South of Winter
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2007, Volume 14, #4
Written by Matt Parish
In the í70s, musicians basically had the freedom to rehearse and record whenever their respective muse tapped them on the shoulder and invited them to dance. Todayís artists suffer from the restrictive ticking of corporate wristwatches as they try in vain to create and develop something good while working in an overturned hourglass. The end result is usually the same: a paper-thin product with all the memorable qualities of a roadside meal.
Terry Sullivan, from the brilliant band Renaissance, knows first-hand what the sovereignty of those golden days was like, and he took his time to record his first solo record South of Winter. Those who already are familiar with the music of Renaissance likely also are aware of the meticulous structure and grace of the groupís songs. This trademark commitment to perfection defined the outfit as one of the forerunners of progressive music. From the resonating opening notes of the perfectly titled opener Carry Me Home to the tuneís lush verses and choruses, it is apparent that this dedication to excellence has not diminished for Sullivan over the years.
Knowing this was to be his most personal project, Sullivan enlisted the people dearest to him. He assembled a close circle of family and friends, including his wife Christine on vocals and the magnificent John Tout, who not only relives but also revives his legendary keyboard work with Renaissance. The result is a familiar and welcome homecoming of sorts that will leave the bandís fans wrapped in a blanket of their fondest memories.
Christine Sullivanís soothing and alluring vocals beckon the listener to lean a bit closer to the fire to be warmed by her caressing tales of love and loss. Alone, for example, addresses the universal humanness of avoiding emotional contact with those with whom one is closest. Its questioning chorus leaves the words "tell me whyÖwhy build a wall so high?" lingering in full regret.
Bands such as The Corrs, Enya, and even Kate Bush owe a debt of gratitude, if not a small weekly deposit into Sullivanís bank account, as thanks for his groundbreaking work in helping to develop this intricate style of music. Continuing this trend, South of Winterís warm production is wonderfully layered, with each musical brush stroke helping to create an aural masterpiece.
Sullivan handles the vocals on several songs such as Careless and Cold Flames, and both tracks share a theme of desperation that is delivered with all the pathos and wisdom of a lover lost in a maze of reflection. However, itís hearing Tout play keyboards once again that, for many, is likely to be the highlight of an album that is filled with many special reunions. Betty (Thatcher) Newsinger returns to contribute the sort of sparkling lyricism that propelled Renaissanceís popularity via such progressive staples as Carpet of the Sun, Northern Lights, and Ashes are Burning.
Is it any wonder that with an entourage that consists of both familiarity and family that the end result would be nothing short of magical? South of Winterís themes are conveyed with passion and more important, they are personal and real, which is quite a "renaissance" from what typically is passed as music on the radio these days.
Of Further Interest...
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box