Tag Archives: Mostly Autumn

Now Playing: For All We Shared

For All We SharedNowadays 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 2007 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”.

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Alex Cromarty joins Mostly Autumn

The Heather Findlay Band at The Brook, Southampton

Latest News from Mostly Autumn:

Mr Alex Cromerty has now become a permanent member of Mostly Autumn. We are all very excited about this, his drumming and percussion has proven to work extremely well with the band, drummers like Alex and Gavin are a rare thing to come by, the quality is first class. We would also, on this note, like to wish Gavin all the success for the future, it’s been a real pleasure my friend.

Alex had been playing drums with Mostly Autumn as a stand-in for much of 2013 while Gavin Griffiths had extensive recording and touring commitments with Fish, and Alex’ playing showed the drums were in safe hands. With Fish announcing further tour plans across Europe in 2014, it’s not a total surprise that Alex is joining the Mostly Autumn on a longer-term basis.

Mostly Autumn had already had more drummers than Spinal Tap back in 2007, and now they can add a further name to the list.

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Mostly Autumn announce 2014 live dates.

Mostly Autumn have announced their 2014 Tour dates.

We’re pleased to announce the 2014 tour dates…so far!!! Tickets are not on sale yet at all venues but it shouldn’t be long. We would LOVE to see you at one (or more!) of the venues.

The tour covers much on the country with dates from late May and early June, across July, and a lot more UK dates in October and December. It includes Scotland and Wales as well as visiting many favourite venues such as Bury Met, The Wharf in Tavistock and The Picturedrome in Holmfirth. There is also a date in Crewe for the first time in many years, at The Box.

No mention (yet) of the annual Christmas show at The Grand Opera House in York, which seems a surprising omission.

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What novels are crying out for a musical adaptation?

The Guardian Music Blog asks what novels are crying out for a musical adaptation? I jokingly suggested “Who Moved My Cheese” set to music by The Scorpions, but followed it up with a couple of more serious suggestions.

For starters, L.T.C Rolt’s “Railway Adventure“, which is cheating slightly, because it’s non-fiction. But the story of the birth of the British railway preservation movement when a group of enthusiasts took over the ramshackle Talyllyn Railway in 1950 is exactly the sort of thing that’s meat and drink for Big Big Train.

Second, Iain Banks’ “Espediair Street“. The ficticious band Frozen Gold have been described as being a cross between Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac, which suggests the ideal band would be none other than Mostly Autumn. Banks’ description of the wordless “Nifedge” always makes me think of the closing section of “Carpe Diem”. Whether it’s possible to do the Great Contraflow Smoke Curtain justice in Bilston Robin 2 remains to be seen.

Lastly, HP Lovecraft’s “At The Mountains of Madness“. While their Imaginos cycle immediately suggests Blue Öyster Cult, they’re better at high weirdness than out-and-out terror. It really needs Van der Graaf Generator at their most menacing, in the vein of something like “Plague of Lighthouse Keepers”.

What combinations of books and bands would you suggest?

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Mostly Autumn Dressed in Voices pre-order

Dressed in VoicesMostly Autumn announce their eleventh studio album “Dressed in Voices“, with an album launch party in May. They are now taking pre-orders from Mostly Autumn Records, including tickets for the launch party, which will almost certainly sell out well before the event. The special edition limited to 2000 copies will be a double album, with a regular single album edition to follow.

In the words of Bryan Josh:

What can I say about our new “Dressed in Voices” album? Well, without giving much away, it all started when I went away last October to write a jolly old Josh n Co album. The first thing that happened was a song that wrote itself on the first touch of the piano. I knew immediately that this wasn’t a jolly old Josh n Co song but indeed had the heavy dark stamp of a Mostly Autumn song with a concept within it. I tried to ignore it and wistfully carry on with the original plan but found it impossible to ignore, and so the album story continued to present itself and I knew we had no choice but to fulfil the concept.

To sum it up as best I can for now… this certainly isn’t a set of cheery pop songs… but there is sunshine in the darkest places – be prepared for a journey – we have “mostly” never sounded like this album before!!

The double-disk edition of the last album “Ghost Moon Orchestra” sold out well before the official release date, and included some songs as good as anything on the single-disk retail edition. So don’t delay getting your order in!

