Pendragon: ‘Windows of Life’

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Formed in 1978, Pendragon have been a central figure in the neo-progressive rock music scene for over forty years, always on the fringe of fame, but never quite crossing over into the mainstream. Quite why is a mystery; they certainly do not lack any of the required skills. Although so saying, there are pockets of ardent Pendragon fans dotted around the world – Poland and Germany being particular strongholds.

Pendragon, after early predictable band member comings and goings, have had a pretty consistent line up since 1986, with only twice the drummer being changed. Nick Barret is often seen as the band’s figurehead, playing lead guitar and performing the vocal duties. Peter Gee meanwhile on bass guitar is one of the best in the business and has released some nice solo albums of his own, allowing him to show off some different musical talents other than in the Pendragon progressive manner.

On keyboards is Clive Nolan, a man that deserves his own review. Becoming the youngest ever recipient of the ALCM Musical Composition Diploma, he has been with Pendragon since 1986. He has also found time to form fine bands such as Arena since 1995 (9 studio albums, 5 live albums) and Shadowlands since 1992 (4 studio albums.) He also recorded two concept albums with Oliver Wakeman, the nonsensically delightful “Jabberwocky” from 1999 and “The Hound of the Baskervilles” in 2002.

On drums for Pendragon at the time of this recording was the fabulously named Fudge Smith.

After two albums of finding their way, Pendragon launched the wonderfully named Toff Records in 1991 and proceeded down the road of progressive rock. Their first release in 1991 was “The World”, which proclaimed from the castle balustrades their musical intentions. This was followed in 1993 by this magnificent album, “Windows of Life”.

The album opener “Walls of Babylon” has a symphonic opening from Nolan’s keyboards before Barrett’s guitar cuts in with some excellent lead guitar soloing. The rhythm section then comes crashing in and the song is away. It takes some four and a half minutes for the song itself to get underway and the vocals to arrive. Fourteen minutes for your opening track is a bold statement, but the whole song has a very grand feel about it, with hints of Pink Floyd’s “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” followed by some late Peter Gabriel era Genesis driving music. Take your influences from the best!

Next up is “Ghosts”, which presents a piano intro before Barrett’s harrowing vocals take over and some more excellently controlled guitar. “The Last Man on Earth” is the centerpiece of the album and is an epic in every sense of the word, while the last two songs on the album show that even progressive rock bands can write commercial material.

A running time of over fifty four minutes of quality music was always good value, but since the 2006 re-release of this album, the EP “Fallen Dreams and Angels” from 1994 has been added on so you get an extra twenty minutes of class music.

Nick Barrett.
Nick Barrett.

Pendragon’s last studio album was “Men Who Climb Mountains” released in 2014, so we must be due a new album soon.

The sleeve artwork of the review album by Simon Williams is also colorful, bright and witty.

Mott the Dog Rating – 5 Stars

Clive Nolan.
Clive Nolan.

Track List:

The Walls of Babylon

Ghosts

Breaking The Spell

Last Man On Earth

Nostradamus. ( Stargazing)

Am I really Losing You?

Bonus Tracks

The Third World In The UK

June

Sister Bluebird

Fallen Dreams and Angels

Pendragon

Nick Barrett – guitars and vocals

Peter Gee – bass guitar

Clive Nolan – keyboards and vocals

Fudge Smith- drums