The History: 1984-2000

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An eminently listenable dozen tunes from Pendragon with a six-page booklet enclosed in a gorgeous foldout CD box, The History: 1984-2000 is a wonderful introduction to this storied ensemble for the uninitiated. This is not to be confused with the 1999 release Overture, 1984-1996, though some of the tracks do overlap -- original versions of "The Voyager" and "Total Recall" are on both CDs while The History: 1984-2000 contains acoustic versions of "Paintbox" and "The King of the Castle" specially recorded for this compilation. Where Overture, 1984-1996 contained a live version of "The Black Knight" with the original found here, only completists need seek out both versions. But what The History: 1984-2000 reveals is that this "prog rock" band is actually more progressive folk. Yes, the aura and sometimes ostentatious style that characterize bands like Genesis and ELP are certainly noticeable, but more so are the stylish guitars and almost adult contemporary approach. The music is more enticing than Carl Palmer blasting audiences out of their seats with his fine music played at "11" -- arena volume for 450-seat theaters. Pendragon can easily waltz into those same venues and mesmerize with these wonderful slices from their past. The nine tracks on the disc are augmented by a video of "The Last Waltz" from their DVD Live...At Last and More. Extensive liner notes from Artur Chachlowski work better if you enlarge them at a copy center -- the type is quite tiny, but the booklet is fine nonetheless. Where Ian Anderson dips into a variety of bags and is multidimensional (especially on his orchestrated live shows), Pendragon stay the course with their mix of Yes meets Aztec Two-Step, and that's quite all right.

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