Enchant - Juggling 9 Or Dropping 10

Year of Release: 2000
Label: InsideOut Music America
Catalog Number: IOMACD 2017
Format: CD
Total Time: 64:22:00

"So you think you've got me figured out / studied every detail / now you know me inside and out / but do you see me as I am or as you want me to be / do you." If that isn't a band saying that they know they're under scrutiny, I don't know what is. I mean, having not heard Break, their immediately previous studio disc, I don't know what kind of reviews they received, but it seems to me this is a challenge to try and pigeon-hole the band in way or another if one can. The irony is, I suppose, is that Enchant have delivered pretty much exactly what I'd have expected them to deliver. But, as I say, I don't know what path Break took, so maybe the departure from the norm thing flopped. The quoted bits of lyric come from "Paint The Picture," which opens the album with parping keyboards (Michael "Benignus" Geimer), muscular percussion (Paul Craddick) and bass (Ed Platt). This gives way to swirling keys and understated guitar phrases, before Ted Leonard comes in on vocals. Almost immediately, I'm struck by how much stronger his voice sounds. There is a beautiful lushness to the track, as you are enveloped in sound. But, the other things that become instantly apparent is that guitarist Douglas Ott admires Steve Rothery, not only in the slow spot, but also with the feathery guitar accents of the main part of the track. Another telling little bit of info is that they've signed to InsideOut America, though I wonder if the lyrics or the deal came first (I'm guessing the lyrics).

So, in preparing this review, I went back to my reviews of A Blueprint Of The World and Wounded, mainly to see if what I feel about this album differed or not from my feelings towards those earlier disks. I have to say that Juggling 9 Or Dropping 10 is less nondescript than Blueprint, but for all it's power metal energy, I can't help thinking of it as more power pop than power prog. An observation I made about Wounded. So, here the band seem to have a harder edge than on Wounded, but maybe not hard enough ... or maybe too hard, as I'm not sure which audience they are trying to reach. Here are, in no particular order, the "sounds like" artists that ran through my mind as the disc played: Marillion, Dream Theater, Richard Marx, Toy Matinee, Mike And The Mechanics, Squeeze, Spock's Beard, Jadis, Kansas (the Power-era)...

The sense I get is that Enchant want to pick up where Marillion left off with Afraid Of Sunlight, add a different kind of punch a la Dream Theater, but appeal to a wider audience. I do like vocalist's Ted Leonard's vocals here, much more than on Blueprint, as he avoids some of the gymnastics of Wounded, though if you liked that release, you'll like this. If you recall, Wounded dealt with often dark themes, and in some ways Dropping 9 does as well. "Rough Draft" is basically an admonition to not stagnate, to keep striving, to "update your draft of your epitaph." (Why does the phrase "Let this be your epitaph" come to mind?).

One can read this a concept album, where each track is chapter in the story: man commits some offense against wife (adultery or the like) and feels guilty and so "Paints The Picture" of his wife as the one in the wrong (psychologists call this transference). "Rough Draft" then can be viewed as either the realization of what's lost or that he being stifled by the relationship. Given that the protagonist is worried about how his son will perceive the dissolution of the marriage ("What To Say"), I'm guessing it's the former. While he struggles with what to say to his son, he has to catch himself when speaking to his wife, wondering what was it exactly that he said that was hurtful ("Bite My Tongue"). The remaining tracks trace the emotional path the protagonist takes, concluding with a brief restatement of lyrics from "What To Say" in "Know That" - an acceptance that it was his fault.

"What To Say" is Enchant's "No One Can" sonically, "Colors Fade" has an dual guitar intro, one acoustic, that is soon subsumed by the "distorto keys" which gives way to grinding guitar, bass, percussion and Leonard's vocals - it is here where I thought of Dream Theater. "Black Eyes & Broken Glass" is fairly routine - big sound, twiddling keys, crying guitar solo, and a punchy arrangement. "Elyse," ... well, don't laugh, because it's much better than this comment is going to make it sound, but it sounds a bit like Styx's "Mr. Roboto," if that track had a Marillion like chorus - open, expansive, notes stretched out like ribbons undulating in the wind, with Leonard sounding like Hogarth. Okay, how so like that Styx track? A somewhat choppy beat, Leonard sounds a lot like Dennis DeYoung (but only at certain points), and the vocals beats sound similar. And Ott delivers a Rothery-like guitar solo to close the track out. "Shell Of A Man" sounds a bit like something from ex-labelmates Magellan [both were on Magna Carta at one time], and yet the grinding bass reminds me of latter day Rush. Ott solo here is pure Petrucci.

So, is this all sound and fury, signifying nothing? No, I have to tell you that I like this album, and I think it's one that will grow on me. I think it will do better among those who aren't familiar with Marillion and some of the other bands I've name checked, as they won't be hearing it through that filter. And yet because this is more heavily melodic, this is where it's going to find its audience, because of reviews like this that compare it to Marillion, etc. But, it's a little light compared to their prog metal labelmates, so it probably won't be found next to the Rhapsodys, Ivory Towers, etc. Well, unless you're eclectic like me.

Also released by InsideOut Europe (IOMCD064/SPV 085-41252CD)

Paint The Picture (7:03) / Rough Draft (6:14) / What To Say (4:20) / Bite My Tongue (5:41) / Colors Fade (5:25) / Juggling Knives (5:02) / Black Eyes & Broken Glass (4:33) / Elyse (5:47) / Shell Of A Man (6:01) / Broken Wave (5:22) / Traces (7:19) / Know That (1:27)

Paul Craddick - drums, organs, pads, 'popeye' keys, organ, strings, mellotron, 'distorto' keys, harpsichord, acoustic guitar, bass, bass pedals, keys, Wurlitzer, piano, vibes
Michael 'Benignus' Geimer - solo keys (6)
Ted Leonard - vocals; bass (3)
Douglas Ott - guitars, keys, bass, bass pedals, ebow, piano, Moog, synths, organ, mellotron, backing vocals
Ed Platt - bass
Phil Bennett - solo keys (4)
Ernesto - narrator (4)
Los Enchantos - Senor Felipe's Guacamole Tango Section (4)

A Blueprint of the World (1995)
Wounded (1997)
Time Lost (1997)
Break (1998)
Juggling 9 Or Dropping 10 (2000)
Blink Of An Eye (2002)
Tug Of War (2003)
Live At Last (2004)
The Great Divide (2014)
Live At Last (2004) (DVD)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: January 1st 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.enchantband.com
Hits: 1970
Language: english


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