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erik neuteboom
3 stars This CD is nostalgia for me! In the early Nineties I started to work for the Dutch progrock paper SI Magazine. The owner founded the label SI Music that had (too) strong connections with SI Magazine, eventually this led to their downfall. One of the pros of working for SI Magazine was the fact that you got every SI Music release for free. Those releases were not always my cup of tea (understatement for 'crap'!) but this release still belongs to one of my favorite ones. The six strong compositions (running time 30.23) have obvious echoes from mid-Rush and early Marillion but the dynamics and variety are great, the singer has powerful and expression, the keyboards are tasteful and the guitarist delivers a killer-tribute to Alex Lifeson with many spectacular soli!

Check out E-Bay for this small gem if you don't have a problem with exciting Marillion/Rush wannabees.

Report this review (#45075)
Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars This is a review of the latest version of the EP, with the additional keyboards

In 1987, Winter came together as a band in Newtownards, Co. Down, with Johnny Lennie (vocals & lyrics), Rab Beggs (electric/acoustic guitars), Phil Murray (keyboards/additional vocals), Rick Loyer (bass guitar) and John Murphy (drums/percussion). They released this EP on vinyl on their own label in 1990, but what may not be known by many is that it was always just intended to be a demo (because of that there are occasional little timing issues or blips in there in one of 2 places) and the idea was that by using this they would be able to secure a recording deal and then record a complete album. During 1991, having not secured a recording deal, the band decided to attempt a tour of Holland rather than record new material. Murray and Murphy felt that the band should concentrate on writing and recording more songs, as the best means of securing a deal, so they decided to leave. Rab Beggs did tour with Winter in Holland but left after a few gigs and later formed rock groups Mr. Jinx and Native Sun with Phil Murray.

A new version of Winter, still with Loyer and Lennie, formed a new version of the band in London and the EP was remastered and released on CD by SI Music, and to this day is still an album I play regularly. Then, one day when I was perusing the web I discovered that Phil Murray had added keyboard parts that were missing from the original recording, and was making the EP available again. Of course I was soon in touch, and I am now listening to the 'new' version. I have to confess and say that it is almost impossible for me to write anything constructive about this. I saw the later line-up in concert three times, and right from the first I was blown away by the sheer onstage presence of Johnny combined with some of the most wonderful and powerful neo-prog I ever had the pleasure to witness. "Toybox" is just one of the greatest prog epics never to have been heard by many, and I wish for the day when someone discovers this lost gem and restores it to it's rightful place as one of the top in the prog canon. I know this album so very well indeed, that initially I found Phil's keyboards quite jarring as they weren't what I was used to, but the more I played this the more I fell in love with what he had done to the music. Bear in mind he hasn't actually added anything, but rather has replaced something that was missing from something that was never expected to be the finished article.

Many of the 'lost' bands of the Nineties have had their music reissued on CD, and I can only hope that the same fate befalls Winter as to my mind they were a band that had incredible potential and really should have been known by many more progheads. Maybe Phil would consider getting this pressed alongside the tracks that appeared on singles and tapes (it was the Nineties after all), or maybe adding some live recordings?

Sheer quality from start to finish, it is now possible to stream this from the website so if you are at all intrigued as to why I am creating so much fuss why not visit and listen for yourself.

Report this review (#56954)
Posted Friday, November 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars WINTER are a MARILLION influenced band with an excellent guitarist who recalls Alex Lifeson at times. These guys are from Belfast, Northern Ireland and you can hear the accent in the singers voice. Please read Kruger's review in regards to the lineup controversy.

"Technocracy" opens with a cool guitar melody as drums come in and build. Vocals are next. They are strong and on the deeper side. Keys come and go. Amazing Lifeson-like guitar solo after 2 1/2 minutes. Great uptempo opener. "The Betrayal Of Reason" sounds like an eighties tune because of the vocal style and synths. This is my least favourite track, although it ends really well thanks to the guitar work of Rabb Beggs. "Close Your Eyes" is very much MARILLION influenced. After an uptempo intro with prominant drums and synths, the song settles right down with vocals, synths, and acoustic guitar. When it calms down it sounds so good. The album title is a line in the chorus. Some grinding guitar after 3 minutes turns into a killer solo. The tempo picks up before 4 minutes. Some theatrical vocals later. The best song so far.

