Time Lapse in Hammersmith

Mostly Hackett but things turned a little Autumnal too.

What: Steve Hackett

           Supported by Mostly Autumn (acoustic)

Where: Hammersmith Apollo

When: 1 November 2014

It was February 1984 and a close friend and I went to see Genesis at the NEC in Birmingham. Collins, Rutherford, Banks. I’d been a Genesis fan for about six years. Loved “Seconds Out”, “Wind And Wuthering” and “Duke”. Didn’t like the production on “Trick of the Tail”. Found “….And Then There Were Three” a bit of a mixed bag. Then I discovered the Gabriel years and my perception of the band began to change. “Trespass”, “Nursery Cryme” and “Foxtrot” joined “Duke” as my favourite Genesis albums.

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New Albums on the Horizon (and an old title just to spice the pot)

Two of the artists I respect most have new albums coming in the next few weeks.

First up is Bob Dylan whose new album is due on cd and vinyl on the 28th of April. I think the artwork is dreadful but I’m sure the musical content will be better. It’s called "Together Through Life"

Next is John Foxx who, as I’ve mentioned before, has been working with Robin Guthrie. Their album will also be on cd and vinyl and will appear the first week in May. It’s called "Mirrorball".

On a more personal note, I’ve been working on remastering the sound on three albums for a band from the 70s and 80s called Sad Cafe. I now have a provisional release date for the first of these. The album also called Sad Cafe will be on Renaissance Records in the States on the 21st of April.

I mentioned John Foxx. Another album he has been busy on dropped through my letterbox this morning. This time he’s worked with Steve D’Agostino and Steve Jansen (ex-Japan). I’ve not shown the artwork for this one before so here goes:

Mr Foxx is frighteningly prolific.

What other discs would I recommend at the moment?

Walter Becker – Circus Money (not just because I was involved in the release of this one)
Alice Cooper – Along Came A Spider (oh, another one I was involved in)
Mostly Autumn – Glass Shadows
Bob Dylan – Tell Tale Signs
Revue Noir (Debut EP – featuring Sam Rosenthal from black tape for a blue girl)
Sam Yahel Trio – In the Blink of An Eye
Rubicks – In Miniature
Frankie Valli – Romancing the Sixties (one for the nostalgists – but very good!)
Marie-Juliette Beer – The Garden
Barclay James Harvest – Revolution Days (just happens to feature Ian Wilson and Mike Byron-Hehir from Sad Cafe, did I mention I’ve been remastering for them)
Bob James – Urban Flamingo
Saviour Machine – Legend 1
Son Volt – On Chant and Strum
Danilo Perez – Panama Suite
Richie Furay Band – Alive (Catch my interview with him on Cross Rhythms on the web and in Natural Progressions Magazine in the world of print)

Enough for now………….


…… Mostly Average

It wasn’t just the promise of tickets waiting for me on the door that drew me back for a second night with Mostly Autumn. I’d enjoyed the first night and I was interested to see how the previous night’s shenanigans would effect the prospect of recording a live album at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire (a venue I don’t like but, hey, I live just round the corner). Would Heather’s "scratchiness" (her term) floor the attempt at making a live album? Would the live album be released with a fill-in vocalist or be aborted all-together? Hey, it’s a hard rock soap……… The answers as always fell somewhere in between the obvious guesses.

Tonight, the band have more than adequate space to flex their musical and physical muscles. Unlike in Mancester, they’re not all stood on top of one another, eight musicians on a stage built for three. The audience can actually see Iain Jennings. Not least because he’s lost the top keyboard of the three on his tower. Anne-Marie Helder can get out from behind her keys when she is playing the flute and Andy Smith can wander the stage at will which makes him look just a little more Spinal Tap than he did last night…..

The setlist is the same as last night on the whole with those songs that were dropped because of Heather’s health mostly restored to the line-up. Eye contact between Josh and her is restored and there is even signs of some humour between the pair. Inbetween song comments are kept to a minimum in the spirit of the intention to capture this for a live recording without too many fake fades being required. The band members still have an irritating habit of leaving the stage when the songs do not require them to be there which looks unprofessional but that is their choice, I guess. All is well, the mix is better than the night before and except for one peculiar moment when Ms. Findlay seems to be asking the sound engineer to take her down in the mix (down???) there is none of the problems from the previous night which could have been interpreted as being a little prima-donna-ish……

And then Heather introduces "Above the Blue" from the new album "Glass Shadows". Now this isn’t my favourite song from that set. To these ears, it all sounds a little too much like the Carpenters. But Heather obviously believes in it. She has dedicated it to her baby and her partner and for her it is obvious that this is one of the key moments of the night. Perhaps it all meant a little too much. The band all left the stage except Anne-Marie who plays delicate and sensitive keys and for the first two verses all is well. But Heather has decided that a snare-drum has been left taut and is causing an intrusive echo or click and all of a sudden the song is off and needs to be begun again. There is some yelling and some semi-humorous comments aimed at the drummer who showed no signs of taking it all personally (I think most would have done). The audience are very much on the band’s side and take it in good spirits and the song is started all over again – for the good of the live recording. There is one moment when the security guard at the front of the stage allows his walkie-talkie to go off mid-song second time around and just for a second I think we’re going to have the same problem again but Heather digs down deep and completes her song. Strange.

