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Winter - Across The Circle's Edge CD (album) cover





3.46 | 18 ratings

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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.

TenYearsAfter | 3/5 |


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