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(58:51, ‘No Fish’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Carved in Stone 13:09 2. Whisper on the Wind 14:42 3. Spark to a Flame 13:57 4. Drop in the Ocean 17:03 LINEUP: Steve Paine – keyboards Kerry Parker – vocals Dave Foster – guitars Dan Nelson – basses John Macklin – drums With: Clare Foster – flute
Prolusion. This is my first acquaintance with LEGEND – a relatively obscure English band that has existed since the second half of the ‘80s. “Cardinal Points” is its fourth album of new material, and is entirely composed by keyboardist Steve Paine. If you want to learn more details of the outfit’s history, click here.
Analysis. The four long tracks here, referring to the four main elements of nature, seem to suggest to the potential listener that this is a classic concept album of an epic ‘70s magnitude. However, as soon as I’d finished playing it I clearly realized that its creators are a band from the second or even third echelon of the neo prog movement. Each of the tracks, Carved in Stone, Whisper on the Wind, Spark to a Flame and Drop in the Ocean, is a pseudo-epic by the final analysis, and while some of them are better than others, on all of them the vocals-based themes are repeated endlessly – which is always a negative factor. Besides, the choir parts (there are plenty of those here, provided by overdubs), while being fairly obtrusive (which is certainly synonymic with “catchy”), aren’t too cohesive in delivery – simply due to the fact that singer Kerry Parker’s natural voice diapason is rather narrow, and so many of her attempts to sing in different manners, i.e. to create multi-tracked/harmony vocals, just fail. Within their instrumental sections, Carved in Stone and Drop in the Ocean both find the band for the most part trying to re-explore the areas of two higher profile groups, IQ and Pallas (most often when the organ and guitar riffs come to the fore respectively), from time to time (when the flute appears) evoking also Mirage, a band that’s heavily influenced by Camel, yet never Andy Latimer’s outfit itself. The latter track additionally contains an interlude with only acoustic guitar and flute involved, which brings to mind the name of Steve Hackett, which makes it a bit more varied in appearance. What’s bad, however, is that all those instrumental parts seem to be in the – sure losing – fight against the pop-rock tendencies in vocals almost throughout the tracks. Then, out of the blue, a short, yet full-fledged sympho-prog instrumental passage appears to close out the songs, both of them. Dave Foster is the only musician here whose playing almost always gladdens the ear. His guitars lead the proceedings with a rather wide variety of timbres and settings: from electric (at times crunchy and distorted) to purely acoustic – such as within the first two movements of Whisper on the Wind, where his solos and passages are full of splendid patterns, now evoking Flamenco in style, now classical acoustic guitar playing, and more. This piece features more laidback, atmospheric arrangements than the disc opener and, on the other hand, fewer (perhaps much fewer) vocals which, though, are even more monotonous, strongly marring its overall musical palette. However, it’s on the third, almost totally vocals-based, track Spark to a Flame, where the singing is often really awful, then sounding like Arabesque – not even Abba – at their worst, and the music as such, namely pop rock, does well match with the female’s jovial tunes, and even occasional art-rock-like flourishes sound mainly as an appendage to those.
Conclusion. “Cardinal Points” is an album that won’t appeal to classic progressive fans, as the songs are fairly straightforward musically. Even by the standards of Neo Prog the album is okayish rather than good. Nonetheless, those fans of the style, who don’t mind a lot of simpler pop-rock elements mixed in with the better stuff, should be satisfied with it.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: May 7, 2012
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