It’s not that often that my wife and I can both say that we like the same band. It’s also not often that you get to see fantastic original music, played live, for free. So, when the opportunity to see a fantastic band, that both my wife and I like, play live, original music, it’s time to take advantage and organise a rare night out together.
So, after a good curry, we head off to the Roman Bath to see Breathing Space. It’s as full a turn-out for the weekend gang as you are likely to see, with six of us squeezing into a rapidly filling pub.
This is our third time of seeing Breathing Space and, I think, their best performance to date. Not only were we treated to songs from the first (Breathing Space by Iain Jennings) and second album (Coming Up For Air by the now-steady line-up) but also at least one new song from the third album, which is currently being written. I’m sure that lead-vocalist Livvy told the story behind Butterflies but, it being the Bath, too many people were there just to try to be louder than the music and I missed what she said. It was a good song, though.
As were the rest of the songs played during a two-hour set. I can’t remember whether bassist Paul Teasdale has contributed backing vocals before (and I can’t remember which song he did for tonight) but he did so superbly. As which much keyboard-led prog rock, the songs seem to take on a life of their own when played live. It’s always going to be hard to tell whether each song is played the same at each gig. The keyboard players, Iain and Ben Jennings are talented enough that they could be ad-libbing and you wouldn’t know it. As usual, Livvy’s vocals were excellent and the guitar playing, by both Teasdale and lead guitarist Mark Rowen, was superb. The whole thing was backed up by Barry Cassells on drums and added to by John Hart on sax and various electronica. As is traditional, the set ended with The Gap Is Too Wide, my personal favourite.
Next Friday, Livvy and Iain will be rejoining Mostly Autumn on stage at the Grand Opera House, as their tour restarts after being delayed to allow Heather Findlay to give birth. Which gives me a not-too-subtle link to…
Through These Eyes is the first solo album by Bryan Josh (“the heart and guitar of Mostly Autumn”). Apparently he has been working on this, the first of a series of albums, in secret and the first I heard about it was when an advertising email landed in my inbox earlier this week. Obviously, being the careful spender that I am, I ordered a copy straight away and, luckily, it arrived yesterday, giving me plenty of time to listen to it before taking it along to tonight’s gig to get it signed by both Bryan and Livvy, who provides vocals on some of the tracks.
“Solo”, in this case, means Bryan doing pretty much everything himself. He has written the whole album, performs almost all the vocals and plays almost all the instruments (except drums – Gavin Griffiths and Henry Bourne – and flute – Sarah Dean). He has also done most of the technical wizzy bits behind the scenes. Bryan is quick to settle fans’ nerves by stating that this is not the end of Mostly Autumn, just a chance for him to explore other shades of music. However, on this album at least, it can be hard to separate the man from the band. Inevitably, much if not all of the songs have a resonance of the band’s sound. That certainly doesn’t detract from the quality of the release, though. Behind a welcoming front cover and brilliantly designed booklet, lies a top album.
I don’t pretend to understand a lot of what Bryan has written about, although there is an undercurrent of loss and, perhaps, a yearning to allow friends, relatives and heroes to live again running through a lot of the songs. The CD opens with Merry She Goes, an eighty-five second instrumental track a little reminiscent of Dire Straits, which appears to be a tribute to a deceased pet. The title track (and my favourite on the album and again reminding me of Dire Straits but for another reason) appears to tell of a dream in which Bryan wanders around a gathering of his heroes (although quite why Hitler is there isn’t answered) as they mingle with each other. At the end of the song the members of “tonight’s band” are introduced – that’s one band I would pay good money to see play. Not A Dream appears to be a message from Bryan to his father, telling him things that he couldn’t tell him in life.
It’s not all doom, gloom and memories, though. The Appian Way is this album’s epic track if only in theme and not in length. It tells of a soldier forced to join the Roman army in their fight against the Gauls (although the Appian way actually led South from Rome so the Gauls could have been lost). As befits the song’s story, the music reminds me of incessant marching which actually makes it sound boring. It is far from it. A “radio edit” of this song, with the one F-word blanked out, is included as the fourteenth track and, to me, is nothing but filler.
As I mentioned, many of the songs aren’t too far removed from the sound of Mostly Autumn. Land of the Gods, Black Stone and Not A Dream could all sit comfortably on an MA release, with Bryan’s trademark guitar playing, as well of the overall style of the songs, reminding me of the band’s music.
This album contains some of the best use of Livvy’s vocals I have heard. From the haunting voice on Slow Down, through the brilliant counterpoint to Bryan’s voice on We Grow and through to the almost duet on Carry Me (which is also dedicated to her), her singing is superb and used well. Old Friends is sung entirely by Livvy – he only sing on the album not to feature any of Bryan’s vocals.
Going Home, shows Bryan at his most poetic, with a gorgeous description of moonlight and the sun going down, while Only In The Loss is a short, spoken word track, almost a poem in its own right.
Which just leaves Into Your Arms. I think I would have ended the album with this track, rather than placing it in the middle. Its Queen-like guitar track and somehow familiar vocals (my wife suggests Oasis, I’m not sure and am still racking my brains) make it the most unlike Mostly Autumn track on the album and its soaring sound seems somehow out of place where it has been put on this release.
An excellent album.