Pendragon - The Jewel

Year of Release: 1990
Label: Toff Records
Catalog Number: PENDCD2
Format: CD
Total Time: 57:21:00

Pendragon's debut The Jewel sets the stage for all that comes after, though they take a side step with their second album, Kowtow. Released in 1985, The Jewel shows us a Pendragon that is very nearly the identical twin to Marillion, exchanging Fish for vocalist Nick Barrett. There are elements that differ from the Marillion formula for "neo-prog", of course, because you can hear that Barrett has other influences. While it doesn't really say much using a bonus track as an example, "Fly High Fall Far" (one of two bonuses) reveals the band's Pink Floyd influence, if Rick Wright played parpy keys. Guitars are courtesy of Barrett and bass from Pete Gee. But, the other half of this well-known quartet is not the two familiar names of subsequent albums, rather we have here Nigel Harris on drums and percussion and Rik Carter on keys. Interestingly, the sound here presages not only the familiar Pendragon sound, but the now equally familiar Clive Nolan sound (Shadowland, Arena, and numerous other projects) in the track "The Black Knight." And, interestingly, "Oh Divineo" presages Shadowland's "Painting By Numbers" (Ring Of Roses). That is, until the track downshifts and the vocals start.

"Leviathan" is a rockier track that reminds me a bit of Styx's "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" and also of some later Marillion material (as well as earlier Marillion material, of course, specifically "Garden Party" and "Market Square Heroes"). Carter's keys are pitched a bit higher than I'd like and seem a little too much in the mix at certain points. While this track is too much a distillation of its influences, it doesn't really take on an identity of its own. "Alaska," on the other hand, with it's swirl of hazy keyboards, lyrical guitar phrases, and militaristic drums uses the familiar modes as base colouring only. It is this track that shows the band beginning to transcend their influences, though they never ever truly escape it entirely. While I like what Carter is doing here keyboard-wise, some might find the tone a little too brassy, a little too tart. Barrett tracks snowflurries with his soloing here in the latter section called, appropriately enough, "Snowfall" (the first section is called "At Home With The Earth").

And if one was wondering from whence Galahad sprang, it is from Pendragon, and I don't half wonder if the very track "Circus" was their inspiration. Certainly, Gabriel-fronted Genesis was in no small measure an inspiration here for Barrett, though by no means the only. It only forms a small fragment. Unfortunately, to me, "Circus" seems all style and no substance, there being nothing to "hang your hat on," as it were.

Keeping up with the signature changes in "The Black Knight" would require a blow by blow account. Some of the sections are quite interesting, especially that which comes at four minutes in. There is a darkness to the tones, a punchiness to the bass, drums, and guitar work that helps make this section make a bold statement. It is assertive in ways the band are nowhere else on the album (aside from the bonus tracks). It its way, it is an epic track that carries you along on its adventure, only there really isn't any adventure when one looks at the lyrics (not printed in the booklet, but available from the Pendragon website in the archived pre-Not Of The World incarnation). "The Black Knight" instead is more about the inner psychology of the "knight," a figure drawn from Arthurian legend, but about whom I've found nary a reference other than he was defeated by Owein. It's interesting that I've chosen to review this album at this time, as Owein, at least in one story, has been linked with St. Patrick. St Patrick's Day is March 17, and I'm writing this on the 15th, The Ides of March. [I encountered this reference at Mystical World Wide Web, specifically their Arthurian A2Z].

Anyway, The Jewel includes two tracks from their first EP Fly High Fall Far, the title track and "Victims Of Life" (these tracks also appear on the Rest Of Pendragon CD). "Fly High..." is, as I said earlier, Floyd-esque. But there are also a few Yes-isms there, too. The production on "Fly High..." is a little echo-y, but the arrangement itself is quite good; energetic and muscular, it reaches out a grabs you. The long intro to "Victims..." really rocks, giving way to a lush, mellow, guitar section (I thought of Iluvatar's "Eagle," from their self-titled 1993 debut). This is quintessential Pendragon even if the at this point the execution of their ideas seemed half formed.

While the band wouldn't really hit their stride until The World in 1991, there are enough interesting facets to The Jewel to interest the more than just casual fan of the band.

Higher Circles (3:29) / The Pleasure Of Hope (3:42) / Leviathan (6:12) / Alaska (8:38) 1. At Home With The Earth - 2. Snowfall / Circus (6:32) / Oh Divineo (6:49) / The Black Knight (9:55) / bonus tracks: Fly High Fall Far (4:55) / Victims Of Life (6:53)

Nick Barrett - vocals, guitars
Rik Carter - keyboards
Peter Gee - basses, guitars, bass pedals
Nigel Harris - drums, percussion

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: 991
Language: english


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