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Abstract Truth - Silver Trees CD (album) cover

SILVER TREES

Abstract Truth

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock


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5 stars I remember seeing Abstract Truth at a concert in 1971 and the only song I recognized was a cover of "Feelin' Good", similar to Traffic's version on "Last Exit". I was impressed but somehow never laid my money down, maybe because there weren't any albums in the record racks. I finally came across this album in '78 in a record library. I didn't play it often as it was in poor condition. Now that I have the silver disc, still with those same distortions and crackling transferred, I've managed to catch up with the amount of plays that 'Traffic's "John Barleycorn" has received and that is a lot.

"Pollution" starts the album with a possible hit single but unlike Rare Bird's "Sympathy", not many heard it. Despite the depressing lyrics, the final part features a joyful South African Township Jazz section with requisite saxophone and ringing guitar.

"All the same" and "Original Man" have similar messages pertaining to the state of inequality in South Africa. Both songs have similar Rare Bird type tunes with organ and flute, only the ringing guitar sound preventing them from being completely European in origin.

"Silver Trees" is the Truth's highest spark of brilliance, a musical trek through an African wilderness with images of the shimmering trees in the unrelenting heat of the sun, then the peaceful sound of dragonflies and birds under a shaded stream. This scenario was to be explored by Jade Warrior in '71 and again in '74 with '"Floating World".

"In A Space" doesn't lose the momentum set by the previous song and is almost a part 2.

"Moving Away (at the speed of light)" with harpsichord and flute is as spaced as Traffic's "40,000 Headmen" while 'Two" is similar to Harry Nilsson's "One". Keeping up with the similarity theme is "Blue Wednesday Speaks", almost a carbon copy of the yet to be released "Light Up and Leave Me Alone" while the final track 'It's Alright with Me" is, you guessed it, similar to Dave Mason's "Feelin' Alright?" except they knew the truth of their feelings.

Report this review (#819401)
Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A marked step above the preceding Totum, Silver Trees finds Abstract Truth in a more determinedly progressive mode, with a unique and curiously sparse sound loaded with fertile possibilities which, alas, would remain unexplored after this due to the group's untimely and unfortunate dissolution. Weaving together the softer side of early prog as represented by the likes of Jade Warrior or Traffic with a wider than average scope of world music influences, the album stands out for its reliance on flute, with no less than three of the four band members bringing the instrument to bear at points during the album's running time.

Unfortunately, the album relies a little too much on extended, repetitive motifs which aren't quite developed enough to save them from being irritating. If they'd persisted with this style they may have been able to accomplish something truly memorable with it, but as it stands this album has to stand as a more humble high water mark than the band perhaps deserved.

Report this review (#1164485)
Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
GruvanDahlman
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars South African prog is not all that familiar to me. As in any country or continent there are bound to be acts playing something relating to the term progressive rock and Abstract Truth certainly is one of those.

Progressive rock in it's infancy is often pleasant. Sometimes complex and brilliant, sometimes only brilliant and on occasion simply pleasant. This album balances between brilliant and pleasant, with emphasis on the latter. Now, that is not bad at all. It is actually quite good. Really.

When I listen to "Silver trees" I get the same feeling as I do when I hear Tamam Shud. It is sort of fragile and shaky at times. That could be labelled charming and it could be labelled annoying. I find it, after all, quite charming. The music of Abstract Truth and Tamam Shud is connected in some ways. It holds specific trademarksof it's origins, in this case a flavor of african music in the track "Pollution", and that is, I think, great.

The music can be described as organ-laden progressive on the softer side. There are no real outbursts of heavy rock or anything like that. Instead it is melodious, very pleasant and very enjoyable. The album holds only a few real standouts of which "Silver trees" is the best and most epic, due to it's length. The remaining songs are all good but it all blends together a bit I feel.

The instrumentation is good, the vocals great and the overall feel is one of warmth and sincerity. This is progressive rock when it is in it's infancy and produced in a country and continent not primarily associated with that sort of music. I think that the album is sadly overlooked, actually. It is not the greatest of prog albums and certainly not the boldest or most complex of the lot. It is however a well constructed album, drawing influence from the '60's west coast and the comings of musical progression and lands in the same territory as Gracious!, Skin Alley and the likes.

