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Solstice Circles album cover
2.91 | 32 ratings | 5 reviews | 12% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1997

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Salu (5:23)
2. Circles (8:30)
3. Soul To Soul (7:18)
4. Thank You (5:49)
5. Medicine (5:48)
6. Sacred Run (6:16)
7. Coming Home (3:02)

Total time 42:06

Bonus tracks on 2007 remaster:
8. Medicine (Demo) (5:50)
9. Salú (Early Demo) (4:53)
10. Coming Home (Demo Written For Flute & Guitar) (2:59)
11. Freedom (Demo Of Vocal Melody) (6:34)

Line-up / Musicians

- Emma Brown / vocals
- Andy Glass / guitar, programming, backing vocals, arranger
- Marc Elton / violin
- Craig Sunderland / bass
- Clive Bunker / drums

- John McGuire / chanting (6)
- Heidi Kemp / vocals (8)

Releases information

Artwork: Arlene Weston

CD A New Day Records ‎- AND CD 13 (1997, UK)
2xCD Festival Music ‎- 200709C (2007, UK) Remastered by Andy Glass with 4 bonus tracks from the album sessions; New cover art

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SOLSTICE Circles ratings distribution

(32 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(12%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(16%)
Good, but non-essential (59%)
Collectors/fans only (12%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

SOLSTICE Circles reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars The right to celebrate

The title track of this album provided me with something of a history lesson. The song is based on an event that took place at the Stonehenge Free Festival in 1985 that apparently has become known as 'the battle of the bean field'. According to Wikipedia, whilst the full account of events remains in dispute, a court judgement six years later found the police guilty of wrongful arrest, assault and criminal damage as they attacked the seemingly innocent festival goers. It is unclear whether the band members where actually there that day.

The music of Circles is similar to the previous two Solstice albums even though the line-up changed once again. Each of these three albums had a different lead vocalist and this time Emma Brown replaces Heidi Kemp and the drummer on Circles is none other than Clive Bunker of Jethro Tull fame. The rest of the line-up remained stable with guitarist Andy Glass, violinist Marc Elton and bass player Craig Sunderland. Solstice is not a very prolific band as they have recorded only four studio albums throughout their 30 year existence (including the most recent one being released this year). Once again, band leader and composer Andy Glass has a good band backing him up, but for the first time there are no keyboards.

Circles is, as noted, the third Solstice album coming three years after the previous New Life and some 12 years after the debut, Silent Dance. It is interesting how similar these three albums are in sound given the distance in time between them. The band seems to be living in a vacuum, seemingly unaffected by changing trends. Whatever else you might accuse Solstice of, you can hardly accuse them of compromising their musical vision for popularity. They seem to have opted for a rather 'timeless' sound that clearly draws on the classic Prog-era without ever coming across as a 'retro' band. Having this said, the present album is a bit less flashy compared to New Life and the Jazz-Fusion influence is mostly absent here in favour of a more relaxed sound. Circles is an enjoyable listen for sure, but the music seems to just 'float' by without demanding your full attention. Before you know it, the album is over and you are left without any strong emotions. It is possible to listen to this music, but mostly I find myself just hearing it.

Bands that come to mind while listening to Circles are Mike Oldfield, Yes (in their most 'relaxed' and least complex moments), Camel (also in their more relaxed moments; think Ice). The Kansas and Dixie Dregs similarities are less evident here. This ought to tell you that this is not very difficult music. It is very difficult to dislike this music, but it is equally difficult to be very excited about it.

I rate this with only two stars, but this does not imply that this is a weak effort by any means. It is just that compared to the previous two Solstice albums, Circles adds nothing new and is less memorable. I recommend anyone who is interested in this band to start with the better Silent Dance and then move on to the almost as good New Life. If you find yourself craving for more after hearing those two albums, Circles is indeed a good addition to your collection. But it is not the place to start.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Solstice were back but not actually kickin', even if ''New life'' was a great comeback.Heidi Kemp appeared to leave the band at some point, while Marc Elton was unable to perform live due to suffering from tinnitus.Andy Glass found the replacement of Kemp in Emma Brown, a student and session singer, while at the same time he had built a good relationship with former Jethro Tull members Mick Abrahams and Clive Bunker, while producing an acoustic album for the first.Bunker agreed to join Solstice for the upcoming third album.He not only provided solid drumming, but his involvement led Solstice to find a new home on A New Day, a small label set by the eponymous Jethro Tull-related fanzine.Recorded at Audiolab in Buckingham, ''Circles'' originally came out in 1997.

