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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this engine purrs..., 21 April 2009
By 
Halcyon Dick (North Yorks, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Oh! Mighty Engine (Audio CD)
It's Boxing Day morning. I'm in the kitchen with a mug of strong black coffee, vacantly surveying the surrounding detritus of empty bottles, half-finished wine glasses, screwed-up wrapping paper, and piles of pre-schoolers' toys. I feel the urge to stick on a cd received the day before. Over to Neil Halstead's "Oh! Mighty Engine" and as the first few bars of the opening title track waft over me... whoooaaahh... suddenly I'm cloud-watching, all sun-drenched and blissed out, light years from the festive fallout that surrounds me. Having listened to the album on a weekly, almost daily basis since that revelation, it's that feeling of bucolic warmth that encompasses me still, and that's some feat.

"Oh! Mighty Engine" shows significant progress from Neil's tentative first album "Sleeping On Roads", although with 6 years between the releases, I suppose this is only to be expected. The last album from his day-job-band Mojave 3, 2006's "Puzzles Like You" showed a much more commercial (though occasionally clumsy) take on their airy country-tinged pop sound. "Oh! Mighty Engine", though full of little hooks and subtle pop nous in its own way, seems a direct reaction to that album.

The sound is stripped down yet welcoming: Neil's soft, breathy voice is well to the fore, displaying a depth and familiarity not often heard on Mojave 3 tunes, with the odd gentle mumble here, a whistled `s' there... lovely. His ever present acoustic guitar is occasionally backed by a tender flourish of electric guitar, a gentle rhythm section, maybe the odd plink of keyboard and in this vein the title track, "Paint a Face" and "A Gentle Heart", are three outstanding examples of pastoral folk-pop. "Queen Bee" comes complete with shuffly drumbeat, "Always The Good" even boasts an understated beep n beat loop, but it's all wonderfully languid and the acoustic vibe is always there.

This is superb song-writing, with lyrics full of character (and characters), honesty, intimacy and occasional dry wit. I mean, "Baby, I Grew You a Beard" - what woman could possibly ask for more from her man? The observational writing on tracks like "Elevenses", "No Mercy For The Muse", and the magnificent "Little Twig", is wonderfully affecting, and "Sometimes The Wheels" has the singer coming across as the most laid back curmudgeon I've ever heard. The gorgeous finger-picking daydream of "Spinning For Spoonie" encapsulates the mood of the whole album: rich, calm and oh so mellow.

Neil states on his MySpace site that his influences are simply "fishes, eggs, a good cup of tea, single malt, Bert jansh [sic], tape hiss" - and, barring the tape hiss, that's exactly what comes across in this beautiful, laid back yet thoroughly accomplished piece of work. Cycling down narrow lanes, a calm breeze over the sand, rays of sunlight over a wooden floor... I get those images and more besides every time I listen to this album. It's a gentle but joyous experience and, I tell you, it's damned good for the soul.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Halcyon Days!, 7 July 2011
By 
Richard Neville "gnome of zurich" (Zurich, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Oh Mighty Engine (Audio CD)
Today, after having this magnificent album on in the car for the best part of two weeks, I decided to come onto Amazon and share my feelings with everybody 'out there', only to find that Halcyon Dick's review, which he was good enough to post twice, says it all (and far more eloquently than I ever could). Quite simply, this is essential.
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5.0 out of 5 stars this engine purrs..., 23 April 2009
By 
Halcyon Dick (North Yorks, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Oh Mighty Engine (Audio CD)
It's Boxing Day morning. I'm in the kitchen with a mug of strong black coffee, vacantly surveying the surrounding detritus of empty bottles, half-finished wine glasses, screwed-up wrapping paper, and piles of pre-schoolers' toys. I feel the urge to stick on a cd received the day before. Over to Neil Halstead's "Oh! Mighty Engine" and as the first few bars of the opening title track waft over me... whoooaaahh... suddenly I'm cloud-watching, all sun-drenched and blissed out, light years from the festive fallout that surrounds me. Having listened to the album on a weekly, almost daily basis since that revelation, it's that feeling of bucolic warmth that encompasses me still, and that's some feat.

"Oh! Mighty Engine" shows significant progress from Neil's tentative first album "Sleeping On Roads", although with 6 years between the releases, I suppose this is only to be expected. The last album from his day-job-band Mojave 3, 2006's "Puzzles Like You" showed a much more commercial (though occasionally clumsy) take on their airy country-tinged pop sound. "Oh! Mighty Engine", though full of little hooks and subtle pop nous in its own way, seems a direct reaction to that album.

