Mostly Autumn - Storms over still water | Classic Rock Direct LTD * * * * *
Mostly Autumn founded about ten years ago has proven that it is possible to get pretty far in this world without hit songs , but with outstanding music and many gigs.
This sixth album Storms over still water is released because of the fans who ordered 2000 copies by the official website http://www.mostly-autumn.com/ even before the recordings had started.
The music is a unique mix of Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Genesis And Deep Purple. Its for all female singer Heather Findlay and guitarist Bryan Josh who dictate the sound. On Storms hard rockers as Out of the Green Sky, Broken Glass, Black Rain and Coming to …are varied by beautiful epic ballads as Carpe diem and the Title song.
The other five , as strong as the others, are floating in between. Josh playing is phenomenal, and as far as I’m concerned the only guitarist who is allowed to stand in the shadow of David Gilmour. But it is the symphatic Heather who takes care of the definitive spell. Make sure you are at there on July 16th ( Boerderij Zoetermeer ), and September. Then they are here.
Kees Baars Genre: Progressive folk rock
THE SPRIT OF AUTUMN PAST
THE LAST BRIGHT LIGHT
THE STORY SO FAR
MUSIC INSPIRED BY THE LORD OF THE RINGS
Record Label: Cyclops
Catalogue #: CYCL080
Year of Release: 1999
Tracklist: Nowhere To Hide (Close my Eyes) (6:12), Porcupine Rain (4:40), The Last Climb (8:00), Heroes Never Die (9:33), Folklore (5:49), Boundeless Ocean (5:42), Shenanigans (3:50), Steal Away (4:56), Out Of The Inn (6:43), The Night Sky (10:25)
An absolutely brlilliant debut album by Mostly Autumn. This band, consisting of no less than 8 musicians, is probably the best debut band of 1999 (unfortunately I received the albums too late to include them in my 1999 poll votes...). Bryan Josh is the main composer, and a gifted one indeed. On their second album, which I'll discuss below, keyboard player Iain Jennings shows that he is equally gifted. This band is going to produce more miracle albums in the future, trust me! It's Pink Floyd with Celtic influences, although both influences are quite well seperated on both albums.
Opening with a real nice prog song, a bit in the vein of the recently deceiced Egdon Heath, they show already the maturity of their compositions. Constantly changing between major and minor chords, they still produce a relatively "easily digestible" track. The next one, Porcupine Rain is a powerful, bit spacey track. It opens with a really electronic sound, a bit like IQ's track Subterranea opens, then entering into a Floydian part. The intertwining vocal harmonies of Josh and femal vocalist Heather Findlay create an atmosphere of great power and beauty. The Last Climb has a calm Hackett-like guitar/ electronic jazz organ duet for an opening, with birdies tweeting in the background. The main melody reminds in feeling of the type of music on Floyds' The Division Bell or even Richard Wrights' solo album Broken China (the track with Sinead O'Connor on vocals of that album especially comes quite close). Of course I can't remember the Floyd using a violin solo on their albums though! This is also the first track with a typical Gilmourish guitar solo, although I must say it is probably more like the most recent Pendragon tracks (spot the subtle difference ?). The opening of Heroes Never Die comes close to Camel's Heroes in all aspects (note the flute that is obligatory then!). A guitar section remniscent of the one from track 2 sets in subsequently. The track only slowly gains momentum, keeping the bit tight atmosphere only to burst out in a big chorus, which is repeated in a transposed key. Three minutes of beautiful guitar work (a successor to Comfortably Numb has been born...) tops off yet another small masterpiece.
So far for the Floydian part of the album. Now, with a traditional called Folklore a completely different part starts: Celtic music sometimes larded with prog. Folklore starts with a melody that may be the same one as Belfast Child of the Simple Minds (I'm not sure though) but then enters into a gay violin/tin whislte tune. Irish pubs on Sunday afternoons.... as suddenly as it appeared it is gone and a powerfull prog part starts...and almost unnoticably through two bars of drumming goes back to the Irish part. You don't believe what you're hearing!
Boundless Ocean features a flute intro that doesn't remind of Camel (yes, its possible)! It is a quite ballad type track, with a violin solo and a type of keyboard playing and drumming that bring the Floyd back in your head...
Irish dance and djembé on the next one! Ever heard of Red Jasper's Midsummernight's Dream (it's on one of the SI samplers)? Well, imagine that track played with much more power and fury and you'll get close to this one! Cool Celtic Rock.
