PENDRAGON – Believe (Toff)
I have not been into Pendragon for that long, starting with 1996’s superb ‘Masquerade Overture’ and following it with 2001’s ‘Not Of This World’, but when they do get round to issuing an album it is usually worth the wait. The band are one of our finest home-grown progressive rock outfits, and they have delivered again with this concept album based around belief –religious, political and whatever else you can believe in. The instrumental title track leads into ‘No Place For The Innocent’ - a great melodic hard rocker with something to say in the lyrics and some fine playing from the band. ‘Wisdom Of Solomon’ has an intricate acoustic guitar intro and is another fine piece of progressive rock. The centrepiece of the album is the four part ‘The Wishing Well’, with the first part ‘For Your Journey’ being the first track to really feature Clive Nolan’s keyboards to any great extent, with a spoken word section by Nick Barrett over the top. ‘Sou’ By Sou’west’ is back to classic Pendragon with great vocals, intricate time signatures and a good mix of acoustic and electric guitar. The use of female vocals on ‘We Talked’ give it an almost Celtic feel, but when the guitars kick in it becomes a storming heavy rocker. The final part ‘Two Roads’ is another combination of acoustic and electric guitars which works extremely well to end this twenty minute epic. The best is yet to come, however, with ‘Learning Curve’ easily being the best track on here. Not only does it contain all the best progressive rock elements together in one song, but it also includes Barrett’s best guitar solo by a mile, and lyrically has much to say about the nature of belief. The album closes with ‘The Edge Of The World’, being a heartfelt ballad which starts off with an acoustic intro, leading into a lyrical guitar solo from Barrett, which in turn makes way for the rest of the band to come in for the finale. Although quite different from their two previous albums, with the emphasis more on the rock part of progressive rock, it is nonetheless an excellent album, and the predominance of guitar over keys does not take away from the high quality of the music. A worthy addition to the progressive rock fan’s collection.