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


The Wishing Tree


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3.26 | 35 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
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"!

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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