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The Wishing Tree - Carnival of Souls CD (album) cover


The Wishing Tree

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4 stars This is Steve Rothery's (MARILLION) solo musical advernture recorded in '96 during a break in the action of MARILLION. I was really surprised by the meaty character of this recording and have found a lasting enduring realtionship with The WISHING TREE. Female vocalist Hannah Stobart has a sensational voice and is clearly a grand Accompaniment to Steve Rothery's tranquil acoustic touch. Listening to The WISHING TREE, one can not help but get a strong All About Eve feeling as compositionally they do seem to be from the same school. Rothery's guitar is sensational and musical companion Pete Trewavas adds some great bass in support of this project. "Carnival Of Souls" is full of soul and really seems to be a recordings which is easy to warm-up to and appreciate. I think it is important to recognize that this is not a MARILLION album and offers no parallel to their music. This is a great recording and is highly recommended by this music lover.
Report this review (#18500)
Posted Saturday, March 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars A Marillion solo album

The Wishing Tree, while nominally a band, is in reality a 1996 solo project by Steve Rothery of Marillion. "Carnival of souls" was initially released on his now defunct Dorian label, and despite good intentions, remains his only album to date under that name (although a handful of other releases by other artists appeared on the Dorian label before Rothery removed his rose coloured spectacles and realised the venture was destined only to be a money pit). Both the band name, and the album title are taken from obscure film titles.

Right from the start, it is immediately apparent that there is no danger of this being mistaken for a Marillion release, as the album features the female vocals of Hannah Stobart. Band mate Pete Trewavas plays bass, the line-up being completed by Paul Craddick on drums. John Helmer, who has also written with Marillion contributes some of the lyrics. Rothery has since revealed that the early albums by Joni Mitchell were very influential on him when writing for this album, especially on "Hall of memories" and "Fire bright". Once he finally got to work on the project, it still took a further two years for it to reach completion.

So to the music itself. While Rothery is very much the owner of the project, it is quite different to his work with Marillion. The album is very vocal, with Rothery's guitar work filling out the sound rather than dominating it. Hannah Stobart has a very pure voice, giving the album a feel similar to that of Blackmore's Night, emphasised further by the many melancholy and folk influenced tracks. The opening track, "Evergreen" , written around the time of "Clutching at straws", sets the mood for the album nicely, with some excellent guitar work and a slow melodic atmosphere. "Nightwater", which originated around the time of Steve Hogarth arrival, is another highlight, although Steve Hogarth apparently felt is was too gothic for his style. The song is reminiscent of Maggie Reilly's "To France" collaboration with Mike Oldfield, and has some interesting guitar effects.

Part of "Midnight snow" was originally proposed for "Holidays in Eden" but not included. It is a bluesier piece, with more Marillion like guitar work at times. Elsewhere, Rothery reverts to acoustic guitar on a regular basis. "Starfish" is a deceptively fragile song, with lyrics about "pulling legs off starfish one by one". "Night of the hunter" reminded me more of Heart around the time of "Dreamboat Annie", while "Empire of lies" reflects its title by being altogether darker and a bit heavier, with some good if all too brief instrumental work.

Rothery himself admits to some disappointment with the final mix of the album. Although he did the rough mixes himself, he was not confident enough in his own abilities at the time to undertake the final mixes. He says though that in respect he could have done a better job himself!

For me, the album is a bit too vocal, it would have been preferable if Rothery had used the opportunity to develop his excellent guitar work on the album more. For those interested in investigating the album, the yardstick of Blackmore's Night is a strong reference point.

In all, a highly melodic album, with some enjoyable if generally light folky and acoustically based music.

Rothery has been working on a follow up Wishing Tree album for some years now, around the time of "Anoraknophobia" he said it was "two thirds finished"!

Report this review (#18502)
Posted Thursday, April 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Having just heard the excellent news that The Wishing Tree will be releasing a new album early next year (demos of a couple of the songs destined for the new release can be found at, I thought it was high time I wrote a review for their first album, 1996's Carnival of Souls.

This is a solo (in all but name) project of Marillion's Steve Rothery, ably backed up by the beautiful Hannah Stobart (vocals) and Paul Craddick (drums and keyboards) as well as Marillion bassist Pete Trewavas (bass, of course). Steve Hogarth also features, providing the occasional backing vocal.

Released in between the two Marillion albums, Afraid of Sunlight and This Strange Engine, it is surprising how different this album sounds to either of the Marillion releases. Despite forecasting slight change in approach Rothery would take for his guitar parts on the following Marillion album (more on them in a future review) , this is a much folkier album (he cites Joni Mitchell as being a strong influence) than anything that Steve did with Marillion, also bringing in elements of Jazz, Blues and some Prog influences.

Despite being a significant departure from the general Marillion sound this album is still easily identifiable as a Steve Rothery effort, in fact we are reminded of that straight from the off with the haunting lead guitar in Evergreen, bringing to mind the guitar playing from tracks like That Time of the Night from the Marillion discography. In fact after the semi-familiar musical content of the first track, the second, Starfish, is quite a surprising departure, a sweet little ballad in a traditional English folk vein.

The rest of the album follows a very similar pattern, a rocky and/or proggy track followed immediately by a stripped down folk number, although Rothery manages to keep things compelling to the end, not least through his great lead breaks and lush arpeggios (Thunder in Tinsel Town is one of the most beautiful chord arpeggios he has ever written, which is saying quite a lot), but also through his introduction of Jazz (Midnight Snow) and Blues (Night of the Hunter) previously relatively unheard of in Marillion's music (said influences have since found their way into several Marillion compositions, but that's another story).

