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The Enid

+ {Robert John Godfrey} + {Come September}

70s classical/prog-rock tail-enders The ENID were a little late in the day to produce giant-killing shards of quintessential concept sinfonias, but that cared not to its master of ceremonies ROBERT JOHN GODFREY (born 30 July 1947, Leeds Castle, Kent, England), who’d experienced some glory as resident orchestral musical director for BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST; dig out their self-titled set, and `Once Again’.
In February 1974, the soon-to-be brainchild behind the all-encompassing The ENID – and former Royal Academy of Music student – issued a solo album, FALL OF HYPERION {*7}, a precursor of sorts to his impending group and that introduced `The Raven’ (pre-dating a Edgar Allen Poe-fixated ALAN PARSONS PROJECT by a few years), plus the near-15-minute `The Daemon Of The World’ suite. Incidentally, the album featured Christopher Lewis (vocals), Jim Scott (guitars), Neil Tetlow (bass), Nigel Morton (Hammond organ) and Tristan Fry and Ronnie McCrea (percussion).
Formed by RJG, in Tenterden, Kent, around the same period, with core alumni Francis Lickerish (guitars, co-composer) and Stephen Stewart (guitar, bass), with Glen Tollet (bass, keyboards, tuba), Robbie Dobson (drums, percussion) and Dave Hancock (trumpet), he adopting the group name, The ENID, via an in-house school joke. Initially recorded as a vocal album with singer Peter Roberts, who tragically committed suicide on New Year’s Day, 1975, IN THE REGION OF THE SUMMER STARS {*9} was re-cut as a purely instrumental set when released in February 1976. Similar to STEVE HACKETT’s Voyage Of The Acolyte (from the previous October) and scheduled to be named so until RJG’s reluctant change of heart, the concept was that of tarot cards and the writings of Charles Williams. The E.M.I.-backed BUK Records were behind its release. Full of gothic guitar glissandos and piano-led passages that dripped of Satan’s blood (mmm…), the searching `The Fool… The Falling Tower’, opened its account like some long-lost Schubert symphony. Ditto, the creepy `Death, The Reaper’ and `The Devil’, something akin to CAMEL sharing a studio with RICK WAKEMAN. Side two was a quieter affair, the ELP-esque `The Last Judgement’ and the title track almost heavenly in their GENESIS-like channelling. Decent reviews in some quarters, the record set The ENID on their merry way, only to be blighted by the advent of punk rock and new wave.
Beset with high court battles with their management, The ENID (Godfrey, Lickerish and Stewart, plus keyboardist Charlie Elston, bassist Terry “Thunderbags” Pack and drummer/percussionist David Storey) were free to upgrade to EMI International for an exclusive 45, `Golden Earrings’ (first performed by Marlene Dietrich in 1947), and another concept LP, AERIE FAERIE NONSENSE (1977) {*8}, this time based around both Robert Browning’s poem, Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came, and Louis MacNeice’s play The Dark Tower. Tracks concerning associated mythical characters and several more besides, such as Tristan and Isolde and the moribund Irish tales of `Fand’ (in two movements) and Cuchulainn, had quite the effect on listeners still enamoured by old-school prog.
Switching to PYE Records for 1979’s TOUCH ME {*7}, and swapping Elston for William Gilmour, The ENID’s pompous and er…circumstantial manifesto remained intact on the ambitious yet revealing side-long suites, `Charades’ (segued into i-iv movements) and the haunting classical-rock `Albion Fair’. In order to succeed in the pop/rock business, the singles market might well have been a lucky break for a band and: while ELP had their “Fanfare For The Common Man” chart-smash, there was no smash ‘n’ grab for The ENID’s reprise of `Dambusters March – Land Of Hope & Glory’ (a medley) and its B-side take of `The Skyeboat Song’.
Further personnel changes came about on the aptly-titled SIX PIECES (also 1979) {*7}; Martin Russell in for Pack and a returning Dobson in for Storey. Very much in the mould of ELP in its transition to trad piece, “Scarborough Fair” (here as `Once She Was’), the meld of classical and JETHRO TULL-styled prog on the galloping `The Ring Master’ and the brittle `Hall Of Mirrors’, professed to Old Blighty that The ENID would not adhere to any new wave policy.
While their long-standing label was effectively shut down or in administration by 1980, The ENID managed to sneak out one single, `Fool’ (not “The Fool”), credited with Malcolm Le Maistre (ex-INCREDIBLE STRING BAND), but after `665 – The Great Bean’ was duly released by E.M.I. and the album “Rhapsody In Rock” was shelved, the fallow years that followed were heartbreaking for a band with so much potential and prowess. As members could be found backing KIM WILDE to earn a crust, Godfrey and Stewart (plus drummer Chris North and Martin Russell) kept The ENID pages turning by way of novelty-type symphonic-rock re-vamps of `When You Wish Upon A Star’ and `Heigh Ho’ (b/w `Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’); Russell left to form Craft, with Chris.
From Bronze Records to RAK (and er… ruin), The ENID hinted on their own apocalyptic doom by issuing the weird and wonderful `And Then There Were None’, a track that saw the arty rockers make a comeback of sorts with a self-financed parent album, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983) {*7}. Prog-rock was again fashionable in some circles in lieu of new masters MARILLION and IQ, so another “Carpet Crawl-ing” chameleon-ic combo was hardly rocking the boat. An inspired comeback by The ENID trio, the catchy title track and the enlightening `Bright Star’ were its crux, while a revision of a 1981 B-side, `Jessica’, was just the ticket to re-invigorate lost acolytes from voyages of olde.
