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Heroes Never Die Cover
Image Classic Rock Legends 2002

Heather Findlay
Heather Findlay
photo Stephen Lambe 2002

 

(18 May 2002) In the early part of 2002, the band played a number of concerts with Karnataka, and developed a shorter (90-minute), punchier set. This was something of a greatest hits package, and the band unveiled it, triumphantly, at The Mean Fiddler, London, in January. Cleverly, this set goes for the jugular immediately, with the Celtic rock anthems "Winter Mountain" and "Dark before the dawn", with either "Nowhere to Hide" or "Spirit of Autumn Past" keeping the tempo high, before one of the centrepieces of the set, the ever-popular ballad "Evergreen". The set also features two instrumentals, with flutes prominent, the aforementioned "Out of the Inn" and the jig "Shindig." The climax of the set is high on emotion, with Heather Findlay's wonderful "Shrinking Violet" giving way to "Shindig", followed by the hard rocker "Never the Rainbow" and, finally, the shattering "Heroes Never Die". Encore, in this set, and pretty much every set these days, is the Progressive epic "Mother Nature."

This was, largely, the set played with Karnataka at the Limelight Club, Crewe, in February, and at Rotherham in April (where I felt the band were slightly rusty after a two month layoff from live performance). At the end of April and through May, the band took on a much more comprehensive tour of venues throughout Britain, playing a longer, two-part set, which, though based around the "greatest hits" package, had plenty of scope for other songs both old and new. Included in the set were "Overture" and "Greenwood the Great" from "Lord of the Rings", and piece by flautist Angela Goldthorpe, "Which wood?" When I saw them, at Bilston, they were magnificent, with new song "Noise from my Head" slotting easily into the end of set rockers, and revivals for "Please" from their second album and "Half the Mountain" from their third. Other reporters told of further revivals for Floydesque songs "The Night Sky" and "The Last Climb" from their first album "For All We Shared".

Reviews from this tour have been ecstatic, and it is true that the band are now tighter, more cohesive and more confident than they have ever been, while the older songs still sound so fresh it is as if the band are playing them for the first time. Heather Findlay is now taking centre stage, changing costumes mid set, and even the shy and retiring Angela Goldthorpe is developing her own brand of stagecraft. We should be grateful that a band with such a modest following, in terms of numbers, is still able to play such an extensive tour, albeit in some unlikely venues. I only hope they can gain sufficient exposure to allow them to play to the audiences they deserve.

The band clearly realise this, and, as a result have released Heroes Never Die - The Anthology an interesting collection of songs from their four studio albums, re-recorded and often rearranged to attract a new audience. Significantly, the band seems to have repressed their Celtic leanings on this release, leaning rather towards mainstream rock. The main benefit to the seasoned Mostly Autumn fan, will be the presentation here of a number of live arrangements of favourite songs, alongside slightly more polished versions of more obscure album tracks.

The album kicks off with a slight rearrangement of "Never the Rainbow", the first track to be enhanced by near-choral backing vocals. "We come and we go" is the most startling rearrangement on the album, with Bryan's lead vocal now replaced by Heather, giving the song a lighter, poppier feel. "Please", "Half the Mountain" and "Great Blue Pearl", three slightly more obscure choices, seems to have gained little, though "The Spirit of Autumn Past" with it's flute-dominated end section, and "Evergreen", enhanced with some lovely piano from Iain Jennings, both uplifting songs, here benefit from many months of live performance. Interestingly, there are two pieces from the very recent Lord of the Rings album, and both "Riders of Rohan" and "Goodbye Alone" benefit from the extra polish a little more recording time has enabled. "Noise from my Head", the only new song is loud, short and excellent, with another Stevie Nicks-like lead vocal from Heather. "Shrinking Violet", again, benefits from a little extra recorder and the massed backing vocals. Finally, "Heroes Never Die" gets its fourth outing on CD, and this is possibly the definitive version, but please guys, no need to record it again!

So is this an essential purchase? To a listener coming new to Mostly Autumn, then possibly, though the live CD "The Story So Far" would do an equally good job. Fans of the band will certainly enjoy it, and completists will need "Noise from my head", though I can imagine some fans will prefer the original versions, or prefer them within the context of the albums from which they originally came. None the less, this is an excellent summary of the band as they move into the next stage of their development. Roll on the next album--Stephen Lambe

Read further Mostly Autumn reviews here.

 
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