Hannah Stobart is a wonderful singer and plays a major part in bringing out another dimension in Rothery's playing. In fact this project bears a lot of resemblance to Ritchie Blackmore's folk project, Blackmore's Night, mainly due to Hannah's voice, which sounds like a combination of Candice Night and Kate Bush.

My problems with this album are that it's perhaps a little short, at just over 43 minutes I'm left wanting more. Also the lyrics are rather uninspired in places, particularly when we consider the two great lyricists Rothery has worked with in Marillion, though there are some reasonably strong lyrical performances like Starfish. I also think that Rothery was a tad too restrained in his guitar playing, one longs for him to really let loose like he has done on guest appearances such as his work on Arena's Crying For Help IV, though perhaps it's a good thing he held back as it may not have fitted in so well with the relaxed folky tracks that pepper the album.

This is an excellent solo album and, though not always strictly Prog, well worth a listen, not just for fans of Marillion but also fans of the previously mentioned Blackmore's Night or Mostly Autumn. 4 stars. An excellent addition to any Proggie's collection.

Report this review (#89149)
Posted Thursday, September 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
3 stars After the disappointing (for me, of course, not for everybody) "Afraid of Sunlight", Steve Rothery picks up Pete Trewavas, a drummer and a vocalist for his first solo project. This may be the reason why AOS was so poor. He kept the best things for this one...

The vocalist, Hannah Stobart, has a limpid crystal voice. When I listened to her I made a comparison with Heather Findlay. Hannah is a bit higher in pitch and a bit less powerful than Heather but they are similar enough.

It's a good semi-acoustic album in which the guitar is not invasive, even if composed by a guitarist. It looks like he was more concentrated in giving space to the vocalist and the melodies. If Bryan Josh had done the same, probably Heather would still be in Mostly Autumn...

All the songs, except for the opening, are soft and melodic. The first is melodic, too but less soft.

Not a Marillion album, even if half of Marillion are here. I can also imagine Steve Hogarth singing instead of Hannah and he shouldn't be bad, but I think Steve Rothery has tried to keep a different direction that in mid 90's was not exactly the same of Marillion.

A good album then, but nothing more.

Report this review (#287961)
Posted Wednesday, June 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars "... too gently too remember"

The Wishing Tree is a side-project of Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery and vocalist Hannah Stobart. The group also features Pete Trewavas from Marillion on bass and Paul Craddick on drums. The discrete and sparse keyboards are shared by Rothery and Craddick. Given Rothery's leadership of the group, you might expect this to be a guitar-heavy album. But in reality Rothery's distinctive lead guitar rarely takes centre stage here and when it appears at all it often has a merely supportive role. Instead, the sound of The Wishing Tree relies heavily on acoustic guitars and Stobart's delightful vocals. The music of Carnival Of Souls is very gentle and soft and it stays far away from any kind of instrumental workouts that might be expected of a Marillion-offshoot.

In The Wishing Tree, Rothery stays firmly within conventional song structures and firmly outside Prog. What we get here though is a set of pleasant, well-written, mellow Pop/Rock songs with a slight folky nature, all excellently executed. The opening track is probably the closest we get to anything that might be labelled Prog related on this album and this is also the song with the strongest presence of electric guitar. Starfish is a cute little acoustic love song with a lovely vocal performance from Stobart. Sadly, the lyrics are too saccharine for my taste. Musically, the song might perhaps be compared to After You from Marillion's Seasons End album. But really only the purely acoustic parts of that song.

There is definitely an audience for this kind of music, but probably not so much among us who visit this site on a regular basis. People who are fond of female singer/songwriters might love this album, but fans of Rothery's daytime job or fans of Prog Rock in general are bound to find the music of The Wishing Tree undemanding and too conventional to be really interesting. If there is a distinction to be made between hearing music and listening to music, then the present album is one for hearing only.

It is clear that both love and skill went into this nice little album and Carnival Of Souls is indeed an enjoyable hearing. But it is also a wholly unchallenging one and can thus only be recommended to people who have with a special interest in folky Pop/Rock music as well as to Steve Rothery's most ardent followers.

Report this review (#292986)
Posted Sunday, August 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This one has Always been a favorite of mine. Paul Craddick (Enchant) has a tasteful, groovy, flowing but solid way of playing and Steven Rothery never sounded better.

Hannah Stobart is the kind of singer he needs, to really show his talent. Hogarth and Fish are all over the place in Marillion, and even screaming and singing through his solos. For Rothery-fans this is a must-have.

Stobart has a wonderful but sometimes a bit flat voice, not bad, but not outstanding either. The compositions are divided in two ways: the softer, more acoustic ballads (without drums and bass), and the more midetempo rockers. The latter are the really outstanding songs, with lots of dynamics, emotion and great guitarsolo's.

A very nice album, that probably nobody knows about.

Report this review (#1635772)
Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Wishing Tree was basically a one album project of Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery. He primarily intended to showcase his guitar skills and Hannah Stobart's beautiful vocals.

Hannah Stobart appears to be the focal point of this album, and she does have a lovely voice. Folk influence is made obvious with the singing style and acoustic guitar in the background.

Every other member of Marillion makes an appearance at some time. Hannah has a wonderful voice that reminds me of Tirill Mohn. Rothery, Stobart, and John Helmer, who has worked on a lot of Marillion material throughout the years, wrote the songs.

For the most part, the album is soothing, but Rothery throws in a few of his trademark romantic solos here and there along with some progressive elements. The lyrics aren't horrible at all and on some tracks lyrics are very foreground, and sometimes they have utmost priority, surpassing and leaving behind the instrumentation. This is an album that didn't make much of an impact when it was released. A kind of folky, acoustic and even bluesy album which can be enjoyable for some, thus 3/5 (I may edit this review when I have time).

Report this review (#2651277)
Posted Saturday, December 11, 2021 | Review Permalink

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