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Mostly Autumn - Passengers CD (album) cover


Mostly Autumn


Prog Folk

3.71 | 145 ratings

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Symphonic Team
5 stars Conceptual masterpiece album and a new direction for Mostly Autumn.

"Passengers" is one of the best studio albums from Mostly Autumn. The songs have an uplifting quality as always but what sets it apart is the consistent quality and strong infectious melodies throughout. There are no filler tracks and the band are at the top of their game in both lyrical compositions and musicianship. The Celtic flavour is replaced now with a more accessible style but it is still as beautiful. The sound quality remastered is exquisite and it is one of the best lineups for the band including the incomparable Bryan Josh on lead vocals, lead guitars, and 6 or 12 string acoustics. Heather Findlay is as usual angelic on lead vocals and Iain Jennings is a revelation on piano, Hammond organ, and synthesisers. The folk touches of flute and recorder are added by Angela Goldthorpe. It is the final album for Jonathan Blackmore who is the drummer.

Highlights on this album include, but are not confined to, 'Something In Between', 'Bitterness Burnt', 'Another Life', 'Caught In A Fold', 'First Thought', 'Answer The Question', 'Passengers' and the suite at the end 'Pass The Clock'. It is a triumphant album where many of the songs have often been on setlists over the years including on the recent "Mostly Beautiful Live 2011" album. The songs encompass a journey through life, the highs and lows that we experience metaphorically portrayed.

There are some emotional ballads such as 'Another Life' augmented by Chris Leslie's violin and Marissa Claughan's cello. Findlay has some gorgeous vocals on this track, the lead break soars, and it and it is one of the most beautiful songs on offer here.

The music is beautifully realised with some outstanding passages of flute on 'Bitterness Burnt', and Troy Donockley adds Bouzouki on this mesmirising track. He also adds low whistles, penny whistles, and Uilleann pipes on 'Distant Train' and 'Pass the Clock'.

The theme of being a passenger permeates the album like a concept and the songs link together in other ways too utilising themes and motifs. The lyrical content follows a theme of travelling by various means so this is a concept album for the band.

'Caught In A Fold' is an uplifting upbeat track with the theme of finding freedom augmented by stellar flute and Findlay's passionate bright vocals. It is one of the best Mostly Autumn tracks for years and has become a live favourite for the group. After this powerful optimistic song, the pace is brought down again with a howling wind effect and some acoustics on 'Simple Ways', with Josh sounding like Dave Gilmour vocally. It features a lovely instrumental at the end with a soundscape of picturesque beauty.

'First Thought' is another gentle song showcasing Findlay's inimitable vocals. The uplifting melodies build into different sections until it reaches the chorus. The structure of the song is striking, with an awesome lead solo to augment the optimistic atmosphere.

'Passengers' is a key track for the band and features some of the most incredible musicianship. It is driven by sweet melodies and powerful vocals. It begins with minimal piano and Findlay's serene voice. The build to the chorus is transfixing with a memorable hook "dropping off passengers". There is a sadness in the atmosphere but it is a relaxing beautiful mood generated. The ending is a supernatural train effect and a child singing 'Twinkle Twinkle'. This leads inexorably to the haunting 'Distant Train' instrumental. A divine lead solo kicks it off and some exquisite flute passages. It really captures the feeling of travelling and there is a section reminiscent of 'Empty Spaces', as Pink Floyd are clear influences it is not surprising to be reminded occasionally of their sound. This is stunning music that showcases the virtuoso musicians at their best.

After this wonderful musicscape, 'Answer The Question' follows, with a heavier distorted guitar riff, and faster pace. Josh sounds great on vocals in the verses, a bit like Gilmour and he is joined by Findlay. The chugging guitar riffs drive it along effectively, waking our senses up after all the ambience previous. The piano is wonderful on this track and it builds majestically. Every track is a treasure on this album and we have still yet to come to the big finale epic.

'Pass The Clock Parts 1/2/3' is the 12 minute suite in 3 parts. This became an integral track for the group, as the 10 year celebration was heralded with the 3 CD compilation "Pass The Clock 1998-2008", a collection of 35 remastered tracks spanning their career. It begins with tranquil measured ambience, Josh and Findlay trading off vocals, and then a drum burst and Hammond breaks out the faster cadence. Jennings is masterful on that shimmering Hammond, that blazes away like Emerson. The album peaks right at the end with a blistering climax of staggering musicianship.

The three bonus tracks on the remastered 2010 edition includes 2009 live versions of 'Caught In A Fold' (3:51), 'Simple Ways' (6:44) and 'Passengers' (5:57) all of which are played superbly. It is a nice bonus to revisit three of the best songs on the album in a live rendition lasting about 17 minutes.

"Passengers" is an outstanding conceptual masterpiece that resonated with me from the first listen. It has some of the band's best songs and some incredible melodic musicianship. The band are to return to many of these songs in subsequent concert performances and in fact many appear on the setlist of the 2011 concerts, in favour of albums to follow. The reason is because on this album everything works so well, the music, the lyrics, the melodies and the singing; all are perfectly realised. The Celtic influences are long gone now so for anybody to expect this, is going to have to live in the past, as Mostly Autumn have moved on to a modern sound and they needed to. I love the earlier material as much as anybody but they had done as much as they could with that style and needed to progress. Mostly Autumn may be underrated in prog circles but this is definitely one album worth locating as it is simply mesmirising beauty that uplifts the spirit. It proves that as far as Mostly Autumn are concerned, the Spirit carries on.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |


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