I have again been listening to the album Silent Dance and I must acknowledge that all the ingredients are there. Unfortunatley it suffers from a poor job of recording/mixing/mastering. Released at a time when Neo-prog was making it's mark (1984) this is music that is better dated to 1972 - 1976 and properly put on disc it would stand with most of the Renaissance recordings of that period. (Only the best Renaissance tracks top the music here). Still, for the year 1984 - it would have to be added to my best of year list.
Sandy Leigh does and excellent job - sounding at times like John Anderson but with a bit more timber. Without a doubt Leigh sounds so much like Anderson because of the music (especially keyboards & guitars) and melodies - which are more often Yes-like than Renaissance-like. The bottom end (drums and bass) will not be mistaken for Squire/Bruford/White however which points more towards Renaissance. The harmonies used to augment her voice in the upper ranges hollow out her vocal making me have to work to hear a female voice instead of John Anderson. Solstice's music is as close a blend between these two referenced bands as I can imagine.
The violin is fresh - and frankly - it is fantastic at times. In Eric's review here he harkens it to It's a Beautiful Day and this comparision does apply - but to my ear a better comparision would be Papa John Creach on 's Red Octopus album because of how the violin fits in with the music and vocals . The song Return Of Spring demonstrates this best by bringing to mind Starship's Fast Buck Freddy in the interplay and harmony. Of course the key difference is that Solstice are clearly progging while this iteration of Starship are not.
This is a band who seemed to have been flash frozen in 1974, discovered in 1984, and then carefully thawed out. To their credit as songwriters and musicians, Solstice never sounds backwards looking - even though a decade had passed from the high point of this type of music. The success must be due to the fact that while they fit perfectly into the genre of 'classical-folk-prog-rock' circa 1974 the bring forth original compositions and an generally original blendings of sound.
For all the compliments I have made I cannot - in 2003 - call this an essential album though in 1984 I probably would have. There is the medoicre quality of the recording of course but also the fact that in 1984 I would have seen this as a very promising debut and because of this promise I would have recommended this album as the first of an expected many from a fine new band. Nearly 20 years later however this recording has less shine because of it's age and gets set aside because it did not lead to bigger and better things.