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Solstice: Spirit (CD/DVD)

Formed in 1980 the UK progressive rock band Solstice has seen many changes but the one constant has been founder and chief songwriter Andy Glass. Through the years the band has only released four albums starting with their 1984 debut entitled Silent Dance and most recently their new album Spirit. Although I have not had the pleasure of hearing the first three albums, after spinning Spirit a few times that will hopefully be rectified sooner rather than later. This is an excellent album of symphonic progressive rock laced with elements of folk and ethnic sounds. They can be compared to bands like Yes, Camel, Mostly Autumn and Magenta so if you like what those bands have to offer it is safe to say you should probably check them out. Besides the aforementioned Glass (guitar) the rest of the band are Emma Brown (vocals), Jenny Newman (violin, viola), Pete Hemsley (drums), Steve McDaniel (keyboards) and Robin Phillips (bass).

One of the highlights for me is the guitar playing of Glass. On Spirit he proves to be a world class player as his crystal clean leads and heavy riffage can be found all over this disc. Right from the start the music is first class with the album opener "Solomon's Bridge". Starting with majestic violin and pleasant acoustic guitar before developing into Gilmour-like stabs of lead guitar. Calmer sections of softly sung vocals and subtle instrumentation are infused into the song to good effect. The Genesis inspired "Sky Past West" has more biting shards of crystalline lead guitar and bubbly organ fills. The harmony vocals took me back to the 60s/70s invoking a certain hippie flair that just feels good to listen to. Anti-war sentiment abounds in the ethnic sounding "Freedom" and features the ramblings of anti-war lobbyist Adam Kokesh, a veteran of the Iran/Iraq war. The vocals have a strong African feel whereas the fiddle playing of Jenny Newman has Celtic underpinnings. The pleasant beginnings in "Flight" feature upbeat rhythms and energetic fiddle work before an a capella vocal section that has Yes written all over it. The song morphs into some heavy prog with solid riffs and biting lead guitar. The Celtic meets East Indian vibe in "Oberon's Folly" ups the ethnic feel and the blending of violin with heavy guitar is a strange but utterly listenable bit of progressive goodness.

Also included is a bonus DVD which is an added treat, capturing the band live at the Pitz Club in Milton Keynes, UK in 2009. The band plays a cross section of songs spanning their entire career including five from Spirit. The band sounds good in concert and just like in the studio Glass turns in a fine performance.

So there you have it. With Solstice it is all about quality, not quantity but lets hope it does not take fourteen years for their next album. With a nod to classic 70s prog Spirit will appeal to a wide spectrum of progressive rock fans both old and new. Kudos for a job well done.

Track Listing:
1. Solomon's Bridge
2. Sky Path West
3. Freedom
4. Flight
5. Oberon's Folly
6. Here & Now
7. Spirit

1. Morning Light
2. New Life
3. Sky Path West
4. Oberon's Folly
5. Ducks On The Pond
6. Chicken Train
7. Here & Now
8. Pete's Solo
9. Cheyenne
10. Freedom
11. Flight
12. Sacred Run
13. Brave New World

Added: June 6th 2010
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Band's Official Site
Hits: 3026
Language: english

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