Trees (folk band)

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Trees
Trees band 1970.jpg
Trees, circa 1970.
Left to right: Bias Boshell, Celia Humphris, Barry Clarke, Unwin Brown, David Costa
Background information
Origin London, England
Genres Folk rock, progressive folk, progressive rock
Years active
  • 1969-1972
  • 2008
Labels CBS, BGO, Sony BMG, Sunbeam, Habla
Past members Celia Humphris
Barry Clarke
David Costa
Bias Boshell
Unwin Brown
Barry Lyons
Alun Eden
Chuck Fleming

Trees was a British folk rock band recording and touring throughout 1969, 1970 and 1971, reforming briefly to continue performing throughout 1972. Although the group met with little commercial success in their time, the reputation of the band has grown over the years, and underwent a renaissance in 2007 following Gnarls Barkley’s sampling of the track Geordie (from Trees’ second album On The Shore) on the title track of their multi-million selling album St. Elsewhere.

Formation[edit]

The original band comprised five members – bass and keyboard player Bias Boshell, lead guitarist Barry Clarke, acoustic guitarist David Costa, drummer Unwin Brown and singer Celia Humphris.

David Costa, son of British singer and radio presenter Sam Costa, had been reading Fine Arts at the recently opened University of East Anglia, meeting Barry Clarke (who’d been working at Royd’s advertising agency in London) through a mutual girlfriend who’d suggested, as they were both guitar players, that they should connect. In David’s words, following their first meeting, "I never went back to University, and Barry never went back to his office." Barry Clarke was living at the time in a house in Barnes shared with Bias Boshell.

Bias Boshell and Unwin Brown had both attended Bedales school in Petersfield, Hampshire, and within a short time all four were sharing their diverse musical experiences, exploring their different tastes and bringing together what they each enjoyed in common with each other. Lacking a singer, Costa suggested they audition the sister of an acquaintance of his and introduced Celia Humphris into the mix, who had just left Arts Educational where she had studied dance, drama and singing. Humphris father was the painter and illustrator Frank Humphris (e.g. for the Riders of the Range strip in the boy’s comic The Eagle).

The five of them began rehearsing in the early spring of 1969, starting to do their first gigs and early demo tracks throughout June and July of the same year.

Career[edit]

Signed to CBS in August 1969, Trees produced two studio albums in relatively quick succession, The Garden of Jane Delawney (released April 1970) and On The Shore (released January 1971), both recorded at Chelsea’s Sound Techniques studios, and both produced by Tony Cox. On The Shore featured cover artwork by Storm Thorgesen of the Hipgnosis studio. Like other folk contemporaries, Trees was compared with Fairport Convention, but regarded as delivering with a more psychedelic edge. The group’s material was divided between adaptations of traditional songs and original compositions, primarily by Bias Boshell.

The original group disbanded in 1971 after recording the two albums. A second Trees incarnation formed in 1972 and played until 1973; this group featured Celia Humphris, Barry Clarke, Barry Lyons (ex-member of Mr Fox), Alun Eden (also ex-member of Mr Fox) and Chuck Fleming (ex-member of the JSD Band). Recordings by this line-up can be found on bootleg releases.

This latest formation also contributed to Phil Trainer solo album Trainer[1] (BASF, 1972)

Performance[edit]

Trees performed extensively throughout their career, predominantly on the university circuit but appearing twice at Fairfield Halls and at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank, with varying degrees of success and at times recognised with significant critical praise[2][3][4]. Throughout their touring career they supported acts including Fotheringay, Fairport Convention, Matthew’s Southern Comfort, Fleetwood Mac, Free, Genesis, Family and Yes, and appeared at the Evolution Music Festival[5] in Le Bourget, Paris in 1970 alongside Ginger Baker's Air Force, Pink Floyd and Procol Harum. A very early gig in London’s Notting Hill had them appearing with a virtually unknown David Bowie. The band were often accompanied on the road and supported by singer-songwriter Marc Ellington. They were originally managed by Douglas Smith and Clearwater Productions, a Notting Hill Gate company who also managed contemporaries such as High Tide, Cochise and Skin Alley and went on to manage Hawkwind and Thunderclap Newman.

Trees achieved ongoing support from early in their performing and recording career by radio DJs John Peel and Bob Harris, for whom they were later to appear twice in his Sounds of the Seventies TV series, and also Pete Drummond, who was later to marry singer Celia Humphris.

