Image © Classic Rock Productions 2003

Mostly Autumn

album and concert reviews

More Mostly Autumn
The Boardwalk 2002
Classic Rock Festival 2002
Heroes Never Die
Music Inspired by Lord Of The Rings
The Last Bright Light
The Story So Far CD and DVD*
Mean Fiddler 2001
With Karnataka HLC Rotherham 2001
1998-2002 Album Reviews
* includes indepth interview

intro, HTML and edited by © and Russell W Elliot 2003
album and concert review © Stephen Lambe 2003
pre-release review and photos © Chris Walkden 2003
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Last updated: 16 August 2003

Mostly Autumn has released an all new, well-written and superbly produced album for 2003. Entitled Passengers (Classic Rock Productions (UK) CRL 1131, 2003), the eleven track collection is more commercially oriented but will delight both classic and progressive rock enthusiasts. In addition to the Mostly Autumn lineup that all are familiar with, Damian Wilson provides backing vocals in several of the numbers. Heather Findlay's vocals have matured and are presented with significantly more intensity. Impressive harmonies by Angela Goldthorpe are equally stunning. Further contribtuions from Troy Donockley (Iona), Marc Atkinson (Gabriel) and others add to the maturity of the latest studio album.

The limited "subscribers" edition of Passengers is a two-CD set. The second CD included in the package is Mostly Autumn Live at the Canterbury Fayre (Classic Rock Legends (UK) CRL 1145, 2003). Only 3000 copies of this version were manufactured. While the live CD has since been released as part of a three-CD 'live' Mostly Autumn collection, it was first issued here.

We present three reviews of Passengers material below. Read a special pre-release album review by correspondent and official band photographer Chris Walkden. We also include a pre-release concert review of the Bilston gig by our correspondent Stephen Lambe. An indepth album review concludes the article.

Pre-Release Review

At last, after tantalising sections heard at the studio, I heard the completed new Mostly Autumn album. Got invited to meet up with Bryan, Heather and Iain near the mastering studio prior to release, for the first ceremonial "home" listening fresh out of the mastering process. I can honestly say that all expectations have been met and surpassed. After three listenings almost back-to-back, a room of very happy and moved people drank a little toast!

  Live At The Canterbury Fayre
Image © Classic Rock Productions 2003

Musical Discoveries visitors are going to love it. Heather is sounding incredible, as are Angie's harmonies. Bryan's singing too, but with a new power, control and urgency in his voice. The album opens with a couple of fairly straight rockers--short, punchy songs, but then the music becomes more complex and intense, and the lyrics more poignant. It's generally a darker sound but all the melody and Celtic influences you'd expect are still in there. It's certainly more song-oriented, and some of the tracks you'd probably say were less meandering, and hit home harder for that.

Past the half-way mark, just as you think they must surely have peaked, they raise the game with the title track, and built towards an astonishing climax which is a kind of life/death/rebirth trilogy piece which ends on an enormous energy rush of optomism after pulling you through a harrowing and very personal feeling of loss (though in no way over-sentimental or blatant)--a roller-coaster of a track!

All of the band's influences are in there from the obvious--Pink Floyd, Purple, Fleetwood Mac, along with moments that evoke Focus, Tull, Alan Parsons Project, ELO, Led Zep, Yes, Renaissance, and many other things no doubt, but to me it still sounds unmistakably and uniquely like Mostly Autumn, but pulling all the punches from the first four studio albums in one go, and then some.

Perhaps a little too close to be totally objective, having seen much of this stuff evolving over the last six months, and love all the band's output. There's a big London gig planned for 22 November 2003, with guest musicians. There will also be more dates in the autumn by which time the set is more likely to contain the bulk of the new material.--Chris Walkden

Pre-Release Concert Review

The Robin 2, Bilston, Sunday 18 May 2003. They Played: Set One: "Winter Mountain," "Dark Before the Dawn," "Answer the Question," "Evergreen," "Simple Ways," "Another Life," "Spirit of Autumn Past," "Nowhere To Hide," "Passengers." Set two: "Pure White Light," "Caught in a Fold," "Shrinking Violet," "Pass the Clock," "Something in Between," "Never the Rainbow," "Heroes Never Die." Encore: "Mother Nature."

I have seen Mostly Autumn live many times over the last 18 months and thoroughly enjoyed them each time. That said, some forays into Lord of the Rings apart they have always drawn their sets from the same material. So, it was with some excitement that I ventured to the splendid Robin 2 on the promise of some material from the as yet unheard new album Passengers.

The Robin is an excellent venue--a good size with a decent light show and excellent sound. The band kicked off on familiar ground with rousing versions of old favourites "Winter Mountain" and "Dark before the Dawn", before the latter song segued unexpectedly into the first new song of the night "Answer the Question," a hard rocker with Brian grunting the verse before Heather joined him for an excellent chorus. The piece ended on a triumphant note with Ianís extended piano workout.

Another new song, "Simple Ways" followed "Evergreen." Brian began on a 12 string acoustic, before the song exploded into a Heart / Zeppelin-style mid-paced rocker with Heather and Angela harmonising wonderfully. Gentle Heather-led ballad "Another Life" was followed by more familiar stuff including "The Spirit of Autumn Past" and "Nowhere to Hide".

