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WOOLLY WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso biography
STUART "WOOLLY" WOLSTENHOLME rose to prominence as a founder member of melodic Prog band BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST in the late 1960s. Teaching himself to play keyboards, he soon became a pioneer of the Mellotron rivalling Mike Pinder (THE MOODY BLUES) as one of the instrument's leading exponents, though his trademark lush orchestrations and very English proggish sensibilities brought him into musical conflict with the rest of the band who wished to pursue more commercial territories. In 1979 he ventured on a solo career with the blueprint album "Męstoso" which established him as the natural heir to BJH's Proggier side. "Męstoso" was a critical success but sadly a commercial failure, and, after a couple of tours, recording of a follow-up was abandoned as a disillusioned Woolly retired from the music business.

In the late 1990s, Woolly returned to the Barclay James Harvest fold after an encounter with John Lees rekindled his interest in music, subsequently resurrecting his solo career using the pseudonym MĘSTOSO to denote a collaboration with a regular group of talented musicians working as a tight band under his leadership. This band continues to record in a style instantly recognisable to fans of earlier BJH music: a mixture of soft-rock AOR, complete with searing guitar phrases from Steve Broomhead, and more adventurously orchestrated songs with extended Prog structures, presented with infectious enthusiasm in Woolly's idiosyncratic style yet encompassing subjects and themes sometimes lyrically dark and subtly foreboding.

The back catalogue is small but littered with masterpieces like "Patriots" (MĘSTOSO 1980), "Deceivers All" (SONGS FROM THE BLACK BOX 1994) and "2 A.M." (ONE DROP IN A DRY WORLD 2004). GRIM, released in October 2005, is arguably the best studio album to date, showing off Woolly's, and the band's, talents to excellent effect with material ranging from Prog quirkiness to simple acoustic ballad. He continues to use Mellotron, but "Grim", as with all his solo work, is packed with a variety of textures including Hammond, piano, synths and twelve-string guitars alongside the guitar-bass-drums combo. Released earlier in 2005, the live-as-it-happened FIDDLING MEANLY, recorded before a select audience with no overdubs, effectively demonstrates the band's skills and camaraderie in the live arena as well as Woolly's natural warmth and humour.

- Julian Mackrell (Joolz) -

See Also:
- STUART "WOOLLY" WOLSTENHOLME rose to prominence as a founder member of melodic Prog band BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST in the late 1960s. Teaching himself to play keyboards, he soon became a pioneer of the Mellotron rivalling Mike Pinder (THE MOODY BLUES) as one of the instrument's leading exponents, though his trademark lush orchestrations and very English proggish sensibilities brought him into musical conflict with the rest of the band who wished to pursue more commercial territories. In 1979 he ventured on a solo career with the blueprint album "Męstoso" which established him as the natural heir to BJH's Proggier side. "Męstoso" was a critical success but sadly a commercial failure, and, after a couple of tours, recording of a follow-up was abandoned as a disillusioned Woolly retired from the music business.

In the late 1990s, Woolly returned to the Barclay James Harvest fold after an encounter with John Lees rekindled his interest in music, subsequently resurrecting his solo career using the pseudonym MĘSTOSO to denote a collaboration with a regular group of talented musicians working as a tight band under his leadership. This band continues to record in a style instantly recognisable to fans of earlier BJH music: a mixture of soft-rock AOR, complete with searing guitar phrases from Steve Broomhead, and more adventurously orchestrated songs with extended Prog structures, presented with infectious enthusiasm in Woolly's idiosyncratic style yet encompassing subjects and themes sometimes lyrically dark and subtly foreboding.

The back catalogue is small but littered with masterpieces like "Patriots" (MĘSTOSO 1980), "Deceivers All" (SONGS FROM THE BLACK BOX 1994) and "2 A.M." (ONE DROP IN A DRY WORLD 2004). GRIM, released in October 2005, is arguably the best studio album to date, showing off Woolly's, and the band's, talents to excellent effect with material ranging from Prog quirkiness to simple acoustic ballad. He continues to use Mellotron, but "Grim", as with all his solo work, is packed with a variety of textures including Hammond, piano, synths and twelve-string guitars alongside the guitar-bass-drums combo. Released earlier in 2005, the live-as-it-happened FIDDLING MEANLY, recorded before a select audience with no overdubs, effectively demonstrates the band's skills and camaraderie in the live arena as well as Woolly's natural warmth and humour.