The sound is stripped down yet welcoming: Neil's soft, breathy voice is well to the fore, displaying a depth and familiarity not often heard on Mojave 3 tunes, with the odd gentle mumble here, a whistled `s' there... lovely. His ever present acoustic guitar is occasionally backed by a tender flourish of electric guitar, a gentle rhythm section, maybe the odd plink of keyboard and in this vein the title track, "Paint a Face" and "A Gentle Heart", are three outstanding examples of pastoral folk-pop. "Queen Bee" comes complete with shuffly drumbeat, "Always The Good" even boasts an understated beep n beat loop, but it's all wonderfully languid and the acoustic vibe is always there.

This is superb song-writing, with lyrics full of character (and characters), honesty, intimacy and occasional dry wit. I mean, "Baby, I Grew You a Beard" - what woman could possibly ask for more from her man? The observational writing on tracks like "Elevenses", "No Mercy For The Muse", and the magnificent "Little Twig", is wonderfully affecting, and "Sometimes The Wheels" has the singer coming across as the most laid back curmudgeon I've ever heard. The gorgeous finger-picking daydream of "Spinning For Spoonie" encapsulates the mood of the whole album: rich, calm and oh so mellow.

Neil states on his MySpace site that his influences are simply "fishes, eggs, a good cup of tea, single malt, Bert jansh [sic], tape hiss" - and, barring the tape hiss, that's exactly what comes across in this beautiful, laid back yet thoroughly accomplished piece of work. Cycling down narrow lanes, a calm breeze over the sand, rays of sunlight over a wooden floor... I get those images and more besides every time I listen to this album. It's a gentle but joyous experience and, I tell you, it's damned good for the soul.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Album - Mellow Songwriting of Highest Quality, 24 Sep 2008
By 
Richard Vernon (Nottingham, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Oh Mighty Engine (Audio CD)
If there were any justice in the world sales of this album would be up there with Damien Rice ... etc.

If you like acoustic guitar, mellow tracks and great personal songwriting this is for you - I went to see him live a few days ago without knowing who he was or anything about his music, just thought it might be ok ... well - it was more than ok, it was fantastic !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilled and upbeat, 11 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Oh Mighty Engine (Audio CD)
This a lovely, mellow album ideal for listening to after a hard day.

The overall sound is a cross of Bell and Sebastian with early Cohen mixed with Josh Ritter at his most chilled.

I would highly recommend Neil just because he is talented chap who makes the music he wants to sing.

First rate.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful relaxing and quircky music., 23 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Oh Mighty Engine (Audio CD)
I heard the title song 'o mighty engine' at the end of a film and googled the artist Neil Halstead and went ahead and ordered the cd.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Don't know how I found this but I'm so glad I did, 19 Mar 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Oh Mighty Engine (Audio CD)
This is a gentle, mellow enjoyable album that casts its spell both when the sun is shining as well as late at night. It is a relaxed, gentle collection of songs to make your world a better place. Recorded in the States it has a lighter touch than the more recent 'Palindrome Hunches' (which has a more English feel). The American studio influence has added to the laid back charm and the outcome is better for it.
On telling people about Neil Halstead they all say they haven't heard of him. On playing them this album they are glad I did.
Here is another artist that doesn't get the profile he deserves. Make sure you listen to him now and spread the 'word'
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful little classic!, 13 July 2010
By 
K. Johnston (Huntingdon) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Oh! Mighty Engine (Audio CD)
Wonderful cd that has passed the mainstream by but is worth a dozen of the routine, recycled bit of uninspiring dross being issued by too many of today's bands. One track stood out to me - though not mentioned by the previous reviewer I thought "Witless or wise" one of the best songs on the cd! Great bit of self depreciating humour with an effortlessly engaging melody - just loved it even after a year or more of listening. Check it out and I hope you buy the whole cd.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 23 Aug 2014
By 
David Pilkington (Cannock UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Oh Mighty Engine (Audio CD)
As described quick delivery. A1.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best kept secret, 30 Aug 2008
This review is from: Oh Mighty Engine (Audio CD)
not many people that i know have ever heard of this guy, well to be totally honest, only 1 person i know has heard of him. Niel Halstead has been said to be Britains Best Kept Secret and the best songwriter in England. These statements are totally true, i would recommend this album to anyone who is a follower of the Brushfire Family.
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Oh Mighty Engine
Oh Mighty Engine by Neil Halstead (Audio CD - 2008)
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