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Mostly Autumn - The Ghost Moon Orchestra CD (album) cover


Mostly Autumn


Prog Folk

3.76 | 112 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The Ghost Moon Orchestra is the latest release by perennial British band, Mostly Autumn, and the second to feature the talents of Olivia Sparnenn. In my review of this album's predecessor, Go Well Diamond Heart, I speculated whether that or this follow up would be the one to really break the band into the big time where I, for one, feel they properly belong.

Well, sadly I think not. Does this mean it is a bad or disappointing album? Not a bit of it. It is recognisably Mostly Autumn with those familiar lilting female vocals, some excellent musicianship by the usual cast of thousands, and, of course, the unique vocals of Bryan Josh and his trademark guitar sound. It is just that I can't see it breaking the band beyond their, admittedly frantically loyal, fan base, and that is a little bit of a shame.

However, it certainly doesn't seem to bother Josh or his cohorts. He has a musical vision, and he very doggedly and admirably sticks to it. Some of the mainstream press reviews I have seen seem to suggest that this is Mostly Autumn doing an Opeth, I.e. that they have morphed into a kind of metal prog band. I personally don't see that at all. Yes, there is a harder edge to much of this material, but not really any more than in albums such as Storms Over Still Waters. In essence, tracks such as Drops Of The Sun and The Devil & The Orchestra are tracks which take a great deal from classic heavy rock bands such as Rainbow and Purple, with a great deal of the Josh progressive treatment added in. In other words, they rock, and they rock extremely well, and I personally welcome the direction, and that is speaking as someone who joined because of the wonderful folk and Celtic rock tendencies shown in classics such as Passengers.

However, those tendencies are not gone. Take the lush and lovely title track, which has some beautifully delicate piano and a lovely flute turn by Anne Marie Helder, all accompanying a wonderful female vocal. Take also the fragility of Things That We Notice.

The main feature here, in fact, is just how good those vocals are. I know that Josh's vocals are an, ahem, acquired taste (I personally like them), but no one can doubt at all that this is the album which well and truly showcases Olivia's exceptional talent as a vocalist. She shines throughout, and is a joy to listen to, equally adept at the fragile and the powerful, of which there is a good mix everywhere here. Witness especially her performances on the chorus of King of the Valley, a rip snorting carousel of a track which she makes her own and the stunning Wild Eyes Skies. Heather Findlay? Who she?

The album is a loose sort of concept about some ghouls and ghosties congregating around a campsite, and was inspired by one of the apparently frequent such trips the band members enjoy under the stars. No doubt there were some interesting substances inhaled as well, but here Josh shows how good he is as a storyteller, and, to me, this can actually be regarded as very much a follow up from his exceptional solo album in spirit and feel. This especially applies to the wonderful This Ragged Heart, a track featuring lush harmonies between the two main protagonists in addition to a moving main vocal from Josh himself, backed up by a musical piece that cries out its solitude and yearning. Quite exceptional stuff, alongside the equally impressive Tennyson Mansion, which rocks and emotes in equal turns, and has at its heart some incredible symphonic keys backing a huge electric guitar solo.

So, what we have here is another very good release from this great band, who keep motoring on and on in much the same spirit as days of yore. If you enjoy them, you will find a lot to enjoy here. If not, well I don't think this will persuade you much otherwise, but for those readers who are looking to see what the band are like for the first time, or after a lengthy absence away from them, this is a very good place to start. Yes, there is a harder edge to much of it, but there is also much of that English and Celtic folk that we took to all those years ago.

Four stars for this, another excellent release from a band who really should attract a damn sight more attention on this site.

lazland | 4/5 |


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