- Julian Mackrell (Joolz) -

See Also:
-
Woolly Wolstenholme on MySpace
- Barclay James Harvest



Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
Woolly Wolstenholme's output fully deserves to be included alongside that of his mother band, which it resembles without being too derivative.



Discography:
Męstoso (1980 - studio album)
Too Late ... (1989 - limited edition cassette)
Songs From The Black Box (1994 - compilation)
Black Box Recovered (2004 - compilation)
One Drop In A Dry World (2004 - studio album)
Fiddling Meanly (2005 - live album)
Grim (2005 - studio album)
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Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso official website

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WOOLLY WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO discography


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WOOLLY WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.29 | 17 ratings
Męstoso
1980
2.51 | 5 ratings
Songs From The Black Box
1994
3.21 | 10 ratings
One Drop In A Dry World
2004
3.76 | 12 ratings
Grim
2005
3.81 | 8 ratings
Caterwauling
2007

WOOLLY WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 6 ratings
Fiddling Meanly
2005

WOOLLY WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

WOOLLY WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 3 ratings
Black Box Recovered
2004

WOOLLY WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

WOOLLY WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Black Box Recovered by WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO, WOOLLY album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2004
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Black Box Recovered
Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars Wolstenholme was prepared for a great new step in his career as documented in the numerous live shows of his personal band around early-80's as well as the material he started to record for a second album, reputedly entitled ''Black box''.However it appears that Polydor lost interest in Wolstenholme's music and the man himself resided dissapointed initially in Lancashire and later in West Wales.In 1994 the debut album along with Woolly's material for the second release was offered by Voiceprint in ''Songs from the black box''.An even better issue of these archival recordings appeared in 2004, when Wolstenholme was back alive and kickin', under the title ''Black box recovered'', released on Eclectic Discs.

Eighteen tracks in here, all first nine of those cover both the finished and incomplete pieces of the ''Black box'' album.Anyone having heard the bonus tracks of the ''Maestoso'' album will know exactly what to expect.Wolstenholme had made a slight turn towards a more radio-friendly sound, containing even some AOR hints ala TOTO, JOURNEY or BOSTON, but the material is perefectly composed with instant melodies, deep keyboard passages and beautiful, sensitive vocals, colored by romantic acoustic interludes and a certain old BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST flavor in the nice, background synthesizers.But there are also plenty of symphonic moves among the ideas, in fact Woolly's ideas have much in common with STEVE HACKETT's work around the time, presenting a more refined and accesible Symphonic Rock with dreamy textures and atmospheric soundscapes.Great mix of old Orchestral Rock with Melodic Rock was actually what was intended to be the original ''Black box''.

The rest of the album includes unreleased material (''Why remain'', an acoustic piece filled with a nostalgic GENESIS romanticism), demo versions of Woolly's pieces, live recordings and a new composition.The demo versions have a less decent quality than Woolly's original albums. as expected, while the live-captured material shows that this group of experienced musicians had a lot to offer to the Art Rock scene and the public, playing grandiose Art Rock with symphonic underlines and excellent melodies.The closing ''Bootham park elegy'' was recorded by Wolstenholme in 2003 and comes as a mellow composition of ethereal Orchestral/New Age Music with cinematic synths, melancholic vocals and acoustic guitars.

Great compilation linked to Wolstenholme's second but never released album.Melodic and perfectly composed music with strong proggy overtones, rockin' textures and emotional landscapes.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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 Męstoso by WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO, WOOLLY album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.29 | 17 ratings

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Męstoso
Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars A talented keyboardist and a founding member of Barclay James Harvest, Stuart John ''Woolly'' Wolstenholme was born in Chadderton, Lancashire in 1947 and produced no less than 9 studio albums with BJH, before quiting dissapointed by the direction the band was taking by late-70's.Woolly formed his own band helped by Mandalaband members Steve Broomhead on guitars and Kim Turner on drums, whom he met during the recording sessions of ''The Eye of Wendor''.Between January and April 1980 Woolly's debut solo album ''Maestoso'' was recorded, eventually released in October of the same year on Polydor.

