Thursday, September 8, 2011

Trees - On The Shore 1970

In 1970, this British quintet released a couple of albums that made no bones about aping the approach of Fairport Convention (then at their peak). A mixture of traditional folk songs and originals, extended electric-guitar heavy arrangements, and a female singer who took many of the lead vocals -- it worked for Fairport. It didn't work as well for the Trees, for several reasons. First of all, Celia Humphris was no Sandy Denny, nor a Jacqui McShee (Pentangle), Maddy Prior (Steeleye Span), or even Judy Dyble (who sang with Fairport before being replaced by Denny). The Trees' original material (usually penned by Tobias Boshell) was more often than not pedestrian. And their arrangements, prone to plodding lengthy instrumental passages, were often way, way too long. The group broke up after two similar albums for British CBS, although they continued to play for a while in the early '70s with some personnel changes. Boshell, in an unlikely turn of events, joined Kiki Dee's Band, and wrote her biggest hit, "I've Got the Music in Me."
The Trees' second album is so similar to the debut (The Garden of Jane Delawney) that it's difficult to recommend one above the other. If you like one, you'll like the other; if you want only the best stuff in this style, you'll stick to Fairport Convention and maybe Steeleye Span without digging this deep. It's more assertive, harder-rocking, and fuller-sounding than the debut, but the principal flaws of overlong songs and patchy original material remain. The taut and dramatic original "Murdoch" is the highlight, rivaling the first album's "The Garden of Jane Delawney" as their best track. [In 2007, Sony reissued a remastered version of On the Shore with a bonus disc of previously unreleased tracks.] AMG.

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