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Solstice - Spirit CD (album) cover

SPIRIT

Solstice

 

Neo-Prog

3.71 | 26 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars Solstice is one of those typical second tier prog bands that have been around for a while (it was formed in 1980, well past the already buried golden era) , releasing albums occasionally to satisfy some inner pledge of resistance to the fluctuations of the music market . Leader and superb guitarist Andy Glass cut his teeth as a Jethro Tull engineer as well as live lead guitarist for Bill Withers, the Temptations and bluesman Geno Washington. Let it be stated for the record that Andy Glass is a stunning fretman with impeccable technique and a rather unique style that transcends the usual suspects. His main outlet has been Solstice, a folk/neo prog group that has made an impact in prog circles with tasty albums such as Silent Dance, New Life and er? the less accomplished Circles! What makes this such a deal is the inclusion of a live DVD disc showing off their live talents, great idea as older compositions such as Cheyenne, New Life, Brave New World and most of this new album are now visible to the unbelievers.

The mood is immediately seductive on the shifting nearly 10 minute opener "Salomon's Bridge", a sensuous acoustic flurry beckons the violin forward, played by the ravishing Jenny Newman, as the keys, bass, drums and growling guitars suddenly enter the melee. Andy pulls on the strings a la Holdsworth , displaying an obvious genius in expressing himself with the guitar. Emma Brown's vocals are effective but frankly nowhere near the breathless qualities of fellow Brits Olivia Sparnnen of Breathing Space/Mostly Autumn, Karnataka's Lisa Fury or Joanna Hogg (okay, she's from Ulster!). Mention must be made of Pete Hemsley's rather superlative percussive work, a giant drummer at work here. "Sky Path West" is another longuish yet stellar track, arguably the strongest moment here, a rumbling Robin Phillips bass-led romp that exudes happiness and joy (near Mahavishnu /Santana territory), Glass really playing fondly on his axe, the fiddle sticking to the theme (fiddlesticks?). I mean , this is good stuff!!!!! "Freedom" is marred by some narrated political mumbo-jumbo that offers nothing new (empirical corporate fascism will never go away regardless how hard you try to revolutionize the world). "Flight" is a towering riff-laden journey that jets through the aural skies with serious hints of jazz-rock, some scat-vocalized "doo-ahhs" that are actually quite nicely pulled off. Steve McDaniel's snarling organ duels effortlessly with Andy pyrotechnical fret massages, a tremendous piece that rocks and fizzes. The mood needs to calm down and does so with the splendid Celtic-drenched "Oberon's Folly", the quintessential anguished plea of a troubled soul, giving Emma the platform to show off her hypnotic pipes on part 1 "Puit d'Amour" (Well of Love) while part 2 "Lady Muck" is entirely devoted to the wailing agony of Jenny's inspired violin. She is one hell of a fiddler on any roof! This piece sort of consecrates the essential qualities of this pleasant album, easily Solstice's finest moment. The voluptuous "Here & Now" simply continues on the folk/symphonic/ neo prog road and offers up a slight Middle Eastern tinge that is totally appealing. The raging guitars in particular are uniquely disturbing in tone and technique, while the fiddle screeches in the sandstorm orchestrations. The disc bows out with the epic title track, a dozen minutes of image-laden musical acrobatics that encompass the entire gamut of Solstice's credo, an adventurous, ingenious and talented expression of progressive rock symphonics. A mid- tempo spiritual tapestry with sitar-like twangs, a serene synth solo, sweet ethereal vocals and groove backdrop. Smooth and relaxed, almost effortless, baby! Andy gets to explore his Carlos Santana fantasies and spew all over the place, a huge technical solo that will scatter the leaves between your ears.

As for the DVD, it provides a glimpse into the world of musicians who are in it for the pleasure and not the fame (read money), a talented crew of musicians who defy the trends and do their thing brilliantly. Oh, and they are enjoying themselves too?.. What a sight, what a sound. This deserves being in any progfan's rotation. 4.5 gin and tonics, screwdrivers , cuba libres, scotch and waters.

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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