Nowadays much of my music listening focuses on trying to keep up with all the new music that’s coming out, especially the stuff I’m reviewing. So it’s not often I sit back and listen of a much loved album. Not nearly often enough, in fact.
With Mostly Autumn’s 1997 début, it’s so long since I last played it I’ve grown more familiar with the live versions of some of the songs from seeing the band on stage.
Mostly Autumn of 1997 were a very different band to the hard-rocking act of today, with celtic atmospherics a much bigger component of the sound. Bob Faulds’ electric violin is all over this record, as prominent as Bryan Josh’s guitar. It’s also the only album to feature Kev Gibbons on high and low whistles, adding to the celtic flavour, especially on songs like “Boundless Ocean”.
If you’re used to hearing the more recent live versions, “Nowhere to Hide” and “The Last Climb” sound quite different; the former is a lot softer than the guitar-driven hard rocker of their most recent tour. And “The Last Climb”, nowadays a showcase for Anne-Marie Helder’s flute, instead contains a lengthy violin solo. Also, in the light of what the band were later to become, it’s also notable that Heather Findlay only sings lead on a single song, “Steal Away”.
Ah yes, the jigs. There are three of them on the album, and it’s a reminder that in the early days they were almost as much a ceilidh band as a progressive rock one. They’re not the sort of thing the band indulges in nowadays, but numbers like “Out of the Inn” still featured heavily in live sets as late as 2006.
Perhaps the highlight is the album closer “The Night Sky”, one of the best of their “celtic Pink Floyd” numbers centering on Bob Faulds’ magnificent violin solo. It’s a song I’d love to hear them play live again; it made a brief appearance in the live set in early 2007, but they haven’t played it since.
Although they were to exceed it with later albums, this was a very ambitious début, especially when you consider that it came out at the height of Britpop, when the prog scene was at its lowest ebb. Its one flaw perhaps is that it’s too varied for it’s own good, with the folk jigs sitting uncomfortably alongside the Floydian epics. But a lot of the material has stood the test of time, with several numbers remaining live favourites, not least the now-traditional set closer, “Heroes Never Die”.