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Solstice - Circles CD (album) cover





2.60 | 25 ratings

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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.

SouthSideoftheSky | 2/5 |


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