Ah The Enid. There was a time when the Reading Festival wouldn't have been complete without a Sunday afternoon performance by this particularly English band. The slightly manic Stephen Stewart swirling away as he wrung sweet melodies from his guitar and the comedic eccentric Robert John Godfrey conducting the rest of the band behind his banks of keyboards and inevitable bowtie. In recent years things have not gone too well for the prog mavericks. Abandoned projects (The Rite Of Spring), postponed recordings (Godfrey's piano concerto), ill health and a seemingly constantly changing line up have taken them out of the public eye. However, with a new album in the process of being recorded, an appearance by the latest fledging line-up at the Astoria ProgDay last November and promises of a theatre tour to come, the time may be ripe for a resurgence in their fortunes.
An important aspect in the rebuilding of the popularity of the band is the availability of the back catalogue. This seems to have been a perennial problem for the group, even when they were signed to major record labels it wasn't always easy to get hold of their albums. With numerous reissues and deletions the back catalogue is a veritable minefield. Fortunately, the latest re-releases on the "Inner Sanctum" label are addressing this confusion and issuing (hopefully) definitive versions of the albums, many in a remastered format.
A comprehensive history of the band can be found in the Forgotten Sons section of the website which also includes reviews of all the albums. Rather than review all of the albums in detail again, this roundup will feature links to the original reviews by DPRP member Nigel Camilleri, with pertinent comments added by yours truly.
Tracklist: Fool (2:43), The Tower Of Babel (5:05), The Reaper (4:03), The Loved Ones (5:20), The Demon King (4:18), Pre Dawn (1:12), Sunrise (3:27), The Last Day (7:59), The Flood (1:12), Under The Summer Stars (5:42), Adieu (2:03), Judgement (8:18), In The Region Of The Summer Stars (6:19)
Starting with the debut album, the magnificent In The Region Of The Summer Stars. The Inner Sanctum reissue was reviewed by Nigel and I can only echo his endorsement of this album, it is the premier symphonic rock album of all time. This latest issue features two bonus tracks, previous unreleased rough mixes of Judgement and In The Region Of The Summer Stars, both from 1976. These tracks serve as a reminder of what the original version of the album sounded like, as the current version of this, and several of the other early albums, were partially re-recorded in the early 1980s as it was the only way the band could get their music out to the public. Being a huge fan of 1970s progressive music in its original form, I actually prefer these earlier versions; the considerable differences between these bonus cuts and the 'proper' album tracks fully justify their inclusion.
Tracklist: A Heroes Life (7:07), Ondine (3:45), Interlude (0:57), Bridal Dance (6:37), FAND  : Isle Of Brooding Solitude (2:27), The Silver Ship - Landfall (4:18), The Grand Loving (10:04), Love/Death...The Immolation of Fand (12:07), FAND  : Isle Of Brooding Solitude (2:57), The Silver Ship - Landfall (5:02), The Grand Loving (9:37), Love/Death...The Immolation of Fand (8:13)
Aerie Faerie Nonsense is oft cited as the band's masterpiece. Personally, it is my least favourite album of the four albums originally released in the 1970s (and hence the relatively low rating, it is subjective!). The reason being? Well the same reason why a lot of fans love it, Fand. Don't get me wrong, it is a fine piece of music in its own right but I think overexposure has worn the edges off for me. Over the years innumerable versions of this track have been issued (I have at least seven different versions!). We are treated to a 1985 re-recording (which was originally issued as a limited edition, and hard to find, mini album) and a 1999 demo on the current release. However, the three major tracks that comprised the original side one of the vinyl album are all classics, particularly the wonderful Bridal Dance (which I still know by its original name of Mayday Galliard, why the group saw fit to change song titles and running !
orders when they reissued the albums in the 1980s is beyond me!)
