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SOLSTICE

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Solstice biography
Formed in 1980, English band SOLSTICE is first and foremost the band project of Andy Glass (guitar), the only musician participating on all the band's productions and the main composer for the band in it's various guises.

Apart from recording the demo cassette "The Peace Tape" Glass and his companions didn't produce any recordings in their first years of existence; concentrating on playing live in these early years. Come 1983 and the band had already seen vocalists Sue Robinson and Shelly Patt come and go, and when they hit the studio it was with a line-up consisting of Glass, Marc Elton (violin, keyboards), Mark Hawkins (bass), Martin Wright (drums) and Sandy Leigh (vocals). The result of the studio time was issued as "Silent Dance" in 1984. The band started breaking apart shortly after this release though, as Leigh and Hawkins left. Barbara Deason (vocals) and Ken Bowley (bass) replaced them, but by 1985 the band effectively broke up, with a one-off comeback for a charity event in 1986 the initial swansong for this outfit.

6 years later a real comeback took place though, Glass and Elton were the sole remaining members from the formative years now, this time joined by Heidi Kemp (vocals), Craig Sutherland (bass) and Pete Hemsley (drums). 1993 saw this line-up issue a CD aptly named "New Life".

More line-up changes followed following this release though, and the next time the band hit the recording studio Kemp and Hemsley were gone, replaced by Emma Brown (vocals) and Clive Bunker (drums, formerly of JETHRO TULL, PENTANGLE, GORDON GILTRAP). The end result this time around was a production named "Circles", issued in 1997.

Shortly after this release more line-up changes were afoot however. Sutherland left, and Elton had to give up playing live due to a hearing ailment. New musicians in were Jenny Newman (violin), Steve McDaniels (keyboards) and Rob Phillips (bass).

In 1998 this version of the band hit the Cropredy Festival, and equipment was set up to capture this live show, planned to be released as a live album shortly after. It turned out that the sound quality of these recordings weren't the best though, so the band opted to record a live in the studio version of the concert instead, eventually released as "The Cropredy Set" in 2002.

The pause between recordings and release was at least partially the result of the band yet again entering hiatus; and it wasn't until 2007 that SOLSTICE yet again emerged - this ...
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Buy SOLSTICE Music


LamentationsLamentations
Candlelight 2001
Audio CD$10.00
$9.99 (used)
ProphecyProphecy
Import
Esoteric 2013
Audio CD$10.63
$15.77 (used)
Pray for the SentencingPray for the Sentencing
Divebomb 2012
Audio CD$11.99
$19.50 (used)
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More places to buy SOLSTICE music online Buy SOLSTICE & Prog Rock Digital Music online:
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SOLSTICE shows & tickets


  • Revolt! on 29 Nov 2014
  • Solstice + Methedras + Shady Glimpse at Muziekcafé Elpee, Deinze on 1 Dec 2014 - CANCELLED
  • Solstice + Methedras + Shady Glimpse at Scène Michelet, Nantes on 2 Dec 2014
  • Solstice on 11 Dec 2014 - CANCELLED
  • Primordial + Hexvessel + Solstice + more at Magasin 4, Brussels on 24 Jan 2015
  • Hell Over Hammaburg III on 7 Mar 2015
  • Doom Over Edinburgh on 14 Mar 2015
  • Warhorns on 18 Sep 2015

SOLSTICE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

SOLSTICE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.29 | 33 ratings
Silent Dance
1984
3.18 | 34 ratings
New Life
1993
2.68 | 22 ratings
Circles
1997
3.72 | 27 ratings
Spirit
2010
3.80 | 37 ratings
Prophecy
2013

SOLSTICE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.14 | 7 ratings
The Cropredy Set
2002
3.75 | 8 ratings
Kindred Spirits
2011

SOLSTICE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SOLSTICE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 4 ratings
Pathways
1998

SOLSTICE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

SOLSTICE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Circles by SOLSTICE album cover Studio Album, 1997
2.68 | 22 ratings

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Circles
Solstice Neo-Prog

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!

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 Circles by SOLSTICE album cover Studio Album, 1997
2.68 | 22 ratings

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Circles
Solstice Neo-Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

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.

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 Prophecy by SOLSTICE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.80 | 37 ratings

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Prophecy
Solstice Neo-Prog

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

4 stars This release includes three bonus tracks, Steven Wilson's remixes from SOLSTICE's debut album Silent Dance (1984), so I'll start with them. Silk soft sounds, girlish-sounding female vocalist called Sandy Leigh, and 6-7-minute melodic compositions that are like a mix of the most calm Caravan with their jazz flavour and some folky soft pop such as Clannad, except more instrumentally oriented. Beautiful!

