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Legend - 2010 - "Ritual Echo"

(70:50, ‘NoFish’)

TRACK LIST:                   

1.  Triple Aspect Overture 6:19
2.  Dance 6:01
3.  Windsong 8:21
4.  Mordred 12:18
5.  Holly King 7:48
6.  The Chase 4:12
7.  All Hallows Eve 6:23
8.  The Wild Hunt 13:03
9.  Light In Extension 6:25


Debbie Chapman – vocals 
Steve Paine – keyboards 
Paul Thomson – guitars 
John Macklin – drums 
Martyn Rouski – bass 
Geoffrey Walls – vocals (6, 7)

Prolusion. The UK act LEGEND was formed back in 1988 by keyboardist Steve Paine, and for the next decade the band experienced quite a few ups and downs, with licensing of their debut album to a Japanese label and good sales there as the arguably peak experience, while the struggles of keeping a stable lineup in general and rhythm section in particular among the more challenging parts. Legend released three full-length albums in the nineties, but decided to go on a hiatus when their label folded at the very end of the decade. Ten years later Paine revived the band, with the compilation "Ritual Echo" from December 2009 as the first sign of life for a good number of years.

Analysis. Compilation productions have always been (and will always be) creations with something of a tarnished reputation. Mostly due to the endless flood of cheaply assembled and sold discs of that variety that appeared towards the end of the glory days of the physical media, when you might stumble upon anthology albums by even obscure artists in your local supermarket. There have also been a fair few artists who have started a second lease of life issuing such a production, a way of making a summary of their past prior to moving on perhaps, at least for some. Legend is amongst the artists that deserve some credit for such an excursion. Instead of merely assembling their favorite pieces of old they have worked quite a bit, finding three representative live performances to include in addition to the remastered studio versions of former years’ most treasured items. Their chosen style can most likely be described as neo prog, featuring lush synth textures and the occasional tangents solo given elongated runs, in particular on the epic-length compositions. But the guitar is just as important a part of the proceedings, either as a subservient mood provider for Debbie's lead vocals or as a more powerful, hard-hitting riff provider. On the tracks with less elaborate keyboard arrangements the style is actually pretty close to melodic hard rock at times, while songs of the opposite kind structurally at times reach an intensity that might be appreciated by progressive metal fans. The symphonic art rock references found throughout and the overall emphasis on distinct melodies and rich moods makes neo the best point of reference, and standout composition Mordred is a brilliant example of just that: a quirky creation featuring multiple motifs, a clear development and effective use of the contrasts between the gentle, dreamlike and almost ethereal parts with ones of a richer, grandiose overall sound. The three opening tracks that play out prior to this tour de force of 90's neo-prog have many strong sides to them as well, while the rest of the material at hand comes across as markedly weaker, most of them what I'd describe as ordinary. The tight, steady rhythm section does infuse all the songs with some verve, but the songs themselves don't quite manage to enhance that strong and distinct foundation, apart from the exceptions already noted, of course.

Conclusion. While this anthology disc isn't quite up there among the best such efforts, it is a CD containing many fine songs, and the aforementioned Mordred in particular is something of a crown jewel metaphorically speaking. Neo fans are an obvious crowd for such a venture, although I suspect that those with a soft spot for sophisticated melodic hard rock might also be charmed by this act. A nice enough production in general, with a handful or so stand-out efforts fans of the genre should appreciate.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: March 15, 2011
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