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Mostly Autumn - Dressed in Voices CD (album) cover

DRESSED IN VOICES

Mostly Autumn

 

Prog Folk

3.91 | 94 ratings

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lazland
Prog Reviewer
5 stars I have every Mostly Autumn studio recording made, and a fair smattering of live products, as well. It is fair to say, then, that I am a fan. I was tempted firstly by the charms of Heather Findlay, but was not particularly phased by her leaving and being replaced by her old backing singer, Olivia Sparnenn, because I had listened to her doing a sterling job on main man Bryan Josh's solo extravaganza, Through These Eyes. My optimism was rewarded when the band put out two extremely good albums in Go Well Diamond Heart and The Ghost Moon Orchestra.

However, I have never awarded them the five star accolade, and, indeed, have stated on more than one review that this band seemed to be searching for that definitive album, that absolute statement which screamed out buy me, because this is my best.

On Dressed In Voices, they have, finally, achieved it. Quite why this wonderful English ensemble attracts so little attention on this site is beyond me, because the brand of prog folk, heavy prog and rock has been scintillating for some time, now, and, in Josh, our genre has a one of the few guitarists who can be honestly compared with axe gods of days of yore without becoming a little blushed with embarrassment at such a statement.

Dressed In Voices is a genuine concept album, and, it is fair to say, has as its subject matter a fairly dark state of affairs. It is the story of a murder, a gruesome murder, and how that murder encapsulates an entire lifetime of memories, dreams, hopes, and unfulfilled expectations in those seconds between the act itself and the eternal time to pass on. For no better example of what I mean in terms of yearning and damned intelligent lyric writing (set against a very dark undertone generated by the band), then hear Home, the song that Josh was born to write, and is heart rending in its emotion. The guitar solo is fantastic as it soars.

Like all of the finest concept albums, Dressed In Voices deserves to be heard in its entirety, and treated as one organic whole. I have waited for quite some time, and more than a few listens, before setting down my thoughts to this review, just in case the thrill of the first few listens wore out. It didn't. This record gets damn better with each and every single listen. It cries out intelligence.

More than anything else, you know, it is actually an uplifting piece of work. How? You might well ask, given the subject matter. Well, the answer is easy, really. As good as the band are (and Iain Jennings, in particular, has never sounded so good on keys), the core of all in this album is the newlywed Bryan and Olivia. And, you know what? This is an album that has love dripping all over the place, and that is what makes it so special. Listening to the pair of them harmonising on First Day At School, the longest single track here at seven and a half minutes long, is a perfect example of this. On The Last Day, Olivia demonstrates just why she is the finest female vocalist in today's prog scene. It is a delightful, plaintive, soaring performance that simply has to be heard to be believed, and, believe me, has love screaming out, as if it is the last moment she will share with her man, remembering Spirits of Autumn Past, indeed. Old fans will, by the way, adore the nod towards that great old track, with wonderful flute by the recently departed Anne-Marie Helder.

The band have, in the past, tended to veer a bit towards different styles on albums as a whole. So, The Last Bright Light and Passengers were strong prog folk albums, whilst Storms Over Still Waters lent to heavier territory. This album is the perfect fusion of all of the multitude of influences and experiences of its main players, and they move effortlessly between melodic, symphonic, heavy, and Celtic infused music. Skin on Skin is perhaps the most obvious example, with a melodic beginning, with sensitive vocals, morphing into a wonderful wall of sound with some exceptionally complex drumming, especially, by Alex Cromerty, whilst this delightful noise then segues into a quite beautiful female led acoustic piece in The House On The Hill.

Mostly Autumn have ceased to threaten with this album. It gets a very easy five stars. I urge all reading this review to get out and buy the definitive album from a band who really deserve to be packing out stadia (not that they would want to, of course!). The band have provided me with a very difficult choice for album of the year in what is proving to be a very strong and enjoyable 2014, for, believe me, this is every inch as good as Road Of Bones.

lazland | 5/5 |

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