Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Masquerade Overture

    In the world of prog, Pendragon have always been one of those love 'em or hate 'em bands. Some dislike that it seems they sometimes show influence from other bands (Pink Floyd, late 70’s Genesis, and neo prog contemporaries Marillion for example) a bit too closely. Some have a dislike for Nick Barrett’s heavily accented voice. Others love the layers of symphonic keyboards by Clive Nolan and emotional guitar playing of Barrett. Some like the catchy well-crafted songwriting. One observation I have made in listening to the music of Pendragon, is that while a lot is borrowed, there isn’t a phony note anywhere. They are very sincere in everything they do…

    The Masquerade Overture is considered by many Pendragon fans, to be their best work to date, and I am inclined to agree (although their most recent album Not Of This World is just as strong in my opinion.) The album begins with “The Masquerade Overture” opening the album on a symphonic note, with keyboard orchestration, piano, and a choral part sung in Italian. Following is the album’s single “As Good As Gold”. A commercial tune, turned symphonic rock epic. While certainly pop flavored, it has a very catchy chorus line, and very tasteful arrangement. “Paintbox” is highlighted by some clever lyrics. A gentle narrative style beginning, builds into a lush and melodic middle section which carries on into the final revisiting of the songs original verse.

    “The Pursuit Of Excellence” is one of the weaker points of the album. It almost sounds like a traditional song, turned symphonic prog. Unfortunately Barrett’s voice struggles in this tune. “Guardians Of My Soul” is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and one in which we get to see the rhythm section of Fudge Smith and Peter Gee get to cut loose in the middle section while Barrett takes a fluid skittering solo over it all. Starting as a somber song, it builds into an enthusiastic climax. “The Shadow” is kind of a haunting and somber sounding epic, which leads into the outro, which becomes “King Of The Castle” (more on this later…)

    The album’s finale is “Masters Of Illusion”, and is the epic highlight of the album. Beginning in a very Marillionish way (mostly due the “Garden Party”/”Incommunicado” type keyboard line that carries the verses), through a slightly more up tempo middle section, which builds to a powerful climax at the end…

    Despite conflicting opinions about this band, I have come to realize what I like best about them is the fact they are always giving their best. Very honest, sincere, and from the heart. This in my opinion, makes them “As Good As Gold”…


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The Masquerade Overture

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