out there. Last summer, I fi ... (read more)

Report this review (#71135) | Posted by | Saturday, March 4, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Masquerade Overture is one of the best albums I've ever heard. Perhaps even the best. It has no flaws that really get to me. This is an album about reality, shattered hopes and dreams, temptation, Good and Evil and everything in between. It is a complete masterpiece. The Masquerade Over ... (read more)

Report this review (#45969) | Posted by stonebeard | Thursday, September 8, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Great melodic record with very good symphonic guitar and great leading vocals. These guys are proffesional musicians and you can hear that! After a view listens the melodies are starting to be more and more addicting to your ears. This album have no forced melodies but melodies with patience a ... (read more)

Report this review (#39707) | Posted by J@pie Mol | Monday, July 18, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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