Post-Trees[edit]

Following the demise of the original lineup, Bias Boshell went on to work as a keyboard player and songwriter with The Kiki Dee Band, writing her hit song I’ve Got The Music In Me, before joining Barclay James Harvest and subsequently The Moody Blues, replacing keyboard player Patrick Moraz. He now lives in North Wales. Barry Clarke went on to join the Vigrass and Osborne band, subsequently to rejoin David Costa in the 1973 band and eponymous album Casablanca[6] (Rocket Records). David Costa went on to become art director and designer for many notable artists such as Elton John, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.

Barry Clarke continued into the jewellery business, now living part-time in France. After a brief spell as drummer with the pop foursome Capricorn, Unwin Brown went on to enjoy a long career as a teacher, eventually at Thomas’s School in Kensington until his death in 2008. Celia Humphris continued with Trees’ second lineup, and subsequently went on to become a sought-after voice artist providing vocals for Dodson and Fogg, a folk-rock project released in 2012, and as guest vocalist on Galley Beggar’s 2017 album Heathen Hymns, released on Rise Above Records. She now lives in France.

Personnel[edit]

  • Celia Humphris - lead vocals (1969-1972)
  • Barry Clarke - lead guitar (1969-1972)
  • David Costa - acoustic guitar (1969-1971)
  • Bias Boshell - bass guitar, guitar, vocals (1969-1971)
  • Unwin Brown - drums (1969-1971)
  • Barry Lyons - bass guitar (1971-1972)
  • Alun Eden - drums (1971-1972)
  • Chuck Fleming - fiddle (1971-1972)

Discography[edit]

Year Album Label
1969     The Garden of Jane Delawney     CBS Records, 2007 Sony Rewind, Sunbeam Records
1970 On the Shore CBS Records, 2007 Sony Rewind, Sunbeam Records
1989 Trees LIVE! (Italian) Habla (bootleg)

Both The Garden of Jane Delawney and On the Shore have been continuously available since their original release in either vinyl, cassette or CD formats. A deluxe two-disc edition of On the Shore was released in 2007, containing previously unreleased and remixed material. A new edition of The Garden of Jane Delawney followed in 2008, also containing previously unreleased material as well as some new recordings. Both double packages featured an extensive essay by comedian, director and writer Stewart Lee.

Track Listing[edit]

Album Track Length
The Garden Of Jane Delawney, original LP    Nothing Special 4:29
The Great Silkie 5:13
The Garden Of Jane Delawney    4:05
Lady Margaret 7:11
Glasgerion 5:15
She Moved Thro’ The Fair 8:07
Road 4:35
Epitaph 3:23
Snail’s Lament 4:38
     
The Garden of Jane Delawney
Additional tracks on 2007 Sony re-release
She Moved Thro’ The Fair (1970 demo) 5:26
Pretty Polly (1970 demo) 4:50
Black Widow (recorded 2008) 3:22
Little Black Cloud Suite (recorded 2008) 1:39
     
On the Shore, original LP Soldiers Three 1:48
Murdoch 5:03
Streets Of Derry 7:32
Sally Free And Easy 10:08
Fool 5:19
Adam’s Toon 1:10
Geordie 5:04
While The Iron Is Hot 3:18
Little Sadie 3:08
Polly On The Shore 6:08
     
On the Shore
Additional tracks on 2007 Sony re-release
Soldiers Three (2007 remix) 1:50
Murdoch (2007 remix) 6:36
Streets Of Derry (2007 remix) 7:34
Fool (2007 remix) 5:24
Geordie (2007 remix) 5:09
Little Sadie (2007 remix) 2:40
Polly On The Shore (2007 remix) 6:09
Forest Fire (original 1971 BBC recording)   4:06
Little Black Cloud (1970 demo) 2:14

Influence[edit]

Françoise Hardy covered The Garden of Jane Delawney on her album If You Listen.

All About Eve performed a cover version of The Garden of Jane Delawney as the B-Side to the single What Kind of Fool.

In 2006, the Trees' version of Geordie was sampled on the title track of Gnarls Barkley's first album, St. Elsewhere.

French goth group Dark Sanctuary covered The Garden of Jane Delawne on the 2006 album Exaudi Vocem Meam.

