Monday, April 17, 2006

some quotes about The Tree People, then and now


Light and Unjaded

"In the age of new wave music, it's nice to be reminded that some musicians are still in touch with a quieter, more meditative sensibility. Because they're so soft spoken, one rarely hears about them. And a hunger for publicity and financial success may not churn their stomachs, but they are out there. One of the best is Eugene's Stephen Cohen, a guitarist and singer whose group (Cohen, Jeff Stier, and Rachel Laderman) recently released it's first album, called The Tree People, which is also the name of the trio.
The album was recorded and produced last August at the Rockin' A Ranch in Greenleaf, Oregon almost as if it were a live performance. Very little was over-dubbed and several custs were played straight through on the first take. Furthermore, the music's intensity is enchanced because the group carefully timed its studio appearance, recording when the were total control of the material and when their energies were at their creative peak, Cohen says. All nine songs were composed by Cohen and arranged by Cohen and Stier.
Because Cohen's music is so distinctive, it creates a problem for those unimaginative reviewers who explain new music only in terms of which major artist it sounds like. I know I've never heard anything like it. But from the child-like cover illustration through the final note, the album is so fresh and unjaded it's like a breath of clean air.
Certainly, as Cohen himself says, his music has a foreign feel, particulaly on instrumental numbers such as "Sliding", in which percussionist Stier cooks along on his bongos and Cohen makes his guitar alternately whine like a sitar and pound like a piano while following an almost Mid-Eastern rhythm. Stier, a versatile musician, is equally at ease adding eerie, mystical effects with a cymbal and wimsical, airy touches with bells throughout the album. The strong, classical elements in Cohen's music are highlighted by Laderman's flute and Stier's recorder. There's also James Thornbury's tasteful bass and back-up vocal work. Thornbury took time out from his own band, "The Raccoons" to sit in with the Tree People and his appearance is an impressive departure from his usual hard-driving style. But above all, Cohen's guitar dominates.
For some unexplicable reason, the few critics who reviewed the album nagged Cohen for mixing vocal and instrumental numbers. Acually, it's a much stronger record because of the blend.
Cohen refuses to single out his influences because it's impossible: there are just too many. And he has difficulty describing his music in words. "The main thing I go for is mood... that's why I play it I guess. There's a certain mood I'm just trying
to get and I just play it... When I first started playing at 14, I could hear the way I should be playing guitar and it wasn't any way I heard anybody else playing. I could even hear notes that I would be playing and years later I was playing them. I still work that way a lot."
The 1,000 albums he pressed are gradually selling- some at stores but mainly at the group's performances and straight out of Cohen's and the other Tree People's backpacks. Whatever happens, The Tree People proves that unadulterated acoustic music is alive and well. Although it may be a little hard to find, it's worth the search."
-Peter Leibik, Eugene Magazine, May 1980

Cohen's album draws raves

"Eugene singer-guitarist Stephen Cohen has produced an excellent album. What's more he's done it on his own and with his own finances. The sacrificies were worth the pain. The Tree People, recorded in Greenleaf by Michael Ayling, is simply a beautiful album.There is much here to like; maybe too much. In an effort to display all of Cohen's talents, the album contains five vocals and four instrumentals. The result is disconcerting. Just when the listener settles into one of Cohen's fine guitar grooves, Cohen breaks the mood with a vocal. And visa versa. The next time out Cohen might do well to settle on one style or another. The question is, which one? Cohen's vocals are wispy affairs reminescent of Leonard Cohen's. His voice is full of gentleness and melancholy, his songs long on fragmented melodies. The appeal is immediate. His guitar playing is delightful. His uses a variety of techniques to effectively tell his stories. Although every cut is a winner, the most rewarding are the vocals "Stranger," "Pot of Gold," and "Morning Song" and the instrumentals "Sliding," "Opus," and "Space Heater." Accompanying him is an excellent trio consisting of Rachel Laderman, flute; Jeff Stier, recorder; and James Thornbury, bass. They greatly enchance Cohen's haunting moods."
-Fred Crafts, The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, November 15, 1979

