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Solstice - Silent Dance CD (album) cover

SILENT DANCE

Solstice

 

Neo-Prog

3.57 | 50 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Neo-prog of the 80s is often considered the key musical movement that successfully resuscitated progressive rock and put it back onto the greater public's radar. While bands such as Twelfth Night, Marillion, Pallas and Pendragon seem to get the lion's share of credit for this revival, there were in fact dozens of bands that participated in this progressive reboot and one such band was the Buckinghamshire, England based SOLSTICE that was formed in 1980 by guitarist Andy Glass (who still happens to be a member of the band). Despite the band being corralled into the overarching neo-prog scene, SOLSTICE was quite different than the typical synthesizer based bands that took their primary inspiration from 70s Genesis. This band while loosely fitting into the scene was in fact more of a progressive folk act with luscious acoustic guitars, a vivacious violin and the angelic vocals of Sandy Leigh who was unbelievably the perfect female version of Yes' Jon Anderson.

Despite an early start in the prog revival world, SOLSTICE actually had a hard time of it in the beginning. While the band had already become seasoned veterans on the live gig circuit having played many clubs and the university scenes, the band took many years to find their debut album SILENT DANCE on the market which ended up costing more money than expected and taking over five months longer than they wanted. Nevertheless, the band crafted one of the more unique albums that got lumped into the greater neo-prog world of the 80s. Unlike the greater majority of neo-prog bands that took the Genesis infused approach and added glossy layers of keyboard parts, SOLSTICE had a sound all their own that was part folk and part rock that incorporated healthy doses of ambient and even ethnic world music.

Andy Glass' guitar playing was unlike any other as he eschewed the clear lineage of Steve Hackett and added a more funk laden rock approach that even incorporated jazzy touches to the mix although this is neo-prog and Gensesis and Hackett do come into play at various points on SILENT DANCE. Also unique to the sound was the exquisite violin playing of Marc Elton which added a completely new dimension to the mix and nowhere is this so deftly utilized as in the beautiful instrumental "Return Of Spring." The most interesting aspect of SOLSTICE's music has to be the divine vocal ability of Sandy Leigh whose unique soprano vocal phrasing sounds quite like no other. Renaissance comparisons are inevitable as she does nail certain aspects of Annie Haslam's style but overall she is more like Jon Anderson of Yes than any female contemporary. The music has an eerie similarity to Yes at times as well but only in the most evasive ways.

SOLSTICE had a short lifespan the first time around. While they would form in 1980, they wouldn't release their debut album until 1984 and then they would break up soon thereafter. The band would reconvene nearly ten years later and relaunch their career beginning with 1993's "New Life" but Sandy Leigh would not rejoin the cast which leaves the one album from their 80s run quite unique even in the band's lengthy multi-decade career. SILENT DANCE is really a hard album to define because it tackles so many styles. At times it comes off as a sophisticated progressive folk as on "Earthsong" as it eschews any neo-prog labels, other moments find it totally fits the neo-prog ticket such as on "Brave New World" that initiates the Hackett inspired "Wind & Wuthering" attack complete with the wailing 80s synthesizer stabs.

Equalling the diversity of the music are Sandy Leigh's vocals as she could belt out the highest pitched squeals without missing a beat as well as hover in mid-range mellowness. She sounds like many different vocalists strewn about SILENT DANCE and a tragedy for the band that she didn't rejoin in the second coming. Overall SILENT DANCE is an interesting specimen of unpeggable progressive rock from the mid-80s that displayed a unique approach that sorta skirted all easy categorization, just the kind of prog i can really sink my teeth into. For some it seems that the synthesizer parts keep this one dated but this WAS the 80s and despite those infrequent period pieces especially on "Peace" and "Brave New World," this album sounds out of step with the general consensus of neo-prog led prog revival.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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