First Męstoso was an album, and now it's a band.
Stuart J (Woolly) Wolstenholme was one of the founding members of Barclay
James Harvest, but left them in 1979 because he had a different musical
direction in mind - and that was quickly cemented with his solo LP called
Męstoso, in 1980, on the Polydor label. Wolstenholme then went farming,
which isn't an uncommon second career for musicians and much later -
and pushing age 60 - Wolstenholme returned with a band, now called Męstoso, which released
excellent CDs Grim and One Drop In A Dry World. Both were reviewed
here on SoT.
Now, as part of Eclectic's ongoing stream of masterful remasters, Męstoso is has
been made available again - featuring the original LP's artwork, an excellent eight-page
booklet, and two bonus tracks recorded
live in Vienna in 1982.
While Męstoso - the record - is clearly not a Barclay James Harvest
clone, neither is it too far removed from BJH, and it will appeal to a
similar audience. Most of the songs are close to BJH's or early Moody Blues's pastoral, almost folksy
nature, and there are some wonderfully dramatic moments. The mostly
instrumental title track, for instance, features a strong classical flavor with
huge orchestral sounds and Woolly's classically oriented piano-work as a
backdrop to a slow, reflective vocal line. It recalls those early- and mid-70s
performances in which Barclay James Harvest was accompanied by orchestras. "Męstoso"
is certainly the standout track and you could justify the purchase of the record on
the strength of that song alone.
Remember - Woolly was one of the Mellotron's early adopters, and that
instrument is very effectively applied in Męstoso, providing much of the rich
layering that helped Barclay James Harvest and other 1970s luminaries define
"Patriots" is a slow strong ballad - less dramatic than the title
track, but again with those orchestral sounds, and again, it has long
instrumental sections. Most of the other tracks are vocals-driven, and the best
of these may be "Quiet Islands" with its soft mood, catchy melody, and a chorus
that sounds like a quietly whispered threat. The pop/regae rhythm in the chorus
might not find universal appeal, but it has a purpose - which Woolly describes
this way: "The overbearing reggae clamour is there to imply a polluting force
drowning out the real with the ersatz". There are some pleasing guitar
moments, and parts of the guitar solo about 2/3rds of the way in are very
reminiscent of BJH's Early Morning Onward era.
The bonus tracks were recorded live and will quickly place you in the
atmosphere of a great performance in a small, smoky club - but obviously, the
recording quality isn't close to the standard of the rest of the album.
Woolly recently reunited with old school friend and BJH co-founder John Lees,
and by all accounts their "John Lees's Barclay James Harvest" tour found a
hugely appreciative audience. So for most of us who didn't catch that tour the
remastered Męstoso will provide an excellent link between classic BJH and
the modern-day Męstoso band. It's a great listen.
1). Sail Away
2). Quiet Islands
3). A Prospect Of Whitby
4). Lives On The Line
6). Gates Of Heaven (14/18)
7). American Excess
8). Męstoso - A Hymn In The Roof Of The World
Bonus tracks on Eclectic CD remaster:
10).Even The Night
11).Has To Be A Reason