Review Summary: This was one of the bands most influenced by Yes. Still, they were more than a mere clone of Yes.
“Toward The Sun” is the debut studio album of Druid and was released in 1975. The line up on the album is Dane Stevens, Andrew McCrorie-Shand, Neil Brewer and Cedric Sharpley.
As happened with some many other prog bands in the 70’s, Druid is no more than another one relatively obscure progressive rock band of the 70’s with a very short life. And also as happened with some many others contemporaries, they were also strongly influenced by some of the major prog acts in those days. In this case, the sound of Druid was notably influenced by Yes. That influence became so evident that they were even accused to be a true clone of Yes.
Druid was a 70’s progressive rock band from England. The roots of Druid goes back to 1970 and a trio who called themselves Maggot. They added a keyboard player to their sound and finally became Druid. Druid spent years playing in clubs as a trio before winning a competition by Melody Maker. The Melody Maker prize included new instruments and a recording contract, and their eponymous debut album appeared in 1975. The band had a difficult time because they sounded too much alike to Yes. In fact, Druid was an opening act at a number of Yes’ concerts. The Yes’ comparison, though an obvious one, isn’t entirely accurate. In fact, Dane’s vocals are clearly styled with Jon Anderson and the Neil Brewer’s bass has the classic style of the Rickenbacker bass associated with Chris Squire. However, the rest of the members of the band depart from the rest of Yes’ formula. McCrorie-Shand’s unadorned keyboard parts, for example, have little in common with the lavishly baroque flash of Rick Wakeman or the martial Hammond pounding of Tony Kaye.
Druid had excellent instrumental skills and all the right moves for a symphonic progressive rock band, like swirling Mellotron and organ, sweeping tasty analogue synths, thundering Rickenbacker bass and some of the highest falsetto vocals ever heard from a progressive rock band. Their music often sounded like a softer and more folk influenced version of Yes. Their song writing, which isn’t really as good as the song writing of Yes, was very decent and I feel very comfortable with it. But, above all, their nice, very accomplished and atmospheric sound made up for some of it, surely.
Stylistically, Druid’s debut “Toward The Sun” reveals a keen sense of very beautiful harmonies and melodies. Thus, the huge complexity of Yes’ music is thus not really achieved. Rather that, Druid give to us the real impression that here we are in a slightly “stripped down” Yes’ version. All compositions are relatively easy for the experienced progressive rock listener to understand. Nevertheless, Druid doesn’t seem to me too trivial or even poppy at any time. Rather, they reveal in their melodic and symphonic songs true undeniable qualities. But, what is most interesting to me is that despite their strong affinity to the early Yes, the quartet hasn’t committed itself to mere copying. Rather, they bring Yes’ moderate mood with their own ingredients complemented and perfectly over. And despite what I said before that Druid is much more melodic and straightforward, they’re yet challenging, bombastic and complex enough to provide plenty of variety.
About the tracks, “Voices” is a perfect opener which goes after a dynamic and Yes’ intro into a melodic section, which is dominated by the melancholy vocals of their front man Dane. The following title “Remembering” offers almost sugar sweet vocal harmonies. Here we have again some delicate Mellotron passages recorded. “Theme” unites as an instrumental title all already mentioned the qualities of the band. The guitar playing is very melodic and is in no way comparable with the filigree string processing of Steve Howe. Yes, the Mellotron is truly ubiquitous with Druid, as happen with the title track. Therefore, with “Toward The Sun” every Mellotron fan can feel it in his heart. “Red Carpet For An Autumn” is a very nice feather in the cap, just a nice solo piano melody for a bit until the vocal and mellotron pick it up. “Dawn Of Evening” has a beautifully positioned Mellotron carpet that creates a magical atmosphere and the rumbling bass provides the right dynamics. “Shangri-La” is a pleasant and ambitious piece that ends the album nicely.
Conclusion: In my humble opinion, all in all, “Toward The Sun” is a very nice symphonic progressive rock album from the 70’s. If you don’t have any problem with high vocals and don’t deny the right to live in the beautiful tunes of the progressive rock, but above all, if you have no problems with the strong Yes’ influence on Druid, “Toward The Sun” could be a real pleasure to listen to. Druid belongs somehow to the same league as England and Starcastle. With this album which is dreamy, nostalgic and sad-beautiful, Druid proves an incredible sense of tune that touches. Maybe it’s not as original as it should be and it’s perhaps a little derivative in places. Still, I like it very much and I really think that it deserves to be heard. Anyone who considers Yes among his favourites and not only expects the band to perform works like “Close To The Edge” or “Gates Of Delirium”, should definitely have Druid tested it. It’s highly recommended.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)