Image © Classic Rock Legends 2002
photo © Stephen Lambe 2002
(18 May 2002) Since Musical Discoveries reviewed their DVD The Story So Far towards the end of last year, things have not stood still for Mostly Autumn. The band took everyone by surprise in December by releasing Music Inspired by the Lord of the Rings (Classic Rock Legends (UK) CRL084, 2002) It is also known as the Unexpected Album. This is a shameless, though worthy, attempt to cash in on the media profile surrounding the film of the same name. The album was hastily assembled--it was written, recorded, mixed and mastered in two weeks--and as you would expect, it has a slightly rough, unfinished quality to it, with many of the songs tending to peter out. Nonetheless, considering the time constraints, the band and particularly bandleader and lead guitarist, Bryan Josh, have done a remarkable job, and there is some marvellous music here.
"Overture - Forge of Sauron" is a dramatic, aggressive rock instrumental, bristling with menace, while "Greenwood the Great" is one of the album's better developed pieces, an ethereal ballad sung by Heather Findlay, followed by flute carrying the theme introduced in the Overture, and finally another aggressive guitar-lead work out.
"Goodbye Alone" is a pleasant song; while "Out of the Inn" reprises this favourite instrumental from their first album, showcasing its excellent, more recent, live arrangement. "On the Wings of Gwaihir" seems underdeveloped to me, and instrumental in search of a vocal, and is very reminiscent of "Bullet the Blue Sky" by U2, though "At Last to Rivendell" is a brief but delightful instrumental vignette. "Journey's Thought" broods interestingly, with lead vocal from Bryan Josh, while "Caradhras the Cruel" is far more menacing.
"Riders of Rohan" is a great idea, though again underdeveloped, built around a piano riff, with a vocal from Heather, who is also featured on the gentle ballad "Lothlorien". "Return of the King" again kicks up the pace, with another blistering piece of rock, although, once again it seems to me to be a series of verses missing another complimentary idea. Finally, "The Grey Havens" is a gentle instrumental, reminiscent of Camel. The CD also has an enhanced PC section, a video (recut to include artwork by the Brothers Hildebrandt) of the live version of the excellent instrumental "Helms Deep."
So how would I place this in the cannon? The band themselves state that this is not their 4th album, but an "interim statement", and as that it holds up very well. However, I hope that the band do not suffer from the fact that so many ideas that might have been put to better use later are now in the public domain. None the less, this recording has captured the "spirit" of Tolkien's book very well, and if that alone draws more people to the band, then the exercise will have been worth it--Stephen Lambe
Read further Mostly Autumn reviews here.