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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

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Breathing Space CD Cover
Image Iain Jennings 2005

Iain Jennings
Iain Jennings (keyboards)
Image Chris Walkden 2005

Olivia Sparnenn
Olivia Sparnenn (lead vocals)
Image Chris Walkden 2005

 

(26 November 2005) Solo albums from well-known instrumentalists can be a hit and miss affair, especially as they are often used as a vehicle for self-indulgence or musical virtuosity above musical content. This is not true, however, of Mostly Autumn keyboard player Iain Jennings, who has instead chosen, in the main, to showcase his song writing ability on Breathing Space (IJ01, 2005). Fans of Mostly Autumn will remember that Iain has made some telling contributions to the Mostly Autumn repertoire, including to the remarkable "The Gap Is Too Wide, " the hard rocking "Never the Rainbow" and the superb instrumental "Distant Train."

Though Bryan Josh makes a couple of brief appearances, the album is also an opportunity for Liam Davison to show off his considerable talents as a versatile and atmospheric guitarist, while Iains brother Andew Jennings, as one would expect, plays all the real drums. Most of all, the album is a showcase for the stunning vocal ability of newcomer Olivia Sparnenn. Olivia will be familiar to those who have seen Mostly Autumn live during 2005, as she has often provides backing vocals. Her voice lacks the warmth of Heather Findlay, but makes up for it with her stunning range and power.

"Forgive of Surrender" is a good opening, an excellent up-tempo song, leading into a synth-dominated coda. Gentle piano introduces the stunning ballad "Ive Been Thinking," beautifully sung by Olivia. "Shades of Grey" uses programmed percussion to good effect, giving the song a hypnotic, eastern quality, while Iain provides a superb synth solo with a similar feel to the one in "Mother Nature." "No Promises" begins gently with piano and vocal, before building into a satisfying ballad with a brief, restrained solo from Bryan.

"Man Made Circles" is a hypnotic, driving instrumental allowing Liam and his effects board full reign to let go, building gradually in intensity over seven minutes. It is a nice idea, which grows on the listener after several plays. A shimmering keyboard introduction heralds "Wasted All the Time," a gentle first verse building into a powerful rock chorus with a lovely hook. The glorious "Belief" is an album highlight, a lovely piano riff introducing an emotive ballad featuring a typically heart-breaking solo from Bryan, and a gorgeous led vocal from Olivia.

Iain clearly specialises in big, emotional ballads, because he follows "Belief" with yet another one--the superb "You Still Linger," with the tension of the verse releasing itself in a beautifully sung, Beatlesque chorus. The effect is slightly diminished by a rather unnecessary instrumental coda, which nevertheless features some fine guitar from Liam. "Escape," another instrumental, closes the album, borrowing from both modern trance music and the ambient soundscapes of Vangelis and Tangerine Dream for its template.

Overall, this is an excellent solo effort from a hugely talented and generous musician. The production leaves a little to be desired in places, though the largely synthetic "Escape" is stunning, and structurally, the album is a little ballad-heavy. Having said that the slow songs are all so good, one wonders which he could have dropped. Certainly, the keyboards, though prominent, are not overbearing, and in Olivia Sparnenn, Iain has unearthed a real talent that we hope to hear a great deal more from in the future.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham, England and Russ Elliot in New York

 
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