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Mostly Autumn - Graveyard Star CD (album) cover


Mostly Autumn


Prog Folk

4.14 | 129 ratings

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4 stars Aside from the occasional country-western lead guitar or female vocal stylings, this is no Prog Folk album. Over and over, I find myself reminded of PINK FLOYD--especially the way in which soft and hard power chord sections/riffs with David Gilmour-like searing lead guitar soli are used to offset each other, time and time again. Choosing Coronavirus pandemic themes to sing about explains a lot of the gravity of this album, yet the music is usually quite pretty, engaging, and compelling.

1. "Graveyard Star" (12:05) opens with synth strings banked in orchestra-formation but then, in the second minute, everything switches to eerie Danny Elfman-like. Bryan and Olivia enter, singing alternately in soft, whispery voices. This is IQ! Drums enter at the end of the third minute and Olivia begins singing in a full voice before being joined to sing side-by-side with her husband. As Olivia ramps up to full-power I get a Simone Simon kind of feel. She's got some pipes! COLLAGE-like keyboard work beneath the fiery electric guitar solo before we break down to solo acoustic guitar for Bryan to sing over. He's got a voice and vocal style similar to those of Roger Waters. The song might earn higher marks were I drawn into the lyrics--or if there weren't so many riffs/sounds that seem "borrowed" (including the David Gilmour guitar soloing in the tenth minute). The song then finishes with an odd Peter Schilling "Major Tom (Coming Home)" race toward the finish line. (20/25)

2. "The Plague Bell" (2:00) the title pretty much tells all. A kind of Roger Waters song. (4.25/5)

3. "Skin of Mankind" (4:32) using straight C&W stylings and themes--reminds me of 1987 when I first heard British band IT'S IMMATERIAL's "Driving Away from Home." Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns also come to mind. Even with the addition of traditional Celtic instruments, I still don't get the choice of this style. (7.5/10)

4. "Shadows" (4:14) a song that seems to fall into the BRYAN ADAMS school of Rock though the vocal is more akin to that of Robbie Robertson. Solid and well produced if familiar. (8.75/10)

5. "The Harder That You Hurt" (4:32) quite lovely--though it sounds as if it could have come off of the 2016 MANTRA VEGA album, The Illusion's Reckoning, if slightly more Countrified. Olivia has a pretty awesome voice--she can really hit and hold a note. My favorite song on the album. (9.25/10)

6. "Razor Blade" (7:09) a wonderfully spacious song almost in the TALK TALK/BLUE NILE vein--at least, until the heavy rock instruments burst in at the halfway mark. That's when the lead vocals switch from female to raspy male (not unlike Guy Manning). Musically, this is very powerful; vocally it is neither performed or mixed as well--though Olivia hits some awesomely piercing sustained notes during the "let me go" finish. Another top three song. (13.5/15)

7. "This Endless War" (6:52) is it Floyd or Airbag? The sonic scape at the opening here is interchangeable with both--though probably more with the latter. Piano and C&W twangy female vocal enter in the second minute. Her voice is so delicate, so fragile sounding, you think she's gonna break down and start crying. For the chorus slow drum travel signals the entrance of power chords and the amping up of Olivia's voice. She has some pipes! Reminds me of Joanne Hogg. A solid song, perfectly performed, though nothing really new is introduced here other than standard touchstones of drama and perhaps a topic. Very nice "raunchy" Gilmour-like solo in the instrumental section--very emotional, not unlike the "Comfortably Numb" impact until he starts running with some speed beneath Olivia's voice. A solid song made better by Olivia's power singing and Brian or Chris's awesome solo. (13.5/15)

8. "Spirit of Mankind" (4:58) more simple song structure and palette over which Olivia sings in a Heather Findlay tone--until the chorus at which time she belts it like Pat Benetar. The lyrics are a bit banal and cliché-filled, as the music travels a very white bread classic rock path. Even the guitar soli (acoustic and electric) are by the numbers. (7.75/10)

9. "Back in These Arms" (6:27) anybody for a little "Wish You Were Here"? Until the disco-programmed drums and organ sequence begin, that's what I'm flooded with. Then Bryan and Olivia sing in tandem like Martha and the Muffins or Robbie Robertson. Another solid, if Bryan Adams-like song. I'm happy for the newlyweds. I love the pipes in the instrumental passages after the "let it go" power phrases. Then the stripped bare passage over which Bryan recites his lists. Kind of anthemic in a pop-C&W way. (8.5/10)

10. "Free to Fly" (3:59) lullaby-like piano piece over which Olivia gives a nice plaintive performance. (8.25/10)

11. "The Diamond" (6:01) percussive acoustic guitar strumming like Edison's Children used on Silhouette in 2013. Olivia offers a whispery, sensitive, controlled, vocal performance--kind of Annie Haslam-like. A few instruments are spaciously added as is a second vocal track from Olivia before the whispery choral chorus is performed. Sounds like the Cranberries or the Indigio Girls. A fairly fresh and original feeling/sounding song--with an Anathema finish! My final top three song. (8.75/10)

12. "Turn Around Slowly (12:40) opens like a Renaissance/Magenta song with piano and electrified acoustic guitar playing off each other. I love the fact with a long-playing song a band can take its time to develop themes and palettes with nuance and subtlety. When drums and bass come bursting forth Bryan's Robbie Robertson-like voice comes with it. The song, then, develops like another BRYAN ADAMS/BON JOVI song. Nice guitar work in the middle solo section. The pulsing march/anthem section sounds like a cross between Roger Waters and Guy Manning. This lasts about two minutes before we rush off into another PAT BENETAR theme over which Olivia belts it out like Simone Simons. The music then finishes with everybody running toward the finish line. (21/25)

Total Time 75:29

There are no complex time signatures or complex mutli-track polyphonic weaves; the music is most often quite formulaic in either a classic (Southern) rock or stadium-filling era Pink Floyd. The sound and performers, however, are quite solid, quite confident and talented--especially the guitarist and female vocalist. And the band does not use a ton of cheap 1990s keyboards (thank god!) I guess the thing that bothers me the most about the music here is how derivative it is and how little new/fresh ideas (musically) are expressed.

B-/low four stars; a pleasant, solid run through pandemic themes using many musical styles and themes from rock history (especially the 1980s). Upgraded for exceptional talent, cohesion, persistence, as well as for excellent sound production.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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