The Charade opens with almost a Travis-like melody – prog Travis? The instruments are better defined and clearer, the balance between vocal and instrumental favouring the musical passages, and, if anything, it sounds more French on this 2016 remix of the original 1999 release. Some degree of classical training is very apparent in the piano playing, or at the very least a love of piano concertos. I still find myself not liking this earlier incarnation of the band so much; unlike Safe Asylum or Trip the Life Fantastic which were constant car companions, I find myself enjoying this but needing something else. I think it is the vocals, which are quite heavy on the overdubs.
Overall, I would say that Pat Sanders’ work on this album will broaden its appeal; for those who like the last two albums, it is a good indication of what is to come. Vocally, current singer Peter Falconer is more appealing to my ears as I find Chris Martini more in the vein of musical theatre. It is a theatrical voice, a good voice, and perhaps an appearance of this style would not be amiss on the next album that is currently scheduled as a concept album, but Pete will ably fill that role.
Swan Song is inaptly titled as it is far from such for this talented band. Okay, the Drifting Sun of 1999 lack the polished shine of the current band, but they are still good. It is actually quite difficult to put your finger on the pulse of then and now; different band, different singer, and subtle differences in feel. Knowing the future is not necessarily a good thing.
Drifting Sun is, I suppose, the signature piece. Again, I struggle a bit with the vocals, it is also one of those ‘can’t put my finger on it’ tunes, something that resonates with a song you once heard, not that hinted familiarity is necessarily a bad thing. Day to day I hear those non-copyright tunes that pastiche well-known pieces and they are pretty dreadful, this is not. Remixed or not, the multi-tracking and layering of the lead vocal is a little hard on my ears.
I think in many ways I am being hyper-critical and had I heard On The Rebound in 1999 I may have loved it more, it is a slightly more prog Journey with a touch of Kansas and a European twist. I understand the stereo effect on Long Nights, but whereas the musical element is spot on in a complex tune, the vocals seem to me to be a bit off key. I love the “Santanaresque” guitar solo towards the end of this track and had I heard it in 1999 I would have raved a little, a light of difference in a morass of Britpop.
There is much to love here, Heaven’s Eyes following the pattern laid out before. Pat Sanders’ keyboards are both beautiful and classical and would stand up easily against some of Rick Wakeman’s best piano pieces. Drifting Sun past and present offer something just a little different to the Prog canon, and I still think as a performance they could be an exceptional live band (unless the structures are too much to recreate).
Minstrel is atmospheric, in terms of pomp there is an element of the sumptuous production of Queen before the synthesizer addiction kicked in. Here the vocal works overall and I hope that the underlying slightly malevolent tone is intended.
Mon Masque is the finale. In an album where four of the seven tracks exceed 10-minutes in length; when the instrumental talent is as rich as to be found in the two latest albums; where I personally find Chris’ vocals a little too curates egg; it is still an accomplished album. Drifting Sun have moved on since the last millennia. The style remains but the compositions are much more rounded and flow better while the lyrics sound more mature.
Pat has brought this earlier incarnation to life with the remix and if you own the last two albums I would say that this is worth having in your collection. In the band’s current form, they are working on a concept album. My curiosity is aroused, more of the almost baroque stylings or something different reflecting the time that has passed since the first Drifting Sun album? Progressive in other words. Whatever may come I do look forward to it and a purchase of this will help fund the next. That in itself makes the acquisition of On The Rebound worthwhile.
01. The Charade (13:21)
02. Swan Song (6:42)
03. Drifting Sun (7:04)
04. Long Nights (10:27)
05. Heaven’s Eyes (5:29)
06. Minstrel (10:20)
07. Mon Masque (11:27)
Total Time – 64:50
The 1999 Band Were
Manu Sibona – Bass
Tobin Bryant – Drums
John Spearman – Guitars
Pat Sanders – Keyboards
Chris Martini – Vocals
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 1st October 2016