Bulging box set celebrates 25 years of San Fran soundmakers.
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.