Dave Sinclair - Full Circle/Into The Sun
If there is one person whose compositions encouraged me to plug in the old keyboard and attempt to play along, it is Dave Sinclair. The Canterbury keys maestro always seemed to be hidden away when onstage with Caravan but his compositions and playing style are legendary. If you have never listened to Nine Feet Underground (which, incidentally, completely bamboozled me when trying to replicate it on keyboard due to the multitude of key changes), you have a lot of enjoyable catching up to do in your prog education. Of course, Dave is best known for his times with Caravan, but his career has seen his involvement with other well known and much loved bands such as Matching Mole, Hatfield And The North and Camel as well as numerous solo projects. Like so many musicians whose work is full of emotion, Dave mainly taught himself to play keyboards. But his early introduction as a professional musician was as a bass player would you believe.
Since his most recent departure from Caravan in 2002, Dave has been busy working on his solo project, the result of which is Full Circle. Dave has also released Into The Sun at the same time as Full Circle so we are covering both albums here, but will talk about Full Circle first.
Most if not all of us should be familiar with Dave’s Canterbury progressive side with pieces such as the highly memorable For Richard, The Dabsong Conshirto and the previously mentioned masterpiece, Nine Feet Underground. Well, Dave has another side to his music and he explores this with Full Circle.
Full Circle is a collection of twelve songs, all of which except two (O’Caroline and Peace In Time) are recent compositions. Aiding and abetting Dave in the rendition of these songs is a list of guest musicians as long as your arm, assuming you have very long arms. Some well-known names are included in this list, such as ‘the voice of Canterbury’, cousin Richard Sinclair, Jim Leverton, Doug Boyle, Fred Baker, Simon ‘Bongo’ Bentall and Theo Travis. The main vocalist on the album (and when she’s not doing lead vocal she’s invariably on backing vocals) is Roxane who started her career at the age of 16 in 1994 and has worked with many well known artists in the past nine years as well as being the voice of many jingles on UK independent radio stations across the UK. Her voice is distinctively soulful reminding me a lot of Randy Crawford who sang on Steve Hackett’s Please Don’t Touch album.
The songs (most, if not all are love songs) are fairly diverse when you begin to analyse them closely. The opening Track, Thru’ The Night has a Paul Carrack feel about it, soulful but with pace. However, the DS famous keyboard sound shines through and at the end of each verse there’s a tell tale arrangement that smacks of good old Canterbury prog. Dave also manages to make use of practically every key on the keyboard in the closing two-minute section of the song bringing some of his best caravan moments flooding back. Great sax solo (Julian Landymore) at the midway point too. However, in Forever Through the Years, Roxane’s voice and the mood of the song have more of a Karen Carpenter feel initially. O’Caroline may sound very familiar, and with good reason. It was written during Dave’s Matching Mole era (I believe Caroline was Robert Wyatt’s girlfriend at the time) and is sung here by the unmistakable Richard Sinclair. Jumping ahead, there is also another version of Nowhere To Hide which features on the recent Caravan album. Prog and Canterbury fans will be in ecstasy with the closing four-minute section of this track! Jumping ahead again, Sancti features Richard on bass and vocals followed by Roxane on vocals, and the delightful choral section by St. Edmunds School Choir who are ever-present during the song, closes the track. Peace In Time opens with the sounds of war followed by a steady laid-back melody and initial vocal sounding very similar to Sally Oldfield (but it is actually Hannele Wida singing in French) followed in turn by Roxane (in English) and Naomi Harada (in Japanese) with the soothing flute accompaniment of Theo Travis, cool drum beat (Marcus Bishop) and occasional voice overs in the style of Churchill, Martin Luther King, JFK and Isoroku Yamamoto. The album closes with a short and simple song of nice thoughts called And When The Sun Sets**, the sort of lullaby you could gently sing to your children at bedtime.
With St Valentine’s day looming, this album would make an ideal gift for a non-prog-tolerant loved one, and at last give you something in his/her CD collection that you will actually enjoy listening to. There again, who needs an excuse?
Into The Sun, released at the same time as Full Circle, is a collection of the songs that didn’t make it onto the final version of that album, plus different (acoustic, radio-mix, original) versions of some tracks that did.
The fist track, Fun, was initially recorded for Full Circle and has a similar sound to Thru’ The Night but a slower pace and totally different lyrics. It would certainly have fitted in well with the other tracks on Full Circle but perhaps Dave decided against it due to the similarity.
That Day, which also appears on Full Circle, is slightly different as Dave sings (and plays bass on keyboard) in place of Richard who had badly injured his finger at the time. Dave’s voice is even softer than Richard’s but the family’s vocal chords share some similarity. Maybe Dave should give serious consideration to taking on a greater vocal role sometime, or perhaps do backing vocals to Richard’s lead.
The Full Circle version of Thru’ The Night is a tad longer than five minutes so to have any chance of airplay, Dave remixed it for radio with louder vocals, no keyboard solo and a short fade at the end, resulting in a sub four minute groove.
How Long is another track that didn’t make it onto Full Circle. This 7½-minute song (how long?) has good lyrics and it would have been a shame if it hadn’t seen the light of day.
The next two tracks, Forever Through The Years and Nowhere To Slide (yes ‘slide’ not ‘hide’) are initial versions which Dave recorded as soon as they were written, just on keyboard with a simple ‘click’ percussion for feel. Interesting to compare these with the end result.
The acoustic piano version of That Day was recorded at home with Dave on Piano. Unfortunately, a squeaky piano pedal wasn’t noticed until the recording was played back in the studio so it couldn’t be used on Full Circle. Richard’s guide bass line was already included and Rod Brown played drums on this version so they added Richard’s vocal and Doug Boyle’s acoustic guitar. I don’t suppose most folk would have noticed the squeak or thought anything about it if they had but the strive for perfection etc. Nice version.
Christmas Time was written in 1997 and recorded with the help of Julian Hastings who I presume is Pye ‘Mr Caravan’ Hastings’ son (NB: Pye’s real name is also Julian). However, workload and complications resulted in the track being put on hold. When recording Full Circle in the studio, the DAT of the backing track and original 2” tape were found and the track was finally pieced together with a new vocal from Roxane.
Dave Sinclair’s music has always been about melody, emotion and arrangement. Both Full Circle and Into The Sun are a continuation of that philosophy but with something there for everyone.
** A couple of days after the above reviews were written, Dave Sinclair got in touch with the Hairless Heart Herald to elaborate on the meanings behind two of the tracks on Full Circle. " And When the Sun Sets was written after the sudden death of my father. I managed to get it recorded in time to play it at his service. It was a great way to celebrate his life, and was really appreciated by the packed congregation. Also, track 7, Without You was written for all the people who have lost love ones, or are separated from them in some way.” Our thanks to Dave for taking the time and trouble to provide the background to these personally emotional pieces of music.
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