Review Summary: A passing fantasy, all in the comfort of a white goddess.
Flash forward to 1997 – Robert John Godfrey was now closing in on the big five-oh, coming ever closer to middle age, and far, far away from his youthful days. In The Region of the Summer Stars
and Aerie Faerie Nonsense
were now twenty years gone, and with this in mind, had focused on bringing The Enid back to its instrumental roots. Enter White Goddess
, the tenth effort from Godfrey and company. Between 1994 and 1997, the lineup had a considerable shakeup. Out went Nick May, and in came the young Grant Jamieson, who was noted by Godfrey to have not only a visible similarity to former guitarist Francis Lickerish; yet he also sounded quite similar to Stephen Stewart, the band’s other guitarist during their prime. Making his permanent return to the band was veteran drummer Dave Storey, who was a welcome addition to the sound of what Godfrey had in the works for the reinvigorated band’s latest album.
Upon listening to White Goddess
, the most notable change in the band’s sound was the near-expulsion of dance-oriented rhythms and a far heavier focus on the piano, harkening back to the era of ”Fand”
, ”The Lovers”
, and ”The Dreamer”
. Whereas Tripping the Light Fantastic
subtly borrowed from past endeavors and crafted them into new creations, White Goddess
is a far more organic album in the sense that it relies far more on the high-sounding flair of Godfrey’s compositions, which were currently influenced by Celtic and medieval music, most notably in the jaunty ”Gigue”
. The names given to some of the tracks, such as the slow, dreamy mellow haze of”Sarabande”
, the almost-quite childlike classically-influenced ”Gavotte”
, and the romantic, European ”Waltz”
all borrow from individual dances of the same name, giving White Goddess
a very foreign identity not yet heard on an Enid album. Upon first listen, you are greeted by the passing of motorized vehicles amidst the backdrop of calming flutes and the faint murmurs of synthesizers and percussion. Reaching its peak, it seamlessly segues into the relaxing, smooth glide of ”Fantasy”
. The title quite necessarily speaks for itself, switching from a tranquil theme that eventually transforms into a jubilant piece that is littered with Jamieson’s guitar work.
From thereon, it crosses over to the rhythmic ”Riguardon”
, showing off the band’s chemistry, as well as giving the disciplined style of Storey a chance to shine in a song loaded with percussion and several changes in tempo. On the other half of percussion is Max Read, assuming not only bass duties but occasional guitar parts and minor vocal effects as well. Read’s contributions, unlike on Tripping
are a bit more obscured by the far more prominent presence of Jamieson and Godfrey in terms of songwriting. However, he does a magnificent job of ensuring the rhythm is kept well in time, most notably in the melodious ”Chaconne”
. Quite admittedly, with the amount of ideas presented here on White Goddess
, the end result isn’t top notch. There’s only so much you can work with on compositions heavily cluttered with dated late 90s synthesizers, and while the band definitely put their all into the album, the age certainly does show on the Godfrey-dominated ”Nocturne”
, a ten-minute epic that brings other heavily-synthesized pieces such as ”Flames of Power”
and ”The Biscuit Game”
immediately to mind.
Although not the greatest thing the band had put out, White Goddess
was ever so far from the worst Godfrey and friends had committed to tape. White Goddess
was an album that apparently had an ecological theme, hence why there was a noted presence of Celtic, medieval and romantic-era music on the songs. The problem with said theme is that it’s lost on most listeners, due to the vague ideas presented in the instrumental pieces, such as the sound of vehicles on ”Prelude”
and the faint vocals of Read on ”Gigue” (“I am the tears of the sun”)
. Another issue with the proposed ecological theme was the notes from the press release of the album hinting at a far more ambitious concept, such as the responsibilities man has in order to preserve Earth for the next generation and onward:
”The most endangered species on Earth is Man. Those who are worried that our race is spoiling the planet for future generations should stop to think a little longer because there will be no future generations if humanity cannot face its responsibilities as citizens of Earth. Instead we should be mindful of what Mother Nature has in store for us. Eventually this loving, tolerant and long suffering mother of mothers will completely lose her rag. Then it will be time for early bed with no tea. It really will.
In the end she will rid herself of this tiresome plague, this nuisance we call the human race and reclaim what has been taken from her as easily as she let it go. This is the price we will all pay if we allow short term greed and long term blindness to dominate our political and financial institutions.
This is the great challenge and our survival as a species depends on it.”
No matter how ambitious the concept was
going to be on White Goddess
, it simply wasn’t meant to be – for now. Upon the dawn of the new millennium, changes were yet again a go in the band. The touring configuration variated, with Alex Tsentides taking over bass duties alongside Max Read, only to depart alongside Jamieson in 1999, leaving Read as the sole guitarist of the band. Oddly enough, Read’s emergence as the band’s lead guitarist mirrored Stephen Stewart’s newfound role as The Enid’s lead guitarist upon Francis Lickerish’s departure in 1980.
This, however, wasn’t meant to last. Godfrey, in a long, strenuous bout of writer’s block, as well as suffering from diabetes, decided to call it a day, putting the future of The Enid yet again on hold. Aside from a cameo at the Progeny Festival in November 2003 with current guitarist Jason Ducker, the band wouldn’t make a return possible until 2007 with another highly revamped lineup. The future of the band was no longer in doubt, but there was work to be done for certain.