During the long career the group has changed all members except the songwriting guitarist Andy Glass, but the style has remained mostly in peaceful atmospheres. There are several female voices in more recent Neo Prog not very different from Emma Brown, but that is a good thing after all. Prophecy is a finely produced, nearly an hour-long work divided in only five longish tracks. The leaflet features colour drawings by Marvel artist Barry Kitson.

The opener 'Eyes of Fire' is nearly narcotically slow horizon-painting, while the second track contains interludes with a bumpy rhythm pattern, fiddle-playing and somehow wandering instrumental part. In the beginning of 'Warriors' the guitar sounds make one think of Pink Floyd, but in its 17½ -minute entirety the composition is over-extended, epic Neo Prog that has some difficulties to keep itself together. And actually the same criticism suits more or less for the whole album. It's definitely delightful to hear so serene and yet many-sided prog these times (when metal is often the keyword), but I can't help getting some faint feelings of boredom, ie. waiting of something more exciting to happen. Do I sound too harsh on this beautiful album? Anyway, otherwise this is very recommendable, instrumentally emphasized and slightly folk-flavoured melodic Neo Prog in the vein of Iona, Karnataka or early Mostly Autumn. 3½ stars!

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 Prophecy by SOLSTICE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.80 | 37 ratings

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Prophecy
Solstice Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Keepers of the truth

More than 30 years after the band's formation, Solstice has created what is in my opinion their best album to date. Prophecy--the band's fifth studio album--consists of five tracks (with no breaks between them) that all in all run for just under an hour. (In addition, there are three bonus tracks which are older Solstice tracks remixed by Steven Wilson.) The album revolves around a concept or theme that wisely is never allowed to overshadow the great music. The comic book-like artwork by Marvel artist Barry Kitson provides an appealing visual aspect. The lyrics and the artwork complement the music well making for an organic unity.

Eyes Of Fire opens the album in a rather low-key fashion and on my first listen I worried that I was in for a sleepy experience. But instead this builds up nicely to a guitar solo and leads the way to the much more energetic Keepers Of The Truth and onwards to an exciting and progressive journey. The vocals are often Yes-like with the female lead vocals of Emma Brown being backed up by male harmony vocals in a way that strongly evokes how Chris Squire and (to a lesser extent) Steve Howe characteristically back up Jon Anderson in Yes. Even some of the New-Agey lyrics remind of Anderson's lyrical style and some acoustic guitar parts remind of Steve Howe's acoustic playing. The electric lead guitar playing of Andy Glass instead often evoke (his namesake in Camel) Andy Latimer's wonderful sound. The many violin-driven passages often remind me of Kansas.

With Yes, Camel, and Kansas belonging to my personal all-time favourite bands, being reminded of them here is a blessing for sure and a basis for commendation. But I also wish to stress that Solstice are by no means just followers, they have a sound of their own that also draws on Folk and Jazz music in ways foreign to the above mentioned Prog giants (and the New-Agey/World-Music 'feel' of the music is, if not unique, at least somewhat unusual; perhaps Mandalaband can be mentioned in the context). Solstice has certainly inspired hordes of female-fronted progressive Rock bands of more recent decent. They are often counted among the pioneers of the British Neo-Prog movement, but in reality they have close to nothing in common with the usual suspects of that subgenre (Marillion, Pallas, IQ, etc.). Solstice is somewhere in the borderlands between Neo-Prog and classic Symphonic Prog. The keyboard sounds may be modern, but the mind-set is closer to that of classic progressive Rock.

The three bonus tracks are remixes by Steven Wilson of three tracks from Solstice' 1984 debut album Silent Dance. The latter is a very good album as well, but hearing these tracks straight after the new tracks just stands to emphasise that these songs are better heard within their original context (new remixes notwithstanding). If you don't know Solstice yet, starting with Prophecy is a good idea, and the three bonus tracks (when heard in isolation from the new material) should make you curious about Silent Dance and the band's other albums. Solstice is a great and unfairly overlooked band well worthy of your attention.

Highly recommended!

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 New Life by SOLSTICE album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.18 | 34 ratings

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New Life
Solstice Neo-Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars In 1985 Solstice unfortunately broke up with their mastermind Andy Glass working for several years as a session musician for Bill Withers and Geno Washington and as a sound engineer on Jethro Tull tours.However a second reincarnation of Solstice appeared in early-90's only with Glass and violin/keyboard player Marc Elton from the 80's line-ups.They were joined by female singer Heidi Kemp, bassist Craig Sunderland and drummer Pete Hensley and this five-piece recorded the second album with the iconic title ''New Life'' in 1993.

