Mostly Autumn - Passengers

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Classic Rock Legends Ltd
Catalog Number: CRL 1131
Format: CD
Total Time: 44:30:00

Sometimes it takes time for an album to sink in - and sometimes you just know! From the first spin I knew this would become a personal favorite, and as the final notes of ?Pass The Clock? faded away, I had five gold stars in my mind's eye.

I have to confess to a long, illicit love affair with Mostly Autumn. You see, real proggies aren't supposed to like neo-progressive rock, but perhaps I'm not a ?real proggie." I saw them live in Trenton in 2002 where they played to a half-empty hall. Those who saw them were amazed by the band's stage presence and their powerful delivery of excellent music, and they won many converts on that chilly Saturday morning.

The raw, unsophisticated brilliance that caused Mostly Autumn to worm themselves into my affections is tragically absent, but it has been replaced by a more mature, professional sound. Along with the new polish and finesse comes a more commercial ambience and - dare I say it - a few nods to pop! Their next album will show whether Passengers has been a quantum leap forward or sideways.

Passengers places more responsibility on the wraithlike shoulders of Heather Findlay, and her increased contribution is one of the signature sounds of this album. Gone is the whispy high-pitched voice that shared lead vocals with Bryan Josh. Findlay now stands front-and-center, and her delivery is strong and confident and more mature than ever, and she penned several tracks on the album. Just listen to her belt it out on ?Caught In A Fold?.

While we're on vocals - it has been my long-held opinion that Mostly Autumn's weakest point is Bryan Josh's vocals. Bryan is a wonderful songwriter and one of my favorite guitarists. There's nothing really wrong with his singing, but you can't help thinking that a stronger delivery would benefit the band enormously. So - how on earth could they have kept Bryan singing in a lead role, and left the excellent guest performer Damien Wilson singing backup!

There are 5 guest artists, and Mostly Autumn is a 7-piece band, so it is no surprise that many of their tracks build a wonderfully rich sound. The production is so slick that every note, each voice, and all lyrics are as clear as crystal.

Passengers is a more serious, melancholy opus than Mostly Autumn's prior albums. There are 13 tracks, although the last is a 3-track compilation running to 12-minutes. Remember the folksy pseudo-Celtic sound on which Mostly Autumn built their early reputation? Gone. There are only oblique references to their old signature sound, but the songs don't lend themselves to it and it isn't missed. Angela Goldthorpe's flute is still an integral part of the music. And yes, it's flute - but no, it's nothing like Jethro Tull!

Favorite songs are Track 3, "Another Life", and the excellent title track. These are slow, strong, pieces, apparently simple, but beautifully musical and with a fair amount of complexity beneath the surface. That Bryan's guitar work is excellent is almost a blinding flash of the obvious, and the references to Floyd / Gilmour are stronger than usual though not dominant. The first song - the most obvious candidate for radio play - could have come off Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.

A few interesting observations:

There's a brief spoken vocal piece at the end of the title track, with a woman reading to a child. The reader is Bryan's grandmother.

The first few notes of track 1 are the last few notes from Mostly Autumn's last album, The Last Bright Light. This is standard procedure across all of their albums.

Closing epic ?Pass The Clock? is dedicated to the late Duncan Rayson, a guest artist on a previous album, a friend of Bryan's, and contributing lyricist on one of Mostly Autumn's biggest songs. "The Gap Is Too Wide" was the closer on a previous album, and was also a tear-jerker dedicated to a friend who passed away.

As I said before - I really wanted this to be a 5-gold-star review. But those pop-sounds and Bryan's vocals tarnished that gold just enough to lose its luster. But Passengers will still be among my top picks for 2003.

[When originally posted, Duncan gave this a 4.9/5, so just a mere fraction off a full 5 -ed.

Something In Between (3:52) / Pure White Light (4:33) / Another Life (4:36) / Bitterness Burnt (4:56) / Caught In A Fold (3:52) / Simple Ways (6:13) / First Thought (4:46) / Passengers (6:05) / Distant Train (4:50) / Answer The Question (5:01) / Pass The Clock Pt.1 (2:40) / Pass The Clock Pt.2 (5:49) / Pass The Clock Pt.3 (3:39)

Bryan Josh - lead vocals, lead guitars, 6/12 string acoustic guitars
Heather Findlay - lead and backing vocals, bodhran, tambourines
Iain Jennings - piano, Hammond organ, synthesisers, backing vocals
Angela Goldthorpe - flute, recorders, backing vocals
Liam Davison - electric and acoustic guitars, slide guitar
Andy Smith - bass guitar
Jonathan Blackmore - drums

Guest Musicians:

Troy Donockley - low whistles, penny whistles, Uilleann pipes, bazouki
Chris Leslie - violin
Marissa Claughan - cello
Damian Wilson - backing vocals
Mark Atkinson - backing vocals

For All We Shared... (1998)
The Spirit Of Autumn Past (1999)
The Last Bright Light (2001)
The Story So Far... (2001)
Music Inspired By The Lord Of The Rings (2002)
Heroes Never Die - The Anthology (2002)
Fiddler's Shindig (Live Series So Far) (2003)
Live In The USA (Live Series So Far) (2003)
Live At The Canterbury Fayre (2003)
Passengers (2003)
Catch The Spirit: Complete Anthology (2003)
Pink Floyd Revisited (2004)
Live At The Grand Opera House (2004)
Storms Over Still Water (2005)
The V Shows (2005)
Storms Over London Town (2006)
Heart Full Of Sky (2007)
Glass Shadows (2008)
Live 2009 - Part I (2009)
Live 2009 - Part II (2009)
Pass The Clock (2009)
Go Well Diamond Heart (2010)
That Night In Leamington (2011)
Still Beautiful - Live 2011 (2011)
Live At High Voltage 2011 (2011)
Live At The Boerderij (2013)

The Ghost Moon Orchestra (2012)

The Story So Far... (DVD) (2002)
The Next Chapter (DVD) (2003)
At The Grand Opera House (DVD) (2003)
The V Shows (DVD) (2004)
Pink Floyd Revisited (DVD) (2005)
The Fiddler's Shindig (DVD) (2005)
Passengers (DVD) (2006)
That Night In Leamington (DVD) (2010)
Live At The Boerderij (DVD) (2013)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: November 16th 2003
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Artist website:
Hits: 796
Language: english


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