Pendragon - The World

Year of Release: 1991
Label: Toff Records
Catalog Number: PENDCD5
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:00:00

The World was the first Pendragon CD I was able to get my hands on. And while I liked it, it didn't grab me in the same way as other CDs that I bought at the same time, as I was beginning my proggy foray in late 1991/early 1992. I'm not sure why now that was the case. My initial quest was to find more stuff like Marillion, since there weren't (didn't seem to be) enough Marillion albums at that point. I had exhausted tracking down back catalog, CD singles, etc.

However, listening to The World now after a long time (though not as long ago as '92), I find quite a bit to like here. It is like their previous two albums, beginning with the catchy, popish tune, leaving the "proggy" material to come. Maybe I was put off because as much as it sounds like Marillion, it doesn't. That is, Barrett is not Fish. Of course, this isn't something that matters to me now, my interest in prog has matured and expanded. Always, though, "The Voyager" stood out for me.

The Pendragon on display here is a more assured band, making The World an album with a clear direction. If The Jewel set the pace for the band's style, this refined and shaped it. They have settled into a style that, while it draws heavily from the influences that have marked every album to this point, starts to pull away from relying on those influences too heavily. One can still hear bits and pieces of Marillion and Pink Floyd in the music. The pop aspects that plagued Kowtow are, for the most part, gone, revealing Kowtow to be the side step that it is. Pink Floyd is, of course, a much stronger element than Marillion in Pendragon's sound, down mainly to Barrett (Nick, that is, not Syd). However, there are moments here and there where I think of U2. The build up to "Back In The Spotlight" which opens the album sounds like the intro to "Where The Streets Have No Name." The acoustic elements at the beginning of "The Voyager" also remind me of U2's seminal release The Joshua Tree. Barrett's guitar work here is more Rothery-like than the usual Gilmour sound. This is a mellow track that takes its time in developing. Northern California, and San Francisco specifically, provides the backdrop to this track, so it's not surprising to hear what I can only describe as a "southwestern" guitar tone crying in a solo spot. It recalls the "old west" perfectly, bringing to mind images of the "'49ers", prospectors who came out west in search of gold; of golden sunsets setting on the shimmering Pacific Ocean; and of the once wide open prairies of the mid-west... the idyllic image of the US. Hmm, stylistically, I have to say it shares a lot with Marillion's "Season's End." It has that same mellowness, that same sense of thoughtfulness. As it progresses, it builds, leaving room for Clive Nolan to solo on the keys and then Barrett to solo on guitar. The sense I get here and with most of Pendragon's material is that Barrett and Nolan would each rather play instrumentals than vocal tracks. The highlights of Pendragon for me are these instrumental passages, just hearing Nolan and Barrett play off of and with each other. Holding all this together are Pete Gee on bass and Fudge Smith on drums.

Floyd's The Wall seems to have made a great impression on Barrett, as evidenced by "Prayer," which also takes inspiration from Marillion's "Forgotten Sons." Quite poignant in the current tenor of our times. Not just post September 11, though, since that wasn't something that happened out of the blue, wasn't a whim, but a reaction to something. There is a context for it, which existed even as Barrett was penning these words. Interestingly, we were on the cusp of another multi-national military involvement in the Middle East. It is an appeal for world peace for the sake of war's youngest and most innocent victims - children. This refrain "...the boy who tried to change the world / Found out that the world wasn't ready to change" becomes at the end, the hopeful "...the boy who tried to change the world / Will try again when the world is ready change." Maybe Barrett's being overly optimistic, maybe even pollyannaish, but for the long-term survival of our species, I rather hope is faith isn't misplaced. Of course, bringing about a world where we all get along is no small task and so fraught with issue that it may take a dozen lifetimes before any true progress is made. Um, not really to use this as a platform.

Let's move on the album's centrepiece, the 20-plus minute "Queen Of Hearts." Thematically it goes into the same emotional territory as Fish on more than one Marillion album. And yet we can also reference Yes here, too, in the acoustic passage that lyrically is more direct than Anderson, but in structure and feel I think of Yes. The piece is broken into three segments, the first is "Queen Of Hearts," a mostly melancholy and reflective with the expected emotional, soaring guitar lines. The second segment "...a man could die out here..." is more energetic, as a swell of keys and guitar give way to Gee's pulsating bass, Smith's heartbeat like percussion, while guitar and keys paint streaks of swaths of color across. Multi-layered, this long instrumental intro contains shades of Genesis. And in the third section "The Last Waltz," there are strong lyrical parallels to Marillion's Misplaced Childhood and elements of "Kayleigh" specifically, though musically its different. Barrett doesn't really have the same poetic way as Fish - as the chorus to this seems a little overly wordy, giving it a slightly awkward feel. But the whole suite is beautiful lush, musically stunning and moving.

"And We'll Go Hunting Deer" begins atmospherically, its arrangement simple compared to the previous track. Barrett's vocal performance seems intimate, understated. There's irony in the warm delivery set against the cold, grim subject matter. Sparse percussion keeps pace behind chiming acoustic guitars.

Overall, this is a more satisfying Pendragon release, and a signal to the material to come. If you've devoured their latest and wondering where to go next, this is one of your two options, the other being The Window Of Life (1993).

Back In The Spotlight (7:39) / The Voyager (12:15) / Shane (4:25) / Prayer (5:21) / Queen Of Hearts (21:46) i. Queen Of Hearts - ii. ... A Man Could Die Out Here - iii. The Last Waltz / And We'll Go Hunting Deer (7:14)

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

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: 640
Language: english


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