Steal Away is a ballad, with Heather Finlay on lead vocals. She has a really nice voice and it's a shame that she doesn't get so do more lead work on this album. A smoothly flowing melody with lots of keyboard tapistery. A story told by a man with a fidlle starts Out of the Inn, something similar has been done by Ritual on their debut album (although this one isn't in Swedish). The song itself is Irish again, but with interesting keyboard effects mixed through it and a melody that reminds of Pallas' The Sentinel. Slowly the Irish drops off and only the prog part remains. Can you imagine what it sounds like? No? Then go and buy this album! If not for this then for the last track, the 10+ minute The Night Sky, with a kind of build up like Pendragon on Masquerade Overture. For five minutes it is calm, increasing tension with a violin solo, that turns into a melancholic guitar solo, fading in the wind.
By now you have guessed that I am really impressed by this album. Normally, when I am this impressed I give a 9. Thing is, their next child, The Spirit of Autumn Past, is even better. Now, I don't rank higher than a 9 (unless a second Dark Side comes around), so this one gets a:
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10.
Year of Release: 1999
Tracklist: Winter Mountain (6:55), This Great Blue Pearl (5:41), Pieces of Love (4:15), Please (6:10), Evergreen (8:00), Styhead Tarn (3:32), Shindig (3:07), Blakey Ridge/When The Waters Meet (2:12), Underneath the Ice (3:49), Through the Windows (4:41), The Spirit of Autumn Past (part 1) (2:43), The Spirit of Autumn Past (part 2) (6:30), The Gap Is Too Wide (11:37)
After being stunned by their first album, see above, I was eager to hear their second one. And the little criticism I had with the first (e.g. Heather Findlay not singing enough) was resolved on this one. After the first one, this one is really familiar since the whole construction of the album (where are the uptempo tracks, where are the slow ones, where Celtic, where Floydian) is almost identical.
In the wind that opens the CD, the guitar solo of the last song of the previous album can be heard, indicating that they just continue where they have left on the previous album.Winter Mountain is an uptempo cross between Floyd, recent Marillion and Celtic Rock. This Great Blue Pearl has a " modern Floyd" feel to it, with Jennings playing a cool Hammond. A nice track that ends with one of those by now familiar Gilmour guitar pieces. Findlay does lead vocals on the calm early Genesis-like piece Pieces of Love (think of the quiet Lamb tracks). Then the album goes a bit deeper with the stunning, crying, Please. Intense, with a melancholic powerful chorus not often heard, this song is one of the highlights of the album. Evergreen is a semi-acoustic piece, with Findlay showing the beauty of her voice. In a song of this lenght, compositional quality comes to light. The leaflet of Cyclops gave me a clue: this song reminds a bit of Stairway to Heaven. Indeed, in structure and melancholy it does.
Styhead Tarn is more experimental, with a firm beat and spooky sound effects. The album now enters the Celtic Rock part with violin and flute in Shindig and Blackey Ridge/When the Waters Meet. Underneath the Ice is difficult to put in a corner: a bit hippy-like maybe. Through the Window is again a Celtic/ Rory Gallagher track.
Then things turn to magic: The Spirit of Autumn Past opens with a Wright-like piano track, but intensly quiet and of great beauty. An electric guitar sets in, and a song that is typical of the starts of the last two Floyd albums arises. This flows into part two, that grows into a Dire Straits type of track with a powerful chorus. The last track, an epic called The Gap Is Too Wide is a sad song, in memory of Susan Jennings. A beautiful melody softly takes the listener into another world. Then a choir including friends and family of Susan set in, sending shivers down my spine. The guitar sings its song of sorrow and longing and on top of all Troy Donockley of Iona gives a superb Uilleann pipe solo. Wow.
Intense, almost 70 minutes of beautiful compositions and great musicianship. Mostly Autumn combine Floyd with Celtic music in a natural, non-forced way. Great vocals, guitar and keyboards, need I say more? Go get this album, and the previous one while you're at it! These people can, no should, become big.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10.
Remco SchoenmakersWith thanks to DPRP!
