Within the first few seconds of Pendragon’s latest album, my dog Dylan was salivating almost as much as me. The reason? Well for Dylan it must have been hearing the ‘dogs of night’ in the opening track “Indigo”. For me, I was quickly reduced to a dribbling shellshock victim by Pure, one the finest prog-rock albums I have heard in a while.
Pure (Toff Records) comes at you like a multi layered masterpiece of highly coloured deeply textured artwork. Add to this some provoking lyrics, and stunning musicianship, and you have an album of extraordinary depth and undeniable quality.
I listened to this album before watching the accompanying, amusing, revealing, and fascinating DVD. It proved to be for the best as I connected with the concept almost immediately without any prior feeds.
“Indigo” opens Pure with a stunning thirteen minute creation written around a set of lyrics that could inspire a block of wood to contemplate life and all its potential problems. “Indigo”, Nick Barrett explains, "is the aura we give out at birth. As we get older we begin to lose it. Even the worst of us begin life pure."
This epic mind boggling track is made all the richer by a huge wall of raw edged and multi dimensional guitar. It is the clever, and considered way the band use sampling that also lifts this track onto an altogether higher plain. Complete with zulu children, barking dogs, and choirs, this is a stunning production.
There is care, thought, craft, commitment, belief, and a desire to express some complex subject matter literally dripping from every note on this album. Just when you think that it can only dip in quality, after such a magnificent opener, up comes “Eraserhead”.
This has Nick exploring the disturbing dangers that seem to connect elements of Communism, to the worst of political correctness. ‘Green has become the new red’ he sings, amid a brash, hard hitting mix.
Next up is the three part, epic centre-piece to the album “Comatose”. The first section, clocking in at nearly eight minutes, “View From The Seashore”, gets into intensely personal territory. It's background is honestly revealed during an in-car interview with Nick on the DVD.
The second section “Space Cadet”, is the folly of youth that leads us into a dark, all too relevant, and chillingly crazed finale.
The last section of “Comatose”, “Home And Dry” tells of a young person lured and absorbed into a cult before waking one day to see that all he believed is suddenly meaningless. All three parts are intensely powerful stuff, set within a powerful production.
It takes us on to the dramatic, driving track, “The Freak Show”. Recent addition Scott Higham’s drums never take the easy route, and combine with the excellent bass of Peter Gee, to provide a solid, yet endlessly shifting structure.
Above this, Nick Barrett adds every possible texture within the music whilst never losing sight of his overall concept. It is a remarkable achievement highlighted by a quick viewing of the documentary. Clive's keys are never over-stated, or overplayed, understanding that same concept perfectly. Watch out for a magnificent sample entitled 'Manic Guru'.
The album closes with the incredible “It’s Only Me”. It’s a fitting piece of magnificence to end an album which has to go down as arguably Pendragon’s finest moment in their now 30 year odyssey.
Unfortunately, I just had to hit play again, sending my dog, and his owner, into yet more raptures. This album is so good it just had to be done.
Catch up on Pendragon at their official website and look out for a new solo album from Peter Gee and forthcoming tour dates.