"Evengate" is a short ballad of piano and fragile vocals. Quite touching actually. "Toybox" is almost 9 minutes long and is my favourite song on here. After a short atmospheric intro, pounding drums and a full sound arrive a minute in. Some strong vocals in this uptempo, catchy track. It calms down like in the intro 4 minutes in with FISH-like vocals. The song is building before 5 minutes. It calms back down a minute later. Check out the blazing guitar solo to follow. I always find it kind of cool when a band names a song after themselves. "Winter" is the only instrumental track on the album, and it's one of the better songs on here. After a tasteful intro we get a full sound including soaring guitar before a minute. Some more lightspeed playing by Beggs on guitar that simply goes on and on as drums pound away. Just an incredible display of guitar work.

If your a Neo-Prog fan try to track this one down. A solid 3 stars. I'm surprised this is their only recording, these guys were really good.

Report this review (#158549)
Posted Sunday, January 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars WINTER now has a web site -

By way of putting the record straight! As a close friend of the band, back in the 1990s - let me tell you the REAL story of Irish rock band - WINTER.

The music you hear in this excellent CD is infact simply a re-master of the original E.P. Vinyl RECORD that was recorded in Ireland in 1991. Infact it was the original band members who played every note on this E.P. [and hence the CD].

John Lennie - Vocals Rab Beggs - Guitars Phil Murray - keyboards/piano Rick Loyer - Bass John Murphy - Drums

ALL SONGS were written and owned by the orginal WINTER line up.

Unfortunately the original line up broke up before the CD version of the E.P. was re-mastered in Holland and the CD was credited with new members on there but they had NO PART whatsoever in recording the songs you hear on the CD -- it is all recorded by the original WINTER line up.

So ACROSS THE CIRCLE'S EDGE has quite a colourful history. The CD itself suffered from the fact that the guys had run out of money to mix it properly so in essence there are quite a lot of Phil Murray's keyboard work [and original keyboard sounds] and Rab Beggs guitar work missing from the final mix -- all due to time constraints in the studio. Rick Loyer had a brilliant bass line intro to Toybox that was cut back to a fade in for the track Winter for example. the irony is, that the intial cassette version of these songs, recorded as a guide line for the E.P. Vinyl recording is actually BETTER than the final CD -- simply because it contained all the missing elements mentioned above.

The Blazing guitar playing - referred to in one of the earlier reviews - WAS NOT the work of Andy Ryan at all, but the genius of RAB BEGGS, the original guitarist. The same goes for the awesoome drumming - it is entirely the work of the brilliant JOHN MURPHY. Unfortunately after the band split - neither Beggs or Murphy got credited with the playing on the CD -- which was a terrible shame -- Phil Murray played all keyboards despite having left the band prior to the CD release.

Winter certainly were a superb band and could and should have secured a recording contract at the time. One of the finest Irish live band's of the past 20 years actually.

Report this review (#160142)
Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars totally agree with Krugers comments on Circles Edge . He obviously knows his stuff in relation to the REAL story behind both Winter, and the recording of the original vinyl album and the subsequent re- master in. Holland. All the material was produced and recorded by Beggs, Lennie, Loyer, Murphy and Murray. Musical credits on the CD cover are incorrect.

Couple of factoids about the band/album

Rab Beggs has been most heavily influenced by Gary Moore, and stills plays in Belfast to this day Close your eyes and Winter received airplay on Tommy Vance's friday night rockshow The drumming on Toybox is straight through and was done on the first take ! Jonnie Lennie is a huge Pavarotti fan

Report this review (#166044)
Posted Tuesday, April 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Technocrazy

Winter is an obscure Neo-Prog band from Northern Ireland that was formed in 1987 and disbanded already in 1991 after only one official release. Across The Circle's Edge - which according to the band's official website is an EP, but according to Prog Archives is a full length studio album - was released on vinyl in 1990 and then two years later on CD. Additional keyboard parts have since been added to the recordings, but as I have never heard the original releases, I cannot say with certainty if this was an improvement or not, but I strongly suspect it was. All six tracks can now be streamed for free on the band's website and the same website states that the album will be available for download on iTunes shortly. It remains unclear if there are any plans for the band to get back together, but it is fair to say that if it wasn't for the Internet people like me would never have heard of the band. It is all thanks to "technocracy", maybe?

