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Mostly Autumn - Sight Of Day CD (album) cover

SIGHT OF DAY

Mostly Autumn

 

Prog Folk

3.81 | 127 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Twelve studio albums in, with numerous live albums and DVD's slotting in between, and Mostly Autumn are still firing on all cylinders on their most recent set, 2017's `Sight of Day'. With the much- loved Heather Findlay-fronted version of the group truly behind them, the Olivia Sparnenn-led line up is sounding more settled in, inspired and determined to impress than ever, and while `Sight...' may not take the group in many surprising new directions, it shows them honing to near-perfection their expected mix of fancy folk, gutsy prog-rock and emotional vocal-driven song-writing. As always, Olivia and her hubby, the charismatic lead guitarist/frontman Bryan Josh, take the spotlight, but returning member/multi-instrumentalist Chris Johnson also offers welcome contributions that shine, and the album frequently turns out to be a true showcase for the sublime skill of keyboard player Iain Jennings.

Mostly Autumn play their proud prog card right from the opening multi-part title-track, and throughout its fourteen-plus minute length, the band offer everything from the most subtle of Iain's pristine and softly melancholic piano playing and moody symphonic keyboards, Olivia's passionate voice carrying the reflective lyric and Josh's slow-burn ever-building electric guitar reaches across a range of moods. It manages to include two big anthemic passages with both the `And it's the greatest show on Earth...' and `In the blazing sun the music filled the sky' moments proving hugely joyful and chest-beating with Josh and Olivia singing in unison, and they truly takes the piece higher and higher. Make no mistake - right from the first spin, it's clear that fans of the group are going to raise this one up as a Mostly Autumn classic, displaying a mastery of controlled build and expertly delivered drama, and it's going to be a cracker whenever performed live.

Moving on, the verses of the Bryan-led `Once Round the Sun' and his raspy vocal convey embracing `come-together' lyrics but the rest is a muscular rocker lying somewhere between Jethro Tull and Deep Purple with its shimmering Hammond organ and Alex Cromarty's tough pounding drumming, with just a pinch of Angela Gordon's twirling flute. The gently confronting piano ballad `The Man Without a Name' is an Olivia-sung low-key reminder to stay young at heart, and the initially acoustic and lightly bluesy `Hammerdown' lifts to life with a searing Bryan and Olivia shared vocal.

A welcome surprise, `Changing Lives' is written and performed by multi-instrumentalist Chris Johnson, and while it eventually pours on some grander symphonic synths and fiery guitar wailing, the sprightly and up-tempo piece holds verses sounding not unlike a track from alt-country singer Ryan Adams and the chorus is kissed by the radio-dominating version of Fleetwood Mac! `Only the Brave' is a hard dusty country-flecked rocker accompanied by Anna Phoebe's searing violin that bounces with buoyant momentum and reminds a great deal of Pink Floyd's `Sheep', but `Native Spirit' is the other big `prog' moment, a ten-plus minute epic. Pleading for the preservation of nature, old way-of-life and spirit, reflective acoustic guitar passages are contrasted with scorching electric runs, some surprising darker turns in the middle that lead towards dramatic symphonic strings and gloomy synths before a rocking loved-up finale backed to pounding drums and Andy Smith's pulsing bass.

Unexpectedly, `Tomorrow Dies' is heavily electronic and therefore dominated by Iain's keyboards, and it holds an Olivia-sung chorus that could easily sit alongside the poppier moments of German female-fronted indie-prog band Frequency Drift's `Over' album from 2014 (and listen out for a brief heavy flamenco guitar-like burst buried deep in the middle!), and `Raindown' is one of those fancy orchestrated ballad moments that Mostly Autumn deliver on all their albums, and sure enough Olivia excels throughout it with a powerhouse performance. The wistful and joyous `Forever and Beyond' wraps the album, an upbeat tune with an overly pretty melody that perhaps proves just a little too sweet, where the previous grander track would probably have made for a stronger closer, but all good!

As usual, this new album is also available as a limited edition double CD set with a thirty-five minute bonus disc. Of the seven tracks included on it, five of them are a showcase for Olivia Sparnenn-Josh being a collection of soft rock songs and classy ballads sung by her, with the soaring chorus of `Moments' and the optimistic (and quite unashamedly poppy) `In Time' being particular highlights. Chris Johnson delivers a sparse alt-country one-take acoustic tune `Pushing Down the Floor' that sounds like it could have come off Ryan Adams superior `29' album, but Pink Floyd fans will most dig Bryan's six minute Pink Floyd-flavoured instrumental `July'. With sparkling and delicately melancholic Rick Wright-like piano and weeping David Gilmour-esque guitar wisps, this beautiful piece could easily pass for an outtake from Floyd's `The Division Bell' album. This is a very worthy bonus collection, and would actually make for a fine EP all on its own.

`Sight of Day' ticks all the right boxes for a Mostly Autumn album, making it a winning collection of their accessible melodic arrangements with frequent displays of instrumental prowess, superior male-female vocal class and all the inward-looking soul-searching lyrics the group is known for. Curious newcomers wanting to hear a strong example of the band and their music could easily be recommended `Sight of Day', and long-time fans will also be in for a treat with a superb album that ranks up amongst their best releases. The prog-rock institution that is Mostly Autumn carries on, stronger and better than ever.

Four and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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