Solstice - Silent Dance - The Definitive Edition

Year of Release: 2007
Label: Festival Music
Catalog Number: 200709A
Format: CD
Total Time: 115:55:00

Joshua reviewed all four Solstice reissues in an omnibus review; they are listed separately in the database -ed.

This band churned out a couple releases since the early eighties; ironically, this critic knew very little about them. With a quality similar to Grammy-winning Ambrosia, not knowing anything about them comes as a big surprise to me.

To acclimate myself, I accessed a batch of their albums and listened to all of them in succession. My listening session embraced everything from their discography excepting Pathways (a reissue with bonus tracks) and The Lost Album (features Andy Taylor, who is the vocalist on Tony Banks' Still). As fate would have it, the reissue was not essential and the latter can be downloaded for free from their site.

As to personnel, Andy Glass is the only musician who participates in each production. His contributions are perspicacious and lush. He plays the guitar like John Mitchell or Bryan Josh, or maybe it's the other way around since he came first.

Reading liner notes, it's evident that Solstice has experienced many line-up changes over the years. It's hard enough to make a name for yourself when conditions are ideal. Alternatively, it's impossible to make it to the head of the class without constant touring or consistent membership. Even so, their anonymity shouldn't place them in amateur ranks. Like they state in "Find Yourself," fans have to make the discovery for themselves before settling on their status. And if you jump the pond and go back a few years, they did a handful of gigs in Britain.

Anyhow, my belated rendezvous involved a promenade through Silent Dance, New Life, Circles & The Cropredy Set. If you like madrigal and folk in your rock, I recommend all four but each for different reasons.

While their sound is homogenous, the songwriting is pleasantly incongruous. When listening to their music for extensive periods of time, my interest levels were always piqued. It helped that they were neither jarring nor bland. Like baby bear's bowl of porridge, they were just right.

Starting with the debut, also known as Silent Dance, percussion and string instruments blossom like virulent leaves in "Return Of Spring." Tangentially, "Brave New World" enters into tuneful territory as well. What's more, one of my favorites from the entire collection, "Whyte Lady," is exclusive to its B-side. I like this orphaned aura because it makes use of all their nifty tricks. The best description of this song is that it's a subdued version of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Swamp Music" or Kansas' "Down The Road."

In general, the extras offer insight into their songwriting process, but earlier versions seem musty when stacked against newly laundered remasters. So the definitive edition definitely freshens up the bouquet. Also situated amongst recast tracks, "Cannibalise Legalis" is unexpectedly bluegrass.

With the follow-up entitled New Life, they increase the tempo whilst painting notes in broader strokes. The guitar floats as if it's riding on frictionless rails in "Guardian". At the song's culmination, the amped instrument hurls inebriated riffs. Afterwards, the bass spews melodic chunks all over the title track. It's without a doubt the pride and joy of this slick suite. Makes no bones about it, that's why it has this album's namesake.

On the heels of their sophomore outing, Circles takes them into dreamier landscapes. While they weren't exactly space cadets in previous tours, the introduction of vocalist Emma Brown, and Clive Bunker from Jethro Tull, drastically changes the ambiance into something less coarse. Keeping with nineties trends, they also incorporate sound bytes into songs. Able to fit the bonus material onto remaining space, this comes as a single disc. However, the others come in pairs in order to accommodate unstinting supplementation.

Nevertheless, the granddaddy of them all remains: And that would be The Cropredy Set. In it, "Ducks On The Pond" is like Irish Reggae. You won't know if you should be irie or dance. The exuberance exhibited here is similar to The Kissers. For those unfamiliar with this lively band, they're considered exceptional loco yokels to folks in my locale. To contrast chirpier cuts, "Awakening" is unhurried even if it feels a bit like Rush.

You can't go wrong with any of these works, but the last one represents a very special performance at Freeport. On top of live footage, Glass also gives an intimate sit-down in the multimedia section of this conclusive disc.

Sometimes their music is as if Iona were covering Genesis or Yes; though it takes more of a neo-progressive angle on that classic stock. Kansas in also quite prevalent in everything they touch. Violins make frequent appearances but they're done in trendier fashions; making them perfectly suitable for rockier compositions. Furthermore, it's not a stretch to buy into those frequent comparisons between them and Jethro Tull. The main difference is the missing flute. In this case, its absence makes the heart grow fonder.

If you've never heard of Solstice or want to extend your collection, stick strictly with the definitive series. Having the same consignment as me should more than have you covered. Silent Dance has cassette releases and sessions, New Life has demos and bootlegs, and Circles has bonus tracks. Additionally, The Cropredy Set is the cherry on top as it has songs from the other three plus a DVD that contains the aforementioned interview and event. Also worthy of comment, kaleidoscopic artwork on the discs' lapels is impressive by itself.

Acquire this awesome foursome and you too will be up to speed like me. Regardless of when they rain upon your eardrums, Solstice will be in season.

Disc One: Silent Dance: Peace (6:31) / Earthsong (6:38) / Sunrise (4:07) / Return Of Spring (4:54) / Brave New World (8:47) / Cheyenne (5:59) / Find Yourself (6:01)

Disc Two: Cassette releases & radio sessions: Morning Light (1:12) (Demo 1982) / Return Of Spring (6:50) (Demo 1982) / Whyte Lady (5:49) (Demo 1982) / Morning Light (1:31) (Demo 1982) / New Life (4:21) (Pathways Demo) / Whyte Lady (5:49) (Pathways Demo) / Pathways (6:23) (Pathways Demo) / Morning Light (2:44) (Pathways Demo) / Sunrise (3:42) (Demo 1983) / Peace For The New Age (6:38) (Peace Tape Demo) / New Life (4:37) (Peace Tape Demo) / Find Yourself (4:30) (BBC FRS Session 1983) / Peace For The New Age (6:34) (BBC FRS Session 1983) / The Sea (7:31) (BBC FRS Session 1983) / Cannablise Legalis (4:47) (BBC FRS Session 1983)

Andy Glass - guitar, backing vocals
Mark Elton - violin, keyboards, backing vocals
Sandy Leigh - lead vocals
Martin Wright - drums, percussion
Mark Hawkins - bass, bass pedals

The Peace Tape (demo cass)
Silent Dance (1984)
New Life (1993)
Circles (1996)
Pathways (1998) The Cropredy Set (2002)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: March 2nd 2009
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner
Artist website:
Hits: 1299
Language: english


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