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Mostly Autumn - Heroes Never Die -The Anthology CD (album) cover


Mostly Autumn


Prog Folk

4.03 | 12 ratings

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4 stars This was a single disk anthology presumably released to showcase the first four studio albums. It has since been removed from the band’s catalog, and the songs here all appear on the two-disk Catch the Spirit anthology released later the same year with a similar cover (and a higher price). I got this one from one of my kids after watching his V Shows DVD and picking up the Lord of the Rings CD for myself. Pretty much everything the band does now makes it onto my music buying list after hearing both of those.

I like that these guys are considered folk progressive. I think that is a highly accurate description, and would have been disappointed if their sometimes seemingly derivative sound and their obvious business sensibilities had gotten them labeled as only a prog- related band. I think Mostly Autumn represents both a new wave of progressive music with a folk tinge to it, and also a throwback to larger, mixed-gender bands where the females are integral parts of the creative process and not simply window dressing.

I don’t know enough about the band to know if this is a good song selection for an anthology since I only own Lord of the Rings out of their first four albums, but I can say that after reading through the long list of the Catch the Spirit collection (and seeing it’s price), that if you can find this one instead – buy it. You get a very solid sampling of the band and an instant collector’s item to boot, since it is now an out-of-print curio for a band that will only continue to get bigger as time goes on.

Findlay’s vocals are just gorgeous on “Never the Rainbow”, and combined with Bryan Josh’s heavily Gilmour-influenced guitar, deep bass, and heavy organ chords has a real 70s feel to it. One of the many singers Findlay reminds me of, particularly on this song, is Tanya Donnelly of Throwing Muses from around that period. She projects strong sensuality and emotion without seemingly even trying – this just seems to be the way she is. Musically this isn’t anything overly complex – a fairly straightforward rock rhythm, some pretty decent guitar work that vacillates between neo-psychedelic and metal, some keyboards but really more as a garnish than a central part of the music. None of the parts are spectacular, but combined they make for a song that I have had on heavy favorites rotation on my PC’s media player for a couple years now.

“We Come and We Go” has more of the whining, Floydish guitar, but also a bit of just plain strumming. Both Findlay and flautist Goldthrope provide slow and evocative vocals and again leave me wondering what it is about this song that draws me to it. Not sure, but this is absolutely a lover’s song as well as a tender moment for couples at any Mostly Autumn concert.

Josh sings on “Please”, a track that is heavy with synthesized and drawn-out keyboards, plus the by-now expected whining guitar. The simple beat and Josh’s pensive voice kind of give this the feel of 80s bands like Psychedelic Furs, but with less creepy vocals.

“The Spirit of Autumn Past” is a duet, sort of. At least both Josh and Findlay sing on it. This one has some brief forays into some slightly awkward guitar riffs in the middle, but the piano and organ lead it nicely to an end. As it appears on the anthology this is only an average recording, but this is one of several songs on the album that could easily have been enhanced with some extended instrumental sections and perhaps a more liberal use of percussion or orchestral accompaniment.

“Evergreen” was the first Mostly Autumn song I ever heard, and is still one of my favorites. This starts of slowly with plucked acoustic guitar and willowy keyboards, leading to Findlay in a dreamy soprano that sounds all the world like Kate Bush. This one never really picks up much steam until around the middle, but the multi-layered keyboards and occasional recorder give this a wistful, moody feel that contrasts well with the torrid guitar that finally kicks in around the five minute mark. About the last half of the song turns instrumental, and to my mind this could have easily been explored even further as the pensive mood becomes one that is ever-present throughout the V Shows. This just has a heavy, quality feel to it.

“The Riders of Rohan” is another that reminds me quite a bit of Tanya Donnelly, but perhaps with a bit richer melodic range. This is from the Lord of the Rings album, and except for the intermittent guitar flourishes it has a slightly mystic and brooding feel to it.

I believe “Noise From My Head” is the only original track here, although most of the others have either been re-recorded, or at least re-mastered. Here again the emphasis is on piano and driving guitar, although the guitar is not as heavy on this track as on some others. There’s nothing really special about the song, but it may be of interest to completionists. This is another one that sounds like it came out of the latter 80s with its repetitive lyrics and simple rhythm structure.

“Half the Mountain” is heavy on flute and organ, and here again Josh decides to tackle the vocals. This is a song of yearning about a missing lover, and takes an odd turn about halfway in with a weird tempo change and blast of guitar that you could tell me was done by Pete Trewavas and I wouldn’t be surprised (it wasn’t, by the way). It does seem weird to say that Mostly Autumn’s music isn’t derivative, but I keep pointing out all the people they remind me of. The point should be made that this doesn’t really mean I think they are copying those various musicians’ sounds – I just think they have a knack for mood-setting in their music, and most of the people I’ve mentioned up to now also tended to excel at this as well.

“Shrinking Violet” starts off a bit like “Evergreen”, but this one never really picks up much steam. For me this is the weakest track, not bad but not noteworthy either.

Josh’s guitar on “Goodbye Alone” ranges all over the place, and makes for a really interesting listen just to try and figure out what his thought process was in the chord sequences. Frankly I don’t think the composition really gets its legs, but there are several points where I get the impression the guitar and keyboards are just going to take off, but they don’t. A fadeout ending signals to me that this one never got the full development treatment in the studio, and might end up being better in a live version.

There’s not really much to say about “Heroes Never Die” unless you’ve never heard it. It is still probably the most progressive composition to come out of the band. Like so many of their songs, the lead-in is slow and dreamy, light strummed guitar with flute and spacey keyboards setting a mystic mood. Again Josh and Findlay combine to perform the lyrics, and this has the feel of a folkish epic tale, which is sort of what it is. This is supposedly a re-mastered version of the one off their debut – don’t know, haven’t heard that one. But I do know that the guitar and keyboards are not as rich or developed as they are on the V Shows DVD, and this version is a couple minutes shorter than the one on the Prints in the Stone EP. I like this song because all the instruments and all three vocalists have measurable contributions, and it has a definitive ending, as opposed to several of the tracks that just seem to have a vaguely unfinished aura to them.

I can’t really describe well the reasons for liking most of these songs, which isn’t surprising since it’s the mood they evoke that make them memorable, and that is something which is purely subjective and therefore defies definition. I do know that “Never the Rainbow”, We Come and We Go”, “Half the Mountain”, “Evergreen”, and “Heroes Never Die” are songs I can play any time and never get tired of hearing them. For older progressive music fans these will undoubtedly take you back to some moods and emotions from the late 70s and 80s you had probably forgotten. The rest of the songs are good too, but seem to be largely underachieving and may get reworked (probably live) at some point to improve them even further. I highly recommend this anthology to progressive folk fans, older fans of symphonic and more traditional art rock, and those who simply love a great woman’s voice set to ethereal guitar and moody keyboards. Four stars.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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