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erik neuteboom
4 stars In the mid-Eighties I visited my favorite record store "Manus" in The Hague when the owner pointed me at this album. He was sure that I would like it as a fan from THE ENID, he explained that Craft had some The Enid members in their line-up. Indeed, it was not a disappointment ... to use an understatement!

1 : Aries - 5.52

The first encounter with Craft their music evokes THE ENID but with a more modern sound and less bombastic. The contrast between the classical keyboards and the fiery electric guitar is captivating. The climates fluently changes from mellow to bombastic featuring wonderful classical orchestrations and ARP Pro Solist-like synthesizer flights.

2 : Taurus - 3.53

This is a bit dreamy piece with tender piano play, a soothing bass and soaring keyboards, topped by slow and sensitive electric guitar runs.

3 : Gemini - 7.11

The climate is bombastic featuring a propulsive beat and great interplay between the classical sounding keyboards and the harder-edged electric guitar. After a fiery electric guitar solo we hear wonderful orchestral keyboards, perfectly in balance with the guitar, it sounds compelling with a Wagnerian undertone.

4 : Cancer - 6.56

This track has some mellow atmospheres but in general it features a propulsive drum beat with bombastic keyboards and fiery electric guitar, this is the typical Craft sound, a captivating blend of classic (keyboards), symphonic and rock (guitar).

5 : Leo - 8.35

Again a propulsive drum beat and great sounding keyboards, this time organ and mid- Emerson-like synthesizer flights. The climates changes fluently and the fiery electric guitar is omnipresent, it gives the music an extra dimension.

6 : Virgo 2.27

A short and classical sounding song that has the most obvious echoes from THE ENID. Very refined and beautiful classical orchestrations.


Report this review (#42489)
Posted Thursday, August 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Overblown and self-conscious Cheez Whiz is what we have here... and it's not all that bad, actually. Three of the five tracks on the original release, 'Aries', 'Gemini' and 'Leo', are highly listenable academic Symph Rock numbers taking from Saga, U.K., Genesis, Tull, ELP, later Yes, a pinch of Asia and a nauseating whiff of 80s hair metal, and trot along with courtly pomp peppered by good keyboard breaks from ex-Enid man William Gilmour. Martin Russel's (also of The Enid) treated bass substituting for a guitar and Grant McKay Gilmour's acceptable drums add some flavor. If Rick Wakeman composed the music for a kid's TV show about a team of galaxy-defending space knights galloping through the cosmos on horseback, it would sound like this. But this trio does it well, as adolescent as it may be. And there's nothing wrong with that last time I checked.
Report this review (#134881)
Posted Sunday, August 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Craft is an unnoticed symphonic prog band from mid '80's. The band released so far a single album in 1984 selftitled. Two of the members from here, William Gilmour and Martin Russell were prior to this release in The Enid band. Craft plays a hybrid of mid to late '70's symphonic prog not far from Genesis with a touch of UK (Danger money era) some Yes and a lots of bombastic moments a la Asia or Saga for ex. All the album is instrumental and is based on half of the signs of the zodiac. My CD is from Kinesis records, the one who re issue the album in 1992 and has 3 bonus tracks here. As I said the music is good, with some great moments, like the opening track - Aries, nice melody and good musicianship. The album has aswell some mellower moments like Taurus, but soon after Craft kick seriosly with Gemini and Cancer, two excellent tracks, that will please every symphonic prog listner, great moments with solid interplays between musicians, specially the keybords has an important role here. A true lost album, that for some reasons was lost in the vault of time and for sure needed a better view, but what can we expect from 1984 in prog music, I guess the worst year of prog, or at least one of the most forgetable, minus minor exceptions of course. So, a good album all the way, not a bad moment here, and desearve 3 solid stars., kinda underrated in my opinion, one of the lost little gems of dark years.
Report this review (#281965)
Posted Friday, May 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is usually quoted as similar to some songs from The Enid. The comparison can be good for those who know this band and are unaware of Craft. But this comparison has restrictions, because both compositions and executions aren't so equal. This album has much more balance between the instruments, in comparison to Enid. This means that drums and guitars are more present. Two other important differences: plenty of piano playing, and a bass sound taken from the guitar or the synth (when I heard it, could swear there was a bass player, but on the booklet there's no reference on such musician or instrument).

