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(40:16, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Voices from a Lost Age 1:53 2. Babylon 4:38 3. Guardian Angel 4:36 4. Fading Shadows 0:41 5. In May 3:34 6. Now That You've Flown 4:41 7. A Twilight in Middle March 3:22 8. The Other 3:42 9. The Three Hills 2:26 10. Stranger 3:48 11. The Adventures of Prince Caspian 6:53 LINEUP: Andrew Laitres – vocals; bass, gtrs; keybds, programming Mark Bond – vocals; guitar Deb Bond – keyboards
Prolusion. The US band THE WINTER TREE is the latest creative vehicle for composer and instrumentalist Andrew Laitres. Following twenty or so years with his previous band Magus this new project is a small entity, consisting of Laitres himself plus Mr. and Mrs. Bond. Their self-titled debut album was picked up and released by Progrock Records in the spring of 2011.
Analysis. The spirit of the 70's is what has always been held in high regard among the progressive rock environment. It was a decade of innovation and reinvention for the still fledgling genre of rock music, a time when the borders of rock music were expanded in a number of different directions, an era that will never come back, but one whose sounds and expressions remain vital enough 40 years later for current artists to revisit them. And among the many artists of today looking back in time for inspiration we find The Winter Tree. Their main inspirations appear to be symphonic art rock. The tangents are vital throughout, with piano and organ as the main variety of them utilized, and frequently in arrangements where it is obvious that classical music has been a prime or secondary influence. When that is said, this isn't a band that aspires to draw comparisons with symphonic art rock per se. Because the compositions explored on this album are of a somewhat different character. It is a distinct British sound about the material, frequently of a kind and character I'd refer to as pastoral: gentle, light in tone and spirit, with a few subtle but firm nods in the direction of folk music with wandering acoustic guitars, gently flowing light toned piano and careful organ hovering in the back. Rhythms are spare, often percussion only, and occasionally with the piano catering for both rhythms and melody. By and large there isn't too much space available for instrument soloing either, and when the songs mostly are less than 5 minutes long it should be clear that this isn't an album that will draw major interest by those who prefer their art rock instrumental. Nor will it draw much interest by those who tend to enjoy challenging music, I might add, as the compositional structure is a fairly simple one while the arrangements tend to have a strong emphasis on melody and harmony. This is gentle, careful symphonic art rock, in other words, with a mainstream rock sensibility.
Conclusion. Soft symphonic art rock with nods in the direction of folk music is what The Winter Tree explores on their debut album, music pastoral in spirit and expression, emphasizing gentle moods and careful melodies in a manner that should appeal well beyond the art rock universe. Not the most challenging material around, but with lots of charm and something of a 70's spirit in sound and expression.
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