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Pendragon Once Upon A Time In England Volume 1 album cover
2.55 | 46 ratings | 5 reviews | 11% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Boxset/Compilation, released in 1999

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Pleasure Of Hope (3:50)
2. Insomnia (4:19)
3. Armageddon (6:15)
4. Dawn In Vienna (2:18)
5. The Pleasure Of Hope (piano / vocal Version)(2:52)
6. Catch Me If You Can (4:52)
7. Melody (3:37)
8. Dead Stop (4:10)
9. Deja Vue (4:39)
10. Dream Of Tomorrow (4:42)
11. Stan And Ollie (live)(10:21)
12. Loving The Stranger (3:27)
13. Eye For An Eye (3:49)
14. Is This Life? (4:30)

Total Time: 63:41

Line-up / Musicians

Various but including Nick Barrett, Peter Gee, Clive Nolan, Nigel Harris, Robert Dalby and John Barfield

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Joolz for the last updates
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PENDRAGON Once Upon A Time In England Volume 1 ratings distribution

(46 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(11%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(20%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (26%)
Poor. Only for completionists (15%)

PENDRAGON Once Upon A Time In England Volume 1 reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Greger
3 stars PENDRAGON is releasing 2 CDs containing archive material together with some other rarities. Vol. 1 is given away gratis when you subscribe to the fan club "The Mob". As usual when bands are releasing archive albums it's quite often that the recordings are poor, so are the quality of most of the material on these two CDs. I really like PENDRAGON and I'm considering them being one of the premier neo-progressive bands together with bands such as ARENA and MARILLION. The highlights on Vol. 1 are "Insomnia", the CAMEL influenced "Catch Me If You Can" with great Moog, the jazzy "Melody", "Dream Of Tomorrow", "Stan & Ollie" live from 1983 and the two poppy tracks "Loving The Stranger" and "Eye For An Eye", both entirely played by Nick Barrett. The artwork as well as the CD booklets are very nice and informative, complete with the PENDRAGON story and loads of archive photos. Both releases are quite interesting if you (like me) have heard PENDRAGON's entire back-catalogue. Yet you can question whether these releases are necessary or not. If you're a die-hard PENDRAGON fan they surely are justified, but if you haven't heard PENDRAGON before, they have put out many great albums that you could get instead of these ones.
Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Clearing the vaults

The first of two albums which gather together tracks which have not previously appeared on official Pendragon album releases. They are in the main taken from the period prior to their first EP in 1984 and first album in 1985. Long term keyboard player and song writing contributor Clive Nolan is therefore largely absent from these recordings, as is drummer Fudge Smith.

The band were originally formed in 1976 as Zeus Pendragon, the only ever present member being Nick Barrett. They went through many line up changes even before their first album appeared, among the most significant being the early arrival of Peter Gee, originally as lead guitarist (Barrett was rhythm guitarist at the time), but soon to take over bass duties. Talented keyboard player John Barnfield was also an early arrival into the line up. Although Barnfield appears on a number of the tracks included on this album, he left before their first official release.

The band met up with, and indeed supported Marillion on many occasions during their early years, and the influences of that band can be heard both on these albums, and in much of Pendragon's work. As might be expected from releases such as this, the material included is somewhat variable, ranging from the occasional rare diamond to the those which might have been better left unearthed.

In general terms, the feel of the music is best described as immature in Pendragon terms, occasionally bordering on the amateur. There are the odd hints of the sophistication which was to come, but the listener does have to show a certain level of commitment in order to seek them out.

There are two very different versions of "The pleasure of hope" a track which was to eventually see the light of day on "The jewel". Of the two versions, the 1987 piano/vocal one is by far the better. Clive Nolan plays piano here, with Peter Gee on keyboard strings. The development of the song from the upbeat 1983 BBC Friday Rock Show version which opens this collection, is remarkable.

One of the main weaknesses of these tracks is in the vocals. Nick Barrett has come along way in that area, helped in no small part by sympathetic production, but these tracks find him to be struggling at times to hold the tune. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the even worse, when drummer Nigel Harris takes lead vocal on "Catch me if you can". The closing "Is this life?" is a pop/reggae embarrassment, which is truly dreadful.

On the plus side, there are hints of Yes on "Armageddon", and "Dream of tomorrow", the latter having similarities to the early Yes song "Survival". The brief "Dawn in Vienna" has some good Hackett like classical guitar, and "Melody" has some decent synth by Clive Nolan's predecessor John Barnfield.

To be fair to Pendragon, almost all these tracks were recorded well before they landed a recording contract, and were never intended for public release. While dedicated fans may find them interesting, there is no doubt that they generally fall well short of the standard we have subsequently come to expect from them. Consequently this album, and its companion volume 2, should be approached with extreme caution.