The set ended with "Passengers," the title track of the new album. This is an astonishing song--epic, passionate, but with a wonderful hook and a heart breaking lead vocal from Heather. My spine tingled throughout--I canít remember the last time that happened on the first hearing of a piece of music.

Heather Findlay
Heather Findlay
Image © Chris Walkden 2003
  Angela Goldthorpe
Angela Goldthorpe
Image © Chris Walkden 2003

Set two opened less impressively with a slightly botched "Pure White Light" due to some uncharacteristic feedback and slightly off-key vocals, but the band rallied splendidly with "Caught in a fold," another loud song with some amazingly aggressive Tull-style flute from Angela. After an excellent "Shrinking Violet" we were privileged to hear the progressive epic from the new album, "Pass the Clock." A little too much to process in one go, this, but I particularly noticed lead guitar and flute unison playing in unison towards the end, the sort of thing that Mostly Autumn do so well.

"Something in Between," already familiar as its video is downloadable from the MA website, followed next. It is a a great piece of commercial rock. Then it was back on familiar ground with customary set closures "Never the Rainbow," "Heroes" and "Mother Nature."

So, what of the new songs, then? On first listen they sound superb. The band has not quite loosened up playing them yet, but that will come and I suspect one or two songs will get dropped as the set develops. The material is certainly more commercial with more obvious hooks and a nod towards a harder rock edge. Inevitably, Angela is playing more synth and less flute (allowing Ian more freedom to bash away at the piano!) but her vocals are now an essential aspect of the mix. Heather, though struggling once or twice with pitch, is singing with more depth and resonance--while Brianís lead work on his new white strat--is as uplifting as ever. They were great tonight.--Stephen Lambe

Album Review

Having been hyped into a frenzy by the pre-release coverage on the Mostly Autumn website, the question remained. Could Passengers really be as good as those close to the band have been suggesting? We need not have worried. This is a new, confident--and, it has to be said, slick-Mostly Autumn--and thankfully the album is a triumph.

Album opener "Something in Between" is an obvious single. There is a strong suggestion of Fleetwood Mac here, with the main melody sung in unison by male and female voices. The song is simple, direct and catchy. "Pure White Light" continues the darker, more guitar-orientated material of Lord of the Rings, with a growled vocal from Brian and an excellent chorus and Ian Jennings provides some excellent synth.

Mostly Autumn
Heather Findlay and Andy Smith
Image © Chris Walkden 2003

"Another Life" pushes us into slightly more familiar Mostly Autumn territory, an aching ballad with a lovely lead vocal from Heather Findlay and a trademark Brian Josh guitar solo, while "Bitterness Burnt" is much lighter, with a strong suggestion of Eastern European folk. Angela Goldthorpeís flute makes its first lead appearance to excellent effect.

"Caught in a Fold," however, is a throbbing rock number with crunching guitars and a powerful lead vocal from Heather not unlike Heartís Ann Wilson. Angelaís aggressive flute suggests Jethro Tull, and there is a feel of the USA about the whole piece, which is also true of the next song "Simple Ways." Here Brianís 12-string guitar and vocal dominates, leading into a riff that Led Zeppelin would have been proud of. Ian Jenningsí edgy synth outro is also entirely appropriate for the mood of the song.

"First Thought," sung by Heather is a good song, though it adds nothing new to the album, but acts as a breather before the remarkable ballad "Passengers." The title track is the centrepiece of the record, featuring a vocal of astonishing depth by Heather, some wonderful backing vocals and a beautiful solo from Brian. "Distant Train" is an excellent instrumental slightly reminiscent of Steve Hackett, with Ianís keyboards prominent and a lovely Celtic interlude from Troy Donockley on pipes.

"Answer the Question" is another hard rocking song with lead vocal on the verse from Brian and a superb chorus sung by Heather. Ian provides an uplifting piano coda in the mode of "The Spirit of Autumn Past." The final track is the spine-tingling "Pass the Clock" dominated by Brian. This is a wonderful extended piece in three parts, not quite progressive but giving the entire band moments to shine, as well Troy on pipes, Chris Leslie on violin and Damian Wilson with some sterling backing vocals. A wonderful, emotional end to the album.

Mostly Autumn
Mostly Autumn at Hartlepool May 2003
Image © Chris Walkden 2003

There can be no doubt that this is a superbly crafted album with wonderful production values and hardly a moment out of place. Those who admire Mostly Autumn for their celtic instrumentals and quirky Britishness may be disappointed, since this album certainly embraces American-style hard rock in a significant way, but does it so well it is hard to fault. Heather Findlay, in particular, is a revelation, singing with new depth and passion, while Brian Josh, the architect of the album, demonstrates again what a genius not so much as musician, but as a composer and muse to his band.

Whether this album will give Mostly Autumn the wider recognition they deserve remains to be seen, but in the meantime letís all glory in the quality of this, their finest work to date.--Stephen Lambe

Read further album reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from here. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey for newcomers and established fans, this album is a must listen!.

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