Friday, November 3, 2017

Review of Mostly Autumn's "Sight of Day"

I posted this review on the Sputnik Music website just a little earlier this morning:

Review Summary: Savory modern prog rock that would make the legends of the seventies proud.

Most of my favorite artists of all time tend to be bands from the 1970s who were either straight-out progressive rock groups, or artists whose music at least touched on prog rock some of the time. Some are well-known on this site -- bands like Jethro Tull, The Who, Pink Floyd and Yes. Others are less familiar to many of the site's users, such as Procol Harum or The Good Rats. I've never lost my love for these bands. But when music changed, I moved on too, to genres such as new wave and alternative. It's not that I lost my fondness for prog rock. It's just that no one seemed to be making it any more, at least not in forms that I recognized as such. Yes, there were bands out there, even bands from my own hometown of Long Island, NY, such as Dream Theater and Frogg Cafe, who have made solid reputations in modern prog rock circles. But the first sounds a little closer to metal than prog rock to my ears, and the second is closer to jazz. Even Nightwish, whose Endless Forms Most Beautiful album is one of my favorites from the last few years, doesn't consistently have that blend of rock with classical, folk or pop that I craved from my heroes of old.

But a funny thing happened when I joined Sputnik -- although the site is still largely about all things metal, I discovered little sub-pockets of enthusiasts of many different styles of music, including punk fans, folk fans, new wave fans, and yes, fans of my beloved prog rock. And they turned me on to a whole variety of artists from all different countries who keep the fires of prog rock burning even today. You won't see these bands written about in the mainstream music press, or hear them on the radio (if anyone even still listens to the radio anymore). But they're out there, making the music they love, signing to genre-specific labels or financing their albums through crowdsourcing and other creative means. One of these is Mostly Autumn.

Mostly Autumn is a British band that has been around since 1995. They've gone through various lineup changes over the years, although two of their founding members remain: Guitarist/vocalist Bryan Josh and keyboard player Iain Jennings (even if Jennings did briefly leave the band in the mid-2000s). Whatever their lineup has been, however, one thing that has remained constant is that they've always relied on both male and female lead vocals. Josh's wife, Olivia Sparnnen-Josh, joined the band in 2004, became the female lead vocalist in 2010, and the couple has carried the lead-vocal load ever since. The band's sound has been said to draw on groups such as Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Genesis and Camel, with various Celtic and folk influences also apparent.

Sight of Day is Mostly Autumn's twelfth studio album, and it's a powerful one. There are ten tracks on the general-release version of the LP, although there was also a limited run of a double-disc version that included seven extra songs. No matter, though, because the general-release version packs more than enough tasty prog-rock goodness to satisfy even the greediest of music lovers. 

I find Josh's guitar style reminds me of a cross between David Gilmour and Robin Trower -- he's got some of Gilmour's ability to say a lot with his instrument without always playing it in hyper-speed mode, and some of Trower's talent for creating passages that are sweeping and majestic. Jennings, meanwhile, is often at his best on slow, elegant piano pieces. There are also some flavorful bits of woodwind and violin sprinkled throughout.

Songs I highly recommend from the LP include "Once Around the Sun," which has a little bit of a Kansas flavor (the band, not the state); "Only the Brave," a tale of warriors past and present that lets Mostly Autumn cut loose and rock out; "Tomorrow Dies," a mid-tempo guitar-based number that gives Olivia Josh a chance to exercise her pipes; and "Raindown", a slow, delicate track that also happens to be exquisitely beautiful.

Sight of Day has definitely inspired me to investigate this band's back-discography. It's one of my Top Five albums of 2017.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars