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Voice Of The Seven Woods - Voice Of The Seven Woods  CD (album) cover


Voice Of The Seven Woods


Prog Folk

4.02 | 7 ratings

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4 stars Talk about a throwback recording. The first official full-length release from Rick Tomlinson (aka Voice of the Seven Woods) sounds like old vinyl that was dredged from the late sixties and reissued on CD, but in fact the tracks that make up this record were recorded by Tomlinson in mid-2007 and released that fall.

I came across Voice of the Seven Woods thanks to a review of the album by a fellow prog music fan whose tastes and opinion I tend to respect. A good choice to add to my collection as it turns out. My copy took a bit of a circuitous route to me, as I ordered it on-line from a small nondescript record shop that turned out to be some kid who attends a small private college about three miles from my house and who apparently runs a resale business out of his dormitory. More power to him. I had a similar experience a while back when I ordered another album on-line for one of my sons who is attending college in Kentucky and the reseller turned out to be a kid from another college just up the road from him. Too bad all those old seventies head-shop/used record stores folded years ago – it would have been much more rewarding to have met these two individuals over a dusty record bin and shared musical experiences instead of slitting open sterile padded manila envelopes pulled from my mail box. Oh well, such is life and progress.

Tomlinson lists among his influences Sandy Bull, Bert Jansch and a host of Eastern world/folk artists, but it is apparent he has spun a few Robbie Basho, John Fahey and Leo Kottke records at one time or another as well. And he has called out the venerable United States of America’s 1968 psych-journey recording as one of his favorites. So it’s a bit difficult to nail his music down as folk per se; there are definite raga overtones as well as psychedelic, world and folk leanings. Tomlinson claimed in a late 2007 interview to be attempting to craft an album that represents a musical journey - an experience, more than simply some songs string together. Something akin to Joe Byrd’s American Metaphysical Circus but sans most of the vocals and with largely acoustic instrumentation instead. I would say he nailed it.

The few vocals that are present (“Silver Morning Branches” and its reprise on the American version of the CD “Dusk Cloud”) do bear a resemblance to Byrd’s psych meanderings of the late sixties, but for the most part this is an instrumental record with heavy Eastern tempos, finger drums, tambourine and exotic strings. Liner notes are pretty much non-existent on the CD; there is a double-fold photo of a wooded area where Tomlinson sits on ancient stone steps holding what he called a Turkish oud in another interview I read of his. Looks (and sounds) an awful lot like a lute to me, but what do I know.

The first two tracks apparently come from a soundtrack of sorts that Tomlinson wrote for a live playing of the 1968 Sergei Paradjanov film ‘Sayat Nova’, which I haven’t seen but which would seem to be an Eastern cult film of sorts. These are fairly traditional raga-like works with fine finger-picking on what sounds like a sitar, tabla or some sort of hand drums, and those sixties psych-sounding tempos that years later appear to be much more Turk-inspired than most of us realized back in the day.

“The Fire in my Head” is much closer to the Joe Byrd style of psych and electric fuzz, with tambourine, hand drums and undulating rhythms building to a sustained and almost raucous tempo before fading away as quickly as they came. The next couple of tracks (“Silver Morning Branches” and “Second Transition”) carry on in this same vein, and on both the Eastern influences take a bit of a back seat to the fuzz, which makes for a seductive change of pace after the comparatively staid opening two tracks.

The “folk” tag may come from songs like “Valley of the Rocks” and “Return from Byzantium”, both quite subdued compositions with finger-picking aplenty and complex though understated rhythms. The latter is the longest and most complex song on the album, but from a folk perspective ‘Valley’ is the more approachable in my opinion.

The American version of the CD includes two bonus tracks, both of which are outtakes of sorts from the original studio recordings, and both of which are quite short and more like remnants than fully developed compositions. “The Smoking Furnace” sounds like a Moroccan folk tune, and “Dusk Cloud” as I mentioned early is a very brief reprise of the earlier “Silver Morning Branches”.

Tomlinson and Voice of the Seven Woods are quite a challenge to classify for those who are into that sort of thing, and the artist himself doesn’t help much by providing almost no liner notes, commentary or even credits in the packaging. But this is a refreshing and highly original piece of work, and it is an album that almost any progressive music fan would find a welcome home for in their collection. For those reasons I’ll give it four stars, and recommend it to just about anyone.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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