LPs- The Tree People
"New musicians, especially local musicians, often receive a great deal of scrutiny before being accepted into the "musical world." But Stephen Cohen is one step ahead of the rest of the new artists who pop up on the scene. Cohen's album, The Tree People, recorded at Rockin' A Ranch near Eugene, is a fresh look at traditional "coffee house music", interweaving the guitar, flute, vocals, percussion and recorder into simple, exciting pieces... Overall, Cohen and The Tree People have established themselves in Eugene as top coffee house musicians. Their music, as demonstrated in The Tree People, is fresh and exciting and worth listening to, whether on the album or live at the Home Fried Truck Stop. -Tamara Swenson, The Daily Emerald (University or Oregon), 1979


"I'm a big fan of The Tree People record. It really amazes me that a record as great as this stayed within the bounds of a relatively small collegetown. " -Magnus Lundgren, Umea, Sweden

"The Tree People album is one of my best finds in 10 years! I played it on my radio show and my listeners bought all the extra copies I had." -Jerome Bessinger, Brussels, Belgium

"Recently, I found a copy of The Tree People in a record fair in Paris. Unfortunately, the record had a defect and doesn't play very well. But I liked very much the few songs I heard. I searched on the web to find another copy and found your website! I own a small record shop in Paris and would like to purchase a few copies of your lp. What about 20 to begin?"
-Laurent Meriguet, Paris, France

"You now can say you have a Tree People fan club in Japan... I unexpectedly have gotten the record of The Tree People and often listen to it. I was moved and surprised at the good songwriting and private atmosphere."
-Sota Tomayasu, Tokyo, Japan

I really dig the LP, (The Tree People) and a few of my friends did too, I would love to get 5-10 copies. Thanks for putting out a great record. Hisham Mayet, Seattle, Washington

"Your Tree People album website led me to conduct a search through a box of old cassette tapes in my garage, which uncovered a tape I made God knows how many years ago of the album. It was a poor quality tape, but I was kind of amazed. It has been maybe 15 years since I have listened to that album and hearing it after this long was the nearest thing totime travel I have experienced lately. Also - it's pretty good."
-Jeff Stier, recorder and percussion on The Tree People album

"Four sources caught up with me to say you were looking for me, and what a surprise that after all these years you're having renewed interest in your "Tree People" projects. As the Aussie's say, "Good on Ya." From the first time I heard you at the "Truckstop" I dug what you were doin'. That sound is unique to only you. I was always partial to "Bring in the Water." Your Tree People album was the first I was ever a part of and I remember you telling me there would be many more."
-James Thornbury, bass, backup vocals and slide guitar on the Tree People album

It's amazing to read your reminiscence of our days playing in and around Eugene, Stephen. For one thing, amazing that you have the memory for the places and atmosphere and all those details that bring it right back. I remember putting together our pieces - getting together in your tiny apartment, hearing your ideas and then Jeff and I improvising our solos and duets and background bits, liking something and playing it again until it became the song, though never the same twice. For a shy person it was a great atmosphere to be able to feel free to experiment and even let loose now and then. One small concert you didn't mention was in the house I was living in, we had a little wine tasting and going away concert, just for friends, and it was a high point of my days then. Also I should mention when I played the tape I have for my family (not exactly the record, has some different songs), my son who's an avid electic guitar player, was actually impressed and said he would listen to it from time to time! Now that's amazing. Thanks. Rachel Donnette, aka Rachel Laderman (flute player on The Tree People album)

I just received the Tree People LP, put it on the record player and was... well, just blown away. I am still taking it all in... very powerful work. I'm very happy you managed to get hold of a copy for me. Many thanks. I look forward to the CD release (easier to listen to on the CD-walkman on the way to school!). Stefan

NEXT RELEASE: The TREE PEOPLE: "S/T". (TILAR-5003). First ever reissue of this excellent privately released acid folk gem out of 1979. One of the best discs in its genre and we are totally psyched about being able to present a whole new audience with this masterpiece. Totally mind blowing disc, one of my personal top 10 records of all time. Due end of July, housed in sturdy gatefold mini LP sleeve jackets, with obi and linernotes.
Johan Wellens, Tiliqua Records

1 comment:

Oryx Cohen said...

Dad, I was throroughly moved reading about the history of The Tree People. I'm so proud to be your son. This story is so amazing, I remember hearing you guys practice as a young kid, now I'm going to have to listen to the album again....