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Solstice - The Cropredy Set CD (album) cover

THE CROPREDY SET

Solstice

Neo-Prog


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Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Though released in 2002, Solstice's The Cropredy Set actually hails from 1998. It's sort of a live-in-the-studio release: the band had performed at Fairport Convention's Cropredy festival, but it quickly became evident that the recordings they'd made of the performance were entirely unusable. Luckily, they were able to get themselves some studio time the next day to essentially recreate the set in the studio, with this album being the result of that.

In doing so, Solstice seem to have overcome the difficulties that their previous studio albums had suffered when it came to capturing their live sound; evidently past albums (Silent Dance especially) had been victims of the band and their producers just plain overthinking the matter, when a live-in-the-studio approach actually suits their style rather well.

The upshot is that the Cropredy Set might well be the best place to start exploring Solstice, especially in their 1990s incarnation; you get some picks from each of Silent Dance, New Life, and Circles, plus Awakening - the title track from Clive Bunker's solo album of the same name, which Solstice leader Andy Glass had provided guitar duties on - and the non-album track Ducks On the Pond, a traditional song turned into an Ozric Tentacles-do-dub reggae backing for new violinist Jenny Newman to really show off her stuff over.

Newman, indeed, is the exciting new edition to the lineup. On past Solstice albums Marc Elton's violin performances had been an important feature of the band's sound. Sadly, Elton had to bow out of the band after the completion of Circles, due to tinnitus rendering him incapable of performing live - a serious problem for a band so focused on live performance as Solstice. Newman is his incoming replacement and is an absolute delight on here, with her contributions establishing her as an important contributor to the band's sound and a worthy musical partner to Glass. (Between this and Solstice's next recordings, Andy Glass would largely focus on collaborations with Newman in their 3Sticks project.)

As far as the rest of the lineup goes, naturally band leader Andy Glass is here to provide guitar, and much of the Circles gang are still here too - Clive Bunker's on drums (hence the cut from his solo album), and Emma Brown remains on vocals. Steve McDaniel takes over the keyboard spot which Marc Elton had previously been handling in addition to his violin duties, whilst Robin Phillips joins on bass.

In what would be for Solstice a stunning level of stability, this is more or less the same lineup that would produce Spirit and Prophecy, the band's two studio albums of the 2010s, the only difference being Phil Hemsley (who had provided drums on New Life) rejoining the group to replace the outgoing Clive Bunker. The Cropredy Set, then, is not only a very solid collection of Solstice songs, but also a chance to hear (most of) the future lineup of the band gelling in the studio for the first time.

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Posted Wednesday, February 26, 2020 | Review Permalink

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