genre: neo prog
quality : mp3 (mqvbr)
size: 113 mb
Mostly Autumn is one of those bands that's hard to categorize ... I would have sympathy with anyone who called these folks progressive and with anyone who says they're not prog at all. Depending on your definition of "prog", you can really go either way on a band like this. But what you can't argue is that they're "Classic Rock", which is the name of their production company. "Classic Rock" they definitely are, with a very '70's sound, moulding aspects of folk, celtic, psychedelic and ... yes ... progressive musics into a style both uniquely their own and yet somehow hauntingly familiar. Their music isn't particularly complex and is not at all difficult to listen to. Yet, like those old bands, you get the feeling that there's a lot more than just a bunch of notes going on here. Like their '70's forebears, one gets the feeling that there's something important going on when you're listening to this music, as if the very fabric of the space-time continuum is being subtly altered by the presence of this band playing these notes and singing these words at this moment in time. No, really ... it's more like a group spellcasting than a performance.
My first exposure to Mostly Autumn was through the DVD version of The Story So Far ..., so I'll break with my usual policy of viewing a DVD as sort of a poor second choice to an album. Actually, the CD of The Story So Far ... is really an abridged version of the DVD as far as songs go, so the DVD is arguably "the real deal" and the CD is the second choice in this case, particularly if you're listening to the DVD through your stereo speakers. From the opening of the DVD, showing the standard footage of them backstage getting ready for the concert, you get the impression that something really special is happening here. My adrenaline pumps, and I realize that some part of me thinks I'm about to see one of Yes' old concerts. Well, they don't sound much like Yes when they start playing, yet there's something kindred here. Something cosmic, something organic, something ... of course ... something spiritual about this music! I'm beginning to feel stoned ... like inhaling that "special smoke" at a concert ... like having a long meditation ... like cool spring breezes heightening the senses. What's up with this? It's just notes, after all. Just people standing around playing the same notes as all the other bands play; A thru G is all there are. But it's the attitude of this band; focused, serious, and absolutely committed, yet also playful and somehow wise. You want to buy into their vision of reality, to figure out where they're coming from, so you willingly teleport a part of yourself there.
All right, I'll stand back from the spell for a moment and get analytical. The sound is rich and acoustic-heavy, even when electronic instruments are being used. Flute and recorder parts abound, and celtic drums and rhythms create a folky feel. There are also Gilmour-inspired heart-tugging guitar solos and of course, Heather Findlay's sensuous vocals, with lots of backing vocals from virtually all the other band members. The compositions are emotional and not very complex, mostly being simple song structures. It's the texture and emotions here that would make this band of interest to a progressive rock fan, not the complexity or difficulty. But I would bet that most proggers who are about my age (pushing 50, or already pushed beyond it) will find Mostly Autumn a great break from all the difficult stuff. And, you might even find your wives like it too!
The Story So Far ... is a concert performance of their earlier tunes, so I was interested to see what they might do in the studio. The next Mostly Autumn album I spun up was Music Inspired by The Lord of the Rings. Well, with all the hype from the movie, I figured they were just jumping on the bandwagon. But no, this music really has nothing to do with the movies at all, being just pieces inspired by various characters, places and battles from the books, and they did the entire album in just two weeks. They don't even consider this to be a "real album", just an "interim statement". To quote MA's Bryan Josh, "... it is possible to write, rehearse, record, mix and master an album in 14 days; so long as you work every second of every day and night and don't sleep, eat, or lay your guitar down for long enough to go to the bathroom." Well, that will put you in an altered state of consiousness for sure. And it seems to have been a very creative state, for the music here is excellent; alternately breezy and acoustic or dark and heavy, with recurring themes and not much recourse to endless soloing just to fill out the time available. In fact, they could have gotten away with a lot more endless soloing and it would have been fine by me. Once again, nothing too difficult here, but with a lot more celtic and electric (as in electric guitars, though there's also more synth too) feel than the concert video. Some nice (digital) synth work here too. Great feeling of Elven craftsmen at their anvils creating the Rings of Power in "Forge of Sauron", for example. There's also a little eye candy at the end of the album ... a video track to play on your PC. Actually, I haven't watched it yet, so I can't comment.
So, if Music Inspired by The Lord of the Rings isn't a "real album", what do their usual studio albums sound like? To find out, I listened to Heroes Never Die, a compilation album with a twist ... this isn't just a collection of previously released cuts, but a re-recorded version of MA's favorite tunes. They felt that they could do better on these pieces, so they were re-recorded. Many of these pieces are the ones from The Story So Far ..., which are my only basis for comparison since I haven't heard the original studio recordings. They are all nicely done, though to tell the truth I like the live versions better, for all their minor flaws, just because of the energy of the DVD.
So that's enough for this entry. In case you can't tell, I really like this band, and I recommend them highly as long as you don't require a bunch of odd meters or difficult bits to enjoy your music. -- Fred Trafton
01 - Nowhere To Hide (Close My Eyes) 6:13
02 - Porcupine Rain 4:40
03 - The Last Climb 8:01
04 - Heroes Never Die 9:34
05 - Folklore 5:49
06 - Boundless Ocean 5:43
07 - Shenanigians 3:51
08 - Steal Away 4:56
09 - Out Of The Inn 6:44
10 - The Night Sky# 10:25
Additional Electric Guitar, 6 & 12 String Acoustic, Vocals - Liam Davison
Bass Guitar - Stuart Carver
Djembe - Che
Drums - Allan Scott
Flute - Angela Goldthorpe
Low Whistle, [High] Whistle - Kev Gibbons
Violin - Bob Faulds
Vocals, 6 & 12 String Acoustic, [E-bow], Electric Guitar - Bryan Josh
Vocals, 6 String Acoustic, Tambourine - Heather Findlay
Vocals, Keyboards - Iain Jenningsuploadbox