Druid - Toward The Sun / Fluid Druid

Year of Release: 1997
Label: BGO
Catalog Number: BGOCD 385
Format: CD
Total Time: 47:32:00

Once in a while I actually write about a band that didn't release one album and then disband, and this is one of those times. Druid released two albums and then disbanded. This double CD re-issue on BGO has both of them, saving us the trouble of finding these very nice works separately.

Druid has a somewhat interesting story behind them. They won 800 pounds and a recording contract through a contest run by Melody Maker, the English musical periodical. This obviously led to some disdain, especially from the groups that lost. Druid then produced two fine releases, toured with Yes in England, but in the end they were not spectacular enough to weather the tough times ahead for progressive rock bands, which is understandable. More established and better known acts fell to the same fate.

The quick end to the band's career is really a disappointment. They recorded two very good albums of conventional, yet quite satisfying, symphonic progressive rock before they bit the dust. The first, Toward The Sun, is a Yes-like release with a lot of beautiful, fluid keyboard work, mostly piano, Mellotron and Hammond organ, a real plus in my book. The music is no where near as intricate or technically demanding as Yes's work, but a lot of this release sounds like the music from Tales From Topographic Oceans, particularly "The Remembering." It evokes the spirit of Yes, but never appropriates their music directly, as Starcastle did. The band also has some moments that will remind you a bit of a band of Yes expatriates, Flash.

The second disc in this set, Fluid Druid, has a more mature and individual sound. It is slow moving and quite gentle, and has that mellow energy of the first few PFM releases. I think the second disc is superior to the first in some ways. It allows the band to move further afield from the Yes sound of the first album, and the group displays a more solid, yet more sensitive sound than on the first disc, though the material is not as uniformly strong as that of the first CD. In my opinion, all the songs from the first disc were good and more than half the material of the second disc was outstanding and memorable. This two disc set will provide a great deal of listening pleasure.

The vocalist/guitarist Dane has a high pitched voice, very much like Jon Anderson, but with even more top end range, and his vocals are among the brightest elements of this band's sound. The keyboards are generally the centrepiece of the songs, and are expertly played by Andrew McCrorie-Shand, sounding much like the style of a young Rick Wakeman at his best, tasteful, sensitive and restrained. The bassist plays with a trebley, Rickenbacker sound, like you-know-who, and the drums, while not as powerful as the work of either Bruford or White, are always on target, neither too pedestrian, nor over the top.

As I said, the first album is uniformly good, quite good, but the second disc, Fluid Druid, has two of the finest, most beautifully done progressive tunes you will likely run across and I want to point them out, particularly because most of the reviews I have read of this album hold it to be far less interesting than the first, and I must say now that this is a load of, ? umm, ah ? well, ? rubbish. Ok, that is not my first choice of terms, but ?

"Kestrel," from the second disc, is a simply astounding track and one that will dispel any notion that a progressive rock song needs to be lengthy in order to develop a number of ideas fully. It has gorgeous vocals, fine piano work, one of those amazing, Squire type bass lines and a very spirited Moog solo, all in the space of a few minutes.

The other tune I wanted to point out for special praise is "Left To Find," a lovely, quite romantic number with a graceful melody played on the flute and a restrained and soulful line played by Dane on guitar. This song is without vocals until almost the end, and then, and only then, with Dane's strong vocals leading the way, is a second theme developed before returning to the splendid opening movement.

Fluid Druid has become one of my bed time favorites, and I must admit that I am usually asleep by the third track. I don't know if you will see this as the high praise, as I intend it, but to put things in perspective, this has surpassed my other sleepy time favourite, PFM's Per Un Amico. Now that ought to put things straight, right? Right?

Toward The Sun: Voices (8:14) / Remembering (5:24) / Theme 5:26 / Toward The Sun (5:08) / Red Carpet For An Autumn (3:09) / Dawn Of Evening (10:03) / Shangri-La (10:08)

Fluid Druid: Razor Truth (5:40) / Painters And Clouds (4:59) / FM 145 (2:10) / Nothing But Morning (4:10) / Barnaby (3:14) / Kestrel (3:37) / Left To Find (7:18) / The Fisherman's Friend (0:45) (total time: 31:53)

Neil Brewer ? bass
Andrew McCrorie-Shand ? keyboards
Cedric Sharpley ? drums, percussion
Dane ? vocals, guitar

Toward The Sun (1975/1997)
Fluid Druid (1976/1997)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: June 7th 2004
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Hits: 966
Language: english


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