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Although success eluded them during their early-'70s run, the brief catalog of British folk-rock band Trees managed to age gracefully into cult status over the ensuing years. Like their contemporaries Fairport Convention, the London quintet combined traditional folk music with guitar-driven rock, adding their own progressive and psychedelic flair into the mix. After a pair of albums for CBS, they disbanded in 1973. While Trees never re-formed, they enjoyed a resurgence in the late 2000s after American soul duo Gnarls Barkley sampled one of their songs on their hit 2007 album St. Elsewhere. In 2020, Trees celebrated their legacy with a 50th anniversary box set containing both of their albums and an array of rare and unreleased material. Formed in London in early 1969 just as the folk-rock boom was ramping up, Trees' initial lineup comprised singer Celia Humphris, guitarists Barry Clarke and David Costa, bassist Bias Boshell, and drummer Unwin Brown. Playing a mix of British traditional music and psych-folk originals usually penned by Boshell, they quickly became a staple of the university touring circuit and were signed to CBS in August of that year. Their debut album, The Garden of Jane Delawney, appeared in April 1970 and was produced by Tony Cox, a key player in the folk-rock scene and emerging prog rock movement. With their female-fronted electric folk sound, they drew obvious comparisons to the then-influential Fairport Convention, but there was also a progressive edge to Trees' music which often veered off into jammy psychedelic and what would in later years be referred to as acid-folk. As a live unit, they spent much of 1970 and 1971 supporting bigger acts on bills around the country including Pink Floyd, Genesis, Fotheringay, Fleetwood Mac, and Procol Harum. Their follow-up, 1971's On the Shore, was also produced by Cox and, like their debut, failed to find a larger audience leading Trees to disband later that year. Humphris and Clarke went on to lead a second iteration of Trees in 1972, though aside from some live bootlegs and contributions to Phil Trainer's solo album, they never released any material and broke up in 1973. Over the years, the group's legacy took on a cult band luster as younger generations discovered their albums. A few of its members enjoyed sustained careers in music with Boshell joining Kiki Dee's band and writing her hit "I've Got the Music in Me" and later joining both Barclay James Harvest and the Moody Blues. Clarke and Costa played together for a time and Costa remained in the music industry as a popular art director. Trees enjoyed a sudden boost in 2007 when Gnarls Barkley sampled their track "Geordie" on their breakout St. Elsewhere album. In 2020, a half-century after their debut, Earth Recordings put together an eponymous four-disc box set that included both studio albums, various live and demo recordings, and other Trees rarities.
© Timothy Monger /TiVo
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