Pendragon - The Jewel,
Zeus Pendragon were formed in Gloucestershire in 1978 by guitarist and singer Nick Barrett and drummer Nigel Harris. Their ranks were swelled by bassist Robert Dalby and the later addition of John Barnfield on keyboards. Pendragon followed the route of many an aspiring rock band by playing anywhere and everywhere, and although they became well-known, they could not get themselves a record contract. Peter Gee joined the band as a second guitarist in 1981 but soon found himself switching to bass as Robert left the band. They released a three-track cassette, entitled ‘Armageddon’, on Sceptre Records and then along came Kerrang! The magazine ran a two-part feature on progressive rock from the Seventies and Eighties, and while the main feature was obviously on Marillion, who were just starting to break in a big way, there were also photographs and mini-articles on a host of others including Twelfth Night, Pendragon, Pallas, Solstice and Dagaband. It gave the band much-needed publicity and in 1983, they were asked to play at the Reading Festival in front of 30,000 people. Tony Wilson was so impressed that he asked the band to record a session for the Friday Rock Show. The subsequent set was broadcast in the November and repeated only six weeks later due to its popularity. Marillion’s manager, John Arnison, offered the band the chance to record their debut mini-album for his label Elusive Records and ‘Fly High, Fall Far’ hit the shops at the same time they found themselves on a full tour of the UK with Marillion. The band decided to capitalise on the success of their debut by recording a full-length album, ‘The Jewel’, which followed on from the four-track mini-album ‘Fly High, Fall Far’ which had been released the previous year. The line-up was the same as on that, namely Nick Barrett (guitar, vocals), Peter Gee (bass), Rik Carter (keyboards) and Nigel Harris (drums). It is hard to ‘believe’ that this album is now so old, as it still sounds fresh and inviting. It includes some of the band’s most well-known tracks such as “Alaska”, “The Black Knight” and of course “Leviathan”. Any fans of UK progressive rock will know these songs well and with the remastering that has taken place they contain plenty of power. Take “Leviathan” for example, Nick’s guitar just breaks out of the speakers as he plays that well-known riff and he is then joined by the keyboards as the band moves into the song itself. As if the original album was not enough, there are four bonus songs. The first two of these are taken from the mini-album, while the second two are brand new recordings from the current line-up of two songs from the days when they were playing The Marquee, “Armageddon” and “Insomnia”.