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Mostly Autumn Album ReviewsMostly Autumn Live Performance Reviews:
HLC Rotherham May 2001 | The Mean Fiddler June 2001
Reviews and HTML © 2000-2002 Russell W Elliot
all Images © 1998-2001 Mostly Autum / Cyclops Records
used with permission Last Updated: 02 June 2002
Perhaps best characterised as a progressive Celtic crossover band, Mostly Autumn is today a eight-member act from Yorkshire, England that began its formation in 1996. They have a broad instrumental capability and are equally comfortable with traditionally inspired Celtic numbers as they are with progressive rock epics. We were drawn to the band by their lead vocalist, Heather Findlay, who won the coveted Best Female Vocalist Award from the Classic Rock Society in 1999. This award has been won previously by progressive rock vocalists Annie Haslam (Renaissance), Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq, Strangers On A Train) and Joanne Hogg (Iona) who have all had been featured in this website previously. As one would expect with this credential, Heather Findlay has a tremendous voice indeed. Her vocal harmonies throughout the albums' tracks are wonderful but we'd certainly like the band to feature her more on lead vocals.
At least an equal amount if not more of the group's lead vocals are provided by male vocalists including guitar player Bryan Josh. Iain Jennings provides additional vocals and plays keys. Liam Davison provides further vocals and additional guitars and Bob Faulds plays wonderful violin parts on many of the group's tracks. Stuart Carver is the band's bass player and Kev Gibbons adds a Celtic spirt to many of the numbers with high and low whistle parts. Allan Scott plays drums on the band's first album but was replaced with Rob McNeal on their second. Angela Goldtheorpe, a guest on the first album, became a member on the second and plays flute. A guest named Ché plays Djembe (a hand carved drum from the Ivory coast of Africa). Troy Donockley (Iona) plays Uillean Pipes and Marissa Claughn plays Cello on their latest album.
Currently signed to Cyclops (UK), Mostly Autumn have released three albums to date: For All We Shared (Cyclops (UK) CYCL 080, 1998), The Spirit Of Autumn Past (Cyclops (UK) CYCL 082, 1999) and The Last Bright Light (Cyclops (UK) CYCL 100, 2001). Full biographical information is available at the band's website. The band write that they are influenced by "Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and Genesis, and [are] reminiscent of 70's Fleetwood Mac and Fairport Convention." We agree that they are "difficult to pigeonhole, and although Mostly Autumn wears its influences on its sleeve, the originality far outways this." Fans of Capercaillie, Clannad and Iona are certain to like their music. Two mp3 soundbites from the band's latest album are available at the band's listen page within their website.
For All We Shared. The band's debut album includes a variety of progressive, modified Celtic and traditional tracks. Male lead vocals dominate the tracks. Heather Findlay provides wonderful harmony backing vocals throughout the vocal tracks. The band's Pink Floyd influence is clear in the lead guitar and keyboard part in the opening track "Nowhere To Hide (Close My Eyes)." Highly accessible, the track has a rich orchestral instrumental bridge and lovely chorus with lots of backing vocals. "Porcupine Rain" continues in the same vein, although Heather's vocal part bursts through more prominently. Atmospheric effects are used throughout the album with bird chirping prominent in the very light instrumental introduction to the ballad entitled "The Last Climb." The slow progressive track "Heroes Never Die" exhibits a variety of influences with its lovely light guitar part and orchestral backing. The song develops into a progressive rocker with soaring electric guitars during its epic nine-plus minute length.
Led by violin, the instrumental "Folklore" is a progressive Celtic rocker mixing tradition jigs and reels with rich orchestral instrumentals evolving to symphonic rock and back again—a great track, like those played by Capercaillie, Iona,the Corrs and during Riverdance and Lord Of The Dance. It must be fantastic to hear these last two performed live. A lovely photograph of Heather performing live in concert is provided in the middle of the booklet accompanying the compact disc. Additional live shots of the band can be seen at their website.
Kev Gibbon's whistle leads "Boundless Oceans" a soft ballad sung by Josh and Heather. Here, Celtic and progressive rock instrumental influences combine to lovely effect, with vocal parts actually approaching a duet. The band's Celtic influence is further illustrated in "Shenanigans" where again Kev Gibbon's whistles lead the traditional melody accompanied by drum. As the introduction concludes, the full band builds the song into a progressive Celtic instrumental rocker. The violin parts are also highly notable.
Heather sings lead vocal on the lovely "Steal Away," accompanied by light instrumentation including keys, flute and acoustic guitar. Listen to the sweet sound and tenderness of her voice and it will make you wish that the band would feature her lead more often. The song develops instrumentally to orchestral proportions as it concludes. "Out Of The Inn" is a lyrically silly but traditionally well-instrumented drinking sort of song. The album concludes with with "The Night Sky" which integrates the styles of the previous songs and features all of the instrumentalists individually and as a group working together. The soaring lead guitar part is especially notable. It is a lovely debut album and a great listen.
The Spirit Of Autumn Past. Mostly Autumn's second album begins with a dynamic Celtic influenced progressive rock tune entitled "Winter Mountain." A heavier screaming guitar and robust keys contribute to the rocking emphasis; male vocals lead with Heather providing stunning backing vocals except at the end where her soaring voice takes the lead. The band's second album is instrumentally stronger than the first; blues and jazz textures combine with Celtic. The track "This Great Blue Pearl" is an alternative track of folk rock influence with lush keybards and almost-duet vocals—certainly more of Heather's work than on the former album.