The opening track, "Aries" starts with a great phrasing on piano, which comes and go through the song, and is also used by the synth and the guitar. Without going repetitive, and dialoguing with other tunes. The similarity to Enid, here and on some other tracks, can be seen on the guitar performances.

A very pleasent combination of synth, piano and a bass sound makes the first part of next track, "Taurus". This one reminds Enid, but the bass sound and the piano tunes mark a difference, and gives it a fine mood, livener without exaggerations.

What an excellent track is "Gemini"! Drummer and guitar-player are particularly inspired. Both of them keep themselves on the composition, without much solos, but making subtle changes on rhythms and harmonies that enriches a lot the composition. That instrument-similar-to-bass again, and some brief interventions on the piano complete this great song.

"Cancer", track 4, is less complex. It has, though, some good phrasings on the guitar, and making with the drummer very good interplay. Its ending is bombastic playing, but also includes some brief marching themes.

Fifth track, "Leo", isn't as good as the previous stuff, but has some very inteligent and creative tempos on drums. Guitar-player makes a consistent and elegant shift from more pompous playing with more intimate interventions.

"Virgo", the last one, is very Enid-alike. It's the shortest song and doesn't reach 3min. Only synths. Weakest track.

If you have the original CD from Kinetic Records, I suggest you just ignore the two bonus tracks, "Branislana" and "So to Sleep". Very irritating how simple they are, and both have nothing to do with progressive rock.

My note without the bonus tracks is 4.2. With them, 3.9.

A tip: if you search it on spotify, look by the term "First Signs" on the album's title.

Report this review (#2893853)
Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2023 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Back in 1994 I was fortunate enough to come across a reissue of an album from 10 years earlier, and according to my review at the time I said it was very enjoyable (and I was right). Fast forward to 2022 and I was somewhat surprised to see it had been reissued again, here in an extended and definitive edition, but also very pleased as it gave me the excuse to really listen to it again properly. Craft are one of those bands who released an album then promptly disappeared, although some of those involved are still in the music industry. To understand their musical influences, style and where they came from, there is no need to look any further than the mighty The Enid, who had seen some significant success in the Seventies and were back then releasing a host of important albums. However, William Gilmour (keyboards) and Martin Russell (bass, keyboards) had both become disenchanted and left, soon to form Craft with drummer Grant McKay Gilmour. There was no guitarist, as instead Martin put his bass through a custom pedalboard to create the sounds he wanted, and of course there was no singer as this was an instrumental band who were moving in the direction they had wanted The Enid to take.

The original eight songs have now been extended to 14, some of which did appear on the earlier reissue plus some which are new, giving us a total playing time of nearly eighty minutes. In many ways it is surprising they did not bring in a guitarist, as that sound is a very important aspect of the album, and in many ways reminds me of what The Enid themselves were doing when I saw them in 1992 with ex-Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist Neil Shepherd. However, Martin provides plenty of crunch to offset the multi-layered keyboards and playing it again I am still surprised this has not made more of an impact on progheads as this really is a delight from beginning to end with classical prog keyboards in abundance. While fans of The Enid may initially flock to this due to who is involved they will keep playing it just because it is so damn good, and in many ways shows what could have happened if they had stayed with The Enid. Why there was ever only one album I do not know, as this is a band who should have achieved so much more, but of course this was in a time when prog was being hammered by all aspects of the media so perhaps it is not surprising.

Martin Russell went on to form Afro Celt Sound System, while Grant Gilmour was in Pride of Passion, and I just hope progheads discover the album this time around as it is polished, and very different indeed to most of the prog these days. A real gem.

Report this review (#2894871)
Posted Saturday, February 25, 2023 | Review Permalink

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