Trees were an English folk-rock/psych band from London that released the album The Garden of Jane Delawney on CBS in 1970, followed by On the Shore in 1971.
Along with the works of like-minded contemporaries (Forest, Spirogyra, Fuschia, Trader Horne, Dr. Strangely Strange, Jan Dukes de Grey), Trees catalog gained newfound respect during the 21st century among collectors of “acid folk,” a nomenclature for the free-spirited hippie folk of the post-psych era.
Members: Celia Humphris (vocals, keyboards), Barry Clarke (guitar), David Costa (guitar), Bias Boshell (bass, guitar, backing vocals, 1970-71), Unwin Brown (drums, 1970-71), Barry Lyons (bass, 1971-73), Alun Eden (drums, 1971-73), Chuck Fleming (fiddle, 1971-73)
Trees grew from a musical partnership between guitarists David Costa and Barry Clarke. Costa, the son of Radio Luxembourg DJ Sam Costa, was a Fine Arts major at the University of East Anglia when he met Clarke, who worked at Royd’s advertising agency. Clarke’s bassist roommate, Bias Boshell, attended Bedales School in Petersfield with drummer Unwin Brown.
In need of a singer, Costa contacted Celia Humphris, a former dance and drama student at London’s Arts Educational. Humphris, the daughter of comics artist Frank Humphris (Eagle‘s “Riders of the Range” series), was the sister of a Costa associate. The five piece, dubbed Trees, cut demos in the summer of 1969 and signed to CBS that August. Their management agency, Clearwater Productions, also handled contemporaries Cochise, High Tide, and Thunderclap Newman.
1970: The Garden of Jane Delawney
Trees released their debut album, The Garden of Jane Delawney, in April 1970. It starts with the group-written “Nothing Special” and features four Boshell originals (“Road,” “Epitaph,” “Snail’s Lament,” the title track) and four band-arranged traditionals (“The Great Silkie,” “Lady Margaret,” “Glasgerion,” “She Moved Thro’ the Fair”).
The Garden of Jane Delawney was co-produced at Chelsea’s Sound Techniques studios by Tony Cox (Caravan, Gringo, Tea and Symphony, Tír na nÓg) and David Howells (Ray Russell, Nightwing) with engineers Mike FitzHenry (Gun, Andwellas Dream, Skin Alley, Matching Mole) and Vic Gamm (Synanthesia, Fuchsia, Magna Carta, Stackridge).
Costa painted the front cover, which shows a root-exposed tree beside a trunk-supported, three-story brick building. The back features liner notes by BBC Radio 1 DJ and voice artist Pete Drummond, who later married Humphris.
“Nothing Special” appeared on 7″ (b/w “Epitath”). It also appears on the 1970 CBS compilation In Good Company with tracks by Chicago, Laura Nyro, Argent, and It’s a Beautiful Day.
In advance of the album, Trees played the Festival de Musique Evolution 1970, a three-day event (March 27–30) that also featured performances by Renaissance, the Edgar Broughton Band, Procol Harum, Hawkwind, Kevin Ayers, Pink Floyd, and the Moving Gelatine Plates.
Clarke played guitar on two tracks (“Ship,” “If You’re Not Part of the Solution, You Must Be Part of the Problem“) on another 1970 CBS Cox/Gamm production, Sunrise by singer-songwriter Mick Softley.
1971: On the Shore
Tree’s second album, On the Shore, appeared in January 1971 on CBS. It features two Boshell originals (“Murdoch,” “While the Iron Is Hot”), a Costa co-write (“Fool”), a Cyril Tawney cover (“Sally Free and Easy”), and five band-arranged traditionals, including “Streets of Derry,” “Geordie,” “Little Sadie,” and “Polly on the Shore.”
Sessions for On the Shore occurred at Sound Techniques in October 1970, once again with Cox and Gamm. The cover shows a young Katie Meehan (daughter of early Shadows drummer Tony Meehan) amid a swirl of water, photographed by Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis.
“While the Iron Is Hot” features guest musician Michael Jefferies on harp. That track credits a different engineer, Roger Quested (Audience, Chicken Shack, Martha Veléz, Trapeze).
“Polly on the Shore” appears on the two-LP CBS compilation Rock Buster with tracks by Blood Sweat & Tears, Miles Davis, The Flock, Santana, and Spirit. “Fool” appears on the label comp Together with cuts by Ballin’ Jack, Dreams, Soft Machine, and the Chamber Brothers.
In 1971, Trees disbanded. The following year, Humphris and Barry Clarke formed a new Trees with JSD Band fiddlist Chuck Fleming and the rhythm section of Mr. Fox, bassist Barry Lyons and drummer Alun Eden. These musicians backed American singer-songwriter Phil Trainer on the 1972 BASF release Trainer, where Humphris sings “angelic vocals” on the track “Leave Me Alone.”
Costa joined the second Trees lineup for a series of dates, documented on the 1989 archival release Live!
Clarke and Costa partook in the 1973 soul-rock project Casablanca with (ex-East of Eden / Manfred Mann Chapter Three) bassist Steve York and (future Blockhead) drummer Charley Charles. Their one album appeared on Elton John‘s Rocket Record Company. Clarke then played on the 1974 Epic release Steppin’ Out by Vigrass and Osborne.
Boshell played on the 1972 Sovereign release Boo by singer/songwriter Juliet Lawson. He then joined the Kiki Dee Band and wrote five songs on her 1974 release I’ve Got The Music In Me, including the hit title track. His subsequent credits include titles by Kevin Ayers, Barbara Dickson, Barclay James Harvest, Sheena Easton, Private Lives, and further albums by Dee. In 1991, he replaced Patrick Moraz as keyboardist in the Moody Blues.
Costa became an album illustrator, responsible for the cover visuals on titles by Elton John, Queen (A Night at the Opera), Stackridge, Cliff Richard (Every Face Tells a Story), The Moirs, and Electric Light Orchestra.
All About Eve covered “The Garden of Jane Delawney” as a b-side to their 1988 single “What Kind of Fool.”
Since 1993, numerous labels have reissued the two Trees albums. In 2008, UK archivists Sunbeam Records issued The Garden of Jane Delawney with a bonus EP that contains three early demo tracks, including the otherwise unavailable “Little Black Cloud” and “Pretty Polly.” A 2007 Sony BMG reissue of On the Shore contains a second disc of remixes and the 1971 rarity “Forest Fire,” recorded for the BBC.
- The Garden of Jane Delawney (1970)
- On the Shore (1971)
- Live! (1989, recorded 1971)
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