Tag Archives: Heather Findlay

Lonely Robot Launch Party

John Mitchell, Heather Findlay and Steve Hogarth

John Mitchell held a launch party Lonely Robot’s Please Come Home on Monday 23rd Feb at The Lexington in London. It was a star-studded event, with attendees including Steven Wilson, as well as the many musicians who’s guested on the album, such as Heather Findlay and Marillion’s Steve Hogarth (above)

Heather Findlay duetting with John Mitchell on

Although the event was laregly a meet-and-greet, John Mitchell did play a short acoustic set accompanied by Liam Holmes on piano, and joined by two of the guest singers who’s appeared on the album. Here’s John and Heather duetting on “Why Do We Stay”, one of the album’s highlights.

Kim Seviour singing

Touchstone’s Kim Seviour was the other guest on stage, for the song “Oublette”. The album, perhaps the first essential progressive rock album of 2015, was released on the day of the event, and you can read my review here.

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Lonely Robot – Please Come Home

John Mitchell - Lonely RobotJohn Mitchell is a well-known figure in the British progressive rock world, lead guitarist of both Arena and Frost*, and frontman for the current incarnation of 80s veterans It Bites. Now, after more than a decade as a member of multiple bands at the same time, he’s finally launched a solo project, Lonely Robot.

John Mitchell plays the majority of instruments himself aside from drums by Craig Blundell. Guest musicians include Mitchell’s Frost* bandmate Jem Godfrey appears on keys, and Marillion frontman Steve Hogarth who finds employment on piano on a couple of songs. Legendary virtuoso Nick Beggs also makes an appearance on bass and Chapman Stick. Likewise Mitchell handles the majority of the vocals himself, although he’s joined by guests including former Mostly Autumn singer Heather Findlay, Touchstone’s Kim Seviour and Go West’s Peter Cox. Finally, voice actor Lee Ingleby provides background narration right across the record.

The end result is a varied but hugely impressive album. It goes from dense guitar-heavy industrial prog-metal to gorgeous ballads to uptempo 80s-style pop-rock, with imaginative arrangements that frequently veer off in unexpected directions. There is plenty of fluid lead guitar, but this is an album about songcraft and atmospherics rather than a guitar-chops record, and Mitchell keeps the solos short and to the point. It’s all given the sort of clear and crisp production we’ve come to expect from anything John Mitchell is involved with.

Highlights include the guitar-shredding instrumental opener “Airlock”, the beautiful duet with Heather Findlay, “Why Do We Say”, the ambitious and kaleidoscopic title track, the somewhat Tangerine Dream-like “Are We Copies” and the soaring ballad “Humans Being”, featuring a guitar solo from Nik Kershaw. But this is one of those albums that doesn’t have any filler; every song has something to commend it.

While there are certainly echoes of It Bites and of Frost*, this record is its own thing, and despite the variety it hangs together very well as a coherent musical whole. The various guest artists all enhance the record without stealing the show, and the end result is the first essential record of 2015 from the British progressive rock scene.

Thus review also appeas in Trebuchet Magazine.

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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.
Continue reading

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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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