Heather Jones's Welsh-language take on The Garden of Jane Delawney, Cân I Janis, appeared on the compilation Welsh Rare Beat 2[7] (Finders Keepers Records, 2007).

The Dutch folkduo Ygdrassil recorded The Garden of Jane Delawney for their 2005 album Easy Sunrise.

Flying Saucer Attack covered Sally Free and Easy on their 1996 Sally Free and Easy EP.

Queen Adreena covered Pretty Polly on their 2000 album Taxidermy.

Danish artist Lasse Hoile's music video for Steven Wilson's 2009 song Harmony Korine features a short clip akin to the cover photograph by Storm Thorgerson.

Reviews[edit]

"If you are about to listen to On The Shore for the first time, then you are to be envied." --Stewart Lee, sleeve notes for Sony BMG 2007 re-releases.

"This is a timely reissue. Freak-folkers will value this fusion of the modern and the ancient, and heads will enjoy the acidic guitar... On The Shore is a vivid reminder of a period when the spirit flew free – so much so that it remains an inspiration decades later." --Jon Savage, Mojo, April 2007.

"At Queen Elizabeth Hall third on the bill, and relatively unknown, were a group called Trees. They didn’t stay unknown for long. The capacity audience were won over by the group’s fine performance, and critics were full of praise." --Beat Instrumental, August 1970.

"The current crop of folkies owe a huge debt to Trees and their twisted take on traditional forms. There could be no better Year Zero from which to perpetuate this most vital of UK musical threads. Blooming marvellous from root to tip." --Jan Zarebski, Record Collector, April 2007.

"It’s good to know that some rare and collectable British rock albums are rare and collectable for all the right reasons – i.e. they’re bloody marvellous." --Peter Dogget, Record Collector, 1993

"This has to be one of the most under-rated albums of all time, a perfect mixture of west coast acid rock with dark lilting English folk, it’s timeless and beautiful." --Copy of On The Shore auctioned on Popsike.com, 30 June 2004, £375.

"Readers of the Terrascope, eclectic to a man/girl, will no doubt be aware of the esteem and mystique surrounding the band Trees. Amongst folk-rock enthusiasts, the 2 albums on CBS (1970) are hailed as pinnacles of the genre." --Ptolemaic Terrascope, Issue 7, 1993.

"To list all the favourable ravings that have been inspired by Trees would fill the whole paper. John Peel, after playing one of their numbers on the radio, said that he wished he could devote a whole programme to them..." --Dai Davies, Music Now, 1970.

"On The Shore was released in 1970, the follow-up to the previous year’s The Garden of Jane Delawney. While no one can deny that their debut is a thing of beauty and wonder, the leap made by this middle-England folk rock quintet by the time they unleashed their second album is astonishing." --Shindig, July 2007.

"The importance of Trees is that, in addition to their undoubted musical excellence, their inspiration goes back independently to the folk and rock scenes of a few years ago, indicating that the long-awaited, long needed reconciliation between the folk and pop movements is actually beginning to happen." --Karl Dallas, Melody Maker, June 1970.

'On The Shore' ranked #3 of Five Folk-rock Classics (after Fairport Convention’s 'Liege and Lief' and before Led Zeppelin III) --The Independent, September, 2007.

The Sunday Times, Must-have reissue, September 2007.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Trainer discogs.com, Accessed 16 February 2018
  2. ^ "At Queen Elizabeth Hall third on the bill, and relatively unknown, were a group called Trees. They didn’t stay unknown for long. The capacity audience were won over by the group’s fine performance, and critics were full of praise." --Beat Instrumental, August 1970.
  3. ^ "It’s good to know that some rare and collectable British rock albums are rare and collectable for all the right reasons – i.e. they’re bloody marvellous." --Peter Dogget, Record Collector, 1993
  4. ^ "The importance of Trees is that, in addition to their undoubted musical excellence, their inspiration goes back independently to the folk and rock scenes of a few years ago, indicating that the long-awaited, long needed reconciliation between the folk and pop movements is actually beginning to happen." --Karl Dallas, Melody Maker, June 1970.
  5. ^ Evolution Music Festival, 1970 Accessed 10 December 2017
  6. ^ Casablanca discogs.com, Accessed 20 December 2017
  7. ^ Welsh Rare Beat 2 Accessed 10 December 2017

External links[edit]