Heather is featured on the sensitive ballad "Pieces Of Love" accompanied by light instrumentation; flute, keyboard and whistle join acoustic guitar to creat a lovely atmosphere for the track. A well-played keyboard melody contributes to the symphonic texture of "Please" while percussion, bass and screaming electric guitar parts contribute to the powerful progressive rock texture to the track.
Heather returns on lead vocals on the light ballad "Evergreen" beginning much in the style of "Pieces Of Love" building symphonically with a lovely keyboard part as the song develops into progressive rock splendour. Her power and range are evident as the energy within the song builds; a vocal similarity to Danielle Capoferri of Second Story becomes evident. The well-played guitar solo within the song is a tremendous tribute to the artist's talent and the band's energy.
Three instrumentals are placed in the centre of the album and are integrated together without gaps. "Styhead Tarn" mixes Celtic percussion with modern electronic instrumentation painting a vast and modern soundscape with a worldly new age feel. A repetitive vocal part adds to the worldly texture.
"Shindig" is centered on a traditional fiddle melody yet lush electronic instrumentation and a powerful bass part produces world music with a modern twist much like "Fokelore and Boundless Oceans from the band's debut album did.
The melody of "Blakey Ridge/When Waters Meet" is carried on flute/whistle with traditional drums and acoustic guitar providing a Celtic feel. The melody develops into a symphonic work obviously rooted in progressive rock as the song concludes running right into the next track.
Vocals and guitars are supported by light keyboards in "Underneath the Ice (troubled dreams)." Keyboards and Heather's voice both provide a supporting melody much in the style of Yes' "We Have Heaven." A Celtic feel in "Through The Window" comes from the violin and acoustic guitar part a folk rock song with male lead (like R.E.M.) vocals. "The Spirit Of Autumn Past" is a two-part epic, the first part being a slow instrumental where a lovely piano melody is passed to guitar. The second part of the song is a progressive rocker beginning slowly and quietly building from folk rock through jazzy interludes into powerful orchestral proportions. The violin solo is quite notable. The album concludes with "The Gap Is Too Wide" with lovely guest contributions by Troy Donockley (Uillean Pipes) and Marissa Claughn (Cello) who carry the song's melodies during their performances. A sensitive ballad sung by Heather, her performance here clearly illustrates why the Classic Rock Society picked her as their Best Female Vocalist for 1999. The instrumental conclusion to the track, like "The Night Sky" from their former album perfectly illustrates the band members' and guests' talents working as individuals and as a cohesive whole. Troy Donockley's Uillean pipes solo is wonderful.
The Last Bright Light. The band's third album is a significant development of the band's progressive sound especially when compared to the Celtic flavours of their first two albums. Although the vocals once again are dominated by Bryan Josh, Heather Findlay sings lead on two of the album's tracks.
Mostly Autumn's development is immediately recognisable in the moody REM-like track "We Come And We Go" sung by Bryan Josh. Lush arrangements with lead guitar supported by Hammond organ in the chorus have tremendous depth. The first standout track of the album is "The Dark Before The Dawn," a dynamic rocker with thick guitar, Hammond organ and Pink Floyd-style vocals blending to create a progressive masterwork. The contrast between the progressive verse and Celtic style chorus--dominated by flute--works extremely well.
The album's ballads are sung alternatively by Bryan Josh and Heather Findlay. The arrangements in "Half The Mountain" develop symphonically with keyboards and flute carrying the instrumental bridge. Heather sings the gentle tune "The Eyes Of The Forest." Light guitars underscore a sweet and sensually sung vocal lines whilst a flute melody dominates the instrumental passages between them on the former. Heather also sings "Hollow," a gentle ballad supported by light guitar and keyboard. Her vocal line soars well above the instrumentals illustrating the range and power that won her the CRS award as their Best Female Vocalist in 1999.
Bryan Josh sings the title track, a lovely ballad--supported primarily by deep orchestral keyboards, a male choir and light guitar--that develops into a progressive rocker backed by Hammond organ and guitar. "Helms Deep" is an Iona-progressive-styled Celtic instrumental featuring Troy Donockley's low whistle melody that, aside from the Hammond organ solo and electric guitar riffs, harkens the listener back to the sound of the band's prior albums. The Celtic flute melody of "Which Wood?" perfectly compliments the instrumental that precedes it.
"Never The Rainbow" is the second standout track of the album. An upbeat progressive rocker written by Iain Jennings and Heather Findlay and featuring her soaring and evocatively sung lead, the track draws the listener in further with every chorus. It must be fantastic to hear performed in a live setting. The low whistle part by Troy Donockley in "Prints In The Stone" is especially enjoyable and compliments Bryan Josh's lead and Heather Findlay's backing vocal quite well. The progressive epic "Shrinking Violet," sweetly sung by Heather builds dramatically in its conclusion. The concluding progressive epic--"Mother Nature"--begins gently with a light acoustic-oriented ballad sung by Bryan and Heather as a duet. Thickening instrumental and vocal arrangements and lovely instrumental solos highlight the members' virtuousity as the track to a close.
Mostly Autumn's three albums clearly show a significant development of the band's progressive style in only four short years. The third album builds well from the first two with substantial improvements in arrangements and additional contributions from their female vocalist. You can find For All We Shared via amazon.com here, The Spirit Of Autumn Past here and The Last Bright Light here. These albums should be extensively explored and are worthy of a long distance journey--all clearly a must listen!
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