The album consists either from BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST leftovers or totally new compositions, written by Wolstenholme.While the commercial opener ''Sail away'' will take you by a surprise, being a light rock ballad in a SUPERTRAMP vein (along with ''Lives on the line''), the rest of the album flows in a familiar BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST style, for which Wolstenholme was known by throwing all these emotional keyboard sounds.Incredible artistic calm rockers and beautiful orchestral mini prog suites are the main styles met throughout the listening, always having Wolstenholme's keyboard work on the forefront, and based also on the delicate vocal arrangements.His collaboration with Broomhead's electric guitars reminds often of his days with John Lees, fine and smooth touch on the chords with some nice solos here and there along with good keyboard runs.''Patriots'' and the title track are great highlights, old-school Orchestral Prog in a typical BARCLAY HARVEST JAMES and even GENESIS vein, including Classical-influenced keyboards and atmospheres along with great vocals and mellow electric guitars, producing though a more than grandiose atmosphere.

The Eclectic CD reissue contains also a couple of live tracks originally intended for the second album of Wolstenholme, recorded in Vienna in February 82'.These come in a more straight rock vein but always with a great qualitive value, seeing the fully renamed Maestoso band performing in full energy and power and delivering some catchy but amazingly well- crafted musicianship, both deserve the addition in this excellent reissue.

''Maestoso'' is a great tribute by Woolstenholme to this unique BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST sound, which seemed to fade away for good by late-70's.Smooth orchestral Progressive/Art Rock filled both with dramatic and romantic moments.Warmly recommended.

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 Caterwauling by WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO, WOOLLY album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.81 | 8 ratings

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Caterwauling
Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso Eclectic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Talk about a late bloomer!

Woolly Wolstenholme joined the music industry already back in the 60's. But it isn't until this new millennium that he has written his best material! But not only his best material, it is also the case that he has written more material during this millennium than during the previous one, despite the fact that this one has just started. Woolly was, of course, a member of Barclay James Harvest from the late 60's to the late 70's for which he wrote about one song per album. He then left the band and released one solo album called Maestoso in 1980. After that he started to work on a second one, but it didn't work out for some reason (I don't know the details) and he then left the music industry altogether.

However, as I have already mentioned, in this new millennium he returned and has so far released as many as three further studio albums under the name of Maestoso in 2003, 2005 and 2007 respectively! The first one of these I heard was the 2005 release Grim, and I was really impressed with it, so I had to check out Caterwauling as well. Both these albums are really good (I have not heard the 2003 one yet).

On the sticker that was on the Caterwauling CD case there is a quote from All Music Guide saying "Wolstenholme's recorded work with Maestoso is not just the best of any Barclay James Harvest side projects, but is equal to any work by Barclay James Harvest in their prime". I completely agree! Indeed, I find this more interesting than any album by Barclay James Harvest!

Musically, Caterwauling is very similar to Grim. Maestoso is listed under Eclectic Prog which I think is very appropriate. However, there are influences here from Symphonic Prog, Prog Folk, Crossover Prog and Proto-Prog as well as straight Folk and even a bit of Country thrown in for good measure. If you want references to other bands I can mention Strawbs, which is the closest point of reference I can think of. But also Procol Harum, King Crimson and, of course, Barclay James Harvest, but not too much, maybe even a bit of John Lennon might give you an idea. As on Grim, there is a perfect mix between the harmonic and the dissonant, the humours and the serious, the conventional and the weird, the sombre and the gritty. And it all holds together well.

Overall the album is very melodic and quite mellow with many ballads, but there are some rather surprising harder rocking passages and some very good lead guitar work on many tracks. The album starts with a short spoken introduction with the word Caterwauling being repeated over and over in different voices. I must say that I don't quite see the point of this introduction. The 11+ minute Soldier Of Fortune is the first real song of the album. The brutal and dissonant guitar sound on the opening section of this song is strongly influenced Robert Fripp as it sounds very much like King Crimson. It then changes radically to a much more harmonic and symphonic guitar solo, more reminiscent of John Lees of Woolly's former band. After this the song changes again, radically, to a very mellow, folky vocal part backed by washes of Mellotron. The earlier parts of the song are then repeated towards the end of the song. This song tells a story of a man who went to war and this story is continued on the third track, The Road To Nowhere.