Tracklist: Raindown (5:33), Jessica (4:15), And Then There Were None (4:19), Evensong (5:42), Bright Star (3:54), Song For Europe (4:18), Something Wicked This Way Comes (10:15), Sheets Of Blue (11:29), Flames of Power (6:21)
Leaping forward a few years, we come to the first Enid album to feature vocals, Something Wicked This Way Comes from 1980. A great commercial success (for an independent release) it attracted a whole new audience for the band helped, rightly or wrong, by being associated with the resurgence of progressive rock. Essentially down to two members at this point, The Enid had lost none of their trademark sound but had gained a slightly harder edge, presumably acquired from working with younger musicians who recorded at the band's Lodge studios. The vocals, although not outstanding, fit well with the music and are idiosyncratically Enid. This latest release is somewhat disappointing in that previous bonus tracks (like the various mixes of the title track and the single b-side Letter From America) have been left off in favour of two tracks from a later album, Salome, which although not yet reissued by Inner Sanctum, is still available.
Tracklist: Chaldean Crossing (8:36), A Bar Of Shadow (7:21), La Rage (8:41), Longhome (15:59), Earthborn (8:07), The Change - The Jack - Flames of Power (18:33)
The end of an era came with the release of The Seed And The Sower as it would be the last studio album to feature Stephen Stewart. Forsaking 'The Enid' brand, the album was originally issued the under the name of Godfrey and Stewart. This emphasised the growing rift between the guitarist and keyboard player. Whilst Godfrey was writing new age music, Stewart was producing bands like New Model Army, although one wouldn't know it from listening to the album. It could conceivably be viewed as a soundtrack to an unmade film: aural soundscapes suggestive of the orient, birds twittering in the background and great washes of synths but with an ever-present undercurrent that hints at a not too distant menace. Some people consider The Seed and the Sower to be just a bit too new age. It is far more considered than that and the playing is superb throughout. With five extended tracks (ranging from 7.5 to 16 minutes in length) it is a masterclass on how to sustain and develop moods. It is a shame that they never broke into the soundtrack market. As a bonus there is an 18 minute solo piece by Godfrey called Reverberations, originally released on cassette to members of the mailing list. The atmosphere evoked by this piece is fully complimentary to the rest of the album and the welcome inclusion of this rarity makes the album great value for money.
Tracklist: Ultraviolet Cat (10:39), Little Shiners (5:16), Gateway (4:00), Tripping The Light Fantastic (9:14), Freelance Human (5:42), Dark Hydraulic (14:12), The Biscuit Game (9:35)
It was six years before a new Enid studio album was released, the intervening years best written off as time of musical exploration and discovery for Godfrey. Tripping The Light Fantastic) distilled those explorations into the classic Enid sound giving a much more modern feel. Ex-Jadis guitarist Nick May had the inevitable task of stepping into Stewart's shoes but does a commendable job. I feel this album is rather under-rated. Gateway and Tripping The Light Fantastic hark back to the very earliest days of the band and are every bit as good as the material from the first classic period. The more modern approach taken with tracks like Ultraviolet Cat and the epic Dark Hydraulic add another dimension to the album and, interestingly, both pieces draw on themes from previous Enid albums. Sadly, no bonus cuts. It would have been nice if Sundialer and possibly the remix of Dark Hydraulic could have been added as it is doubtful if the album they were originally included on (Sundialer) will ever be re-released.
Tracklist: Prelude (3:21), Fantasy (6:15), Riguardon (4:49), Sarabande (3:28), Waltz (3:53), Ballade (3.00), Gavotte (1:51), Chaconne (7:55), Gigue (6:57), Nocture (11:33)
The reversion to the classical Enid sound was continued on the last of the current Inner Sanctum releases, White Goddess. Although it had been four years since Tripping The Light Fantastic had been released it was really worth the wait. Any fans who have not heard this album having drifted away from the band over the years should really check this album out, it really is a fantastic suite of compositions. Yes it is bombastic, yes it is over the top in places and yes it rocks harder that anyone would imagine. But overall, and most importantly, the answer to the question is it a classic Enid album has to be a resounding YES!
- In The Region Of The Summer Stars : 9 out of 10
- Aerie Fairie Nonsense : 7 out of 10
- Something Wicked This Way Comes : 8 out of 10
- The Seed And The Sower : 7 out of 10
- Tripping The Light Fantastic : 8 out of 10
- White Goddess : 9 out of 10
On a personal note, I recently had my entire Enid CD collection stolen. If anyone reading this has spare copy of Sundialer that they want to sell, please get in touch!