EN­CHANT

Bulging box set celebrates 25 years of San Fran sound­mak­ers.

Prog - - Echoes Old Turns... - CHRIS ROBERTS

In 1991, Ted Leonard saw a lo­cal ad for a singer that said: “Steve Hog­a­rth, where are you?” Leonard had no idea who Hog­a­rth was, but took a punt. And two years after the first for­ma­tive knock­ings of En­chant in the Bay Area, they were fully tooled up, with a vo­cal­ist who could bring the sin­ga­long fac­tor – some­thing they’d openly craved to spice up their stylings. These were loosely based on Rush, Kansas and Jour­ney but open-eared to the ac­ces­si­ble pop of Jel­ly­fish or Tears For Fears.

THEY’RE NEVER LESS THAN POL­ISHED, BUT CAN DE­LIVER SUR­PRISES.

Leonard’s crys­tal voice – also gild­ing Spock’s Beard since 2011 – is what first hits you about En­chant as you tra­verse this marathon 10-disc set. He’s the warm, wel­com­ing guide who leads you through vary­ing de­grees of dif­fi­culty, whether the band are rock­ing, de­tour­ing into prog in­tri­ca­cies or just sooth­ing you with a sappy AOR song. They’re never less than pol­ished, and while there are patches that feel some­what too slick, their en­dur­ing ca­reer has em­pha­sised their abil­ity to keep de­liv­er­ing sur­prises and up­grades.

This burst­ing-at-the-seams box gath­ers their eight stu­dio al­bums from 1993’s de­but A Blue­print Of The World right up to 2014’s The Great Di­vide. Two bonus discs col­lect demos, live tracks and acous­tic and in­stru­men­tal ver­sions.

It’s no­table that 2004’s Live At Last, gen­er­ally deemed a suc­cess, isn’t present in full: there’s an ar­gu­ment that it might have made a more co­he­sive com­po­nent than the odds’n’sods. Yet for ev­ery scep­tic re­gard­ing box set logic, there’s a diehard who’ll sub­jec­tively adore one spe­cific out-take.

That Hog­a­rth ref­er­ence be­came a psy­chic plea to the uni­verse, as Steve Roth­ery came along to co-pro­duce En­chant’s de­but, adding gui­tars on tracks such as the sweet, surg­ing Cathar­sis. Sec­ond al­bum Wounded plays ra­dio-safe, but 1997’s Time Lost shows more am­bi­tion, as on the 11-minute In­ter­act. Break seems wary of push­ing the boat out into ex­per­i­men­tal wa­ters, but 2000’s Jug­gling

9 Or Drop­ping 10 crunches harder, gui­tar-wise, Doug A Ott play­ing hot.

Blink Of An Eye again sticks in the com­fort zone be­tween heavy and main­stream, and around this pe­riod there’s a sense of risks shirked. On 2003’s Tug Of War, the band fo­cused on pop songs. You can’t please ev­ery­body and, dis­en­chanted, En­chant took a decade-long sab­bat­i­cal un­til The Great Di­vide, the rel­a­tively grit­tier ap­proach of which won back the love.

If En­chant never quite flew the way Mar­il­lion pre­dicted, there’s an abun­dance of magic mo­ments arc­ing across this fre­quently re­splen­dent ret­ro­spec­tive.

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