Conclusion: Three solid stars and a plea to all of you to give it a spin.

Report this review (#1235238)
Posted Tuesday, August 5, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Very good progressive rock from South Africa, tinged with Psychedelic and Jazz leanings similar in style with the sound of mid-Traffic or even Manfred Mann's Chapter Three. It's a period piece for sure but, considering the year (1970) and the place (South Africa) you can only admire the effort of the musicians participated. Check out also their first album of the same year Totum, but this one is more mature I think. Totum, had covers played with gusto, but this one contains only original compostions all of them full of moods and worth to mention. I particularly like the longest one " Silver Trees " also " Pollution " and " In A Space ". " Blue Wednesday Speaks " adds a more traditional South African style to the composition with very good results. It's a shame they couldn't go on. A nice addition to your Prog-rock collection.
Report this review (#1285289)
Posted Sunday, September 28, 2014 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE Team
3 stars Although i'm not positive because of conflicting information regarding the two ABSTRACT TRUTH albums to emerge in 1970, i do believe "Totem" came first and SILVER TREES followed simply by the step up in quality that had developed between the two releases. Nevertheless ABSTRACT TRUTH remains a mysterious musical entity that shows a brief glimpse of the psychedelic scene ceding into the progressive rock world that was taking off at the time. This band came from the port city of Durban, South Africa where it surely caught wind of the blossoming styles of music from their faraway neighbors to the north and added their stamp of identity to them from the constant harbor activities on its shores. Unlike "Totem" which displayed a lot of tracks covering other artists mostly from the 60s, SILVER TREES is a complete set of originals but still very steeped in the 60s vibe with ample touches of folk, it adds more elements of jazz rock to the mix.

The opener "Pollution" is the perfect mix of all of the elements on board as it begins with a typical 60s folk sound but is then joined by a bombastic groovy bass line which hangs around for the majority of the album and one of its best features. It also ushers in the fluttering flute sounds and organ ambience before half way through totally shifting gears and heading into a funky guitar and saxophone solo treat. Definitely my favorite track on the album with quite the catchy hook and danceable attributes with the salsa like percussion afire. Tracks like "All The Same" remind me a bit of Cat Stevens with a ska band at first but then becomes a spaced out psychedelic rock track. Once again the bass is solid and the backbone of the entire sound. "Original Man" has a rather Jethro Tull type of progressive folk progression but unfortunately Kenny Henson lacked the vocal prowess of an Ian Anderson and leaves the track a little lukewarm.

The title track is the true psychedelic progressive treat of the album not only for an extended length of over eight minutes but for its dreamy and spaced out organ runs and early jazz-rock sounds that remind me of the earliest days of Caravan. "In A Space" sounds more like a John Coltrane tribute than anything else on the album but includes a sort of wah-wah guitar sound that adds some psychedelic touches. "Moving Away" includes harpsichord and is basically a simple psychedelic folk track. "Two" includes the same elements as well but a way more forgettable listening experience. "Blue Wednesday" has a Beatle-esque guitar lick that reminds me of "She's So Heavy" and is a catchy pop song and is another favorite of the album despite its blatant influence. "It's Alright With Me" picks up steam and ends the album with a heavier jazz-rocker but really should have been extended to build up to some sort of crescendo.

While SILVER TREES is very much an improvement over "Totem," it still sounds half-baked and needing more time to gestate its essence before a public release. While nothing is unpleasant in the least, neither is it memorable enough to compete with the flood of creativity exploding in Europe and the US at the time. The production is actually quite good for the day and the instruments deliver a warm and inviting mix of psychedelia for sure but in the end, the tracks are too poppy and tame to win over the true lysergic seeking crowds and a little too fuzzed out to be true pop hits of the day. While the jazzy touches are nice neither do they develop into something that grabs you or slaps you in the face and make you take notice. A decent album and perhaps worthy as an obscurity from an area of the world not usually associated with psych and prog but hardly one that i would call essential either.

Report this review (#1689376)
Posted Sunday, February 5, 2017 | Review Permalink

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