All instruments are very well played and the backing band here has nothing to envy from Barclay James Harvest. The keyboards, mainly Mellotron and piano, are omnipresent, but as on Barclay James Harvest's albums, the keyboard playing of Woolly was never flashy or virtuosic. He was never a Rick Wakeman or a Keith Emerson, or even a Tony Banks. The keyboards here rather just provide a symphonic backdrop for the lead guitars and vocals. Woolly's vocals are fragile and tender but not weak. I think he has matured as a vocalist over the years and I find his voice pleasant.

This album is a very nice addition to any Prog collection, but I do recommend you to start with Grim, which is the better of the two in my opinion. Both these albums are very recommended!

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 Caterwauling by WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO, WOOLLY album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.81 | 8 ratings

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Caterwauling
Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso Eclectic Prog

Review by ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer

3 stars It is always with pleasure that I review a Whoolly (or Maestoso) album. Not that the band released several masterpieces but as he was (IMHHO) the proggiest element in BJH, I have considered his work with interest.

So, what do we have here?

Well, the worse and the best actually. The listener shouldn't be distracted by the awful (but very short ? less than a minute) opener and title track, because what is coming next is probably one of the most complex and at times the most beautiful song released by the man.

''Soldier Of Fortune'' almost opens as a Crimson track: heavy, weird, chaotic. It then turns into a pure symphonic jewel full of mellotron (yes, I love this instrument). The long instrumental passages are absolutely outstanding. They can compete with ''Firth Of Fifth'' probably (no, I'm not kidding). But the problem are the vocal parts: fully folkish and somewhat naļve. They are in total opposition with these fantastic keys and guitar parts which are pure melody and passion.

After this very special song, a more common and straight-forward pop-oriented track ('' The Road To Nowhere'') contrasts severely with the complexity of ''Soldier?''. Not bad, but nothing from the other world (like the heavy-rock ''The Collector'').

If by any chance, you are found of the ''Trespass'' era, there is no doubt that you will succumb to the charm of ''Matilda Yarrow''. Again, the instrumental passages are way better than the sung ones. The overall tranquil mood conveys a nice pastoral feeling to this symphonic/folk affair. And what to say about the simple and naked beauty of the ultra romantic (in the mood) of the light and sweet ''Closure''. Whole a lot of shivers down my spine...

Whoolly excels of course in the writing of these sorts of ballads, even if again the vocals during ''Always'' aren't particularly great. But boy! These musical parts are so melodic! Most of the album is made of pastoral and folkish moments but some (like I have already mentioned) are better than others (like the well named bluesy-folky ''I Don't Like You'').

I also have to say that the attempts to rock aren't always successful (but I had the same feeling about these under the BJH umbrella). ''Tonight?'' highlights this fact. But the man is of course the master of symphony (mixing classic with prog) and another brilliant example is the superb ''Shoes''. What a melody my prog friends!

In all, there are excellent songs here, but they are compensated with weaker ones and above all (sorry for this Whoolly), some vocal parts that are not on par at all. I consider this album as a good one and therefore rate it with three stars. It is good to see that Whoolly is again regularly back with new works since 2004.

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 Męstoso by WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO, WOOLLY album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.29 | 17 ratings

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Męstoso
Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso Eclectic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars In search of England

Maestoso is Woolly Wolstenholme's first solo album, released just after he had left Barclay James Harvest. In many ways Woolly was the most progressively inclined member of that band and when he left they soon drifted towards more commercial territory (but then again, so did most bands in the 80's). However, there are some commercial sounding songs on this album as well.

Maestoso was originally the name of a song that Woolly had written for Barclay James Harvest but that had been rejected by the band. This song is here and it is hard to see why they rejected it, since it is far better than most late 70's Barclay James Harvest songs. Woolly would later also adopt the name Maestoso for his band.

What we find here are nine songs never straying too far away from Barclay James Harvest territory. Some of the songs, the best ones, are in the style of the material Woolly had written for the band in the 70's, like Beyond The Grave and In Search Of England. Other songs are more towards the style John Lees and Les Holroyd would write in. Melodic, mellow and slightly bombastic. There are also a couple of straight Pop songs like the opening Sail Away.

There are some lovely moments here and overall the album is a good one, but not great. Still, I would say that it is about as good as the better albums by Barclay James Harvest! Recommended for fans of that band. Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso would go on to make much better albums in the present millennium, however.

