Tag Archives: Heather Findlay

Mantra Vega Update

Mantra VegaIn a blogpost entitled “Beyond the realms of summer wine“, Heather Findlay gives an update on the progress with Mantra Vega:

I’m finding the creative themes behind the album are really mirroring a lot of my own personal journey this year, which in itself has had one or two rather unexpected twists and turns, leaving me with a lot of gratitude for the freedom I have within this project to have been able to explore this musically. Dave has had a very intuitive approach to working with me which has allowed for what will be I think a very authentic, heartfelt piece of life art. (If that’s even a thing!) The amount of times that just the right piece of music has been mysteriously supplied by Dave at just the right time is a work of art in itself! I hope you will agree and very soon you will be given the chance to decide for yourself.

Moving forward, the Mantra Vega shape of things is likely to take form via single being released in the very early part of 2015, closely followed by the album itself when we’ll explore the prospect of doing some live shows with the possibility of appearances on both sides of the Atlantic being discussed.

You can keep in touch with what’s going on by either liking the our MV Facebook page, or by joining my mailing list here

As well as that, Heather will be making a guest appearance of John Mitchell’s forthcoming solo album “Lonely Robot”.

2015 is looking like getting off to an exciting start with the long awaited albums from Karnataka and Chantel McGregor also expected early in the new year.

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Trinity Live

Christina Booth of Magenta at Trinity LiveChristina Booth

Trinity Live was originally intended to have been a triple-headlining tour by The Reasoning, Touchstone and Magenta. But the tour had to be cancelled when Magenta’s vocalist Christina Booth was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

The bands decided to keep one date from the proposed tour, at The Assembly in Leamington Spa, and repurpose it as a charity show in aid of three cancer charities. The Reasoning and Touchstone would still appear, along with Rob Reed of Magenta performing as “Rob Reed and Friends”. The show expanded to a day-long event with a number of prominent additional names from the prog world added to the bill, including the mighty Arena as headliners. Then, only a few days before the show came the announcement that Christina Booth’s cancer treatment was going sufficiently well that she would be well enough to perform a short set, so Rob Reed and Friends became Magenta.
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Heather Findlay and Dave Kerzner form Mantra Vega

Mantra VegaPhoto with permission from Mantra Vega, photographer unknown.

A big announcement from Heather Findlay today.

Mantra Vega is a new transatlantic progressive rock band from Myself and Dave Kerzner (former founding members of the bands Mostly Autumn and Sound of Contact respectively) along with Chris Johnson (Halo Blind), Stu Fletcher (We Could Be Astronauts), Alex Cromarty (Mostly Autumn) and featuring legendary guitarist David Kilminster (Roger Waters).

Melding together their wide range of styles and influences in Progressive, Classic and Alternative Rock, Mantra Vega offers a fresh blend of female and male lead vocals and harmonies, atmospheric soundscapes, emotional dynamics and powerful moods. From Heather Findlay’s stunning vocals ranging from angelic to powerful, to the lush keys, guitars and sound design of Dave Kerzner and Chris Johnson to soaring guitar leads from Dave Kilminster and soulful groove from the Cromarty/Fletcher rhythm section, there’s something fresh and new for fans of artists like Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Kate Bush, Fleetwood Mac, Yes, Radiohead, The Beatles, Sigur Ros and more.

Heather had originally planned to record a solo album produced by Nightwish’s Troy Donockley, but that got overtaken by events when Nightwish’s schedule changed. But this new project sounds altogether more exciting. Most of the band are from the most recent incarnation of The Heather Findlay band, though it’s especially good news to see Dave Kilminster back on board.

The solo album produced by Troy Donockley will still be happening in due course, but has been put back until Troy is available.

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Happy Birthday, Heather & Kim

The Heather Findlay Band at Bilston Robin 2. 19 Nov 2012Touchstone at The Garage in Islington

Many happy returns to two of the ladies whose music has featured a lot on this blog over many years, both of whom share a birthday, Heather Findlay and Kim Seviour.

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Trinity Live

Trinity Live 2014

A reminder of the Trinity Live cancer charity show at The Assembly in Leamington Spa on May 18th.

The show was originally part of a triple-headline tour featuring The Reasoning, Touchstone and Magenta, postponed because of Magenta’s Christina Booth’s treatment for breast cancer.

Touchstone and The Reasoning decided to go ahead with a charity show on the original date, and have since added acoustic sets from Alan Reed, Heather Findlay and Matt Stevens to the bill.

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Troy Donockley to produce new Heather Findlay album

Heather as The Bad Faery

An exciting announcement on Heather’s website.

Troy Donockley of Nightwish, Iona and Bad Shepherds fame will be producing Heather’s long-awaited new album. Recording is planned over the summer, with the words “earthy, widescreen, beautiful, bohemian, magical and mysterious” used to describe how it might sound.

