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Mostly Autumn - The Spirit Of Autumn Past CD (album) cover

THE SPIRIT OF AUTUMN PAST

Mostly Autumn

 

Prog Folk

3.81 | 110 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars Catch The Spirit.

Mostly Autumn are a band I have been drawn to over the years after seeing them play on a compilation DVD. I was immediately transfixed by the power of the music, the performance of guitarist Josh Bryan and especially the wonderful vocal talents of Heather Findlay. The atmosphere is a mixture of Celtic ambience and Folk meets a rocked up optimistic Pink Floyd style, along with shades of Fairport Convention, Renaissance, Led Zeppelin, and Jethro Tull, due to an emphasis on flute by Angela Goldthorpe. The style is definitely similar to Pink Floyd especially with the keyboard treatment and Bryan's low toned vocals. The second album for the group is one of their most celebrated containing some of their most famous works that are still played live today. On this album, "The Spirit Of Autumn Past", Iain Jennings is present on keyboards, and the mighty Hammond; Bob Faulds lends a hand on violins, and 5 string Zeta violin; Liam Davison is on 6 & 12 string acoustic, electric & slide guitar; Stuart Carver is on bass; and Rob McNeil on drums.

Mostly Autumn really branch out into some Psychedelic Rock on this album and even explore the Celtic sound that they became known for. The opener is the stunning 'Winter Mountain' guided by Goldthorpe's outstanding flute and a hard driving rock sound with a symphonic layer beneath. It has a great riff and some sizzling keyboard soloing; an absolute master class performance.

'This Great Blue Pearl' has a crunching Hammond driving it and some moderate tempo percussion and bass. Findlay and Bryan harmonise well together.

'Pieces of Love' is a work of balladic beauty with Findlay helming the ship, and acoustics, flute and keys laying a foundation of ambient textures. The lyrics are poetic and deep centred in the pain of love; "Pieces of love, Haunting like love, Let the love go wandering away in your mind, Don't question the pain, Breathing like pain, Let the love go wandering away in your mind." It makes a nice break from the intricacies of previous tracks, and features a melancholy violin. The acoustic ballad features Findlay's glistening tones taking centre stage and some delicate acoustic vibrations. The sensuous keyboards and floating flute complete the soundscape of gentle beauty and this is perhaps the band at their most exquisite.

'Please' ventures into pop territory but is a nice balanced track with some spellbinding keyboard passages, especially towards the end.

A quintessential Mostly Autumn track is found on this album that all fans love to hear in the live arena, and of course I speak of none other than 'Evergreen'. Findlay sings with haunting beauty and calm; easily one of most accomplished performances. The melody and tranquil atmosphere is a highlight of the band's extensive repertoire.

'Styhead Tarn' is a bit of a filler enhanced by a pounding drum signature, and it is followed by 2 other mediocre pieces. 'Shindig', a violin abomina? domination is one of those airy fairy things that I could live without. It is shadowed by 'Blakey Ridge/When The Waters Meet', yet another virtual hoedown Folk thing getting jiggy with it.

After these three bland moments, 'Underneath The Ice' seamlessy flows on with acoustic flourishes and a Pink Floydish vibe that has a charm and appeals to my senses. 'Through The Windows' is next and is a bit too concentric on Bryan's dry vocals and violin competing with acoustic for my tastes. I think Bryan improved over time, especially on more recent efforts but this was rather like a rather flavourless folk song.

'The Spirit of Autumn Past' is broken needlessly into 2 parts, but would have worked better as a 9 minute work. It begins with walking on gravel sounds and a wistful piano. It is an organic instrumental very much in the vein of Pink Floyd's quieter moments. Part 2 is the more popular segment where the vocals and melody lock in. Bryan's vocals are like David Gilmour, which is how the majority of his low husky vocals will sound on the next few releases. The melody is infectious and easy to hook into. The music builds with a rhythmic guitar and strong beat. The chorus becomes majestic and then it breaks into minimalist sections before returning to a more uplifting instrumental, backed by violins and dense keyboards.

The 11 and a half minute mini epic 'The Gap Is Too Wide' is a tour de force of atmospherics and symphonic instrumentation. This appears in many live concerts as it gives the band a chance to explore some improvised soloing and unusual musical choices with guest musicians Troy Donockley on Uilleann pipes; The Christchurch Singers including the family and close friends of Susan Jennings; and Marissa Claughn on cello. Findlay's vocals are as soft as a butterfly's wings and Bryan's lengthy lead work soars into the stratosphere; a trademark of subsequent albums. The angelic choirs and mellotrons are blissful and heavenly. This is undoubtedly a masterpiece track cementing the virtuoso skills of the musicians. The Uilleann pipes at the end are a perfect way to close the album, augmented by the sounds of lapping water.

The followup to "For All We Shared" released the same year, "The Spirit Of Autumn Past" is a step in the right direction for the band and one of their most revered albums along with 2001's "The Last Bright Light", and 2003's "Passengers". It is a pleasant journey worth embarking on for a slice of very relaxing ambience and just the right amount of hard rocking guitar; one of the best releases from Mostly Autumn from which the catchphrase originated, so synonymous with their music; "Catch The Spirit".

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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