Tracklist: ... Just Moving On (1:30), We Come And We Go (4:36), Half The Mountain (5:22), Eyes Of The Forest (4:22), The Dark Before The Dawn (5:10), Hollow (6:08), Prints In The Stone (3:27), The Last Bright Light (8:14), Never The Rainbow (3:48), Shrinking Violet (8:34), Helms Deep (6:45), Which Wood (2:45), Mother Nature (12:09)
With the fading notes of The Gap Is Too Wide of their previous album The Spirit Of Autumn Past the (relatively) new album of Mostly Autumn opens, to enter into a staggeringly sensitive cross over between Floyd and Camel (Ice) in Just Moving On. My prediction in the reviews of their previous albums that this band should become big has so far turned out to be true, as they are constantly growing in popularity, and there are nowadays only few symphonic rock lovers who have not heard their name. This was obvious from the amount of requests we received to review this album (p.s. before giving such requests, please read the FAQ) and finally, at the end of the year, we are able to do so. Their fan base will only grow with this new album, even though I personally find it a touch less emotionally moving and a bit more "calculated" than the previous albums.
The second track We Come And We Go is a good example of this. Very Floydian in nature, but still distinctly different, it is more polished and thought through than the more heart-felt tracks on the previous two albums. But this not true for all tracks, not at all. The next track, Half The Mountain, is already a more melodic oriented track. The strength of the band obviously lies in the fact that it is big, and each individual member is an absolute master at his or her instrument, not (only) in the technical, but especially in the ability to give an emotion to the notes that are played.
The moods on this album are again quite divers, from the up-tempo in for instance We Come And We Go or Never The Rainbow (which has a fantastic drive to it, with a wonderful power-melody) to the more Pastorale in Eyes Of The Forest or Prints In The Stone (which apparently has appeared as a single, and due to the flutes and Celtic sound has a bit of a Titanic Soundtrack feel, but that may be just my corrupted mind). They even experiment with a cross over between more electronic music and their normal brand: Celtic sympho on The Dark Before The Dawn.
The beautiful vocals of Heather Findlay are heard for first time in Hollow, which sounds a bit like a cross between the style of their previous albums and the '80s pop star Black on his Wonderful Life album (not the single!) for those of you who can remember that one. One of the highlights of the album is the title track. Sensitive yet with a bite, a complex composition where Floydian parts are interleaved with a low male choir (not quite Gregorian, but close). The guitar, as always with Mostly Autumn, gives a blistering solo at the end of the track. This ending is the first part on the album where the folk influences are really apparent.
Unlike the previous two albums, there are no truly traditional tracks on the album. Helms Deep is more close to a "traditional track", with its merry melody, toying flutes and joyful playing, but it has a darker undertone as well, as if something bad is about to happen. Nice track! The track Which Wood? with acoustic guitar, flute and drum is the perfect upbeat to the masterpiece of the album, the 12 minute track Mother Nature. The male and female vocals that revolve around each other is a beautiful calm start of the track, before entering a more pompous part, not unlike many Pendragon tracks (including the oeoeoeo-aaaaaa background vocals). The last 6 minutes are one big symphonic orgy: slowly a pounding melody and cracks of thunder lead us to a climax, with a main role for the organs and guitars, a true heir to Gilmour's trown. Yeah, they know how to end an album! (And I want to bet I know how the next album will start!).
Again, I cannot think of any valid criticism on this record, except my personal opinion that Heather did not sing enough and some of the tracks are a bit over-composed, but apart from that: one of the highlights of 2001, for sure.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10.
The Unexpected Album, is what Mostly Autumn themselves call this CD. Well it indeed came as a surprise to me. The subject, Tolkien's magnificent epos The Lord Of The Rings, has of course been an inspiration to zillions of symphonic and progressive rock bands now and in the past (there is probably not a single name in the book that is not used by a sympho band as their name). With the movie The Lord Of The Rings creating a peak interest in the works of Tolkien, now could of course not be a better time to produce an album with this title. And who else but the biggest rising stars of progressive rock, Mostly Autumn, could do that. With their typical style of mixing folk music and powerful symphonic rock they have the perfect tool to capture both the dark threatening side as well as the more pastorale side that the book contains. They have created the album in 14 days of intense work, which is a short period (but then again, that is sort of the same time that Transatlantic take to write an album). Naturally, this causes melodies to be reused, as a kind of different themes that run through the album. Besides, they had already put two LotR-inspired tracks, Out Of The Inn and Helm's Deep (which is featured as a live video clip on the CD) on other albums (on For All We Shared... and The Last Bright Light respectively).
