Mostly Autumn is an English band whom I’ve never heard of before. According to the biographical material supplied by Classic Rock Productions, they have released six albums to date, and the three CDs they sent Green Man Review provide a broad look at their work so far.
Heroes Never Die is a collection of their best songs from the first four albums. Singer, guitarist and songwriter Bryan Josh felt that some of these songs could be improved on, so the band re-recorded them for this album. I don’t know what they sounded like before, but these new versions are revelatory. Mostly Autumn is a big band, with Josh on guitars and vocals, Heather Findlay on vocals and tambourine, keyboardist Iain Jennings, second guitarist Liam Davison, Angela Goldthorpe on flute and recorders, bassist Andy Smith and drummer Jonathan Blackmore. The sound they make is big, too, with echoes of the history of progressive rock flowing in and out of the music.
While they remind this listener of some of their influences, here of Genesis, there of Jethro Tull, and then a little Floydian guitar texture, Mostly Autumn manage to carve out their own sound from the mix. The blend of male and female vocals, the acoustic guitars punctuated by a stinging electric lead, swirling organ figures and the interweaving woodwinds create a full and wonderful sound.
The songs range from the powerful, driving opening number, “Never the Rainbow,” through the Gilmouresque “We Come and We Go”; from the moody “Please” to the pastoral “Heroes Never Die,” this is a strong collection and a stunning introduction to the band.
Music Inspired by the Lord of the Rings is their most recent album. They call it the “unexpected album.” It was the result of a mere 14 days in November 2001. The liner notes tell the story:
In the autumn of 2001 the publicity machine for the new film of the book began to gear up and was soon kindling wide-spread public interest. At the same time we found ourselves with a short gap between finishing the film of The Story So Far and our next tour. Some bright spark at the label suggested that it was just long enough to record and mix an album’s worth of material before we headed off round the UK and Germany. They were right, it is possible to write, rehearse, record, mix and master an album in 14 days; so long as you work every second of every day and night and don’t sleep, eat or lay your guitar down for long enough to go to the bathroom.
If this album is the result of two weeks of perspiration, then there was a spirit of inspiration hovering over the band during that fortnight! Displaying the same gift for melody and musical inventiveness they showed on Heroes Never Die, Josh and the band have created a sonic snapshot of Tolkien’s epic. Utilizing the broad spectrum provided by their varied instrumentation, Mostly Autumn are able to keep the lyrics to a minimum and capture the themes and flow of the book without resorting to any operatic pretension. The album doesn’t pretend to tell the whole story, it is simply “Music Inspired by the Lord of the Rings,” and as such is a success.
The third item is a DVD of their live concert. The Story So Far… covers some of the same ground that the anthology CD did, with live footage rather than re-recorded audio tracks. It provides a history of the band by piecing together intimate interviews with concert film and out-takes from rehearsals, and it provides a well-rounded portrait of the band.
Classic Rock Productions are to be congratulated for branching out in this way. They began by reissuing old concerts of bands like Uriah Heap and Wishbone Ash, but have provided continuity and foresight by getting behind a band like Mostly Autumn, which comes from the progressive rock milieu but brings it into the new millennium. Their recent DVD of Fairport Convention at Cropredy 2001 is another example of why they’re a record company to watch.
The DVD is well paced. The concert footage is up close and personal, giving the viewer a sense of Mostly Autumn’s stage personae. The music is well recorded and sounds great coming out of the speakers! The DVD has a few special features like bonus footage, but the features are not spectacular. They don’t need to be. The basic program is worth watching, worth listening to, and informative too.
Powerplay magazine described Mostly Autumn as being “most likely the best band you’ve never heard!” They could be right. You owe it to yourself to give them a listen.
(Classic Rock Productions, 2002)
(Legend Records, 2001)
(Classic Rock Productions, 2002)