Anyone who has followed The Enid in recent years will know that they have endured a particularly turbulent time, even for a band with their chequered history. They were completely transformed by the arrival of Joe Payne and enjoyed great success for a couple of years, despite some die-hard fans feeling the band had been hijacked! Then Joe’s departure seemed to give rise to a power struggle, finally ending in the implosion of the band. To be honest, it was something of a tragedy to watch one of the best live acts of recent years disintegrate so quickly and publicly.
However, two people have seemingly saved The Enid from totally disbanding. In the first place, Robert John Godfrey, who was supposedly retiring having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, seems to have made a dramatic recovery. It seems his original diagnosis may have been either incorrect or exaggerated, but he has clearly not completely retired for now, and together with stalwart guitar maestro Jason Ducker, has managed against the odds to create some new music. What made Jason stick around when the band seemed to have no future whatsoever is a mystery, but I have to say I’m glad he did, and many Enid fans of old will no doubt be cheering.
So the regrouped Enid is basically Jason and Robert, although it’s nice to see Dave Storey coaxed out of retirement on drums and percussion where needed. Sensibly perhaps, they have opted to return to their roots rather than ‘push the envelope’ so to speak. That’s understandable, given that they came so close to ending, and for those fans who hankered after the sound of the band in their early days circa In the Region of the Summer Stars, their prayers have been answered because U is musically very much cut from the same cloth. Whether one views this as a colossal backward step or not is a matter of perspective, but I think that survival instincts have won the day, and Messrs Ducker and Godfrey have, with their backs against the wall, simply gone back to basics and written from their hearts, and although it’s a bit like stepping back in time, what they have achieved actually sounds pretty timeless, and let’s face it, no other band sounds quite like The Enid. Godfrey is a master craftsman and writes romantic symphonic music with passion and panache, and Ducker is the perfect foil, his mastery of his instrument complete, and superbly suited to bring out the best in the music. And the music is less that of a progressive rock band, and more like a symphony orchestra; stirring stuff indeed.
The album begins with an obvious nod to the debut album, both in title and thematically with the wonderful In The Region of the Winter Star. It starts as a variation on the old theme but soon finds new paths to follow. A cynic might raise an eyebrow at the obvious connection, perhaps designed to appeal to the Enidi, but such thoughts are soon banished by the sheer quality of the piece as it unfolds. It is both familiar and new, delicate and passionate, Robert’s keyboards managing to emulate an orchestra convincingly.
Duplicity follows, sounding quite menacing at first, then with an almost humorous swagger before returning to the more ominous sound of distant thunder. Jason’s guitar chugs out short riffs one moment, then soars high like a wheeling kite the next. To my classically untrained ears, it feels as though Robert has unleashed his inner Holst on this piece, and it is magnificent. Homily was, I believe, to be a short tune for a RJG solo album, which would certainly work as a solo piano piece, but here Jason adds his beautifully controlled sustain which takes it to a new level, the Enid version is stunning.
So we go on, each track building on the last to produce forty minutes of timeless Enid music. It was recorded over the last couple of years, but could have been made fifty years ago. Whether you find this to be invigorating and uplifting or a throwback depends whether you ever liked The Enid really. By now you know where I stand. Can they continue to make music and play live again? With believers who I know are out there, maybe they can. I hope so, because somehow, the world seems a slightly better place with The Enid still creating.
01. In the Region of the Winter Star (6:19)
02. Duplicity (8:47)
03. Homily (3:11)
04. Humours (8:11)
05. A Peak In Darien (7:00)
06. You (i) & (ii) (8:02)
Jason Ducker – Guitars, Bass
Robert John Godfrey – Keyboards
Dave Storey – Drums & Percussion
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 25th October 2019