Wednesday, September 06, 2006

some thoughts and feelings about the reissue, breakfast with Jeff

It is now 27 years after we recorded The Tree People album in 1979. I am very, very happy with the reissue CD. Everything Tiliqua did they did very well, from the graphics, artwork and liner notes to the remastered sound. One side was taken from a master tape, and because the master tape could not be found for the other side, one side was taken from the original vinyl itself. There was some question as to how that would work out. The question was answered with an exclamation point before the final pressing. I took a test CD Johan sent me from Japan to my long time engineer Dean Baskerville at one of the best studios on the West Coast, Dead Aunt Thelma's here in Portland, Oregon. I asked him to listen to several songs and tell me which was from the vinyl and which was from the master tape. It all sounded clear as a bell to him on the studio speakers and he could not guess which was which. I then knew everything would be ok! It has been a wonderful feeling to live through this whole process, from the the weekend recording in the woods so long ago, to all the adventures between, and to now be able to share this music with so many nice people from all over the world. I had breakfast a few weeks ago with Jeff Stier, my main musical partner from the Tree People days, and he was also very happy with the reissue and the job Johan and Tiliqua Records did with it- he was all smiles (and Jeff can be something of a perfectionist)! We both agreed that we are just happy it all happened, and if anything else comes of it that will be fine, but it is all good so far whatever happens.
Stephen Cohen, September 6th, 2006

The Tree People reissue CD starting to surface all over

We also have an amazing new CD on the always great Tiliqua Records from Japan. The Tree People CD - highly recommended Pacific Northwest weird folk from the late 70's.
Beta-lactam Ring Records

Tiliqua Records is psyched about being able to present a whole new audience and generation with the lysergic beauty of the Tree People's sole recorded artifact, a privately released acid folk gem out of 1979. In http://www.volctimes when people are all getting excited about media-created scenes like “New Weird America” and “Freak Folk”, they seem to overlook the fact that such music was already being created decades ago. The Tree People is evidence of such a splash of creativity that sadly enough was doomed to disappear within the cracks of obscurity. Until now. Tiliqua was granted the opportunity to restore this gem and with the kind collaboration of Mr. Cohen of the Tree People, who provided me with the master tapes and a seemingly unlimited support, Tiliqua was able to prepare this reissue. To me, this album is one of the singular most beautiful gems to have crossed my path and words always fall short in an attempt to describe the aural sensation it unleashes. “Upon listening today this hushed and intimate feeling still resonates through the music – the record possesses an extraordinarily potent atmosphere that still intoxicates the senses after so many years. Over a combustible backing dominated by shimmering strings, bone-shaking hand percussion rhythms, and quivering sensuous threads of eastern-toned flute playing, the group succeeded in concocting up a syncretic combination of meditative Indian raga, western folk stylings and idiosyncratic melodic ideas. The music breathes out intimacy and communicates with a rare directness - hooking you instantly with sheer aural bliss derived from the melody, from the flowing beat, from the sound of the words and syllables and of all those separate elements interacting with each other, rendered into a concentrated, gracious flow of lunar notes. The album's compositions have so many hidden qualities, all breathing out deep and affectionate sentiments that reveal, just like a lotus flower centered on the axis with its petals unfolding towards the circumference, a streamlined adhesion towards the group's' own singular creed. Listen to it and you may feel like awakening from a deep slumber, your unconsciousness leaking away as aspects of reality slowly mix in with the rest of your already blurred mindset.” First time ever official reissue, housed in a sturdy mini-LP styled gatefold sleeve
from the Johan Wellens' CD liner notes, on the Beta-lactam Ring Records (the United States distributer) web site

Beautifully presented reissue of this legendary real-people/outside psych-folk side, originally released in 1979. Johan Wellens talks of it as being in the lineage of "Dino Valente, Erica Pomerance, Didi Favreau, Virgin Insanity, Gary Higgins, Kenneth Higney and Roger Rodier" but you might wanna throw in a touch of Roky's acoustic demos, a more lugubriously-stoned Tim Hardin, some pastoral modal guitar/hand-percussion jams that could almost be Six Organs Of Admittance, Roy Harper's classic Harvest recordings, psychedelic Donovan and even a hint of Help Yourself. Very beautiful/intimate atmosphere and possessed of *that* necessary star-crossed/lost in time element that gets record collectors hot under their three chins. Beautiful heavy duty gatefold sleeve with obi strip and booklet with liners by Johan.

from the Volcanic Tongue (distributer out of Scotland) web site- I don't know all the musicians mentioned but it sounds good to me!)

Singer-songwriter Stephen Cohen gathered around him two good musicians to work with : percussionist and recorder player Jeff Stier, and flautist Rachel Laderman, forming a trio under the name Tree People. After a year of performing and practicing the group had the chance to make a recording in a local recording studio in the forest, with additional guest musician James Thornbury, (who was going to be a member of the Canned Heat later, in their second period) on bass, slide-guitar and vocals. The recording session showed all qualities of a one chance in a lifetime where everything seemed to come together, even when they only had just one weekend to record. The album was pressed as a 1000 copies. Due to personal obligations, the group never was launched properly after the recording. Even when in 1984, they still did a second cassette-only release, “Human Voices”, this couldn’t prevent Tree People to slowly submerge. Stephen Cohen however continued with a comparable musical style interest with three more releases during this new century (2 of them I will check out later).

The first quality which I noticed immediately on the opening track, “Stranger” is Stephen Cohen’s beautiful and emotionally rich voice, a song where the lyrics becomes rich with feeling through this performance. Each track lands into an instrumental improvisation of a rare affectionate concentration. “Sliding” with handpercussion and slide-guitar has an acid folkblues feeling. Also the song “Pot of Gold” has a delicate rhythmic evolution carried out by the song with a great emotional strength, and some improvisation on flute, bass, guitar. The calmness and delicacy of the unfolding instrumental “Opus” is from a rare quality, which makes it fit well with the Ptarmigan release I also reviewed on this page. “Morning Song” on side B is based upon a happy, traditional fast Cuban rhythm with a jazzy evolution, finding its own personal way of song into it. “Space heater” once more digs back into the delicacy of the acid folk inspiration, simple and powerful, creating blushes of warmth with a vivid acoustic body. It is this feeling which is held strong during the whole recording, and makes this release so special to be appreciated wholeheartly and easily.

The CD is released in a mini LP sleeve.

PS. Tiliqua Records is run by former Antwerp Radio Centraal DJ Johan Wellens, who moved to Japan after his stdies in Japanology with a case study in Japanese electronic and progressive music. He also is a record collector. This album is one of his favourite of all time. The label will bring out the 2nd Tree People, "Human Voices" soon, in a couple of months, on LP and CD. The first Tree people will be published on LP too, on subscription basis only and limited to 300 copies : gatefold & obi.

Gerald Van Waes, radioshow "Psyche van het Folk" web site (Belgium)