The rest of the show goes off mostly without incident. The band are tight, energetic and enthusiastic and, most importantly, unphased by what has gone before. Anne-Marie Helder, still battling with her sounds been way too low in the mix, has real talent and charisma. Olivia Sparnenn takes her moment in the spotlight (smaller tonight) with aplomb. And Bryan Josh masters it all, level-headed, thoughtful, talented.

The first encore, Tearing at the Faerytale, which was missing last night is restored and goes very well indeed. The band are all set for "Carpe Diem" from "Storms Over Still Water" which had been a major highlight the night before when Heather shows Bryan "thumbs down" and the song has to be skipped and the bemused band move on to the final encore. The final encore is a cover of Genesis’ "Turn it on Again". The night before with Olivia having to handle lead at short notice and the band overwhelmed by complex timing, they had murdered this. Tonight, with Heather on vocals but the band still a little at sea, it is a little better. It is fun but not the big finish its meant to be.

So over two nights, Mostly Autumn showed themselves capable of scaling "Half the Mountain" but health (and personnel?) issues kept them from any kind of peak. Whether this is a temporary blip or sees the band heading for winter, only time will tell……..  

Anne-Marie Helder

Iain Jennings

Bryan Josh

Andy Smith and Heather Findlay

Goodnight and Thank you

(Combined) Set list for the last two nights

Fading Colours
Caught In A Fold
Flowers For Guns
Unoriginal Sin
Simple Ways
Winter Mountain
Dark Before The Dawn
Answer The Question
Last Bright Light
<<Above The Blue >> second night
Half The Mountain
Close My Eyes
Broken Glass
Never The Rainbow
Pocket Watch
Spirit II
Heroes Never Die


<<Tearing at the faerytale>> Second Night

<< Carpe Diem>> first night
Turn It On Again

Moderately Autumn………

Friday night found me in Manchester, considering another writing gig and checking out the possible subjects – Mostly Autumn. I understood Saturday night’s show in London was to be recorded for a live album and I wanted to catch this band when they weren’t just so – and it proved to be a good decision.
Mostly Autumn. They are the band who really define what it means to be "indie" and internet-driven. "Indie" not in the sense of any contrived musical style – I’m never sure what that label means in that sense. It seems its possible to be "indie" and the slaves of one of the corporate giants although the equally unpleasant term "britpop" seems to be back to the forefront at the moment. And internet driven not in the sense of Lily Allen who had a large budget to ensure she was discovered on "MySpace" and not in the sense of Sandi Thom whose discovery seems to have lasted for approximately one song but in the sense of a band who have independently launched a succession of reasonably successful albums via that medium and who have created a niche audience for themselves who are clearly with them for the longhaul.

Mostly Autumn. Darlings of the prog rock scene who, thankfully, aren’t really prog rock. Mostly Autumn who gather fans who’d rather watch Pink Floyd but have found the Floyd are Mostly not around anymore. Mostly Autumn – who seem to have passed their peak without ever charting an album – can they ever be more than a second division band?

Friday night at the Manchester University Academy. Eight musicians on the smallest stage of three. All busy tonight. Mostly Autumn are (having gone through a number of personnel changes which perhaps hints at their problems) :

Bryan Josh. band leader. lead and rhythm guitar. vocals. old-style rocker and the one they audience feel is their friend.
Heather Findlay. vocals. guitar. whistle. tambourine. Dresses like Stevie Nicks, looks like Christine McVie.
Anne-Marie Helder. Keyboards. flute. harmony vocals. Her sound is too low in the mix.
Olivia Sparnenn. Vocals. Youngest member who finds herself with extra duties tonight.
Iain Jennings. Keyboards. Didn’t play on the most recent album but is back in the touring band.
Andy Smith. Bassist. Looks like and dresses like Bill Nighy when he was a strange fruit.
Liam Davidson. Acoustic guitar, 2nd lead and rhythm guitar. Another returnee to the fold.
Henry Bourne. Drummer. Solid.

The show, on Friday, got off to a solid enough start with "Fading Colours" but it soon becomes evident that all is not well. There is a sharp exchange of words between Heather Findlay and Bryan Josh and then an announcement that Olivia Sparnenn will stand in for Findlay for the bulk of the rest of the show. Now, Olivia is a strong vocalist (some would say stronger than Heather – check out her own band, Breathing Space) but it is Heather that the audience have come to see and this should have been sorted prior to the show with the show perhaps cancelled until all were well. But this show has been rearranged once already and there is a consideration about that live album show tomorrow night (and the income that will generate) and it seems that Heather has unilaterally decided that her voice must be rested. Certainly there is no eye contact between her and Josh for the rest of the night and it seems that there is a tension amongst the camp.

Internal issues aside, this is a tight show and the fill-in vocalist is more than up for it. Highlights? "Unoriginal Sin", "Evergreen", "Broken Glass", "Carpe Diem", the vocal version of "Spirits of Autumn Past", and a number of others. There are one or two moments when the band get bogged down in their own boogie and you’re caused to think that this is what it might have been like if Saxon had hired Stevie Nicks as their vocalist but they transcend that most of the time.

Josh is not quite the vocalist he is in the studio (where his sound reminds me of the late-Genesis and sometime-Stiltskin vocalist Ray Wilson) but is guitar work is interchangeably forceful and dynamic then thoughtful and provocative. Smith, Davidson and Bourne are a solid backline and rhythm section. Helder is a real talent and Sparnenn handles the change-overs like a pro and excels herself.

All-in-all, a difficult night but a good night. It remains to be seen whether the band can overcome those tensions and these setbacks.

Bryan Josh

Heather Findlay

Olivia Sparnenn