Who could imagine that Heather Findlay's quitting of Mostly Autumn (MA) would lead to the disbandment of one band and the start of another one? Well, actually that's just what happened, because Heather was replaced by Olivia Sparnenn, who was at the time the lead vocalist of Breathing Space, a band formed after Iain Jennings recorded a solo album. Jennings used to be the keyboardist for MA at the time. When 'Livvy' Sparnenn left Breathing Space she was replaced by Heidi Widdop, who used to sing in MA before Heather Findlay joined that band. Can you still follow me? After Jennings rejoined MA there was little time left for Breathing Space and he eventually pulled the plug. However, the people who were left behind still wanted to make music and they started a new band just like the musicians did who stayed behind when bassist Ian Jones disbanded Karnataka. They started Panic Room that released three albums in the meantime. The lead singer of Panic Room is Anne-Marie Helder who - you've guessed it! - is also a member of MA...
Stolen Earth is the name of the band that in 2011 arose from the ashes of the popular progressive rock band Breathing Space from York. They include no less than four members of Breathing Space's short-lived final incarnation including recently joined vocalist Heidi Widdop and guitarist Adam Dawson. Only the solid rock rhythm section consisting of Paul Teasdale (bass) and Barry Cassells (drums) remained from the line-up of Breathing Space's final album Below The Radar Live (2009). John Sykes joined the band on keyboards.
To my surprise they quickly released a debut album called A Far Cry From Home that sounds very professional as if this band already had recorded a number of albums. The debut contains nine tracks which are all of a high level. It's no surprise, however, that these compositions are strongly related to the music of MA, but that doesn't matter at all for who wouldn't be compared to such a fine band? It's rather logical that Stolen Earth resemble MA. However, Heidi Widdop's voice differs a lot from the voices of Olivia or Heather, but the fine guitar solos often sound as if Bryan Josh has played them. Another similarity is the voice of Adam Dawson that can sometimes be heard. He sings the lead vocals on a couple of songs with Heidi adding harmonies. However, it's not always MA that shines through in their sound. Several times the music of Pink Floyd can be regarded to be an inspiration as well due to the brilliant guitar solos by Dawson.
Perhaps you wonder whether Stolen Earth have also something of their own in the compositions. Well, that's certainly the case! All tracks contain some original elements; it's most of the time Heidi's voice that makes the difference. Her raw and bluesy vocal style strongly contrasts with most other female fronted bands in the prog scene, but also her playing on the low whistle shifts the music towards a Celtic folk sound. To mention any favourites is a difficult job, but I'll try anyway. I think the propellent rocker Unnatural Disaster and Heidi's semi-acoustic song Soul In A Jar belong to the best songs on the album. The latter song shows the band's softer and emotional side featuring some evocative playing on the low whistle. However, I like the emotional sounding Silver Skies containing a superb guitar solo as well. The album closes with the epic Perfect Wave that ends in extended guitar play, which makes it a true highlight.
A Far Cry From Home is a strong debut that can easily meet all the professional albums recorded by Mostly Autumn or Pink Floyd. I would strongly recommend this album to all the fans of the above-mentioned bands, but also to people who enjoy the music made by bands as Panic Room, Karnataka, Touchstone or The Reasoning.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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