SONY DSC

I’m sure it’s not just little Harlan who would love to hear Uilleann pipes on the record.

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Rob Cottingham – Captain Blue

Captain Blue is the second solo album by keyboard player and vocalist Rob Cottingham, best known as a member of Touchstone. Rob has described that album as “a cross-genre-ational album covering the themes of time, self-realisation, death – and not taking yourself too seriously“. It’s a concept album, telling the tale of the mysterious Captain Blue.

The album also features the delightfully named Dr Goatius Foot on bass, Touchstone’s Adam Hodgson on guitars, Gary O’Toole on drums, Heather Findlay on vocals, and on one track, the guitar legend Steve Hackett. While all of these make great contributions, the emphasis is on Rob’s own vocals and keys.

It begins with the dramatic voice of Shane Rimmer, the voice of Thunderbirds’ Scott Tracey, on the epic spoken word “Condemnation“, which reinforces the Gerry Anderson feel of the whole album.

Parts of the album sound far lighter version of Touchstone, whether it’s rockier up-tempo numbers or lush ballads, with the dual male-female harmony lead vocals recalling that band’s early years when Rob handled a greater proportion of the vocals. In a couple of places it veers into dance-pop territory, and I can easily imagine a club remix of “The Drowning Man“. At times it strips right down delicate to piano and vocals. It’s all very song-orientated and highly melodic throughout, made up of of shorter numbers rather than sprawling epics, with the occasional instrumental bridge piece, and the instrumentation is more about atmospherics and colour rather than pyrotechnics. Although Rob does indulge in a keytar solo at one point. The production is immaculate, with a clear and crisp yet rich sound.

Rob Cottingham has taken a supporting role as a vocalist in Touchstone of late, but here he sings the majority of the lead vocals, with a voice that’s been compared with the clean vocals of Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt. Heather Findlay takes more of a supporting role here, adding harmonies as well as duets with Rob, only taking sole lead on one or two songs. Her contributions are sublime, with some ethereal yet sensual performances that are as good as anything she’s ever done.

It’s a consistently strong record with little in the way of filler despite a 70 minute running time. High points include “Only Time Will Tell” with so many multi-tracked harmony vocals it sounds like the Mellotron of early King Crimson. It almost makes me wonder if Heather took a trip back in time in Captain Blue’s timeship to lay down the original “choir” settings for the first Mellotron. The album closes with the big wall of sound epic “Soaring to the Sun” with Steve Hackett on guitar, before The Magic Roundabout’s Zeberdee tells us it’s “time for bed”.

This is an impressive piece of work that grows on repeated listens. Any fan of either Touchstone’s music or of Heather Findlay’s vocals ought to love this. But so should anyone that likes atmospheric and melodic rock, written and performed by real musicians and real singers.

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2012 – A few more records of note

I decided to restrict my best-of-2012 list to full-length studio albums of new material with a 2012 retail release date. But there are a few great records that fall outside that definition, and would be difficult to place in any kind of ranking. But they’re all too good not to give a mention, so here they are.

The Heather Findlay BandSongs From The Old Kitchen

A delightful album of acoustic reworkings of Heather’s songs from Mostly Autumn, Odin Dragonfly and more recent solo work, with the band featuring the now-departed Dave Kilminster and Steve Vantsis. The organic chilled-out arrangements are a very good match for the natural warmth of her voice, making this perhaps the best record she’s made since going solo.

KarnatakaNew Light, Live in Concert

Live album (also an excellent DVD) capturing the band on their first tour with new vocalist Hayley Griffiths, fronting the short-lived six-piece lineup with multi-instrumentalist Colin Mold, whose violin playing enhanced the Celtic side of their music. Aside from Hayley’s imaginative re-interpretation of old favourites, this record is also a showcase for Enrico Pinna’s phenomenal guitar playing.

Crimson Sky - DawnCrimson SkyDawn

Excellent four-track EP from the new lineup of Crimson Sky with Jane Setter and Moray McDonald, with two brand new songs and two reworked older numbers. As with their previous work, it’s an intriguing blend of progressive rock and 80s-style new-wave, and benefits from a far more polished production than earlier recordings.

Twelfth Night Live and Let Live - Album CoverTwelfth NightLive and Let Live

The classic and long out-of-print single LP-length album from the seminal 80s neo-proggers, reissued and expanded into a two-hour double-CD capturing the entire two-hour show, which must have been a painstaking labour-of-love to put together.

Rob CottinghamCaptain Blue

One of those records where the pre-orders shipped in December, although the retail release isn’t until the new year There will be a full review of this forthcoming, but let’s just say this is a good one. Will it make the 2013 end-of-year list? Time will tell on that…

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A new album from The Heather Findlay Band?

