A Faerie Symphony II
(2021 - Tigermoth Records - UK)
I was going to buy this and the seller was out of it Then happily, a source that respects me, sent me a copy to review, so I was more than elated to do just that. Good things do still happen in my life. Needless to say, after you read my full piece, you will see just how extraordinary this album really is. And by a man with a history as consequential in the world of progressive and innovative rock as it gets (for at least the mainframe of Virgin Records era).
Devotees such as I will remember the absolute classic ('progressive' in all senses of the word) release back in 1977, that has remained on my list of all time favorite and best unique recordings ever. It featured not only the eclectic and creative producer (of many Mike Oldfield albums) and composer on what seems like as many instruments as Oldfield himself, but adds members from Jade Warrior (Jon Field ), Joe O'Donnell (who put out another solo 'Gaodhal's Vision' - 1977) that made my one of a kind list- forever as well), and so many more, including the certainty that Mike Oldfield just had to be playing a couple parts of his patented liquid gold guitar on this (although it is not credited), otherwise he must have left his guitar at Tom's studio, taught him all the tricks of the sound, and engaged him in techniques to duplicate the 100% sound. Oh I waste all this space talking about the original so how does this Part II or sorts stack up decades later (in the year 2021)?
A nice result indeed. With some of the same crew - Jon Field (flute), and of course Tom on a load of instruments, it brings in a new cast as well including Jim Newman, Zak Sikobe (guitarist from Kenya) , Pete Cook, Rob Reed (keyboardist for Kompendium, Magenta), and Jennifer Banks (vocals). Of course it was mixed and produced by Tom as would be expected. And the album does hearken back to the atmosphere the first one was created in, The Manor Studio in which so many prized Virgin Records releases were conceived. Thomas Dennis Newman got his start with Richard Branson in 1970, as a producer (and guitarist) which led to the overwhelming project of Mike Oldfield's 'Tubular Bells' If you are not familiar with this, either you have just been born or lived under a rock, under the sea, for the last five decades. Older fans may know Tom played in a proto-progressive rock band called July (1968). As time flew, he produced acts like Hatfield and the North, Sally Oldfield (Mike's sister) , obscure brilliance like Clodagh Simonds, and a vast number of further Mike Oldfield recordings. His solo work is quite diverse, but always with a first class quality. With what might be his swan song (folks, he was born in 1943, and approaching 80, but sprite and wiser than ever), Tom has kept a journal (notes inside the nice open gate digi-pak booklet). He has keen retrospect about what the 60's generation dreamed of, tried to make happen, and results of the passion (or so it seems). He is also adamant about his Part II Faerie Symphony not being a clone or actual attached limb of the first, as well as it not being compared to Mike Oldfield (among some rather amusing other acts).
While 'A Faerie Symphony II' does not duplicate the early gem, it does however have the same folklore, dreamy, dragonflies bouncing off mushrooms vibe, and magical atmosphere that so encapsulated the never to be dismissed foremost album. Still alive are the sojourns, the outpost escapades, the twinkling stars, the gnome choir, haunted voices, psychedelic tinges, and fairytale journey, all sewn together with thoroughly gleaming intrigue. And if Mike Oldfield ever did totally let go, take peyote, and just push the button, then this might indeed sound a bit like his masterpiece as well. But clearly, it is Tom Newman's chef d'oeuvre. And Tom reflects on the present condition of our pathetic Covid world, all handcuffed like animals at the Zoo, our struggles to accept a world that went so wrong, so fast, and so undercover.
The compositions do indeed connect, and as both a heavy chain being busted apart, and one that still binds us at our ankles, the contrasts are all in a glowworm's night (midnight to dawn). A conspicuous difference of this part 'II' is seemingly two extended parts. (1. Part 1 20:55/ 2. Part 2 23:33 ) and oddly enough (still referring to Tom's claiming it does not sound like Mile Oldfield) it does have a beautiful remake/insert of an Oldfield blast from the past part in what is officially track 6 (first track of Part 2) titled 'Thenna Shee' and what a gorgeous piece this is. Readers must buy the CD to find out the source of the Oldfield song (yes, I recommend you buy this or be left out of one of the finest releases fine old Tom has ever been a part of (and in this case, he created it). Getting back to the listed two parts, it is actually a concept of twelve tracks, and so well crafted that they flow like a golden river of youth. This is just one more important reason to buy the physical format, as the critics that got only the download, are left without the individual tracks, the detailed insight from Tom in his booklet, and the best information one could ever want. Hooray for a CD and I love owning it. If this is indeed Newman's last entry of musical magic, then it will go down as his best, and although still out of sync with the rest of the world (everything is out of sync in this screwed up world), it is both a deep breath of angel air and intake of pure ecstasy. While the album may be rooted in a warm foggy garden of leprechauns, at the same instance, it reaches out into secret wormholes of the universe, and spurts unusual colors of nebula. The last cut could not be bettered, titled 'The Lordly Ones'. It has a luminous affect, giving the listener the one last heave into this cosmos Mr Newman has created. A send off that has no equal. An album that goes down as a gallant performance and another recording that stays safe in my collection as one more one of a kind, unique, and most highly cherished CD. A GIANT RECOMMENDATION.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 10 - 6 - 2021