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Gigs of the Year – 2013 Edition

Panic Room at Sound Control in Manchester

I went to so many gigs in 2013 I ended up losing count; everything from local cover bands in pubs to rock monsters in enormodomes, and everything in between. There have been a few gigs outside my usual comfort zone, such as The Damned and The Orb; I even went to see Iron Maiden at the O2 Arena, a band I last saw in 1982.  I even went to see a Fleetwood Mac tribute band…

Picking a best-of list out of all those gigs is a hard one, but these six stand out as ones to remember for all the right reasons.

Marillion – UK Convention Saturday

Marillion’s fan conventions are always amazing experiences, with a hall full of hardcore fans and three sets with completely different setlists over the three nights. The end result is an electric atmosphere that few regular gigs can approach. All three nights in Wolverhampton were amazing experiences, but for me the best of the three was Saturday, with the dark, intense concept album “Brave” played in its entirety.

Fish – Islington O2 Academy

I got to see Fish four times this year, twice in his spring tour before the band went into the studio to record the album, and twice in the autumn on the tour to promote the album. All were great shows, with the big man on superb form, the London gig in May was a real standout.

Steve Hackett – Hammersmith Apollo

I wasn’t entirely convinced by Steve Hackett’s restatement of his Genesis legacy in the studio; the re-recorded versions seemed to add little to the much-loved favourites. But live it was a completely different experience; a triumphant and uplifting celebration of the magnificent music that deservedly won many standing ovations.  The Guardian completely missed the point.

Panic Room + Morpheus Rising – Manchester Sound Control

Panic Room have had a few ups and downs this year, forced to regroup following the departure of lead guitarist and founder member Paul Davies. Their tour in early summer featured Morpheus Rising’s Pete Harwood standing in guitar doing double duty with both the headliners and his own band. The tour ended with two superb shows in Bilston and Manchester demonstrating the band’s ability to triumph over adversity, with great support from Morpheus Rising, themselves premiering a lot of new material.

Mostly Autumn + Chantel McGregor, Islington O2 Academy

Mostly Autumn have been a bit hit-and-miss as live band during 2013, with fluctuating lineups from gig to gig due to various members’ other commitments. But the stars aligned when they came to London in Ocober. Chantel McGregor’s incendiary opening set gave the whole show the feel of a co-headliner, and Mostly Autumn’s barnstorming set had to be one of the best shows they’ve done in the past two or three years.

Steven Wilson, Royal Albert Hall

Steve Wilson came to London’s most prestigious major venue with his band including Theo Travis, Guthie Govan, Nick Beggs and Zappa alumnus Chad Wakerman, with the combined virtuosity you’d expect from a top-flight jazz ensemble rather than typical rock band. They proceed to delivere a mesmerising set drawn almost entirely from Steve Wilson’s three recent solo work, reinventing 70s Mellotron-drenched progressive rock to make it relevant to the 21st century. There are still people missing Porcupine Tree, but on the strength of shows like this, his new band are very good trade.

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Mostly Autumn, Bilston Robin 2, 8-Dec-2013

Andy Smith and Olivia Sparnenn

Mostly Autumn came to Bilston Robin 2 on the Christmas leg on their tour.

The set opened with drummer Alex Cromarty alone on stage playing the drum pattern from “Winter Mountain”, then joined by Andy Smith on bass. The rest of the band came on stage one by one until Olivia Sparnenn made her dramatic entrance.

The setlist was much the same as they’ve been playing all year, with songs from the recent “Ghost Moon Orchestra” mixed with older material drawn heavily from the early albums. Olivia can take the older songs and make them hers, but several of her newer songs are now highlights of the set; big epics such as “Unquiet Tears” and “Questioning Eyes” and the delicate ballad “Rain Song”. Another high point was the sequence of rockers, including “Never the Rainbow” and “Deep in Borrowdale” building momentum towards the end of the set. With the absence of Anne-Marie Helder in the band there were occasional moments where the lack of the flute parts were obvious, but for this tour they’ve rested the songs that are heavily dependent on her flute lines. One final highlight had to be Olivia’s spellbinding version of the traditional carol “O Holy Night” during the encores.

The whole set had an energy and passion that hasn’t always been there this year, with everyone on top form for this show. It’s a reminder of just how good this band can be when they’re firing on all cylinders. Bryan soaring overdriven guitar and Iain Jennings’ walls of Hammond organ make a huge sound, and the good sound mix meant that you could hear all seven band members’ contributions clearly.

They ended as they began, with the band leaving one by one leaving just Olivia Sparnenn and backing vocalist Hannah Hird on stage singing the outtro of the final Christmas cover.

