In 2009 I already mentioned that the British band Legend would reunite and come up with a brand new album. But until now we published only two CD reviews that contain old material. The first one was a review of the compilation album Ritual Echo (2009, see review) followed by their first live CD Playing With Fire (2010, see review). Now in 2011, we finally can enjoy the long-awaited brand new album Cardinal Points.
After listening to the album several times it was easy for me to conclude that Legend's musical style remained the same as on the first three albums: Light In Extension (1991), Second Sight (1993) and Triple Aspect (1996). However, the early Marillion influences are gone, although the strong keyboard playing of founding member Steve Paine is still present on Cardinal Points. That also applies for the use of female lead vocals, this time not performed by Debbie Chapman, but by Kerry Parker, who sings in a lower key than Debby. Also guitarist Paul Thomson has been replaced by Dave Foster who treats the listener to some tasteful guitar licks and riffs. Beside Steve Paine, drummer John Macklin is the other original band member. The rhythm section is completed by bassist Dan Nelson. Together they managed to come up with one hour of beautiful music spread over four epic pieces. These four tracks represent the four basic elements of our planet: earth, wind, fire and water expressed in the song titles and by short sound fragments at the start of each track.
The album opens with Carved In Stone, a thirteen-minute piece that starts with the sound of birds. If you listen carefully you can notice a didgeridoo as well played by guest musician Jay Boon. The female voices have a major role in this piece together with some fine playing on the keyboards. However, afterwards this song appeared to be the most mainstream piece compared to the other tracks on Cardinal Points. The remaining three pieces are more adventurous and have, as a consequence, more to offer. The second track Whisper On The Wind appropriately starts with the howling of the wind. The song contains some perfectly played guitar and synthesizer solos. Sometimes the sound of the keyboards reminded me of the music of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Strong fretless bass parts can be enjoyed as well. The third piece is called Spark To A Flame and lasts for almost fourteen minutes. It starts with the sound of thunder followed by some strong female harmony vocals. Again you can enjoy brilliant guitar and synthesizer solos. A fine break of a mellow keyboard sound makes sure that this track is well-balanced with up-tempo and slow parts. The seventeen-minute final track Drop In The Ocean is the longest one. It won't surprise you that it starts with the sound of the waves. This piece is mellower with orchestral keyboard sounds, some playing on the acoustic guitar and flute playing by guest musician Claire Foster. This piece tends very much towards classical music. The sound of the waves ends this song and also the album.
After listening to this comeback album by Legend, I have to conclude that it was worthwhile waiting so long for this new material to be released. I would recommend this album to people who enjoy female fronted bands like Mostly Autumn, Renaissance or Solstice. You might enjoy it as much as I did!
***+ Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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