The Heather Findlay Band at The Brook, Southampton in November 2012

The new post on Heather Findlay’s website, mostly about the recently finished tour, also includes this very welcome announcement:

For the very many of you that made it to a show on this tour, you will know just how much the new Heather Findlay Band line up cooked! It is such a high energy, intensely soulful collective with such groove that I’ve never really experienced before. The whole thing has lifted to a completely new dimension and I am so excited to announce that we will be taking to the rehearsal studios come January to work on a brand new HFB album!!!

This is very good news. The last couple of acoustic releases have been great records, and have kept her name in the public eye, but a record containing brand new material is precisely the thing she really needs to take her solo career on to the next level. At the moment it’s only those of us who have seen her live who really know what she can do with a full electric lineup outside the context of her former band.

The implication here is that they’re going to write and record together as a band, which I certainly feel is the right approach to take at this stage. The challenge will be to come up with something that matches the energy and intensity of those live performances. It will be very interesting to see what sort of material they come up with, but the quality of the one new song “Shine” played on the tour is a very positive sign.

No word about release dates as yet, which is probably wise. There are some live dates planned for April next year, and I can imagine new songs being road-tested at those shows before being recorded. But that’s pure speculation. We shall have to wait and see.

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Heather Findlay – 2012 Tour

The Heather Findlay Band at Bilston Robin 2. 19 Nov 2012

The Heather Findlay Band took to the road with a short tour of UK cities, the second full band tour since Heather left Mostly Autumn in 2010. The band had a new look this time around; with Dave Kilminster and Steve Vantsis unavailable due to other commitments, they featured Simon Snaize on lead guitar and one-time Seahorse Stuart Fletcher on bass.

I got to see three dates on the tour, at The Brook in Southampton, The Borderline in London the following night, and The Robin 2 in Bilston a few days later, of which the London show was the best of the three.

A brief word about the opening acts. The main support for the whole tour was The Raggy Anns, an acoustic duo playing a kind of Americana-tinged folk. Not quite my thing, but they did perform with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and got noticeably better as the tour went on. And although I only saw them the once, Heather herself opened some of the shows as part of Odin Dragonfly, which really left me in two minds. On one hand, it was great to see Heather and Angela on stage together again, but their set was disappointingly short. I’m sure I’m not the only person who’d love to see them play a far longer headline set, even if it’s just a single one-off gig somewhere like York.

The Heather Findlay Band at The Brook, Southampton in November 2012

With her own band Heather played a full-length set. Although they played most of the 2010 EP “The Phoenix Suite”, including a punky version of “Cellophane”, the setlist was still heavily dependent on older Mostly Autumn material, including standards like “Caught in a Fold” and “Evergreen” alongside songs from “Storms Over Still Waters” and “Glass Shadows” that haven’t been in recent Mostly Autumn setlists. There were a few changes from last year’s set, and some songs that had been played before had new arrangements. One real highlight was the semi-acoustic “Bitterness Burnt” where Heather out-drummed her own drummer on floor tom, and it was great to hear “Carpe Diem” once more, a song I’d wondered if we’d ever hear played live again. The setlist did change slightly from night to night; at Bilston were were treated to an unscheduled acoustic “Gaze” played while two of the band repaired a collapsed drumkit.

The one brand new song, “Shine”, was very, very good, a Led Zeppelin style riff-based rocker with a real groove to it, and such a strong vocal melody that I had it stuck in my head the morning after the Bilston gig. I hope there’s more where that came from.

Heather was on superb form. She’s still a class act as a vocalist, with a combination of power, range and emotional depth few can match, and still has a dominating stage presence. There was a real intensity to her delivery, with The Borderline in particular being as good a vocal performance as I’ve seen from anyone this year.

The Heather Findlay Band at The Brook, Southampton in November 2012

Stuart Fletcher made a very strong impression on bass; more rocker than muso, and when combined with Alex Cromarty’s drumming makes for powerful rhythm section which gives a huge amount of energy to the band. Simon Snaize probably needs some time to grow in to the role. His playing got noticeably more confident as the tour went on, with added touches like some bluesy licks on “Phoenix”. I found I preferred his more melodic playing to his shredding, in particular he was excellent on “Carpe Diem”. One of the most exciting moments was when he went all Nile Rogers on a seriously funked-up version of “Flowers for Guns”.

Despite the absence of any rock royalty for this tour, these shows still have a rock energy and a dynamic sound that bears little resemblance to anything she’s put out on record since going solo. She does really need more new material rather than continuing to rely so heavily on the songs she wrote for another band, and the new song “Shine” is a definite step in the right direction. It will be interesting to see where Heather goes next.

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