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Mostly Autumn - White Rainbow CD (album) cover


Mostly Autumn

Prog Folk

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5 stars My first review and 5 stars? Absolutely, and no question. A recent convert to MA (puzzled as to how I've missed hearing till now) I've had this disc almost exclusively on my system maybe 2 dozen times since it was sent out to me in NZ, the pleasure increasing with each play. . I very much relate to Bryan's love of the mountains and outdoors, clearly evident in the lyrics ? to say nothing of the "big skies" (astro boy here) that are spoken of. Similarly I warm to the heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics which add a great dimension to the (prog) sonics. And that heart- on-sleeve is the heart of this album, written for clearly a much loved friend and band member of many years, Liam Davison. Beautifully done. To begin, we have an opening "Precession", the first bars with sparkling stereo delay creating expectation of great production and care, enhanced by the emotive whistles and pipes of Troy Donockley. A grand, proud welcome. "Viking funeral" (an idea evidently that Liam himself had) with the opening keys immediately arresting the senses, then a device repeated through the album, moments of force giving way to unexpected, timeless peace. Two guitars soloing against a driving backline, then the first of many frisson (musical chills) moments as Troy adds to the aural charge. Track two just starting and my head is reeling with joy already. Oh boy, this is grand. 'take this hand with your invisible hand' is but one lyric of the high emotion, then another frisson moment at the guitar entry and a solo rich in bent note passion. Captivatingly, Olivia Sparnon's heart piercing vocals enter on "Burn", magically matching the song's story, and rising to a phenomenal peak of intensity, another hair raiser. I've not enjoyed her vocals more, and that's a high bar. Her beautifully engaging vocals continue in "Run for the Sun", and by now your heart and soul are open and know you're in for a great journey. It's s a brilliantly crafted song all in itself. With "Western Skies", just when you're thinking you're settling in, it comes alive and dazzles even before the guitar kicks. . "Into The Skies" keeps that momentum, and carries me away, away from cares where i can throw my arms wide open. Then, like the discs pervading contrasts of force giving way to stillness, we leave the open spaces to feel a torment, 'all out off heartbreak' but here is one who still finds their way "Up". Contrast and drama which continues the consistent and brilliant production. And now something very special indeed arrives with "Undertow"", a masterpiece musically, so well played and performed, for my money,, a great exhortation to live life for the better. And then it's "Gone". The music follows the lyrics, evoking that gone is the struggle of life (previous track,Undertow) but also this is obviously returning to the theme, an undertow itself, of lament. Title track and 18 minutes, and a brooding rich introduction. Straight off let me say I've 'passed the time ... fire ablaze ... drinking' 'Old Peculiar' at The Old Dungeon Ghyll, and it was raining (again). MA, you've nailed it. The tragic storm, the terror of it, the likes of this I have not experienced. You take me in there - 'as all the weather sinks through the floor' - with music of such descriptive power. Not an easy task, you even detail the calm before the fury. It's great music too, tragedy aside, the track is a great piece of strong imagery. Olivia shines strident (you'll need to hear it) with magnificent vocals again, lyrics of despair 'that will cut in your heart'' followed and complemented by perfectly placed growling drop tuning in the guitar. . Then, without any dialogue of the escape, we're safe, we focus on the family unit as they return home, where 'everything changes with you' and those hairs are standing up again , more so as the guitar soars it's outro. Bryan, how on earth did you manage to sing "Young"", and yet you go all out and sing it so tenderly. What a tribute. Olivia with you just adds to the poignancy. 'check us out' - it's a farewell song of words absolutely from the heart, and oh the feeling of the end of a summer holiday, an end of the day album closer. Literal yet I also feel am invitation to relate, even if metaphorically ? 'your guitar was your heart, my guitar is my heart', then it turns to togetherness, and something happens in the peripheral left and right channels, and if you didn't have water in the eyes already .... I'm wrung out, this lesser known band has pulled me emotionally, with great music, from one extreme to another,, with a concept album rich in stories, a beginning, developments and a loving close.. There's not many albums do this, MA, you've created a masterpiece. Five very deserved stars and a top shelf space in my collection.
Report this review (#2137371)
Posted Monday, February 18, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Joker move! Moslty Autumn has set the bar very high this year for the contenders for the title of best prog album of the year! This album flows from track to track like an endless river, without dead time, without excuse, without fault. Bryan Josh and Olivia Sparnenn deliver unforgettable voices to melodies that twist in the brain. Angela Gordon's flute in "Gone" comes from another world. Overall, the album tends less towards folk and more towards progressive rock. Or more precisely, the folk accents are integrated even more intimately than in the previous syntheses of Mostly Autumn. Even then the long title track is barely folky at all. Most of the tracks end with these Guilmouresque guitar accents that you never get tired of. Great work there ! The bonus CD is not as great as the main one, except for the extended version of "Gone" which is on par with the short version, and "Thanks". But there isn't a track of this B-side that I woudl rate lower than 4 stars, except for the hard "The Gardener".
Report this review (#2139132)
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the best Mostly Autumn album with Olivia Sparnenn, and she sounds fantastic. While Heather was a fantastic singer, Olivia really shines to the point it is hard to hear Mostly Autumn without her. Also, her duets with Bryan Josh are fantastic, and the two voices always provide much needed variety and complexity. Bryan has outdone himself with the compositions on this one, and the floydian guitar solos are always a main draw. Overall, the somber mood set by White Rainbow creates a vibe that is different from previous releases. From the fantastic cover, to every effort put into this album, it is a real winner. It is hard to pick favorite tracks on this album, but I would go with Western Skies and The Undertow if I had to. There are no fillers, and the album flows like a dream you never wanted to end. It is highly recommended. 4.5 stars.
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Posted Friday, March 8, 2019 | Review Permalink
2 stars I'm new to Mostly Autumn, so I can't put White Rainbow into the context of the rest of their work. I can only compare this album to the great works of prog folk and prog more generally. While White Rainbow is a step above modern popular music, it is certainly not great.

Regarding musical style, it's hard to see why this should qualify as prog folk. Yes, there is occasional use of bagpipes and flute, but mostly this consists of electric guitar, synth, and drums that would fit better in pop-rock or hard rock than folk music. Furthermore, the melodies do not generally evoke a folk sound. I can only assume the album is classified this way because of Mostly Autumn's earlier works, but this album would fit better in the heavy prog or symphonic prog genres.

The beautiful and emotional vocals of Olivia Sparnenn are easily the only aspect of this album that stands out in terms of musical quality. They are brought a notch down, however, by the fact that the music never requires her to sing anything intricate. Nothing in the instrumental music (guitars, bass, keyboards, winds) requires any more than mediocre proficiency in order to play. If you are looking for instrumental virtuosity, look far away from here. The chord progressions, rhythms, and melodies are generally trite and almost pop-sounding, and while there are some interesting arrangements and captivating moments, they are paced so slowly that I quickly lose interest.

That said, there is not much that is really bad here. The music is just far more boring than it is good. Feel free to listen, but it wouldn't be hard to find a better way to spend 78 minutes.

Report this review (#2216842)
Posted Thursday, May 30, 2019 | Review Permalink

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