Pendragon - Kowtow

Year of Release: 1989
Label: Toff Records
Catalog Number: PENDCD1
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:10:00

Kowtow was Pendragon's second studio release (a live album 9:15 Live was released in between their first and second disks), and for the most part sounds closer to New Wave and lite-metal than progressive. The opening track "Saved By You" has an exuberance that was quite popular at this time from the likes Glass Tiger, Honeymoon Suite, and a dozen other lite-metal bands that seemed to find equal favor with the Duran Duran set. This is pure pop music, though there are a few brief moments where it sounds also a tweensy bit like Fish's "Lucky" (which came later, however). "The Mask" nearly has a dance beat, "Time For A Change" is Pendragon as Ah-ha (shades of "Take On Me" at times). "I Walk The Rope" is a nice track, but again, it is far from the "neo-prog" we've come to know from Pendragon. It's late-70s soft rock a la Pablo Cruise, for example. Player, perhaps. Saxophone on this track and on the one that follows, "2AM" is courtesy Julian Siegal. In the first instance, it brings to mind Glenn Frey's "You Belong To The City," and in the second, it add a nice touch of warm class to one of highlight tracks of this album. "2AM" still ain't prog or "neo-prog" but its jazz styling is quite nice. I have to admit though it reminds me an awful lot of Billy Joel's "Where's The Orchestra" (The Nylon Curtain, 1983). It isn't a perfect track, it could be stronger, but I do like the overall feel of it. It ends far too abruptly, making it underdeveloped.

Kowtow sees the entrance of Clive Nolan on keyboards and Fudge Smith on drums and percussion, but listening to this one would hardly predict the harder edged Arena and Shadowland projects that were on the horizon for Nolan. Well, except for "Total Recall." Interestingly, this track musically reminds me of "Jigsaw" (Ring Of Roses, Shadowland). Even more interesting, I suppose, is that the lyric includes the following: "do you remember 'Alice,' it was one of mine / that song stole a million hearts." Shadowland's second album, Through The Looking Glass used Alice In Wonderland as the leitmotif... wonder if it's more than coincidence...

"The Haunting" is a darker tune, gloomy in its feel. Not quite a funeral dirge, but the tempo is slow enough to make you think that. There's a nice solo from Barrett here, and some interesting atmospherics from Nolan. At one point the piece hangs in the air, on the precipice of something... That something is the crackshot drums of Smith, which serve as entree to another Barrett guitar lead. The track itself varies in volume, which can be disconcerting. If this ever gets the re-mastering treatment, I'd improve the levels, which would bring so much more out of this track. As close as this comes to the Pendragon of later discs, it is, perhaps, just a little too gloomy. Maybe that's down to the production, which is rather okay for the rest of the album. If it weren't the case where the band produced this themselves, which they did, I'd suggest that the producer felt that the "unconventional" song needed to be buried with in the poppier tunes. On the one hand, it seems silly to second-guess what the band were thinking 13 years later, but as I said, if this were ever to be remixed or remastered, the balance is one thing I'd fix. Not sure that they could do anything about the pop elements here, though, beyond re-recording and/or drastically remixing the album -- and I'm not sure it's necessary to go to all that trouble. Instead I'd include a remixed version of "The Haunting" as a bonus on their next album.

There's one in every family, that individual that means well, but just doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the family. Well, this album means well, and if Pendragon were a intending to be a pop band -- maybe they were at this point -- this works okay on that level. Unless you are a completist, there isn't really any essential Pendragon material here. Some of the tracks, "Saved By You," "The Mask," "Total Recall" and the title track "Kowtow" (which also comes close to familiar Pendragon territory, but also sound like 70s soft rock) appear elsewhere on live releases and compilations.

Saved By You (3:58) / The Mask (4:01) / Time For A Change (3:56) / I Walk The Rope (4:17) / 2 AM (4:14) / Total Recall (7:00) / The Haunting (10:40) / Solid Heart (4:20) / Kowtow (8:56)

Nick Barrett - vocals, guitar
Pete Gee - bass
Fudge Smith - drums
Clive Nolan - keyboards

Fly High Fall Far (ep) (1984) (OOP)
The Jewel (1985)
9:15 Live (1986)
Kowtow (1989)
The R(B)est Of Pendragon (1991) (incl. Fly High... ep)
The World (1991)
The Very, Very Bootleg - Live In Lille, France 1992 (1993)
The Window Of Life (1993)
Fallen Dreams and Angels (ep) (1994)
Utrecht... The Final Frontier (1995)
The Masquerade Overture (1996)
As Good As Gold ep (1996)
Live In Krakow 96 (1997)
The Masquerade Overture (digi-pack w/bonus trk) (1999)
Once Upon A Time In England Vol 1 (1999)
Once Upon A Time In England Vol 2 (1999)
The Round Table (1985-1998) (1999) (Sth Am. mkt)
The History: 1984-2000 (2000) (Polish mkt)
Not Of This World (2001)
Acoustically Challenged (2002)
The Jewel (remastered) (2005)
Believe (2005)
Pure (2008)
Concerto Maximo (2009)
Passion (2011)
Out Of Order Comes Chaos (2013)
Men Who Climb Mountains (2014)
Masquerade 20 (2017)

Live... At Last! (VID) (1997)
Live...At Last And More (DVD) (2002)
And Now Everybody To The Stage (DVD) (2005)
Past And Presence (DVD) (2007)
Concerto Maximo (DVD) (2009)
Out Of Order Comes Chaos (DVD) (2012)
Masquerade 20 (DVD) (2017)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: March 24th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 719
Language: english


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