Review Summary: Believe it or not, 7 unknown Jesus junkies in the 70's have created something unlike anyhing you've ever heard before. Playing a extremly diverse mix of Folk, Psychedelia, and a kaleidoscope of World musics put together to form some of the most beautiful
Did you know Marco Polo had a band of folk singers? Oh, yes all very skilled western musicians who traveled along with him in whatever country he came venturing into. Blazed a trail from Italy all the way to China and the surrounding nations. Learned all the different ethnic styles of rhythms and on the way, picked up all the various instruments each country had to offer, no matter the color, nor the shape, no matter the sound it made. Down the road, 10 to 15 years later they made their way back to Italy and in celebration of their return, they play for the Pope at the Vatican playing the treasure box of instruments they retrieved and incorporating all the various styles learned all meshed together into one magnificent concert and it's all recorded for our enjoyment...........OK, so the historically educated are on to me now. Yea, there's no doubt about it, I'm just ***ting, but it's almost believable---of course you'd have to ignore the fact that recording techniques weren't invented until some 500 years later--- but when you listen to this album in a dark room you can almost imagine the Pope sitting and watching a sweeping epic of a concert unfold before his eyes and ears. With them telling their epic story to the Pope in the best way they could---in music. You can get lost too, I mean with the drone of Sitars and Tablas you can almost see and hear the sounds of an Indian street corner, or an abandoned temple in archaic Tibet where the echo of prayer songs ring throughout. In this extremely under appreciated classic, The Trees will take you on a trip, to a place you've never encountered before or ever will for that matter.
OK, so in reality, they were actually a group of 7 Jesus junkies in the early 70's (hailing from a semi-abandoned loft in New York City) who traveled around the States echoing the name of their savior. Oh, but what makes this group so different from the hundreds of thousands of Jesus groups that littered the era with the same words of Christ during the exact same era? Well no Jesus group played a kaleidoscope of instruments that ranged from bagpipes, sitars, sanctus bells, tambouras, harps, oboes, horns, drums of all sorts, and much more (80 instruments between the 7 of them!). Who played rhythm varieties such as American, Celtic, Korean, and Japanese folk musics, polyphony, and even a little Tibetan prayer song, and no Jesus group had the majestic and poignant musicianship to blend all these genres together to create something unlike anything else recorded before or since. Why should you care? Because this also happens to be some of the most beautiful music you've never heard!
The identity was unique, the sound breathtaking; they claim their sound grew out of group meditation and prayer. Which is easy to believe when you find yourself getting yourself lost in the heavenly landscapes, intoxicated in the beautiful melodies which blanket the exotic rhythms that dance around your ears like beautiful gypsys; one needs not believe in anything to be moved by such music! The listener is taken on a trip from the start (it never lets up either) whether it be Indian ragas, Ireland child balladry, Southern Pacific war whoops, or the gentle somber like lullabies, the listener is taken by the hand and led to a place they've never been before, into the sound world the Trees have created; now where in their world you will visit is site specific to the individual. Because I assure you, no two people will hear this in remotely the same way. Best of all, they're completely void of pretension, never over doing it.
I'd like to note, as trippy as all this sounds, this pilgrimage was very much a sober one. These people were hooked on Jesus, not drugs. They kind of resemble a spiritual and musical version of Keassy's traveling circus, but even without drugs, this is very much like psychedelia. Hell, I don't even know if you could call it THAT; it's so hard to categorize. I'd go as far as to call it, its own genre. Though, some critics are starting to giving them the label "Freak Folk", I think it's far too elegant, and assessable to be stuck in the same genre as such obscurities as I've heard from the genre. ( such as Incredible String Band, Simon Finn, Syd Barrett..etc) Oh, and unlike a-lot of psychedelic acts, this wasn't all studio trickery, they provide degrees of improvisation and dissonance. The spontaneity in these songs, whether they're psalms, original songs, liturgical chants, or wordless vocal pieces accompanied by complex and intersecting rhythms, was and in many ways, remains, new.
These guys aren't near as famous as they should be. Selling less than 500 copies of their only original LP, they would have became a relic of the past forever, if Renner hadn't come and unearthed this lost classic. They were lucky to ever get their material re-released, but luckily, after 33 years of being completely hidden they at least get some of the attention they deserve. And luckily for us, all of the scraps of recordings they left behind are in a neat little package, 4 disc's, 2 disc's of live material. Listening to this, brings back some of those moments of real connection to music that I rarely feel; I had felt it when I had discovered Coltrane's and Pharaoh Sanders' spiritual periods with A Love Supreme and Karma, Forever Changes, or even some of Dylan's more visionary pieces and now I feel it with these guys too. I know it's early but I'm calling it anyway: best release of 2007.
Hell, if this review inspires just one person to pick up Christ Tree, it'll be worth all the typing I just did.