Insisting on producing vinyl-length albums on CD, the new formation of Solstice seems to be pretty tight, but the music on ''Circles'' lacks a few of the incredible melodies and twists of the band's previous releases.New singer Emma Brown has a nice Annie Haslam-like voice, providing a RENAISSANCE/MAGENTA-related spark to the overall melodic music, which has still some pretty strong links with Folk, while Andy Glass' guitar work recalls now more of DAVID GILMOUR's slow guitar solos with a touch of STEVE ROTHERY in some passages.Despite his health problems, Elton is the reason the band is always rooted in old-styled British Folk, great solos and impressive runs are coming out of his violin strings.Compositionally Solstice retained much of their inspiration.The pieces are well-crafted with rich moments and fine soloing by the instrumentalists, but there is certain turn towards more accesible songwriting, which is not a bad thing as far as the music is good.Moreover the album is less keyboard-oriented than any of Solstice's back catalogue at that point with only some supporting colors here and there.Violin, guitars and ethereal female vocals prevail in ''Circles'', which sounds as the most RENAISSANCE-like effort of the band in terms of the atmosphere.

Full respect to a band, that fought hard for a number of reasons to get back on track.Even if ''Circles'' does not belong among Solstice's top albums, it's a fine work along the lines of Folk-influeneced modern Prog Rock.Recommended.

Review by FragileKings
2 stars I find it easier to simply buy a CD and take time to listen to the music to see what I think about it rather than just formulate an opinion by listening to samples from YouTube, Amazon, or iTunes. There have been a few albums and bands who failed to impress me when I gave a casual listen to a well-reputed album; however, when I later decided to buy a CD anyway, I often found that I quite liked the music. White Willow, Curved Air, Gentle Giant, Camel, and Van Der Graaf Generator required the commitment of an album purchase for me to appreciate their music. It's always a gamble, and there have been a few duds in between, even those that received high ratings and strong recommendations. But for the most part, my adventures in progressive rock have been fruitful.

Among the various resources I have for finding new music, Stephen Lambe's "Citizens of Hope and Glory: the Story of Progressive Rock" has introduced me to a lot of great albums that I might not have been otherwise tempted to purchase. The book includes reviews of 65 prog albums, and though I already had a couple of dozen or so of them when I first read the book, I have found Mr. Lambe's taste to be very close to mine when it comes to prog. I have since purchased many of the albums mentioned in the book and I have been enjoying most of them. "Circles" by Solstice is one of those albums reviewed in the book and included as a "gateway album" to prog.

I first sampled Solstice's music several months ago and was not particularly interested. Still, my luck with Lambe's recommendations had been running high and so I paid a fairly high price to get the remastered album with bonus tracks imported from Amazon UK. Unfortunately, I have not been particularly impressed this time around.

For the most part, it's simply the sound of the album that doesn't appeal to me. The production is steeped in a flood of sharp sound and it is Andy Glass' guitar soloing that comes across as a David Gilmour fan who has turned the reverb and chorus levels up too high. Against the backdrop of very clean folk rock percussion and various synthesizer sounds and occasional violin, it seems almost intrusive in its thickness and sharpness. It reminds me too much of a musical style that I don't care much for. Such is my opinion.

