Pendragon - Not Of This World

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Toff Records
Catalog Number: PEND10CD
Format: CD
Total Time: 76:23:00

Listening to Pendragon's recent Not Of This World release and going back to their first full album The Jewel, you can hear how the band has evolved in the intervening years. Their sound and style have matured - whereas Kowtow (their second album) bordered on new wave, in Not Of This World we see the result of their progression into arrangements less pop and less filled with youthful exuberance. This is a more contemplative album, the subject matter often grim and yet also uplifting -- a brave face in light of sorrow. It is not, by any means, a perfect album. While the overly critical will surely find faults, what struck me strongest was that "Dance Of The Seven Veils: Part 1 'Faithless'" seemed a little overlong. Though it builds the tension that leads us to "Part 2: 'All Over Now'", even that takes a little too long before it really gets going.

For all its maturity, it is still squarely Pendragon. And whether they want the appellation or not, it is still what has been termed "neo-prog." It is a style of music that is at once passé and refreshing to hear again, like an old sweater (to use a cliché) that is very much out of current fashion, and yet quite comfortable to wear. Of course, I've never been one to worry about what's currently "in style" neither in terms of what I wear, nor what I listen to. So, this aspect sits quite well with me. Not Of This World doesn't have the instant accessibility as its predecessors, including 1996's The Masquerade Overture, and yet, I found myself singing along with "All Over Now" within a fairly short order. "...Seven Veils" is fairly typical Pendragon song, sounding like a lot of what they've already done. Fish will come to mind during one more mellow section before the song explodes into a cascade of guitar and percussion. The calm lulls and is enhanced by these extremely energetic sections. There is so much guitar work going on during the verses that I would love to see them live just to see how Barrett does it, since it would seem to me his attention would have to be divided.

Big, sweeping sound is the order of the day, as Pendragon do nothing in a small way, beginning with the album's opening track "If I Were The Wind [And You Were The Rain]." A signature guitar solo is at once quite stunning but also par for the course. A soaring solo as we've heard from the likes of many others including Marillion's Steve Rothery and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, though it is of the latter that guitarist/vocalist Nick Barrett's style most reminds me of. In fact, latter-day Pink Floyd was the band I thought of most often while listening to this, but to pin my finger on any one thing, other than that already mentioned, is elusive. Though, The Division Bell came to mind on more than one occasion. The Pink Floyd comparison stops with Barrett as vocalist, as there were often times when I thought he sounded like Marillion's Steve Hogarth, which isn't something I'd thought before, though listening through their catalogue I've noticed it much more. In doing this Pendragon overview, I've come to realize that the signature sound is due more to Barrett than Nolan, though it is this sound that has carried through to Nolan's projects. Nolan, by the way, treats us to a delicate piano interlude, which segues into a more sedate passage. In terms of structure and execution, I often thought of Simon and Garfunkle's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and of mid-90's Marillion (Afraid Of Sunlight, This Strange Engine).

The parping keys that begin "Not Of The World" seem clich? nowadays, as if this is what "neo" keys must sound like -- or rather, Mark Kelly influenced keyboards. And yet, we get otherwise a much darker tone from the band -- deeper, fuller guitar from Barrett, thundering drums from Fudge Smith, and throbbing bass from Peter Gee. This instrumental opening of nearly four minutes is a tour-de-force, marred by the not-quite-up-to-par vocals from Barrett that follow, which seem a little flat and restrained. Echoes of Fish's performance on "Incubus" (Fugazi can be heard as we transition into "Part 3 'Green Eyed Angel'" that at first could almost be Alan Parsons Project's "Time" but for a little added guitar. This section is rather nice, if still very Marillion-esque. Here Barrett's guitar is reflective, melancholy very much fitting the overall mood of the piece. Again Hogarth comes to mind in terms of vocals (think "This Strange Engine"). The harmonizing background vocals give this a different character, however, making this quite a nice track. It is the track during which more than a few Zippos (or Bics) will be lit, I'm sure. While I hate to keep throwing out the ol' standby "it sounds like," I personally thought of a late 70s track "Fallin' In Love."* Which, if you are at all familiar with the tune I referenced, might make you think that Pendragon have gone soft rock/disco, but that isn't the case.

Moving on, I quite like the acoustic guitar intro to "A Man Of Nomadic Traits," which is mainly an acoustic track, though there are moments of tremendous power. While it is not a perfect track, there is a certain grace here that makes this one of the standout tracks on the albums. The acoustic, instrumental interludes are the highlights for me. Barrett's guitar solos are understated, but full of feeling. It does range into familiar electric territory for a short passage; another short keyboard passage follows that almost seems to lose its way, but is brought back by another Barrett solo. One sometimes things that Barrett is happier as a guitarist rather than a vocalist, as he seems taken away by his solos. This track verily flows through its 11-plus minute running time.

The closing track of the album proper is the two part "World's End," which carries on with the theme set forth in "Not Of This World." Leading up to this album's release last year, Barrett went through some trying times, one of which was a divorce. When anyone undergoes a dramatic, life changing event, he or she often grows contemplative, trying to work out just what exactly is their place in the world. It is this that Barrett is doing here, using the personal to comment upon the universal.

Included as a bonus on the album are two bonus acoustic tracks, which also appear on the anthology History 1984 - 2000. These are "Paintbox" and "King Of The Castle," both of which hold up in these stripped down forms.

*for the mildly curious, it's that disco-esque tune that has the refrain "Baby baby fallin' in love, I'm fallin' love again..." Ick, talk about saccharine... (though there is a part of me that does like it). Perhaps I have just outdone myself, though, with the ultimate obscure reference (though not my intent), but darn if I can't get this song out of my head now.

If I Were The Wind (And You Were The Rain) (9:25) / Dance Of The Seven Veils: 1. Faithless 2. All Over Now (11:42) / Not Of This World: 1. Not Of This World 2. Give It To Me 3. Green Eyed Angel (17:28) / A Man Of Nomadic Traits (11:44) / World?s End: 1. The Lost Children 2. And Finally... (17:48) Bonustracks : Paintbox (Acoustic Version) / King Of The Castle (Acoustic Version)

Nick Barrett - guitar, vocals
Fudge Smith - drums
Peter Gee - bass
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: 748
Language: english


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