Tag Archives: John Mitchell

John Mitchell – The Nostalgia Factory

The Nostalgia Factory“The Nostalgia Factory” by John Mitchell is the first release by White Star Records. Aside from a couple of backing vocals by former Touchstone singer Kim Seviour. John Mitchell plays and sings everything on this record himself. The only thing he didn’t do this time is write the songs. Though he’s a songwriter so prolific other musicians can’t keep up with him, this four-song EP is a record of covers.

The record takes its title from the first song, a very early Porcupine Tree number from the days before they were a full band and releasing on cassette. This take is all 80-style shimmering guitars, with a vocal that sounds more Steve Wilson than Steve Wilson.

Next up is Justin Hayward’s ballad “It Won’t Be Easy”, the theme song of the short-lived 1987 TV series “Star Cops” (Anyone remember that one?), and up-tempo pop-rock of Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home” which he played live with Lonely Robot at their showcase gigs at the end of last year.

The final song, ELP’s “C’est La Vie” is the standout of the record. It was originally intended for a Prog Magazine cover disk that never saw the light of day. It’s a thing of beauty; a simple piano figure puts the emphasis on Mitchell’s vocal, and he takes the song and simply owns it. Much like Panic Room’s version of “Bitches Crystal” intended for that same ill-fated cover disk, it shows how good ELP’s songwriting can be when you strip away their bombast.

With material from the mid-70s to the early 90s, the record has a very strong mid-80s feel about it, although there’s none of the worst excesses of 80s pop-rock production to be heard. What comes over strongly across the whole record is John Mitchell’s skill at interpretation. If you’re not intimately familiar with the originals it’s not immediately obvious that this record is made up of covers. He takes each song and makes it his both vocally and instrumentally, which is always a sign of a great creative musician.

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Fantasise to Realise

Former Touchstone singer Kim Seviour is releasing a single “Fantasise to Realise” om Marth 7th, with the album to follow in the summer.

It’s co-written and produced by the incredibly prolific John Mitchell, who I’m sure is in about seventeen dfferent bands because nobody else can keep up with him.

You can pre-order a signed copy of the limited-edition CD from White Star Records.

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John Mitchell releases The Nostalgia Factory

The Nostalgia FactoryJohn Michell of Lonely Robot, It Bites, Arena, Frost* and The Heather Findlay Band fame has somehow found the time to record a four track EP of covers, “The Nostalgia Factory”.

The title track is a very early Porcupine Tree song. The EP also includes Justin Hayward’s ‘It Won’t Be Easy’ and Phil Collins ‘Take Me Home’, the latter of which featured as the encore at the Lonely Robot showcase show at The Scala last December. The final song is ELP’s ‘C’Est La Vie’, which shares the same origins as Panic Room’s “Bitches Crystal”, recorded for the ill-fated Prog Magazine cover disk of ELP covers.

The EP< which also features Kim Seviour on backing vocals is released on 26th February, but can be pre-ordered now from White Star Records.

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Elkie Returns!

As reported by Prog magazine, former Touchstone singer Kim “Elkie” Seviour reveals album plans.

She plans to release a solo album to be produced by and co-written with John Mitchell of Lonely Robot, Frost*, Arena and It Bites fame, a man who’s in so many bands because he’s so prolific that nobody else can keep up.

There is to be a single “Fantasise To Realise” released next month, a standalone track that will not feature on the album.

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Lonely Robot, The Scala

The album “Please Come Home” by Lonely Robot, the solo project from John Mitchell of It Bites, Frost* and Arena fame was a definite highlight of the early part of 2015. He had previously performed some of the material live as an acoustic duo with pianist Liam Holmes, but the full-band showcase gig with an array of special guests at The Scala in London a few days before Christmas promised to be an Event.

The capable support band, Helz deserve a mention. Their highly melodic twin-guitar prog-metal relied on solid composition rather than technical showboating, though they still found room for a few bursts of fluid lead guitar. They succeeded at exactly what what a support band is supposed to do, setting the scene for the main event.

Lonely Robot’s stage set featured an array of pop culture detritus; Star Wars and Dr Who toys, a Space Shuttle, an 80s 8-bit computer and a big old-fashioned television. The show began with a NASA astronaut removing his helmet and turning on the TV to show imagery from the early days of space exploration, before the band came on and launched into the spiralling guitar-shredding instrumental “Airlock”.

For this gig and one earlier show in Holland John Mitchell put together a four-piece band featuring drummer Craig Blundell, who had played on the album, plus Caroline Campbell on bass and Lauren Storey on keys. While you shouldn’t expect a band put together for a couple of one-off gigs to display the onstage chemistry of a band who have been touring together for years, they lacked a coherent visual image; the stage outfits made them look not only like members of completely different bands, but completely different genres.

Musically, though, it was an altogether different matter, and for a progressive rock audience that’s the important thing. They were exceedingly tight and the entire album came over powerfully live, going from the industrial metal of “God vs Man” to the 80s pop of “Boy in the Radio” within the first few songs. Craig Blundell in particular was a force of nature on drums. Peter Cox, Heather Findlay and Kim Seviour all reprised their guest roles from the album and enhanced the show without stealing the spotlight, as did Mitchell’s partner-in-crime with Frost*, Jem Godfrey. The sound quality was excellent down the front, though reports from further back suggested the mix had too much drums and not enough vocals.

Lonely Robot

The consistent quality of the material made it hard to single out highlights, but “Oubliette”, the duet with former Touchstone singer Kim Seviour with the chorus “Don’t Forget Me” was particularly poignant given that it might her last appearance on stage for a while. In contrast, “Why Do We Stay” with Heather Findlay foretold John Mitchell adding yet another band to his CV, as he will be joining her band for their tour in April.

With the album “Please Come Home” forming the whole of the main set, the encores began with an absolutely epic drum solo from Craig Blundell. Jem Godfrey returned for the intense swirling tapestry of notes that was “Black Light Machine” by Frost*. Finally came a progged-up cover of Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home” with Kim and Heather joining on backing vocals.

As the last significant gig in progressive rock’s calendar, it made a great finale to the year. John Mitchell has already said that there will be a follow-up album to “Please Come Home”, which made this less of a one-off showcase, more the start of something bigger.

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Heather Findlay Band to tour in 2016

John Mitchell and Heather FindlayHeather Findlay has announced a tour in April 2016, to support the album “The Illusion’s Reckoning.

Because Dave Ketzner and Dave Kilminster are both unavailable due to other commitments, the tour is billed as The Heather Findlay Band rather than Mantra Vega, though they’re promising that they’ll be playing the album in full along with a few selected older favourites.

For this tour it will be a six-piece band including Angela Gordon on keys and flute, and John Mitchell on lead guitar alongside Chris Johnson and the rhythm section of Alex Cromarty and Stuart Fletcher.

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Lonely Robot to play Touchstone farewell shows

John Mitchell at the Lonely Robot launch partyTouchstone have announced that John Mitchell’s Lonely Robot will be the support act for their London farewell show at Boston Music Rooms in London on November 20th, and at Leamington Spa Assembly on November 21st, the latter of which also sees Magenta as special guests.

John Mitchell will be performing a stripped-down semi-acoustic set with keyboard player Liam Holmes, seen above at the Lonely Robot launch party earlier this year.

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This very moving and personal blog post on acceptance and grieving by Reading-based musician John Mitchell is wel worth reading.

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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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