The music itself is well-enough composed and certainly well-played; however, I find little of what I seek in progressive rock or progressive music. Most of the music is rather simple, a kind of electric folk or New Age hippy rock. Except for Glass' insistent soloing, which is rather laid back and I'm certain to some degree soulful, there is little in the way of virtuosity or a sense of great skill. Just pretty songs with too much sound! Though there are a few instruments that enrich the overall sound palette, most notably the violin, and at times the music can be uplifting as in "Thank You", the song structures are mostly too normal, the tempo too unvarying, the lyrics too repetitive, and the vocals only marginally appreciable. I believe it was a reviewer on PA who remarked about the trend of some British bands to produce albums with a violinist and an unremarkable female vocalist and a lot of acoustic instrumentation and be labeled prog rock bands. Solstice have clearly emerged their style from a folk background, but it doesn't impress me like White Willow did. Solstice sound to me like a watered-down version of Iona without Joanne Hogg's unique voice. In short, I can't listen to the album in the company of others and feel pleased with my listening choice. It's kind of embarrassing, and my wife hasn't even been introduced to this.

One track worthy of special mention, I feel, is the title track, which relates the story of the Battle of the Beanfield, when British police violently attacked caravans of people and families who had come to celebrate the summer solstice at Stonehenge. Though the police were initially under orders to keep people from approaching the stones (in previous years, visitors had done great damage to the surrounding land, digging pit toilets in ancient barrows and driving over the lawn), their enforcement soon turned into belligerence as they beat men, women, and women holding babies. The full account is on Wikipedia. During the middle of the song, the audio recording of a reporter on the scene is played along with the screams and cries of some of the victims. The reporter claims that the next day, when he returned to his office, all camera footage was gone (this is in the Wiki article and not on the CD).

I've read that Solstice's new album is very good but I think I have heard enough with "Circles". I have found many other albums that I wish to purchase that sound more promising. Still, if you like folk rock without too much complexity and a loud, over-chorused electric guitar then this may be your album!

Review by Warthur
4 stars Solstice's third album finds the lineup tweaked again - Jethro Tull veteran Clive Bunker's joined on drums and Emma Brown is the new lead vocalist. The long-serving Marc Elton is still here on violin, and has some powerful moments, but sadly this would be his last recording with the group - due to tinnitus he had to quit live performance, and he gave up his spot in the band after this album was completed.

Circles scales back the role of keyboards compared to New Day, so that the vocals, Elton's violin, and most particularly Andy Glass' guitar work can take centre stage; in this way Glass is revealed as a guitarist after the fashion of, and at his best on a part with, Andy Latimer of Camel.

Aside from the keyboards the album is largely in the style that Solstice album past have made us accustomed to, with a standout departure being the title track. This commemorates the Battle of the Beanfield - the confrontation between New Age Travellers (repeatedly scapegoated by the Tory government of the era) and gung-ho police which erupted into appalling violence and put an end to the annual Stonehenge Free Festival in 1985.

No official inquiry into the matter ever occurred, but a police officer was found guilty of criminal Actual Bodily Harm and the police were successfully sued by some of the travellers involved. The overall effect of the event was to herald a crackdown on the New Age Traveller lifestyle which had become inextricably linked to the free festival scene - with the result that such festivals became a thing of the past. (Religious neopagan ceremonies would not be allowed at Stonehenge for over a decade, until finally in the authorities relented; even then, these gatherings have been of a strictly religious character and not included the sort of freewheeling musical festival that veterans fondly remember and mourn the loss of.)

This would have been a matter dear to Solstice's hearts; the free festival scene had been the band's spiritual home for much of their 1980s run, and the coincidence of the band splitting in the very same year as the Battle certainly feels oddly fitting. That the 1990s incarnation of the band would mark the occasion with a song is only fitting. It's perhaps one of Solstice's darker moments, interspersed with reconstructed sounds and news reports from the incident; in this context, the band's spiritually-oriented style might seem a bit incongruous, but personally I consider the way the music keeps going in their accustomed style and the vocals stridently insist on the right to assembly and religious worship and celebration is actually quite apt, striking a note of defiance in the face of difficult circumstances.

And if the story of Solstice is not one of triumph against difficult circumstances, I don't know what it is...

Latest members reviews

3 stars I enjoy this release , but I am not sure how good it is.The title track is very good and stands out. Some of the other tracks are not so good , 'such as soul to soul'. however most tracks contain great guitar work from Andy Glass. Their appearance at the Uk Tull convention in 1996 was ... (read more)

Report this review (#28743) | Posted by platform | Monday, May 24, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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