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 Grim by WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO, WOOLLY album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.76 | 12 ratings

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Grim
Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso Eclectic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Burlesque musical?

I find this more interesting than any album by Barclay James Harvest. Grim is diverse yet consistent, there are no awful songs. The songs are full of quirks and there is a perfect mix of the harmonic and the dissonant, the humours and the serious, the conventional and the weird, the sombre and the gritty. And it all holds together very well. Grim has the same kind of dark atmosphere as some of Steve Hackett's recent albums like the excellent To Watch The Storms. The cover art captures this atmosphere very nicely. On the photo of the band inside the booklet they look as if they belong to a different age. They look really cool, I think!

Overall the album is quite mellow but there are some surprising harder rocking passages and some very good lead guitar work on many tracks. The guitars are surprisingly well played and the backing band here has nothing to envy from Barclay James Harvest. Rather, Barclay James Harvest has something to envy from Maestoso. The keyboards, mainly Mellotron, are omnipresent, but as on Barclay James Harvest's albums, the keyboard playing of Woolly was never flashy or virtuosic. He was never a Rick Wakeman or a Keith Emerson, or even a Tony Banks. The keyboards here rather just provide a symphonic backdrop for the lead guitars and vocals.

The electric guitars on the softer passages on Trough A Storm sound very much like Robert Fripp. Indeed, this song has several similarities with King Crimson's early style. Woolly's vocals are fragile and tender but not weak. He could perhaps be compared with Richard Wright of Pink Floyd vocally. And perhaps not just vocally, they were both keyboard players in bands with much larger egos than themselves and both made good albums outside their bands emphasizing their own individual aspect of their respective bands.

The material is strong but it took several listens for me before I got into it. Some of the songs have a strong Folk influence, which I like. Harp + Carp is the most folky tune here, it begins in a very traditional vein, but half-way through there is a surprising rather dissonant guitar onslaught that ends with some church like organ and a harmonic symphonic ending. Interesting!

There are also many classical influences. Loot is a little acoustic guitar piece in classical style written by the guitarist of the band, Steve Broomhead. A lovely interlude! In addition to Mellotron, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, drums and vocals there are some trumpet, mandolin, musical saw, bull fiddle and recorders. It very often sounds like they have a full symphony orchestra in there!

The last three tracks are given the humorous heading of Three Pieces Of Musical? - The Musical and starts with an overture called Marsch Burleske.

With folky, classical, rock (and burleske!?) influences, Eclectic Prog is indeed the perfect description of this music. Maybe this is what Barclay James Harvest should have been more like.

Recommended!

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 Black Box Recovered by WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO, WOOLLY album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2004
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Black Box Recovered
Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso Eclectic Prog

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Taking some time on

The sessions for Woolly's second album "Black box" were not released as planned in 1982, the songs eventually appearing in 1994 on the "Songs from the black box album". That release contained 9 songs from the "Black box" recordings, together with Woolly's debut album "Męstoso" in its entirely. "Songs from the black box" was subsequently deleted, while "Męstoso" remained available on CD. In response to ongoing demand from fans, the "Black box" tracks were repackaged in 2004, with nine unreleased tracks being added in place of the "Męstoso" songs. The results were re-titled "Black box recovered".

The opening "Deceivers all" was rather lost on the 1994 "Songs from the black box" album. Thankfully this magnificent number has been given pole position for this release. The track simply oozes classic BJH sounds and atmospheres, including John Lees like lead guitar by Steve Broomhead and Woolly's symphonic mellotron sound. As with all the tracks here, this is not quite the finished article, the vocals being noticeably far back in the mix (perhaps deliberately). It really is a wonderful lost BJH song though, and one which would have been a highlight of albums such as "Octoberon".

The nine tracks which are deemed to form "Black box" offer a fine diversity of styles, ranging from the soft acoustic to the magnificently pompous; in the case of "The Sunday bells", all in one track. While the recordings for the album were never seen through to completion, the quality in terms of sound and arrangement here is excellent throughout.

One further song "Why remain" from these sessions is added to this release, a gentle but unremarkable piano based ditty. We then have 4 demos of songs which were included on the "Męstoso" album. These versions are actually in a well advanced state, but devoid of drums.

Thereafter we have three live tracks recorded on a smuggled cassette recorder in Vienna in 1981 when the band were supporting Styx on a tour. Two of the tracks are from "Męstoso" and one from "Black box". The harshness of the sound quality is distracting, but the performances are excellent.