Hannah Hird with Mostly AutumnBacking singer Hannah Hird, who has been standing in for Anne-Marie Helder for most of 2013′s live dates, made a strong impression. She’s always had a great voice, but now she’s had time to grow into the role she’s got far more confidence and stage presence than earlier in the year. She now comes over as a part of the band rather than a hired hand, her harmony lines making a great foil for Olivia’s lead.

The only real criticism of this show is that one or two of the traditional Christmas covers at the end are starting to feel very tired. They’ve been a part of the Mostly Autumn Christmas shows for as long as I can remember, but perhaps they ought to cut them down to perhaps two rather than four, and not play the same ones year after year. They’ve wisely dropped Fairytale of New York this time around, but the Slade song is getting really old hat now. Time for a change?

2013 has been a bit of a year of ups and downs for Mostly Autumn. A constantly changing lineup has cost them a bit of momentum, and their gigs have been rather more hit and miss than on the last couple of years. But this show was without doubt one of the better ones, certainly far better than the disappointing show in York the night before. The band are playing their final dates of the year in The Netherlands this weekend before heading into the studio in the new year to begin work on a new album.

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Mostly Autumn, Islington Academy

On Saturday October 5th, Mostly Autumn returned to Islington Academy, their regular London venue since the closure of the much-loved Astoria.

Mostly Autumn traditionally play a lengthy show, with two sets and an interval. But for selected dates on their Autumn and Winter tour they’ve decided to do something a bit different, playing a shorter and tighter set, with guitarist and vocalist Chantel McGregor as special guest.

Chantel fronts a classic blues-rock power trio. Opening with one of her most hard rocking tracks, “Caught Out”, Chantel played an intense guitar-shredding set, mixing songs from her album “Like No Other” with extended guitar workouts, including her lengthy cover of Robin Trower’s “Daydream”, finally finishing with a very heavy version of the instrumental end section of Yes’ “Starship Trooper”. With two talented sidesmen her band play an awful lot of notes for three people, and one hour went very, very quickly. She deserves to have won over a lot of new fans with that performance.

Last time I saw Mostly Autumn live back in July they were a little disappointing; while it was still an enjoyable show that impressed those who hadn’t seen them before, they didn’t quite have their usual magic. But tonight was a very different experience. The day before the gig bought the unexpected but very welcome news that Anne-Marie Helder would be performing with the band for the two dates over the weekend.

Maybe it was a large appreciative crowd who had been warmed up and then some by the superb support act. Maybe it was Anne-Marie Helder’s presence on stage that inspired the rest of the band. Maybe it was a bit of both. But whatever it was, the band pulled out all the stops to deliver what had to be their best show this year, possibly one of the best in the three years since Olivia took over as lead singer. The energy in the room was incredible, and there was something special about the on-stage chemistry; everyone, especially Anne-Marie, clearly enjoying every minute.

The set is much the same as they’ve been playing all year, with a greater emphasis on the hard rock side of their music than on their atmospheric epics. Olivia is singing lead a greater proportion of the time, much of it on newer songs written for her voice such as the Nightwish-like “Unquiet Tears” and the emotive closing epic “Questioning Eyes”. They’ve got the pacing right too; a high spot was “Never the Rainbow”, “Deep In Borrowdale” and “Nowhere to Hide” in quick succession raising the energy levels in the second half of the set.

Unlike their last appearance at this venue, rather marred by poor sound, this time a great sound mix meant you could hear every voice and instrument from the seven piece band clearly, Liam Davison’s understated guitar work complimenting Bryan Josh’s always great lead playing, and Anne-Marie’s vocal harmonies a great foil for Olivia. And it’s great to hear her flute lines on songs like “The Dark Before The Dawn”.

This was Mostly Autumn in full flight, a great show even by the standards of their best ones over the past couple of years, made extra special by a support act strong enough to make the whole evening feel close to being a co-headliner.

Mostly Autumn will be playing further shows with Chantel McGregor in December, including their annual home town showcase at the Grand Opera House in York.

Photos © Howard Rankin, used with kind permission

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Happy Birthday Andy Smith

Andy Smith of Mostly Autumn at The Met, Bury, September 2012

Happy Birthday to Andy Smith, bassist for Mostly Autumn and Morpheus Rising, and all round top bloke.

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Mostly Autumn – Tonight

A sample from the excellent DVD “Live at the Boerderij”, available from Mostly Autumn Records. A great recording capturing the full power of the 2010-2012 lineup of the band.

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