Wednesday, 20 July 2016

"The Garden Of Jane Delawney" by TREES (2008 Sony/BMG 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...





"...The Great Silkie..."

Music historians have postulated that CBS had seen the huge commercial and critical success that Island Records was having with Sandy Denny at the vocal helm of FAIRPORT CONVENTION (turning English Folk on its head and making Folk-Rock) and wanted the same on their label.

Although her high voice was more in line with Apple's Mary Hopkins than Sandy Denny - Celia Humphris looked damn good (in a sexy Sonja Christina kind of way) and the four hirsute men of TREES played complicated Folk in a new Rock fashion - slightly Psych – bit Acid – but all very British and eccentric. CBS's Prog-Folk needs sorted! 

Original Acoustic Guitar player with the band DAVID COSTA has written the affectionate, illuminating and brutally honest liner notes to this elegant Sony/BMG CD reissue - enlightening us on the mysteries of their two highly revered Psych-Folk albums - April 1970's "The Garden Of Jane Delawney" and "On The Shore" which followed only 10-months later in February 1971. Both CBS LPs have been darlings of the Prog-Folk collecting scene for years (sold little at the time, deleted quickly) and listed at £300 and £350 respectively - but can sell for twice that and more in genuine Mint condition (they had flimsy sleeves and are notoriously difficult to find in good condition). Here is the garden of delights...

UK released September 2008 - "The Garden Of Jane Delawney" by TREES on Sony/BMG 88697356712 (Barcode 886973567128) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Four Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows (62:39 minutes):

1. Nothing Special
2. The Great Silkie
3. The Garden Of Jane Delawney
4. Lady Margaret
5. Glasgerion [Side 2]
6. She Moved Thro' The Fair
7. Road
8. Epitaph
9. Snail's Lament
Tracks 1 to 9 are their debut album "The Garden Of Jane Delawney" - released 24 April 1970 in the UK on CBS Records S 63837 (no USA release). Produced by DAVID HOWELLS and TONY COX - Track 1 by Trees - Tracks 3, 7, 8 and 9 written by Bias Boshell - all others are covers of Traditional English, Irish and Scottish airs. 

BONUS TRACKS:
10. She Moved Thro' The Fair (Demo Version) - recorded August/September 1969 with additional pipe organ - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
11. Pretty Polly (Demo Version) - recorded August/September 1969 with banjo - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
12. Black Widow (Recorded July 2008) - song from the album period newly recorded for the reissue with drummer Mark Roberts
13. Little Black Cloud Suite - a BBC version can be found on the CD reissue of "On The Shore" - this old Bias Boshell song is newly recorded June 2008 as a short Instrumental for this reissue

TREES was:
CELIA HUMPHRIS – Lead Vocals
BARRY CLARKE – Lead and Acoustic Guitars
DAVID COSTA – Acoustic and 12-String Guitar
TOBIAS 'BIAS' BOSHELL - Bass, Acoustic Guitar and Vocals
(STEPHEN) UNWIN BROWN – Drums

The 16-page booklet is beautifully put together (real effort) and is filled with great period photos of the band larking about in a park – live at Plimpton Festival in May 1970 – most photos featuring the clearly gorgeous Celia Humphris making the Prog boys look good. A team of three have handled the Remaster – NICK ROBBINS at Sound Mastering created the 24-Bit/96 Hz digital copy from original master tapes and that was further mastered by BIAS BOSHELL (original band member) and ADRIAN HARDY at Unit 2 in London (July 2008). Amidst the bonus tracks is "Black Widow" - a song written at the time of 'Delawney' but never properly recorded. The band reconvened in July 2008 and using drummer Mark Roberts to take the place of the sadly passed Unwin Brown (to whom the reissue is dedicated) - they recreated a new version of it. The audio is excellent especially on the longer more Prog pieces like the brilliant "Lady Margaret" and the very Fairports cover of the beautiful traditional "She Moved Through The Fair" - but the guitars on the diddly-idle dance-round-the-maypole "Glasgerion" are a bit grungy sounding in places. 

Costa’s liner notes come from the trenches and aren’t the least bit bossy or overreaching but funny and touching – Celia sat in a truck with throat lozenges because they’d been pushing her too much vocally (“Glasgerion”) while they contemplate buying a bigger PA to go even louder – CBS’s printed sticker campaign called “Trees March” that couldn’t be used because the album arrived on the market in late April and didn’t get reviewed in most cases until May or even June. Not even putting the impossibly pretty title track “The Garden Of Jane Delawney” on Side 3 of the popular CBS Records label-sampler “Fill Your Head With Rock” 2LP set seemed to shift more copies. As Costa admits – the album received ‘...mild reviews and even milder sales’. Which is a damn shame because there’s so much to love here.

It opens on the lovely guitar jangle of "Nothing Special" and the following electric leads immediately remind of the musicality Genesis got on "Nursery Cryme" tracks like "The Music Box" and "Harlequin". Mythical creatures abound in the Traditional cover of "The Great Silkie" that starts out all strummed English Folk but then goes seriously Prog half way through - guitarist Barry Clarke reaching for his inner Robert Fripp. The lovely harpsichord title track is probably the best-known song from the LP because of its exposure on compilations of the time and subsequently (it turned up on the superb "Dust On The Nettles" 3CD Box Set put out by Grapefruit in 2015 - see my review). It's a bit hissy for sure but that's on the tapes and it doesn't take away from the delicacy of Celia's vocals and the gorgeous playing. I suspect "Lady Margaret" is precisely the kind of track that gives this LP such value - a superb mixture of Acoustic Lead Guitar backed by Electric Lead that's pushed into the background like a tamed Richard Thompson. It's 7:11 minutes are brilliant - Celia giving the 'fair maid' story a wonderful wistful feel.  

Side 2 opens with the dodgy cod English "Glasgerion" which is followed by "She Moves Thro' The Fair" - a track some have derided as an obvious reach for Fairport Convention's fusion of Folk and Rock. But I've always loved its slow eight-minutes and seven seconds of melody – building Acoustic Guitar flourishes and that melody at it's drum-rumbling heart always slays me. We then get three-in-a-row from Guitarist Bias Boshell - the first called "Road" he handles as a duet vocal with Celia - and it works. Musically it's so interesting and still sounds fresh to me - even echoing the largely acoustic feel to Led Zeppelin III in places. "Epitaph" is only 3:23 minutes long and features a warm Celia vocal (little hissy in places) while one of the best is left to last - "Snail's Lament" - a sort of Byrds jangle that crosses swords with Fairport Convention (Bias and Celia sharing doubled vocals). Superb stuff...

I had thought the Bonus Tracks would be throwaway (as they can be on these reissues) – but they’re not. The two Previously Unreleased demos are hissy for sure – but musically they’re very good – especially the new “Pretty Polly” with a stunning vocal from Celia and Banjo playing adding a strange cowboy feel to a Folk song. The two new songs are excellent and show Celia's voice is still in fine fettle on "Black Widow" while the short but gorgeous instrumental "Little Black Cloud" is beautifully orchestrated with strings (more please Mister Boshell, much more).

Sure TREES were of their time and all that hippy-dippy ambling can grate – but I think it’s a beautiful 'overlooked' album and worth the dosh.

"...It will not be long now until my wedding day..." - Celia sings on the melodious "She Moved Thro' The Fair". 

You don't have to marry to get this 1970's British magic in your life or even commune with a great Silkie - "The Garden Of Jane Delawney" is online for less than a fiver in most places and worth every Folk Roots penny of it. Dig in and enjoy...

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