The album opens powerful and dark, as the ring is forged by Sauron and is picked up by Gollem, until it reaches the pocket of Bilbo. The Sauron theme, which reoccurs several times on the album, is introduced here. The album literally opens with a bang. The album then quietens down with the very pastorale Greenwood The Great. A moody, calm acoustic track which at the end suddenly bursts out in a very sharp guitar piece, which undoubtly is the musical version of the Black Riders. Fantastic when played at over 80 dB ;-).
Goodbye Alone is about Frodo's doubts to leave The Shire. A calm, melancholic piece, with a good guitar solo at the end, in the style of "recent" (Division Bell) Gilmour. Out of the Inn follows, which was also featured on For All We Shared... as mentioned before. On that album, the track starts with a pub song, which Frodo sings in the book. The track on this album lacks that intro is rerecorded and more uptempo than that on For All We Shared..., but is basically the same. Some parts are less raw than the previous version. I am not sure which version I like better. The more "pure" version on For All We Shared... or this version, which reminded me in guitar playing style of the Animals album of Pink Floyd.
Continuing this Gilmour reference is On The Wings of Gwaihir, which is more in the style of Dave's About Face album. One of the lesser tracks on the album for me. At Last To Rivendell gives the subtlety of the elves by having almost half the track played in a musical box fashion, and the rest is pure folk music. Journey's Thought has a meditative mood (duh...) about it and reminded me very much of the intro of Camel's Heroes on The Single Factor. Then it's power up with the distorted (remember the Company came into a snow storm) Caradhras the Cruel. A nice track, but it could have been worked out a bit further.
The Riders of Rohan is quite a good track, with a strong vocal line by Heather Findley, but nothing really special. One of the best tracks is Lothlorien, very, very delicately played and sung it is one of the most subtle tracks I have heard recently. Shivers down the spine! This subtlety is crushed by The Return of the King, with a powerful guitar power chord sequence. Quite a nice contrast! The album ends (for those of us who do not listen on the PC) with To the Grey Havens, refeaturing some of the previous melodies in a different fashion, in the same Single Factor-way as Journey's Thought. Those with a PC get a bonus: A live clip of Helm's Deep (of The Last Bright Light). The sound quality of this clip really sucks. There is an extremely annoying very high frequence beep troughout the track. It is however nice to seem them play live (and feast your eyes on some drawings of The Lord Of The Rings).
Recording a concept album in 14 days has the advantage that the concept is not lost out of sight. However, it also includes some risks (overly repeating melodies etc.). Mostly Autumn have not fall too deeply into that last pitfall, but nevertheless the album could have been a tat more varied. This is compensated for by some stunning tracks (the best ones for me being the first four and Lothlorien). Again a winner from Mostly Autumn!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Tracklist: Something In Between (3:52); Pure White Light (4:33); Another Life (4:36); Bitterness Burnt (4:56); Caught In A Fold (3:52); The Simple Ways (6:13); First Thought (4:46); Passengers (6:05); Distant Train (4:50); Answer The Question (5:01); Pass The Clock – Part 1(2:40); Part 2 (5:49); Part 3 (3:39)
British band Mostly Autumn have made remarkable progress since their debut album For All We Shared was released back in 1998. The band’s combination of Pink Floyd atmospheric prog, traditional folk and more straight ahead rock is certainly an appealing one, and through almost constant gigging (both as headliners and as support to bigger names such as Blackmore’s Night and Uriah Heep) the band have managed to make quite a name for themselves, even in their homeland, which is not the easiest of places for original bands playing music which doesn’t fit into whatever the current trend is.
Up until now, I don’t think the band have managed to surpass For All We Shared; both Spirit Of Autumn Past and The Last Bright Light had their moments but didn’t manage to capture the freshness and magic of that first release, whilst Music Inspired By Lord Of The Rings was very much a stop-gap, as have been the live releases and re-recorded versions of earlier songs the band have put out (too many in my opinion). Passengers however manages the trick of moving the band’s sound towards the ‘middle ground’ of classic rock whilst still containing those elements which attracted people to them in the first place.
The album starts (as per all Mostly Aututmn albums) with the last few notes from the last track of the last (proper) studio album (in this case Mother Nature from The Last Bright Light. Swirling piano notes then introduces Something In Between. A fairly simplistic pop-rock track featuring the dual vocals of Bryan Josh (also guitarist and chief songwriter) and Heather Findlay, this song brings to mind late-80’s Fleetwood Mac and, whilst nothing earth shattering, is a good introductory track. Pure White Light ups the ante somewhat, the rather dark, heavy verses punctuated by a strong, melodic chorus that sticks in the head. Division Bell-era Floyd is perhaps a good comparison here, especially given the Dave Gilmour influence (both as vocalist and guitar player) which can be clearly heard in Bryan Josh’s performance.
