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Mostly Autumn - Go Well Diamond Heart CD (album) cover

GO WELL DIAMOND HEART

Mostly Autumn

 

Prog Folk

3.48 | 86 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars We all know that the ravishing and talented Heather Findlay has left the band that made her such a name and that the extended MA family (aka keyboardist Iain Jennings' Breathing Space) has now relocated members to the main platform , namely the delightful Olivia Sparnenn who frankly is a find, exemplary on stage in both talent, voice and looks. Bryan Josh is a lucky man! While I mourn the passing of the vastly more enjoyable Breathing Space, I can only surmise that Mostly Autumn will grow even more and if this new album is any indication, the future looks rosy to say the least. The level of musicianship was never an issue, Josh and company are a talented crew but image and direction seemed to be a problem, as if some identity crisis was festering within the creators. Since Passengers, I have liked but not adored the releases, as if there was something missing, a tad too polished and yet undefined, almost formulaic. In that aspect, I prefer Iain's writing, a different style that pleases me more than Josh's prog composing by numbers. A strange contrast I am sure but proven correct by most fans out there, as if Josh cannot decide between commercial classic rock (Breathing Space and Karnataka do it way better) , the Celtic prog thing (Iona does that a lot better) or a personal form of prog that stays the Floydian course. Truth is Olivia is a truly masterful vocalist, as good as the departed Findlay if not better, having patiently wailed in the wings as an MA backing vocalist. This new album introduces her front and center and if "Violet Skies" is any indication, she fits in just perfectly.

First, the positives: the opener "For All We Shared" (the title of MA's debut album, funny how Josh likes to segue stuff and link it everywhere) is a slow creeper that touches off the right buttons, introed by some magical Celtic strains that evoke deep spirited reveries. It comes as no surprise that the keyboards play a large role in symphonizing the piece. As previously stated, the superb "Violet Skies" is arguably the album highlight, a genuine slice of shimmering beauty that will appeal to all, a masterstroke in MA's catalogue. The title track provides some scintillating moments as well, Olivia displaying her amazing voice and joining Josh to create a massive hymn that has both a light and a dark side that is quite appealing. But it's the colossal keyboard surges that really nail the deal, howling wildly among the muscular riffs. "Back to Life" is squarely in the folk realm, much akin to past glorious ballads such as "Bitterness Burnt" or "Evergreen", where acoustic guitars and flutes dance a breathless waltz, tenderly enlaced. The composition is graced by some sizzling vocals and a virile lead guitar solo that only Josh can supply with apparent ease, one of his finest ever, screeching high above the pastoral clouds. A delicate piano outro seals the deal. The closer "And When the War is Over" has genuine appeal, an anti-war song dedicated to British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, a soothing yet sad reminder that some causes are hopeless at best and that a peaceful world would be such a panacea. Olivia and Bryan wail gently together, as the sonic guitar resonates as the choir added for maximum effect, this is primo stuff of the highest caliber. When she kicks into the higher register, the goose bumps appear.

But then there are tracks that still have that overbearing bombast that misses the mark for me such as "Deep in Borrowdale", a plodding rock track that has moments but nothing more. "Something Better" is simply not, just look at the rather tepid lyrics ("When cowboys rule the world"?) , a crude reworking of their classic epic "Heroes Never Die" but in a cubic, non- exciting form that does little to heighten the pleasure. Yeah, the guitars crunch and the cymbals thrash but, that's about it! "Hold the Sun" while interesting, shows a rather syrupy plodding that I am not sure I like that much, saved by another monstrous Josh solo that reestablishes a modicum of appreciation.

Not quite a return to the glorious early days but still a huge improvement , testimony that the Findlay/Josh relationship was getting artistically stale, explaining her departure but perhaps ushering in a new 'breathing space' into MA's craft , certainly as long as Josh loosens his reign and permits both Jennings and Olivia to showcase their talent.

3.75 Goodbye Hellos

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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