The album closes with a new song recorded in 2003 for this compilation. "Bootham Park elegy" is similar atmospherically to "The Sunday Bells", painting a rural picture on a gentle landscape.

In all, a well presented repackaging of Woolly's lost second album which offers much to enjoy. The bonus tracks are interesting but far from essential, with the exception of the new song which is worth hearing.

Random thought - why don't they make planes out of the material used for the black box?

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 One Drop In A Dry World by WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO, WOOLLY album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.21 | 10 ratings

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One Drop In A Dry World
Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso Eclectic Prog

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars So many setting suns

Having rejoined the circus which is the music industry after a lengthy sabbatical, following a chance meeting with John Lees, in 2003 Barclay James Harvest's Woolly Wolstenholme set about recording his first new solo material for over 20 years. As usual, he uses the band name Maestoso for the project. Only long term associate guitarist Steve Broomhead remains from the 1980's line up, his song writing contribution being limited to one co-credit. The album was recorded over a 13 day period in November 2003, and finalised for release in January 2004.

A brief symphonic introduction featuring Woolly's trusty mellotron leads to the three part "Blood and bones". This powerful trilogy is a little harder than we are used to from Wolstenholme, but the lush mellotron reminds us of the days when the instrument was a feature of the BJH sound. The "Requiem" section features some exquisite violin prior to a return of the main theme.

"A waiting game" bemoans the commercialism of Christmas, the sound being light and acoustic. The inclusion of an oboe solo playing "The first noel" is corny but effective. The song reminds me a little of BJH's "The iron maiden".. Or is it "Galadriel"? "It's U" is a throwback to the 1960's, including the primitive use of stereo which was a feature of recordings at that time.

"Souk" is the only track not written by Woolstenholme alone, the song beginning life as an instrumental by Steve Broomhead. Lyrics were subsequently added, reflecting the North African flavour of the music and giving the song a sort of "Kashmir" feel. The title track seems to be a song about a hangover, while "ANSS" (A nothing summer song) is a lightweight song about holiday hooligans.

"The end of the road" and "Explorers" are pleasantly melodic without ever really lighting a fire. "2A.M." reflects the misery of insomnia, perhaps being written by Woolly from personal experience. There is a menacing aspect to the song which makes it rather different to the norm for Woolly; the mellotron is used to enhance the dramatic effect.

The lyrics of "The starving people of the world all thank you for your time", are the same as the title, the song being a sort of cross between "Give peace a chance" and "I've seen all good people". The closing "Carpet" describes the "Magic carpet ride" presumably of Woolly's time in BJH. The brief lyrics are directed at an unnamed former colleague (Les Holroyd perhaps). Lines such as "Was it the money, was it fame that made you play a different game?" indicate that even Woolly, who appeared to be on the periphery of the bad blood, also holds a level of frustration and resentment. The final "setting sun" lyric may refer to Holroyd's song "It's my life" which opens his first album as BJH Featuring Les Holroyd which includes the line "Time moves on like a setting sun" *. The song is used musically to form a grand ("Four gong") conclusion to the album.

In all, a decent comeback album from Woolly. While never really matching the lofty heights of his work with BJH, or indeed his first solo album, there is enough good material here to prove that there is plenty of life in the old dog yet!

* Coincidentally, Woolly himself uses a "Setting sun" lyric on his song "Harbour" which appeared on BJH's XII album. Holyoyd also used the reference on "The Song (They Love To Sing)" on "Eyes of the universe". Furthermore, the sleeve of the "Gone to earth" album has a picture of, yes, a setting sun.

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 Songs From The Black Box by WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO, WOOLLY album cover Studio Album, 1994
2.51 | 5 ratings

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Songs From The Black Box
Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso Eclectic Prog

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Betjeman meets Quasimodo

After recording his first solo album "Męstoso" in 1980, Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme quickly returned to the studio to record a follow up album. Many of the tracks were seen through to an almost complete state, but the album with the working title "Black box" was not released at the time.

"Songs from the black box" is a compilation of the material recorded for "Black box" along with all the tracks from "Męstoso". I shall focus here on the "Black box" material, which makes up about half the album, as "Męstoso" is listed and reviewed separately on this site.