Another Life sees the tempo taken down a notch; a strong, somewhat sombre ballad with effective use of strings and a fantastic lead vocal performance by Heather Findlay, who has really come on leaps and bounds since the debut album, both in terms of range and confidence. Josh also gets to unleash a fine, again very Floydian, guitar solo during the instrumental break.
Next up are a couple of Findlay-penned tracks. Bitterness Burnt, written in memory of her late father, is the first of the new tracks to herald the band’s folky past, featuring Angela Goldthorpe’s excellent flute playing, acoustic guitars and the first of several guest appearances by Iona’s Troy Donockley, this time on Bazouki. Caught In The Fold meanwhile is an almost bluesy rocker, with excellent stabs of Hammond Organ from Iain Jennings, some great slide from second guitarist Liam Davison and some very Tull-esque flute playing from Goldthorpe. The chorus is superb, with Findlay’s voice taking on a deep, powerful timbre that would give many male heavy rock vocalists a run for their money.
Simple Ways calms things down again, an atmospheric track, again making good use of dual male/ female vocals, which builds gradually, eschewing clever time change and the like for solid musicianship – it bears some comparison with the band’s earlier Winter Mountain. I particularly liked the keyboard-led instrumental conclusion, which, with its mass of synthesised choir sounds achieves some kind of grandeur.
The introductory part of First Thought initially reminded me of Floyd’s Run Like Hell, but the track soon emerges as something of a power ballad, with as per usual a superb lead performance by Findlay. Once again, the hooks, once embedded in your head, won’t leave very quickly.
The title track is in some ways a more sedate affair, one of those track which doesn’t necessarily have that many peaks and troughs but, rather, gradually works its magic through building a powerful wall of sound. In fact this really makes much more sense when heard in the live arena, where it takes on another dimension. Special mention should be made of the excellent, almost gospel-style backing vocals that give the track additional atmosphere. Bryan Josh’s extended solo here is also, once again, of the highest quality.
Distant Train is a fine instrumental penned by Iain Jennings; onto a pulsating, almost ambient synth backdrop are woven a number of melodies, played by instruments as diverse as the cello and the unmistakable Uilleann pipes (played by Troy Donockley) - a fine blend of the traditional and the contemporary. The track gradually builds in power and tension, with Josh’s guitar once again coming to the fore. The outro blends into the chugging hard rock of Answer The Question; with Josh taking lead on the slightly menacing verses and Findlay singing the powerful chorus, this is another song made for the live stage – helped by an another strong instrumental climax.
Most bands might leave it there but not Mostly Autumn, who end the album with the three-part, twelve-odd minute epic Pass The Clock. Dedicated to the band’s late friend Duncan Rayson, the first part starts gently, with acoustic guitar, piano and flute backing Josh and Findlay’s dual vocals, here at their most wistful. The second part is a far more uptempo affair (at least in the first half), with Josh singing lead, and Jennings providing some driving Hammond. Donockley once again contributes Uillean pipes, which again blend well with the more conventional instrumentation, as does a fine violin solo from Chris Leslie. The track very suddenly breaks up, for a short, atmospheric instrumental section combining acoustic guitar and violin, before an almost a cappella duet between Findlay and Josh leads us into the uplifting Part 3, which ends things in passionate, positive fashion and features a wonderful, almost alternative jig-like section - this song certainly seems poised to be a live set-closer.
Well, as you can probably tell, I rate this album very highly. As I’ve come to expect from this band the musicianship is very strong, but this time the band seem to have managed to raise the songwriting bar much higher – there’s no filler here, and I can see all the tracks slotting in well into a live setting. The production is fuller than previous efforts, which especially helps the heavier tracks to make a strong impact.
I guess there may be some who aren’t that comfortable with the move towards more straightforward rock, but I thinks it works well, and it also gives the band a real chance of reaching a wider audience. I’d also say to any doubters to give the album some time as, although most tracks come over well enough on first listen, their impact grows the more you hear them.
All in all, a fine album that is highly recommended to all prog and rock fans. I would also add that, should you get the opportunity, you should try and catch the band in concert, as they have become an extremely effective live unit.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Tom De Val