Guitarist / vocalist Bryan Josh’s band have managed to achieve a decent level of exposure and popularity given that progressive rock isn’t exactly trendy and without any major label support and promotion.
In fact, for the past ten years the band have been issuing their music through their own Mostly Autumn Records label. To date the group have released eleven studio albums but, in common with other acts that rely on income from live performances and recordings, have a greater number of live releases to their name, and in the case of Mostly Autumn there are (I think) fifteen so far.
2014 saw the release of the band’s most recent studio album “Dressed In Voices” to very positive reviews.
This was the third studio release to feature lead vocalist Olivia Sparnenn-Josh, who replaced long-term vocalist Heather Findlay in 2010. Other band members are keyboardist Iain Jennings, multi-instrumentalist Anne-Marie Helder, bassist Andy Smith, drummer Alex Cromarty and most recent recruit, multi-instrumentalist Chris Johnson.
“Dressed In Voices” was a concept album that looks at a scenario where a gunman finds that time has temporarily stopped and he comes face to face with one of his dying victims, forcing him to face up to the full ramifications of his actions and all that he has taken away from his victim. As Bryan put it “…if you take somebody’s life I believe you must be forced to feel the full weight of what you are taking away – their past, present, what could have been, and the effect it would have on family, friends, loved ones… the killer is forced to witness all that as time briefly comes to a standstill”
Such is the quality of the record that the band decided to perform the album in its entirety during their 2014 tour. This proved to be a good decision, going down very well with gig goers, and so the latest live release “Box Of Tears” captures the experience of such a performance for posterity. With such an excellent album as source material, how does the live version hold up against it?
Well, as superb as the studio recording is, to my ears this new release has an additional power to it, both in terms of actual sound but also emotionally speaking.
I must say that Olivia seems to be singing better than ever – her voice is crystal clear and has the ability to soar on numbers like opener “Saturday Night” and yet also to be delicate when required – as evidenced on “First Day At School”.
Comparisons can be made between Bryan and Pink Floyd man David Gilmour, with the influence being audible in his vocals and guitar playing, but Bryan often has a heavier rock edge than Gilmour – just listen to “Down By The River” for proof of that.
The whole band are playing brilliantly, and although the remaining members may not have such distinctive roles to play as Bryan and Olivia they all mesh to provide excellent musicianship throughout.
As this performance is of a single story it’s difficult to point to particular highlights because clearly the whole thing ought to be taken as a whole. Nonetheless, I will mention some of the numbers that I enjoyed most – “The Last Day”, “Skin On Skin”, “First Day At School”, “Running”, “Home” and “Saturday Night” would all fall into this category.
One could argue that this is superfluous, especially so soon after the studio album’s release, but I would say that “Box Of Tears” is one of Mostly Autumn’s best live albums and an essential addition to their catalogue. Brilliant…
1. Saturday Night / 2. Not Yours To Take / 3. Running / 4. See You / 5. Home / 6. First Day At School / 7. Down By The River / 8. Skin On Skin / 9. The House On The Hill / 10. The Last Day / 11. Dressed In Voices / 12. The Library / 13. Footsteps . 14. Box Of Tears