The just over 30 minutes of good music featured on Across The Circle's Edge is very much rooted in the sound of the (early) 80's British Neo-Prog scene. While the very good vocals are certainly more than a bit Fish-like (but also reminding me of Ric Ocasek of the American New Wave band The Cars, for some reason!), the overall sound reminds me more of Pallas (especially The Sentinel) than of Marillion. The music is dark, theatrical, "futuristic" (from the perspective of the 1980's, at least) and occasionally almost metallic, but at the same time strongly melodic and even slightly poppy at times. The song Toybox reminds strongly of the Australian Neo-Prog band Aragon's excellent Rocking Horse piece (the song even contains the words 'rocking horse').

The production is not perfect (neither was Pallas' The Sentinel), but the songs are all good and engaging and the instruments and vocals sound very good. Across The Circle's Edge is a promising and enjoying recording and it would indeed have been interesting to hear more from this unknown band. One idea would perhaps be to re-record these old songs and add another handful of new songs to create a proper full length album according to today's requirements of running length and production? In an age where lots of old bands unexpectedly resurface, nothing can be deemed an impossibility anymore I guess.

Certainly a worthy listen for any Neo-Prog fan

Report this review (#466332)
Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This was an Irish group from Newtownards, found in 1987 by Johnny Lennie on vocals (also responsible for Winter's lyrics), Andy Ryan on guitar, Richard Loyer on bass, Tim Wilson on drums with Phil Murray helping out on keyboard parts.They recorded a self-titled demo cassette in 1988, before heading for the ''Across the circle's edge'' vinyl EP.This was recorded at Level One Studios in their hometown, originally released in 1990 and re-released two years later on CD by the Dutch label SI.

At a time when IQ had turned to Prog-Pop and Marillion somewhat struggled to find a particular style for their new singer Steve Hogarth, Winter played old-fashioned, underground and rough Neo Prog in the vein of COMEDY OF ERRORS, TWELFTH NIGHT and TRILOGY.Despite the obvious influences from the best British acts of the 80's, there is definitely some RUSH vibes in their music, which is a bit more raw than the more symphonic-oriented first steps of IQ.Well-composed, dynamic and energetic, this EP should be a favorite of anyone after the style.Attacking, edgy guitrar leads and solos, flashy keyboard lines and a gifted singer, who becomes theatrical when needed.There are also some beautiful, lyrical moments in the album in the vein of early MARILLION, passing through atmospheric textures with melody and deep emotions becoming the group's priorities.But its bulk is characterized by impressive guitar work, supported by well-played, angular synthesizers and a dash of orchestral colors in the process.The balance between instrumental and vocal parts is kept at a good level and the compositions are led by the passion of the music and the singer.

One track of the album, ''Close your eyes'', was included in the SI ''Progressive & Melodic Rock Vol. 1'' compilation from 1993, while Winter released also a 2-track demo around the same time, before fading in shadows.

Released in 1990 but sounding more like an early-80's album, ''Across the circle's edge'' presents the emphatic, rough side of Neo Prog, respecting the principles set up by RUSH and GENESIS in the 70's.Warmly recommended.

Report this review (#1193226)
Posted Sunday, June 15, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars "Simply Seventeen, simply beautiful!"

Down to Memory Lane. In the early Nineties the second wave of Neo Progressive Rock emerged in Europe, after the first one in the Eighties, spearheaded by Marillion, with IQ, Pallas and Pendragon in its slipstream. In those days I began to review for SI (Sym Info) Magazine, allied with progrock label/mailorder service SI Music, both led by the late Willebrord Elsing. He acknowledged the huge demand for music like that new wave of neo progressive rock (even more song-oriented, melodic and simply structured than the Eighties Neo-Prog) and started to release it on his SI Music label: from Strangers On A Train, Shadowland, Landmarq, Collage and bestseller Everon (5000 sales within one year) to Dutch PTS, Wings Of Steel, Last Detail, Egdon Heath and For Absent Friends. Willebrord carefully selected the SI Magazine reviewers for the SI Music releases. I showed my dislike for the Nineties Neo-Prog a bit too much to him, so I hardly got SI Music releases to review. But due to my huge appreciation for Rush and early Marillion I received Across The Circle's Edge by totally unknown Irish band Winter to review. I was delighted about this 17th SI Music release (1992), wrote a very positive review, especially about the instrumental final track, hailing the guitarist his mindblowing guitar solo. Unfortunately Winter turned out to be a promising one-shot-band, and remained the most obscure SI Music release. But recently I stumbled upon the new Winter website, dedicated to their history and including many unknown facts: I didn't know about the original LP release in 1990 and I didn't know that the line- up mentioned on the SI Music release is partly wrong. For example, I hailed Andy Ryan as the guitarist in the track Winter, but it turned out that Andy was the new guitarist, he had replaced Rab Beggs, the one who played that mindblowing guitar solo in Winter! And also drummer Til Wilson was new, it was John Murphy who did the excellent drumming on Across The Circle's Edge. These facts inspired me to re-write my original SI Magazine review from 1992, 16 years later, in late 2018, in order to do justice to some band members, and because this CD is my second favourite SI Music release, after Live And Let Live from Twelfth Night.

The Winter history (an abridged version of their website). Winter was founded in 1988 in Ireland, near Belfast, featuring prime mover Johnny Lennie (vocals), Rab Beggs (guitars), Phil Murray (keyboards), Rick Loyer (bass) and John Murphy (drums, percussion). The band recorded a two track demo tape in 1988: Reflections On The Water and Close Your Eyes, the latter song was submitted to Tommy Vance as part of the BBC Radio 1 'Battle Of The Bands', they went to the final but lost, by less than 100 votes. But Tommy Vance was impressed enough to play Winter tracks on a number of occasions during his Friday Night Rock Show (1988 until 1991). The two track demo was also on the BBC Radio Ulster, Downtown Radio and Cool FM. They then recorded Across The Circle's Edge in 1990, released on their own label, Circle's Edge Records (1990) a vinyl 6 track E.P. The E.P. received good reviews, with Toybox being cited as the strongest track and a good example of Lennie's lyrical prowess and vocal dexterity. John Murphy's sensational and flawless drum tracks attracted much critical acclaim in music press like Kerrang, Metal Hammer and Rythmn Magazine. Kerrang also praised Beggs for his guitar solo in the instrumental track Winter and for Rick Loyer's inventive and rhythmic bass style. Winter also enjoyed airplay on the Tommy Vance Rock Show on BBC Radio1 (along Rush and Pink Floyd). During 1991, having not secured a recording deal, the band decided to attempt a tour of Holland rather than record new material. But Murray and Murphy decided to leave and Rab Beggs did tour with Winter in Holland but left after a few gigs. In 1992 the 6 track vinyl EP was re-released by SI Records in 1992 on CD format. By the time of the CD release, Winter had a different line up and other musicians were credited on the sleeve notes for the album. In fact all the songs on the CD were written and performed by Beggs, Lennie, Loyer, Murphy, Murray ? the new members of the band had no part in the recording at all. Beggs and Murphy were not credited on the CD but they had performed on every track. In January 2012, Winter re-released and updated version of Across The Circle's Edge in digital format. These MP3 versions of the songs now include Murray's additional keyboard tracks that were missing from the original recording. There are still plans to release a limited edition version in vinyl and CD formats, possibly including Reflections On The Water from the demo recorded in 1988, and other live recordings.

My 2018 review. From the very first moment I listened to Across The Circle's Edge I was delighted about Winter its music, simply structured but performed very tasteful and inspired, with that extra emotional dimension that can be found in typical Irish rock music, like Rory Gallagher, Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore and of course U2, music straight from the heart, not very common in progressive rock. The six tracks deliver a pleasant variety.

Tight mid-tempo beats with harder-edged guitar play and catchy synthesizer flights in Technocracy (energetic with strong vocals and awesome Lifeson-like guitar play), The Betrayal Of reason (Rush meets Marillion, with outstanding work on guitar and keyboards, along dynamic drumming) and Close Your Eyes (first mellow part with warm vocals and then an accellaration with nice guitar overdubs).

The beautiful ballad Evengate, short but I got goose bumps, so moving with the blend of piano, Mellotron choir-like keyboards and especially the melancholical vocals.

The 'epic' Toyboy (close to 9 minutes) featuring also a Rush (guitar) meets Marillion (Fish inspired vocals) atmosphere, I was carried away by the heavy guitar solo, blistering and biting.

But my highlight is the final compositon Winter (instrumental), it contains a slow rhytm and is build around a very exciting and compelling guitar solo, with all the elements that seduce you to 'air guitar playing': build-up, slowdown, climax, fading away, in between sensitive, howling and biting runs, Alex Lifeson meets Andy Latimer but with an own touch, by Rab Beggs, hail to him, justice done, wow, this was again goose bumps!

I hope that in the near future this very fine album will be re-released with the excellent original master tape recordings and some bonus material, Winter fully deserves this, what a rare but very interesting Irish prog!

My rating: 3,5 star.

Report this review (#2080713)
Posted Monday, December 3, 2018 | Review Permalink

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