We open with "Has to be a reason" (but see the "Black box recovered" album for a much better sequencing which puts "Deceivers all" up front), an up-tempo song with an elaborate arrangement. Woolly is in fine vocal form, his singing being sympathetically multi-tracked. The song is reminiscent of BJH songs such as "Crazy city", with some excellent guitar by Steve Broomhead.

Thereafter, the album consists of a good mix of lighter, sometimes almost pop material, and powerful, symphonic bursts. The first six tracks are described by Woolly as being "almost finished". The aforementioned "Deceivers all" is undoubtedly the highlight of the set. The song was clearly written with a view to it being included on a BJH album, and the arrangement here makes no effort to disguise that intention.

The remaining three tracks are effectively advanced demos by Woolly. "The will to fly" is an anti-blood sports ballad which once again would have fitted in well on a BJH album had it been seen through to completion by the band. Even as it is here, the song is an evocative piece, brimming with emotion. "The Sunday bells" is a soft acoustic number describing Wolstenholme's native area. The track concludes with one of Woolly's great symphonic escapes which he himself describes as " Betjeman meets Quasimodo"!

The closing "Open" features Procol Harum like organ backing a melodic "Homburg" like song. It is far from original, but a fine song anyway. Thereafter, we are into the "Męstoso" album.

For an album which was never quite finished, the music here is of a uniformly high quality in terms of writing, performance and arrangement. The results are at least on a par with, and arguably superior to, anything which has been released in the BJH name since Woolly left that band.

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 Grim by WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO, WOOLLY album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.76 | 12 ratings

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Grim
Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso Eclectic Prog

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars Dark now my sky? More of a happy old world really

Woolly Wolstenholme's contribution to the success of Barclay James Harvest has never been fully recognised. John Lees and Les Holroyd arguably have the stronger voices and are the principal songwriters, but it was the keyboard work of Woolly, together with his contribution of about one song per album, which transformed the band into the major act they have remained for almost 40 years.

Wolstenholme actually retired from music altogether for an extended period, only returning towards the end of the last century to join John Lees version of BJH. He has since come through health issues and rekindled his solo career.

"Grim" was released in 2005, and is without doubt his finest achievement to date. The title is a reference to the phrase "grim up north", relating to the satanic mills and challenging lifestyle of midlands and northern England during the industrial revolution. There is a confidence and majesty to this album which was lacking on some of Maestoso's earlier material, the songs tending to have more in common with Woolly's songs for BJH such as "Ra" and "Beyond the grave".

After the brief amusing intro of "Coming soon.", "Through a storm" is a magnificent slice of power prog which is right up there with anything Woolly wrote for BJH. This 7 minute epic in four parts offers a feast of keyboard layers over which Wolstenholme places one of his finest vocal performances.

My criticism of other solo offerings by Woolly has tended to focus on his vocals. While in general I enjoy his style, I find he does not have the strength to carry an entire album. This is where "Grim" differs though, as the songs here are ideal for his voice, while Wolstenholme himself appears to have made a significant effort to improve things too.

Acoustic guitar is a welcome feature throughout the album, introducing songs such as "A lark" and "Love is". "That's The price you pay" is not the Springsteen song of a similar name, but there is a passing resemblance in the mood of the song and the pleasant melody.

One of the more bizarre twists on the album is the wonderful "The iceman cometh", a paean to the ice cream van which combs the streets selling wares of dubious quality and price ("What goes on inside the dairy"). The brief "loot" is Steve Broomhead's "Horizons"; a pleasing acoustic guitar solo.

Another interesting number is "Harp + carp". Anyone familiar with the work of Steeleye Span will recognise the title as being extracted from the lyrics of the traditional "Thomas the Rhymer". It is only the lyrics though which are "distilled" from that song, the heavy melody being entirely contemporary.

"Abendrot" is an arrangement by Wolstenholme of a piece by the composer Falschbier. The piece is reminiscent of "Moonwater" from "Baby James Harvest", with magnificent symphonic qualities. It is followed by a second orchestral piece "Overture Marsch Burleske", this time composed by Woolly himself.

Overall, a fine album from Woolly, who is in many ways doing more to keep the spirit of BJH alive than his colleagues who enviously cling on to the name in ludicrous formats. Here, we can still find vestiges of the prog influences which characterised the work of that band in the 1970s.

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