Fireworks

Mostly Autumn - 'Go Well Diamond Heart' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/68/9e/9d/951_mostlyautumngowelldiamondheart_1296684493.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     February 02, 2011    
 
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Another excellent album vying for a spot in my annual top 10.

The initial trio of releases by Mostly Autumn retain a hallowed place in my extensive music collection and I have maintained a keen interest in the band's development over subsequent years, also seeing their wonderful live performances on numerous occasions. However, I have not acquired every album over this period, but now having the opportunity to review their latest (and enigmatically titled) release has provided a fascinating opportunity to re-evaluate a band that has reached something of a crossroads.

This crossroads point is critical because their long-time female lead vocalist and songwriter Heather Findlay has now departed, to be replaced from within by Olivia Sparnenn (who had become a backing singer in 2005). Apart from band supremo Bryan Josh, the rest of the band's personnel has also been something of a revolving door, although for this present release the band also includes keyboardist Iain Jennings, guitarist Liam Davison (both founding members who have now returned to the fold) and bassist Andy Smith (whose first recorded contributions were on 2001's seminal 'The Last Bright Light'). Completing the present lineup are Anne-Marie Helder and Gavin John Griffiths, who are – of course – previous members of Karnataka and also currently members of Panic Room. They have been associated with this band since 2007, although it is the first of the band's studio recordings to feature Gavin.

This is the band's ninth studio album and its title can be interpreted as a farewell greeting not only to a departed Heather but also to Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, a Mostly Autumn fan serving in Afghanistan, critically wounded by a landmine and also to the late Rick Wright of Pink Floyd. Does it suffer from a lack of creative input from Heather? Well, as regards her vocal contributions, she is undoubtedly a hard act to follow, but Olivia Sparnenn's vocal talents have been well honed as lead vocalist in Iain Jennings' band Breathing Space, and she has been part of Mostly Autumn for half a decade already. She does not try to emulate Heather, and nor does she sound as she did when fronting Breathing Space. But they are something of a triumph, I have to say! Assessing the loss of Heather's songwriting skills is more difficult to assess, although the lyrics to 'Something Better', for instance, could most certainly have done with her input!

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Musically, there's so much that sounds fresh and renewed about this album, and it seems more instant, more emotionally charged and much more raw (especially Bryan Josh's guitar playing) than anything they've recorded since the mid 2000s. It's as though the band has been reborn, and the very best here competes with and even surpasses previous glories! 'For All We Shared', 'Go Well Diamond Heart' and 'The War Is Over' are all likely to become bona-fide MA classics, the first and last of these featuring pipes and whistles from Troy Donockley plus additional vocals from Marc Atkinson: both regular collaborators of the band.

Originally released as a special 2CD set, a few might remain when you read this review, and I would recommend early application in order to secure the extra disc of additional brand new material, including wonderful gems such as 'The Sound Of The World', 'Hats Off' (dedicated to the late Rick Wright of Pink Floyd), and 'Ice'.

In my introduction I suggested that Mostly Autumn has reached a crossroads in their career. From the evidence on 'Go Well…' there is clearly a renewed vigour and the band seem ready and well-placed to continue their journey onwards from the crossroads without deflection. It is an album that I have found difficult to put down and as 2010 draws to a close, I have another excellent album vying for a spot in my annual top 10.

Paul Jerome Smith

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