Despite the almost 10 years hiatus Solstice sound a lot like on the band's early years, albeit with a more modern sound.This is smooth, often melancholic but highly melodic and balanced Progressive Rock with dreamy female vocals and strong references to British Folk through Elton's ethereal violin parts.Cross references with bands like MOSTLY AUTUMN, KARNATAKA or MAGENTA and artists like MIKE OLDFIELD or COLIN MASSON are more than obvious.Elton's violin work is mostly fascinating and alternates between folksy passages and Classical-influenced workouts, superbly supported by Glass' spacey guitar solos, somewhere in the middle of 90's-styled ANDY LATIMER and DAVID GILMOUR.New vocalist Heidi Kamp has such a crystal color in her voice, turning it from calm singing to dramatic expressions ans is more than welcome.For once more the keyboards remain in the background, supporting the whole atmosphere.The compositions have an ultra-strong sense of melody throughout with good vocal parts, maintaining their artistic value always at a high level and scanning a lot of territories like Melodic Progressive Rock, Folk Rock, New Age and Symphonic Rock.

This is a very strong comeback for Solstice with the Glass/Elton duo keeping their inspiration throughout the lost decade and returning with a fresh and highly enjoyable release.An interesting edition by FM Music appeared in 2007, including a second disc with various demo and bootleg recordings of the band from the 80's and it is of course more than recommended.If you are a fan of the aforementioned acts, Solstice's ''New life'' is impossible to leave you unsatisfied...3.5 stars.

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 New Life by SOLSTICE album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.18 | 34 ratings

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New Life
Solstice Neo-Prog

Review by progrules
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Solstice was mentioned by Jerry Lucky in one of his progressive rock guides as a significant neo progressive band to set an example for many bands to follow. So high time to explore at least one of the studio albums by the band. And I don't think I picked a poor or even mediocre one with this "New Life" output from 1993.

Solstice trademarks are screaming guitars and (almost folky) violins accompanied by several female singers through the years. On this album it's Heidi Kemp featured as an important factor in the band's sound. If I tell you this info is completed with the style highly melodic music I think I just about covered the whole story of Solstice, at least with this New Life release.

It leaves us with my personal feelings about the album and those are very positive. I can't understand why this second release by the band is so underexplored and so low rated. It could be in the end I'm the only fan of this album. If so, so be it and it's actually a pity. Because it would mean highly melodic neo prog is not very popular. And that's regrettable really. Maybe I can bring the band some comfort by giving a well deserved four stars. Recommended !

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 Spirit by SOLSTICE album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.72 | 27 ratings

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Spirit
Solstice Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Solstice is one of those typical second tier prog bands that have been around for a while (it was formed in 1980, well past the already buried golden era) , releasing albums occasionally to satisfy some inner pledge of resistance to the fluctuations of the music market . Leader and superb guitarist Andy Glass cut his teeth as a Jethro Tull engineer as well as live lead guitarist for Bill Withers, the Temptations and bluesman Geno Washington. Let it be stated for the record that Andy Glass is a stunning fretman with impeccable technique and a rather unique style that transcends the usual suspects. His main outlet has been Solstice, a folk/neo prog group that has made an impact in prog circles with tasty albums such as Silent Dance, New Life and er? the less accomplished Circles! What makes this such a deal is the inclusion of a live DVD disc showing off their live talents, great idea as older compositions such as Cheyenne, New Life, Brave New World and most of this new album are now visible to the unbelievers.

The mood is immediately seductive on the shifting nearly 10 minute opener "Salomon's Bridge", a sensuous acoustic flurry beckons the violin forward, played by the ravishing Jenny Newman, as the keys, bass, drums and growling guitars suddenly enter the melee. Andy pulls on the strings a la Holdsworth , displaying an obvious genius in expressing himself with the guitar. Emma Brown's vocals are effective but frankly nowhere near the breathless qualities of fellow Brits Olivia Sparnnen of Breathing Space/Mostly Autumn, Karnataka's Lisa Fury or Joanna Hogg (okay, she's from Ulster!). Mention must be made of Pete Hemsley's rather superlative percussive work, a giant drummer at work here. "Sky Path West" is another longuish yet stellar track, arguably the strongest moment here, a rumbling Robin Phillips bass-led romp that exudes happiness and joy (near Mahavishnu /Santana territory), Glass really playing fondly on his axe, the fiddle sticking to the theme (fiddlesticks?). I mean , this is good stuff!!!!! "Freedom" is marred by some narrated political mumbo-jumbo that offers nothing new (empirical corporate fascism will never go away regardless how hard you try to revolutionize the world). "Flight" is a towering riff-laden journey that jets through the aural skies with serious hints of jazz-rock, some scat-vocalized "doo-ahhs" that are actually quite nicely pulled off. Steve McDaniel's snarling organ duels effortlessly with Andy pyrotechnical fret massages, a tremendous piece that rocks and fizzes. The mood needs to calm down and does so with the splendid Celtic-drenched "Oberon's Folly", the quintessential anguished plea of a troubled soul, giving Emma the platform to show off her hypnotic pipes on part 1 "Puit d'Amour" (Well of Love) while part 2 "Lady Muck" is entirely devoted to the wailing agony of Jenny's inspired violin. She is one hell of a fiddler on any roof! This piece sort of consecrates the essential qualities of this pleasant album, easily Solstice's finest moment. The voluptuous "Here & Now" simply continues on the folk/symphonic/ neo prog road and offers up a slight Middle Eastern tinge that is totally appealing. The raging guitars in particular are uniquely disturbing in tone and technique, while the fiddle screeches in the sandstorm orchestrations. The disc bows out with the epic title track, a dozen minutes of image-laden musical acrobatics that encompass the entire gamut of Solstice's credo, an adventurous, ingenious and talented expression of progressive rock symphonics. A mid- tempo spiritual tapestry with sitar-like twangs, a serene synth solo, sweet ethereal vocals and groove backdrop. Smooth and relaxed, almost effortless, baby! Andy gets to explore his Carlos Santana fantasies and spew all over the place, a huge technical solo that will scatter the leaves between your ears.

As for the DVD, it provides a glimpse into the world of musicians who are in it for the pleasure and not the fame (read money), a talented crew of musicians who defy the trends and do their thing brilliantly. Oh, and they are enjoying themselves too?.. What a sight, what a sound. This deserves being in any progfan's rotation. 4.5 gin and tonics, screwdrivers , cuba libres, scotch and waters.

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 Spirit by SOLSTICE album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.72 | 27 ratings

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Spirit
Solstice Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars That's the spirit

Solstice is not a very prolific band with only four studio albums to their credit even though the first of these (and still the best) was released already in 1984. Spirit is their forth and latest album to date and it arrived some 14 years after the previous Circles album. While an improvement over that album, this is not quite up to par with the first two Solstice albums. The line-up of the band is radically different, but leader Andy Glass is still here as well as vocalist Emma Brown. The style is still recognizable Solstice, however, with its mix of Symphonic Prog, Jazz-Rock and Folk Rock with some New-Age "spirit" and World Music elements thrown in.

This album also comes with a DVD featuring a full live performance of the band from 2009. And though the studio disc is not entirely convincing on its own merits, the addition of the DVD to the set makes this release a worthwhile one. The studio disc opens with Solomon's Bridge, a rather long number that takes a while to get off the ground. It would have been wiser to open the album with Sky Path West which is significantly better and even up to par with the best Solstice tunes from previous albums. The fiddle has a more folky sound than the symphonic violin sound (think Kansas) found on previous Solstice efforts. This makes for a nice touch. Andy Glass is on fire on the guitars. The vocals of Emma Brown, on the other hand, are merely acceptable, but somehow lack something. Even if there are lots of vocals on this album, the overall feel of the album is as if it was an instrumental one.

Freedom is a rather annoying, political song with a long spoken word section encouraging the people to resistance against tyranny. While I agree with the message it does not fit the albums relaxed feel. Flight is better and features some very appealing, and surprisingly heavy, passages. Oberon's Folly also has some great folky passages as does Here & Now which is another good one. The closing title track is a bit too long for its own good though and left little impression on me.

Overall, Spirit is a rather decent album that will certainly appeal to the fans and followers of the band. With the addition of the live DVD, it becomes a worthwhile addition to any Prog collection, but by no means an essential one.

The DVD features songs from the band's whole career, performed by the current line-up in a smaller club. It is hardly an excellent show, but both the band and the audience seem to have a good time.

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 Spirit by SOLSTICE album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.72 | 27 ratings

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Spirit
Solstice Neo-Prog

Review by Katsuhisa

4 stars Difinitely one of the best albums in 2010

Hearing through the album just by one time, I quickly realized that this album is one of the best this year. I had the same experience when I heard Karnataka's new CD. Guitar sings very melodic and so does violin (fiddle). Female vocals are beautiful as expected. There is almost no killing-space track.

Overall, the impression is something like = (Renaissance + Camel + D.Way's Wolf) / 3

This music suits the night in autumn, so it is time now for me to listen to this CD and relax in my entertainment room on a long night.

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 Circles by SOLSTICE album cover Studio Album, 1997
2.68 | 22 ratings

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Circles
Solstice Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

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.

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