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The Enid - White Goddess CD (album) cover

WHITE GODDESS

The Enid

 

Symphonic Prog

3.84 | 42 ratings

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Fitzcarraldo
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the last original album released by THE ENID to date. Recorded in 1997, it was released in 1998 by Mantella Records and re-released in 2002 by Inner Sanctum. According to the sleeve notes this is an album with an ecological theme, although I couldn't have worked that out from the music itself. The list of people credited with inspiring the music includes Robert Graves, so I suppose the album title came from his book The White Goddess, but I see the white goddess as Gaia.

For those of you who are not familiar with the music of THE ENID, it's unique: a small group of rock musicians with Robert John Godfrey as the cornerstone and very much at the helm (talk about mixed metaphors!), using predominantly modern instruments but coming out with something that sounds similar to classical music played by a symphony orchestra. Godfrey is a wiz at using synthesizers and piano to this end. Not only that, but the compositions often follow classical music styles; just look at the titles of the tracks on this album: 'Fantasy', 'Waltz', 'Ballade', 'Nocturne' etc. But the group is not trying to be a classical orchestra, nor is it trying to parody one (well, not in a nasty way, anyway). And, lest you get the wrong idea, this is not classical music: the electric and bass guitars and the drums often play an important part.

I very much enjoy the 1977 "Aerie Faerie Nonsense", which I admit is OTT (intentionally so, I believe) and camp, but also unique and often delightful. The music on "White Goddess" is immediately recognisable if you're familiar with "Aerie Faerie Nonsense", but is not as camp and feels more measured. I won't say all the tracks are outstanding or memorable, but all of them are enjoyable and the album is a worthy follow-up to the group's early albums. That's quite something after more than 20 years. If you liked the early stuff you'll like this one too. And if you didn't like "Aerie Faerie Nonsense" you may well like this one, as it's more measured and mature. In fact, I think this album would be a better place to start if you've never heard anything by THE ENID.

There may not be (m)any jump-for-joy moments, but I think the whole package makes for enjoyable listening. If you're into Symphonic Progressive Rock and classical music then you may well like this album. If you like the early THE ENID albums then you certainly will. I'm going for 4 stars (excellent addition to any progressive music collection) on this one.

There's a small amount of choir on 'Gigue', but this is really an instrumental album. Here's a rundown of the tracks:

'Prelude' starts with the synthesised sound of a jet flying overhead and the swish and rattle of cars flying past. Then Gaelic 'pipes' sound, the 'tubas' blow and all the instruments of the 'orchestra' come in to build the sound, just as in a prelude.

This segues into 'Fantasy', which is delightful, actually. The guitar, bass and drums are a good foil to Godfrey's orchestral synthesizers and piano, and rock the track up nicely. Very heavy and distorted guitar is used in one short part. It still sounds like a classical composition, but different! Nice one.

'Riguardon' is a foot-tapper. It sounds slightly medieval and also slightly West Country (that's the south western part of England). It builds dramatically, and parts sound deliciously menacing, as if it were a choppy sea about to turn nasty. There's a guitar solo that emphasises that the group is not emulating classical music. I like this track very much.

'Sarabande' is a slow, calm piece, with some simple but nice guitar and synthesizer sounds in the background that are obviously meant to be whales. Very relaxing and melodic.

Read's 'Waltz' is. a waltz, and a slow one at that. It's pleasant and bops along sedately, full of 'strings' and 'flutes'. One-two-three, one-two-three. It's no musical masterpiece, but relaxing. Some Progressive Rock fans may at this point wonder what they are doing listening to this album. It's fine by me, though.

'Ballade' is dominated by piano (well, it really is a ballade, so what do you expect!), with 'strings' quietly backing. I really like this one. Again it's not a complex piece, nothing to do with Progressive Rock, but has a gorgeous melody and flow. Makes me feel a bit melancholic, actually.

'Gavotte' bops along like. well, a gavotte! Godfrey's synthesizers sounds convincingly like harp, flute and woodwind.

'Chaconne' has slightly more of a Progressive Rock feel. A slow, thumping, deep bass (well, it is a chaconne. etc.) with electronic-sounding synthesizer bubbling away and some slow, twangy guitar accompanied by wafting 'strings'. It sounds to me like it could be the theme tune for a holiday programme. I can almost see a schooner sailing away over turquoise waters and palms swaying on the shore.

'Gigue' is a fast number, very Irish in feel, a real jig and a foot-tapper. Lots of what sounds like bodhrán, with guitar and piano taking turns to lead. There is some choir work by Max Read in this track. There is a calm interlude and then off it goes again. Godfrey manages to get some 'horns' in there too. Nice one.

Godfrey's 'Nocturne' is a perfect nocturne. The lush sounds of a 'symphony orchestra' convey the stillness and quiet of the night. I could easily see a ballet solo danced to this. It's so relaxing and a good way to end the album.

Fitzcarraldo | 4/5 |

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