Mostly Autumn - Studio 2

(CD 2023, 66:29 Mostly Autumn Records)

The tracks:
  1- The Man Without A Name(4:00)
  2- Silver Glass(6:02)
  3- Passengers(5:24)
  4- The Last Climb(7:28)
  5- The House On The Hill(4:12)
  6- Gaze(4:31)
  7- Tomorrow Dies(7:13)
  8- Into The Stars(4:02)
  9- Simple Ways(6:04)
10- Heart Body And Soul(4:38)
11- Silhouettes Of Stolen Ghosts(3:07)
12- Heroes Never Die(9:48)

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When John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr walked across a zebra crossing in Abbey Road, St. John's Wood at 11.35am on August 8th 1969, they created one of the most iconic album covers in history. Who doesn't know Abbey Road made by The Beatles. Over 50 years later, interest in the band remains incredibly strong. Many people tried to copy what happened on that album cover. Also many people believe that The Beatles' Abbey Road album was named after Abbey Road Studios, but that isn't the case at all. In 1969, the studios where the Beatles recorded 90% of their material (an epic 12 albums in 7 years, and over 200 songs) was at EMI (based at 3 Abbey Road). It was only after Abbey Road, The Beatles' final album, came out that EMI became Abbey Road Studios. As well as The Beatles, many of the greats have recorded at Abbey Road Studios. By way of example, Glen Miller and Pink Floyd, who produced Dark Side Of The Moon here. The music for Harry Potter and Lord Of The Rings was also recorded at Abbey Road Studios. Strangely enough a band from York (UK) can be added to that long list as well. Namely Mostly Autumn who recorded Studio 2 at this famous place!

In April 2022 Mostly Autumn were given the amazing opportunity to have two days in Abbey Road studios by York St John University. A dream came true for them to spend two days in the recording cathedral of Abbey Road with a string quartet to deliver the ultimate emotive experience of classic Autumn material.

Band leader Bryan Josh said: “Unloading our equipment into Abbey Road - Studio 2 was like some untouchable dream you had as a child but were now part of. With the giants of music breathing down our necks and all those classic songs still ghosting in the walls, we set the band up together with a string quartet to record a live performance. There was no audience, barring the on-site engineers, film crew and some onlookers from York St John University. We all knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. This was just us performing live - a group of musicians performing as one when it really mattered, in that incredible cathedral of music history, Abbey Road - Studio 2”.

This unique recording of the band, consisting of Olivia Sparnenn-Josh (vocals), Bryan Josh (electric guitars, vocals), Chris Johnson (guitars, vocals, celesta), Iain Jennings (keyboards, Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes, Grand piano), Angela Gordon (flute, backing vocals, keyboards), Andy Smith (bass) and Henry Rogers (drums), resulted in an intimate, melancholic and dreamy album. They named it after the studio in which the recordings took place. Abbey Road - Studio 2. The material on Studio 2 is really outstanding! You can say that the two days Josh, Olivia, Iain & Co. spent in the recording cathedral of Abbey Road with a string quartet were certainly well spent!

The first couple of songs sound really breakable. First it is Olivia who shines on The Man Without A Name which comes from the album Sight Of Day (2017, see review). Here for the first time Bryan shows off how great he is on his electric guitar. Also, the next piece Silver Glass he plays an excellent solo. Here is Chris who sings gentle on this ballad which comes originally from Heart Full of Sky (2006). After that it is time for two more Pink Floyd influenced compositions. First the title track of the Passengers (2003) album. Olivia sings the lead vocals which were originally done by Heather Findlay. The great guitar solo and the backing vocals move the song into the direction of the earlier mentioned band. Next is one of my all time favourite Mostly Autumn tunes. Namely The Last Climb taken from the debut album For All We Shared (2001). Olivia again sings perfectly the lead vocals which were originally done by Heather Findlay. The flute parts of Angela are beautiful just as electric guitar solo from Bryan. The House On The Hill is next. The original can be found on Dressed In Voices (2014, see review). A nice acoustic tune with vocals done by Livvy. Next up is Chris again on the acoustic guitar and vocals on Gaze. A beautiful mellow song which he always plays during live performances.
Tomorrow Dies is a song written by Josh and Jennings and contains rather heavy guitar parts next to beautiful keyboard parts. It is also one of the songs on which Olivia sings as if her life depends on it. So strong and whole hearted. The twin guitar parts here are very strong. It is another composition taken originally from Sight Of Day. It is followed by Into The Stars. Again, a heavier guitar approached tune originally taken from White Rainbow (2018, see review). This time more up tempo. Again, strong vocal performances of Olivia and Bryan on the electric guitar. Back in time a bit further with Simple Ways. Again, taken from the Passengers album. More Pink Floyd sounding again because of slide guitar and the male vocals done by Bryan. Also, Olivia sings along on this classic Mostly Autumn. Of course, the beautiful synthesizer solo by Iain is not left out. We go back to the Sight Of Day with Heart Body And Soul. Again, strong vocal performances of Livvy. What a voice!!! Next up Silhouettes Of Stolen Ghosts before we go to the all time classic Mostly Autumn composition. A beautiful ballad sung by Olivia and originally taken from Dressed In Voices (2014, see review). The album ends with the song which was dedicated to Bryans father and ends most of the Mostly Autumn concerts. This is of course Heroes Never Die. He lost his father on 20th April 1995 and on that day, he wrote this composition. By sheer coincidence the recording of this tune was made on 20th April 2022. Twenty-seven years later. This is again a Pink Floyd kind of tune and very recognizable from the guitar parts played by Bryan. Of course, he also does the lead vocals here as he always does just like he did the excellent guitar solo. It's the perfect ending of a perfectly recorded album by some fine musicians. Musicians who gave all of their musical talents during those two days at Abbey Road - Studio 2. So, bravo to them!

A word about the string quartet has to be said as well. They have to be mentioned without any doubt. Mandhira de Saram on first violin, Rowena Kennally on second violin, Miles Brett on viola and David Kadumakasa on cello did a great job if I may say so! Throughout the entire album they had a large contribution on the songs, giving them something extra which you can't hear on the original studio version or when they are played during concerts. So, bravo to them as well!

Finally, I only had wished they had included pictures of the recording sessions in the booklet. Fans always want to see their heroes in action. Now you can see inside the booklet a picture of the musicians on the stairs of the recording studio. A picture which should have been on the cover of the album. This way it represents more what this album is all about. A band recording at the famous Abbey Road Studios.

I guess without the requested pictures this is still a beautiful gem on which the band can be very proud of. The band appear to have been lifted by the experience of recording at Abbey Road! That's for sure. Highly recommended to all fans of Mostly Autumn. But also, to lovers of progressive rock in general. I loved it all the way. I hope you will too!

**** Henri Strik (edited by Dave Smith)

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