The packaging is excellent, with a fine booklet containing background information on each track, and a detailed biography of the band. The cover illustration is impressive too, giving this the appearance of a bona fide Pendragon release.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars I am always seriously doubtful about records like this one. When a band releases all his "lost jewels", most of the time they should have remained so. Of course, I am a bit biased about Pendragon but nevertheless, let's have an honest ear to this one.

"The Pleasure Of Hope" mixes true symph prog and candid / naive moments. Very pleasant anyway and a good start (this number will pursue its career on a later Pendragon release). The second version, only with piano, does not hold the same promise IMO.

With the first notes from the according "Insomnia", I'm afraid that I come back to earth. Although it features Genesis-like keys and guitar, the vocal part of this rockier number is truely terrible. It should have remained an instrumental.

Same problem with the vocals in "Armageddon". He sounds like he wants to emulate Gregg Lake on the hard side (while he is almost screaming). Not brilliant to say the least. The general mood of this song is rather ELP-esque I should say. Sound on this one is below average. The contrast with "Dawn In Vienna" is complete : a spacey and instrumental number featuring a nice acoustic guitar solo, played on a very quite background keyboards.

"Catch Me If You Can" also holds some Pendragon flavour but sound is again rather poor (but these were demo tapes of some sort, so I guess that it was as good as we could get them). Great keys but globally great middle instrumental part. Vocal being again, below par. "Melody" the well named is a nice song with a strong rock beat. Extremely poppish but featuring great keys. I have the impression so far that more place is left for the keys than for the guitar which will be the opposite in more traditional and later Pendragon releases.

The long live song "Stan & Ollie" is not too bad either. A very good intro, a bit hard. This track again offers some similarities with ELP. The last part (over three minutes), will be dedicated to the band presentation.

Let's face the truth, this is Pendragon's prehistory. Vocals are rather poor almost all the way through. The emotion that we'll get in later releases (especially starting with "The World") is not there yet. Nick's guitar is more rhythmic than leading. Some poor moments as well like : "Dead Stop", "Déjà Vue" and "Is This Life".

The jazzy "Dream Of Tomorrow" is more sophisticated, with more complex structure than even a later Pendragon song which, we know that, are rather straight-forward. One of the good discoveries on "Once Upon, Volume One". "Eye For an Eye" also holds a lot of the later Pendragon. A prog/pop song with a catchy chorus.

This album is for fans only who are willing how could the ancestor of Pendragon sound like, but you should not start with this Pendragon release if you would like to discover this nice band (their wonderful trilogy "The World", "The Window Of Life" and of course "The Masquerade Overture" are all there to please you).

Review by progrules
3 stars What interests me with this (and vol.2) release is the timing. Masqueade Overture was from 1996 and these two were released in 1999 whilst they are of course recorded in the first half of the eighties. Why is that interesting ? Because around that time (1999) I was as many Pendragon fans anxiously waiting for the next (real) album which was only going to appear in 2001. So what I suspect is that these two are a sop for the waiting fans.

In fact it's why I bought them. I wanted more after the great 1996 issue and to be "treated" with this, well.... Either Nick and his band were desperate or highly self-confident to do a thing like this. Initially it was a big disappointment and I'm sure if I would have done the review back then I would have given it 1 or 2 stars. Right now I'm looking to the whole thing in a broader perspective and realize the historical significance better. I love this band very deeply and am interested in their entire career. This was the very beginning and eventhough the quality of both recording as compositions are far below par, I'm still glad I bought it in the end.

The highlights are The Pleasure of hope (act.The Jewel), Dream of tomorrow and the great live track Stan and Ollie. It's mainly the last one that can ultimately bring me to giving it 3 stars because it's in fact somewhere between 2 and 3 for me. If I rate it one by one and make the average I come to 2,8.

It's mainly recommended for the dedicated Pendragon fans who also want to know their older work. If you are looking for fantastic songs, this is not for you.

Review by Warthur
2 stars This is the dictionary definition of Collectors/fans only: a compilation of rarities from the Pendragon archives, that originally came out as a free gift for fan club members. It proved appealing enough that it went on general sale, and had a sequel volume produced too, but both it and its companion are best regarded as what they were originally intended to be: a nice bonus for people already in love with the band, not an appeal to those who might be encountering the group in the first time.

The production values aren't great - nothing's unlistenable, per say, but the sound is fuzzy on some of the tracks and there's the occasional tape error. The running order is a little odd - show-closer Stan and Ollie would work much better as the final track - but it's otherwise fairly consistent, an interesting trip through the first decade of Pendragon's existence.

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