Legend were formed in August 1988 by keyboard player Stephen Paine, and after an initial period of instability the line-up settled down with Debbie Chapman (vocals), Paul Thomson (guitar), Ian Lees (bass), Chris Haskayne (drums) and Steve.
Throughout 1989 and 1990 the band gigged extensively in the North West, gradually building up a good following and a strong reputation for a great live show. Not content with relying solely on the music they also use pyrotechnics, laser and strobe effects, coupled with a forty-lantern light show. If that was not enough, they also use costumes, and have a 2.4 KW PA system to ensure that their music comes across loud and clear: quite a package to be putting into small clubs and venues. In 1990 they signed a management and sponsorship deal with Pagan Media Ltd, which culminated with the recording of their debut album. Light In Extension. Graham raved over this in the last issue of Blindsight, and I can see why. This album is as prog as it comes, but unlike virtually all the other prog bands around they are not relying on Genesis for their influence, but from a rather different source, that of Steeleye Span. That is not to say that they sound like them, but rather it is an influence that they have incorporated into their own very distinct sound.
Kicking off with the title song, it opens with soaring keyboards and frenetic drumming which leaves you quite unprepared for the clarity and style of Debbie’s singing. Debbie sounds and sings like Maddy Prior, and to say that the use of a clear, soaring voice singing effortlessly over the top of a powerful rock track is effective is just a minor understatement. However, the band are far more than just a backing group with a female lead, as they more than ably demonstrate throughout the album. They are tight, really tight, and great musicians to boot. As the song builds to its close the twin bass drums kick in and the keyboards provide a choral backdrop that soar above the menace and power of the blistering rock to great effect. Hold The Flame is a totally different track, being far lighter in mood; Paul plays a lead line throughout most of the song, mimicking the vocals. This brighter song provides the way for Nightshade, which starts in a very Steeleye manner, but the chorus dispels all thought of folk rock.
Windsong starts with a bass line that could have been lifted straight from Dave Pegg and the whole song has a folky element to it, again being of a far lighter nature; that is until the instrumental passage where Paul and Steve swap leads to great effect. I can imagine this being an extensive workout live, then quite suddenly the mood changes as a madrigal is played that then leads back into the song itself. It ends with Paul demonstrating some great axework and is a song to be proud of with many different elements, combining and adding instead of detracting from the whole. The Pipes of Pan is the rockiest track on the album and has great musicianship throughout. Again, it is a faster song, but Legend slow it down in the middle and break it up before speeding off again. More than anything else Legend are a band of contrast and use this to great advantage. The Chase gives the lads the opportunity to demonstrate their instrumental prowess, and Paul and Steve again take turns to provide the lead role. The combined effect is one of menace and terror, and the chase is on. Lament is a slow ballad that leads into the closer Evidence of Autumn where the gentle piano-based verse does not prepare you for the rock chorus.
The lyrics are Arthurian and paganistic and are well written. The CD has a colour cover and contains all the lyrics. The only moan I have about the album is that Chris loves to power around the kit, and it eventually detracts. However, since the album was recorded both Chris and Ian have left the band, to be replaced by John Macklin and Shaun McGowan respectively and that element has been removed from the music. This is a great album, and to promote it they also have a free three-track flexi available.
1. Light In Extension (6:43)
2. Hold The Flame (3:18)
3. Nightshade (3:22)
4. Windsong (8:30)
5. Pipes Of Pan (4:20)
6. The Chase (4:06)
7. Lament (7:08)
8. Evidence Of Autumn (6:26)
Debbie Chapman – vocals, tambourine
Paul Thomson – guitars
Steve Paine – keyboards
Ian Lees – bass guitar
Chris Haskayne – drums, voice (4.)
Merlin (German shepherd dog) – backing vocals (3.)
Feedback ≠12, May 1992.
The Progressive Underground Volume 2, September 2019, Page 88-89.