It's always a pleasure to give my personal reviews on the albums of Mostly Autumn. Following the band from the early days, I really admire them because of their blend of folk music and symphonic rock. Although a number of songs from their latest studio albums couldn't convince me at all, I was very pleased to find a promotional copy of the new album Go Well Diamond Heart in my mailbox.
After the unexpected retreat of singer Heather Findlay many lovers of prog music were curious to know how guitarist and singer Bryan Josh would go on with his band. Did the new lead singer Olivia Sparnenn have enough talent and musical power to forget her legendary predecessor? My answer to that question is incontestably yes, because the chemistry between folk and rock has been restored on this album. Most compositions on Go Well Diamond Heart have musically more depth than albums like Glass Shadows (2008) or Heartful Of Sky (2006). Bryan Josh and his band now consisting of Anne Marie Helder (flutes, guitars, keyboards, backing vocals), Andy Smith (bass guitar), Liam Davison (guitars), Iain Jennings (keyboards) and Gavin Griffiths (drums) created at least two highlights on this new album: the first track For All We Shared and the last track And When The War Is Over.
The beginning of For All We Shared is more than excellent and contains some new elements in the repertoire of Mostly Autumn. You hear angelic voices and Uilleann pipes - played by guest musician Troy Donockley - soon followed by the crystal clear voice of Olivia. She's accompanied by a tight rhythm section and Bryan's fiery electric guitar. It's an up-tempo song with a rather easy chorus to sing along. This song certainly will become an audience favourite. Violet Skies is a more traditional MA-song: up-tempo with acoustic guitar and poetic lyrics. I consider Deep In Borrowdale as a light version of the famous seventies rock bands Status Quo and AC/DC. At least, this is what came to my mind when I listened to the song for the first time. After the high-pitched voice of Olivia, Bryan's dark voice is just the opposite, but that's rather challenging here. However, this song isn't bad at all; in my opinion it sounds a bit simple because of its straightforward rock structure. Unexpectedly there's a short break with some flute sounds, but the last two minutes are heavy again. Something Better, a song from Bryan Josh as well, is about cowboys, Nelson and Caesar ruling the world. It's an up-tempo piece with in the middle-section some fine guitar lines. However, I have to admit: a typical, but also mediocre MA-song. The title track is much better though with spacey guitar sounds jumping from left to right in my stereo system. Nice vocal duets with Bryan, Olivia and Anne Marie Helder, fine powerful drumming by Gavin Griffiths and orchestral powerplay by the keyboards of Iain Jennings. I won't reveal the end of the song, but it's quite surprising! Back To Life starts with acoustic guitar, flute and piano. This waltz sung by Olivia is a love song and a tranquil moment after three up-tempo rock songs, but it's still a typical Mostly Autumn-song. Again you can enjoy the fine background vocals by Anne Marie Helder. It's a real 'dream away' song. In the middle-section Bryan's guitar plays a marvellous theme. Hold The Sun is a good track as well containing a three-minute guitar solo. The final piece And When The War Is Over is the second highlight of this album. It's a dance song in the vein of the Canadian superstar Leonard Cohen. In the middle-section you can enjoy a 'Floydian' guitar solo and the heavenly voices of all band members singing together accompanied by Uilleann pipes.
This new album by Mostly Autumn contains excellent progressive rock music! The music and the lyrics are perfectly balanced with a last and wishful phrase of Olivia:'and when the war is over we can dance the night away', a perfect ending of a very good song.
**** Cor Smeets (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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