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Kalyr
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PostSubject: The Phoenix Suite   Thu Jul 28, 2011 1:04 pm

What are people's honest opinions about Heather Findlay's debut solo record?

I'm still in two minds about it - I think there's some very solid songwriting there, and there's a lot to like about the record, but it falls frustratingly short of the record I hoped she'd make. I don't know how much of that is down to the musical direction she's chosen to go in. I've talked with and sought the opinions of many fellow-fans, and there seems to be a huge range of opinions. Some people clearly love it, others just can't appreciate it all, and many more are somewhere between the two.

I've seen very little in the way of the discussion about it online, which has got to be disappointing. Maybe people are reluctant to express opinions on the official forums because of the way constructive criticism gets shouted down. I hope it's not because the reaction to the EP is one of widespread indifference - Because it's still a good record that really deserves better than that.

Anyway, here's the review (actually my second attempt at reviewing it) - written a few months ago.
http://www.kalyr.com/weblog/2011/04/16/cd-review-heather-findlay-the-phoenix-suite/

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St Nectan
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PostSubject: Re: The Phoenix Suite   Sun Jul 31, 2011 7:34 pm

It's OK. I'm more underwhelmed than over.

Higher hopes for EP no2...due soon?
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Kalyr
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PostSubject: Re: The Phoenix Suite   Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:23 pm

Not heard anything about timescales for the next EP, yet, although Heather did hint it might be more experimental and electronic based in an interview in Classic Rock Presents Prog. Given that The Phoenix Suite was finally released six months later than originally planned, I wouldn't blame Heather for keeping quiet about the next EP until it's almost ready.

I wouldn't go as far as describing the EP as underwhelming - As I said, there's a lot to like about it, although it's so far removed from either Mostly Autumn or Odin Dragonfly it did take a lot of listens before I really got my head round what Heather was trying to do.




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David Meadows
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PostSubject: Re: The Phoenix Suite   Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:02 pm

My thoughts are very similar to Kalyr's. First couple of plays it did nothing for me, but it crept under my skin and after a while I couldn't stop humming the songs. The songs (melodies) themselves are excellent, and it seems the arrangements that weren't working for me. This became especially obvious when I saw Heather doing the songs acoustically live -- stipped of the arrangements on the CD, the songs are stunningly good, with plenty of melodic and lyrical depth to them. I shall be interested to see how they hold up in live full-band versions.
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Kalyr
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PostSubject: Re: The Phoenix Suite   Tue Aug 02, 2011 5:12 pm

Agree a lot with David there (we were both at that gig at Kennedy's last month). One thing that struck me was the way the songs from The Phoenix Suite didn't really miss the electric rhythm section at all, while you were always aware of the missing harmonies and flute from the Odin Dragonfly songs. Even "Red Dust", the hardest-rocking song on the EP had a lot of energy live with just one acoustic guitar for backing.

I think the big different between The Phoenix Suite and Odin Dragonfly's "Offerings" is that the latter the appeal was as much about the beautiful harmonies, Angie's flute playing, and the great mellow chill-out vibe of the whole thing as it was about the songwriting. TPS is very different in that it's pretty much *all* about the songs themselves.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing Heather with the full band on Friday at the Cambridge Rock Festival. I have high hopes for what the dynamics of a full band live performance will do for the songs.



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Hels@Hippychick
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PostSubject: Re: The Phoenix Suite   Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:59 pm

I'm looking forward to seeing it played live. flower
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Kalyr
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PostSubject: Re: The Phoenix Suite   Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:09 pm

I think everyone is!
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Kalyr
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PostSubject: Re: The Phoenix Suite   Wed Aug 10, 2011 10:48 am

My review of Heather's set, extracted from a longer review of the entire festival that I have yet to publish.

Then it was back to the main stage for The Heather Findlay Band. There was a lot riding on this gig for her. The first solo EP since leaving Mostly Autumn last year, "The Phoenix Suite" revealed a stripped-down sound far removed from the multi-layered richness of Mostly Autumn, and gathered decidedly mixed reactions from many fans. Over the last couple of months she's played a handful of low-profile gigs in very small venues, most of them as an acoustic duo with Chris Johnson. This set marked her return to a bigger stage with a full band after far too long an absence.

With a very talented band including Dave Kilminster on guitar and Steve Vantsis on bass, they began with two songs from the EP, "Phoenix" itself, followed by the spikiest number, "Cellophane". Although the arrangements were still very close to the recordings, these new songs benefited from a meatier guitar sound, and the energy and dynamics of the live performance really brought the songs to life in a way that didn't quite happen on record. Then Chris Johnson switched from guitar to keys for the Mostly Autumn oldie "Half a World", and Dave Kilminster really let rip with some shredding lead guitar, which banished any lingering fears that Heather might be abandoning rock in favour of indie.

The rest of the eleven-song set was a mix of the remaining songs from The Phoenix Suite with some of her older numbers. Her choice of Mostly Autumn songs was very interesting. With the odd exception, rather than play her much-loved signature songs she chose songs which the band hadn't been playing live for many years; overlooked classics drawing heavily from "Storms Over Still Water" and "Heart Full Of Sky". There were some imaginative re-arrangements, like Dave Kilminster playing all the flute and clarinet lines on guitar. High spots for me were the really hard-rocking "Red Dust", a powerfully brooding "Seven", and a fantastic re-imagining of "Black Rain" with a very different vibe to the original. They ended with an electric version of "Yellow Time", still recognisable as the same song, but the groove provided by Steve Vantsis and Alex Cromarty transformed it into something completely different from the acoustic original.

While Heather appeared nervous at the start, by the end of the set the whole thing had turned into a triumph. Her vocal performance proves she's still one of the best female rock vocalists out there, backed by a seriously talented band. And the setlist, both old and new, shows she's got more than enough songwriting talent to succeed as a solo artist. A real class act that upstaged almost everyone else on the bill that day. Heather Findlay is back, and means business.
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