As the summer of ’84 unfolded, so too did re-recorded/re-arranged versions of The ENID’s AERIE FAERIE NONSENSE {*7} and IN THE REGION OF THE SUMMER STARS {*8}. Released due to a high demand for the deleted originals, maybe tampering with the master tapes was sacrilege, but at the time, it did see a resurgence in fan adoration, especially from those who’d missed their crafty musicianship first time around. As Chris North made way for bassist Glynn Evans and the returning Dave Storey, the four-seasons-in-one-hour (from `Winter’, `Spring’, `Summer’ and `Autumn’) of double-LP THE SPELL (1984) {*7}, was another treasure for both ENID and prog fans to behold.
The band – now without Glynn – reached a creative peak in 1986 when they showcased their SALOME {*6} album in the form of a ballet at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. Mellower and almost cinematic and VANGELIS-esque in places (a route they should’ve taken in retrospect), there was certainly an 80s electro sheen on the opening `O Salome’ (very FICTION FACTORY). Lambasted for their post-`Salome’ take of the SMALL FACES nugget, `Itchycoo Park’, Godfrey and Co decided it was best to lie low for a while.
In the meantime, GODFREY & STEWART (and alumni, Niall Feldman, Damian Risdon, Troy Donockley and vocalist Geraldine Connor) showcased a moonlight album, THE SEED AND THE SOWER (1988) {*6}, a group record in all but name that was rectified in 1993 when it was re-issued under The ENID billing. Their farewell concert in 1989 at London’s Dominion Theatre documented one last throw of the dice in FINAL NOISE (1990) {*6}, by which time RJG had re-surfaced as writer/manager for off-shoot band, COME SEPTEMBER. Alongside vocalist Robert “Kes” Kerrigan and guitarist Tobey Horsnail (from the final threads of The ENID on a revised `Salome’ single), this trio ventured out on vinyl only once by way of the celebrity-less 1990 12-inch EP, `Half An Hour In The Jungle!’.
Batteries re-charged, bearded keyboard-kingpin Robert Godfrey enlisted an all-new The ENID through guitarist Nick May, bassist Max Read and drummer Steve Hughes (who replaced Wayne Cox) for their “comeback” album, TRIPPING THE LIGHT FANTASTIC (1994) {*6}. A commendable work looking to the future rather than reaching for the “Summer Stars” (so to speak), the title track `Ultra Violet Cat’ and `Dark Hydraulic’ were its centre pieces. A remixed version of the latter two tracks appeared on the dance/electronic oddity that was 1995’s SUNDIALER {*6}.
The ever-revolving-door aspect of The ENID was again in place when guitarist Grant Jamieson and a returning Dave Storey respectively superseded May and Hughes for the return-to-form WHITE GODDESS (1998) {*8}. The omnipresent Godfrey was instrumental – as was everyone else! – in re-creating their neo-classicist formula on choice cuts from `Prelude’ to the 10-minute `Nocturne’.
An openly gay man suffering from bouts of depression and, in turn, writer’s block, Robert had also to deal with legal problems for several years, only to re-form The ENID (at first mainly for concerts) in 2007. Three years down the line, JOURNEY’S END {*7} was indeed a fresh beginning for the band, a band that now consisted of RJG, Read, Storey and newbie conscripts Jason Ducker (guitar) and Nick Willes (bass, percussion). Released on RJG’s Operation Seraphim imprint, even in their quieter moments of melancholy moods, their sweeping electro passages (`Terra Nova’ and `Space Surfing’ almost celestial) still invoked a certain panache and power. The set’s longest piece by far, the uplifting, cinematic-like, 13-minute `Malacandra’, one could imagine the late DAVID BEDFORD conducting the London Philharmonic and a prog-metal band.
Another dimension taking hold on the rock-operatic second part of the trilogy, INVICTA (2012) {*7},it featured the high-octane vocals of Joe Payne. Life affirming for prog-rock fans the world over, the theatre and climactic angle culminated with `Who Created Me?’, the lilting 10 minutes of `One And The Many’ and the cod-medieval, `Execution Mob’. If not quite Russell Watson in his display of stage OTT, Payne added some class to `Villain Of Science’ and `Leviticus’.
With Willes benched for guitarist Dominic Tofield, a limited-edition of the web-only FIRST LIGHT {*7} was made available in October 2014. Featuring their revision of BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST’s `Mockingbird’ and a few exclusive pieces, the record was made all the more worthwhile that it prefaced their next bona fide set, THE BRIDGE (2015) {*6}. Not to be confused with the Blu-ray DVD of their affiliated “The Bridge Show, Live At Union Chapel” (recorded that March), the concerto aspect of `Bad Men’, `Dark Corner Of The Sky’, `Earthborn’ and, the entrance, finally, of Max Read’s `First Light’, The ENID had become rather staged.
Said to be the group’s swansong set and final chapter in the trilogy, DUST (2016) {*7}, had all the hallmarks of “The Omen”, judging by the record’s opening salvo, `Born In The Fire’. Uplifting and resting its laurels at the gates of Heaven, its climactic indulgence was never matched by the lush ivory-tinkling of `Someone Shall Rise’ (very “Phantom…Opera”), and others in the shape of `Monsters’, the exasperating `1000 Stars’ and the concluding `Heavy Hearts’. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease around 2014, Godfrey retired just before the album’s release, his berth filled on tour by protégé Zach Bullock. Re-assuredly his legacy will continue…
© MC Strong 1997/GRD series // rev-up MCS Apr2016

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