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Legend: Playing With Fire Live 1992

After releasing their debut album Light In Extension in 1991, shedding bassists at an alarming rate and meeting a depressing amount of indifference to their first UK tour, the future was looking bleak for Runcorn progressive folk rock band Legend. That was until a phone call from Japan, which the band thought was a wind-up, resulted in the recording of one of their shows in their home town for release on video for a Japanese fan-base that Legend never even knew they had. The plan had also been to put Playing With Fire, as it was called, out on CD, however due to lack of funds, only the video appeared. Legend went on to release a further two albums (Second Sight in 1993 and Triple Aspect in 1996) and to misplace more bassists, before their label Pagan Records folded, placing the band in limbo. Instead of the breaking up, Legend have been in hibernation, with the intention of completing their fourth album at some stage. Two years ago, Steve Paine (Legend's keyboard player) rediscovered the analogue tapes for Playing With Fire and decided to scratch an eighteen year itch and set about organising the CD release of the album.

Two things are immediately apparent when listening to Playing With Fire, first up, the sound quality is not what you would expect from a newly recorded live show, however considering the old analogue tapes this set comes from, then that is easily forgiven. Secondly is the enthusiasm with which Legend attack their brand of progressive, folk rock, which makes for an invigorating, if obviously dated experience. It is hard not to be reminded of, more down to the sound of the keys and guitars and the manner with which Paine flurries up and down his keyboard than the actual songs, early Marillion. However the slightly folky and medieval vibe that is infused into the very eighties inspired prog does set Legend apart from the raft of copyists that Marillion (OK Genesis then!), have always attracted. The biggest difference though is that instead of hiring a Fish-alike (as Arena initially did) Legend are fronted by the Kate Bush gargling Debbie Harry style of Debbie Chapman. Her approach is, at first, a little off-putting, being too sweet and nicey-nicey for the fast tempo and dense melody of "Pipes Of Pan", however as the set moves on, Chapman settles into a pleasing mix of beautiful choir like singing and a harsher, altogether more atmospheric style that fares far better against the frenetic attack of the band.

The set comprises six songs from the aforementioned debut album, four that were being worked on for the follow up and an ambitious, if not altogether compelling take on "Toccata & Blues". Throughout, Paul Thomson, who went on to be a ballroom dancer, puts in a great display of dextrous guitar work, while he is ably backed by the thick slabs of keyboards provided by Paine, the unfussy bass playing of Martyn Rouski and John Macklin's tight percussive style. On the whole the album is hugely enjoyable and does leave the impression that Legend are a band that would have been worth seeing all those years ago. Stand out tracks, are the slowly building anthemic "I Close My Eyes", the huge riff and keyboard assault of "Dance" which also has an excellent, rounded vocal from Chapman and the more straight ahead approach of set closer "Light In Extension".

Whilst maybe not suggesting that Legend were of the class to have rivalled the progressive big boys, Playing With Fire does illustrate that they deserved far more notice than they achieved at the time and with talk that work has recommenced on the prospective fourth album Cardinal Points, it still may happen.

Bearing in mind the understandable sound issues, it still has to be said that for fans of eighties prog Playing With Fire is a very interesting release.

Track Listing
1. Pipes Of Pan
2. Dance
3. Nightshade
4. Windsong
5. I Close My Eyes
6. The Chase
7. Legend
8. The Healer
9. Lament
10. Toccata & Blues
11. Light In Extension

Added: August 13th 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Official Legend Web Site
Hits: 2198
Language: english

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