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

CARNIVAL OF SOULS

The Wishing Tree

 

Prog Related

3.26 | 29 ratings

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Forgotten Son
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 www.myspace.com/thewishingtreeband), 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.

Forgotten Son | 4/5 |

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