Mostly Autumn - Back in These Arms

Mostly Autumn – Back in These Arms (Live 2022)

Live albums tend to be bought and loved by a band’s loyal fans, and only on rare occasions do they attain cult status as gateway albums for future followers. It is unlikely, then, that this release will have an immediate appeal to anyone other than Mostly Autumn’s slowly-growing fanbase. Take me for example, this is an essential purchase as a lasting reminder of a fantastic concert experience, but I fully understand that you, dear reader, may need a lot more convincing. I sincerely hope that you may make this an exception and be drawn into the Mostly Autumn catalogue via this superb live recording.

After more than 25 years in the business, the band remains in the second tier of the prog hierarchy, but Bryan Josh and his cohorts have not lost any enthusiasm and continue to go from strength to strength, winning high praise for their 2021 studio album Graveyard Star, which the 2022 tour was based around. I saw them at The Met at Bury, a modest venue that did not, in all honesty, provide the best auditory experience. This was the first time I had seen the band live and what impressed me most was how they were not limited by the surroundings – the joy of performing and the passion for the music shone through. After a couple of years away from the stage, it was obvious how much the return to playing live meant to the band, and to the audience.

Back in These Arms was recorded at De Boerdirij in the Netherlands on 4th June 2022, and it is stunning now to hear the music played with the same gusto but now with the clarity of sound that was so lacking at the gig that night in Bury. The two CDs follow exactly the sequencing of the concert setlist, which is reassuring. Each has a similar feel, starting with a few upbeat tracks, mellowing out in the middle, and building up to an epic finish. At 2 hours and 24 minutes in total, we certainly get great value, but if you can’t manage the full experience in one take, listening to either CD on its own also works as a set in its own right.

The track selection covers the history of the band, all the way back to the first album, and with five tracks taken from the latest, their fourteenth. This incarnation of the band is a 7-piece and everyone plays their part. Bryan and Olivia Sparnenn-Josh are front and centre, of course, but the musicality extends out through the keyboards and flute whilst the momentum is provided by the energetic rhythm section. Vocal harmonies are much more extensive than I remember from the live event with all four vocalists in the mix. Chris Johnson also steps into the limelight as frontman for his compositions Gaze and Changing Lives.

Mostly Autumn do not have a reputation for outstanding virtuosity and the songs are generally not complex, but what they do have is a knack for doing the simple things really, really well. Changes of pace, tone and texture are sprinkled satisfyingly through each set. Bryan provides soaring guitar solos when appropriate and I was particularly impressed by the range, emotion and fragility in Olivia’s voice that comes over much more in this live setting compared to the studio, where it can feel over-produced. You won’t find a better example of what the band is about than the pairing of This Endless War and Back in These Arms, where we are first treated to Bryan and Olivia sharing the limelight, and then by a joyous ensemble piece, both taken from Graveyard Star.

There are many highlights on the album making this both a fine memento of the concert experience but also a highly enjoyable romp through the catalogue. This really is a good place to start on your Mostly Autumn journey if your appetite is whetted.

CD 1:

1. Tomorrow Dies (7:05)
2. Spirit of Mankind (4:49)
3. Nowhere to Hide (4:19)
4. The Spirit of Autumn Past (Part 2) (5:48)
5. The Last Climb (6:52)
6. Gaze (4:53)
7. This Endless War (6:32)
8. Back in These Arms (6:32)
9. Passengers (5:58)
10. Mother Nature (14:10)

Time – 66:58

CD 2:
1. In for the Bite (4:13)
2. Into the Stars (4:11)
3. Western Skies (6:37)
4. Skin of Mankind (4:46)
5. Changing Lives (6:56)
6. Silver Glass (6:30)
7. Heart, Body and Soul (5:23)
8. White Rainbow (18:55)
9. The Harder That You Hurt (4:43)
10. Heroes Never Die (8:27)
11. Forever and Beyond (7:13)

Time – 77:54

Total Time – 144:52

Olivia Sparnenn-Josh – Vocals
Bryan Josh – Guitars, Vocals
Chris Johnson – Guitars
Iain Jennings – Keyboards
Angela Gordon – Flute, Keyboards
Andy Smith – Bass
Henry Rogers – Drums

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 30th December 2022

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