A Faerie Symphony II by Tom NewmanRelease date: May 7, 2021
Label: Tigermoth Records
Tom Newman who was fresh off producing Mike Oldfield’s classics from Ommadawn, Hergest Ridge, and the groundbreaking 1973 debut Tubular Bells, which marked the beginning of Richard Branson’s label Virgin Records, was supported by the late great Radio DJ John Peel who wrote not only an enthusiastic review for The Listener, but played the first side of the album on his Top Gear program on May 29th of that year.
However, Newman was more than just producing Mike Oldfield and Hatfield and the North. In 1977, he released his third studio album on the DECCA label entitled Faerie Symphony. Championed by Steven Wilson who wrote a guide to ten amazing concept albums you might have missed for Classic Rock magazine in 2008, he described it as a “lovely instrumental record with a sense of ‘otherness’ about it.”
Unfortunately, the album was released at the wrong time. It was right at the peak of the punk rock explosion. The reason it didn’t do well because the music press were focusing on bands such as The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and The Damned. They just didn’t have time for the old guard as they moved on into greener pastures by considering them “dinosaurs”.
Faerie Symphony was so far ahead of its time. And while its getting the recognition it deserves including a 2009 reissue that Esoteric Recordings had released, it is an unsung gem. I do remember buying this album at Cactus Music many years ago to see what would tickle my fancy, and this was a gate keeper because Steven Wilson had admired it so much’. It was an experience I will never forget.
Now in 2021, with help from Magenta’s Rob Reed and Jade Warrior’s Jon Field, Newman has returned once more to the mystical forest by coming full circle on the Tigermoth label with a sequel entitled, A Faerie Symphony II. The artwork for this album is like a trip back in time to where it originally started at The Manor Studio in the village of Shipton-on-Cherwell in Oxfordshire, England.
For Newman, he’s inviting the listeners to come back once more to the forest. And it’s quite the journey that is like a 2D animated movie brought to life with weirdness that is surreally magical. So if you are expecting Disney princesses singing those “I Want” songs from Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, think twice before you speak.
‘Come In, Don’t Be Scared’ features this Lullaby Musical Box with some ‘70s acoustic guitar going into an acid folk structure. Eerie arrangements and whispering vocals, followed by wah-wah guitars and bass that has a Canterbury flavor to it, it is a nightmarish quality to reveal this abandoned house that has become stuck in the past and present.
‘Strong Ladies Promenade’ is a welcoming return to the Faerie Symphony for one last time. Newman is re-writing his own approach of the theme for Sleeping Beauty’s ‘Once Upon a Dream’ with waltz-like keyboard cellos to dance and waking Aurora up has been asleep for thousands of years while ‘Theena Shee 2021’ starts off with this extravagant performance as the Circus begins with militant drums, Oldfield-esque guitars, percussion click-clacking with an amount of humming to the mix.
‘The Orchid Peoples Dilemma’ takes us to the Swamp with these frog and goblin-like vocals that are both snarling and slowed down with high-pitch arrangements of musique-concrete vocals crying out to the heavens before going into a cat-and-mouse ‘80s synth-rock chase to reach a boiling point.
‘The Rebellion’ makes the dream of making it to the big time, into hell on earth. It starts off with a Celtic beauty between electric and acoustic guitars as synthesizers reveal the sun rising in the west by starting out a brand new day. And then at night time, it changes into this anguish atmosphere as fires are burning rapidly. You can imagine Tom is honoring film composer John Barry with some terrorizing goyaseque artwork brought to life.
‘Faerie Waltz’ sees Tom having a bit of fun as he is teaching the Faeries to dance in a mystical approach of the Hawaiian traditional Maui dance as he channels the lukewarm sunrise of a new beginning in these underwatery landscapes of Terry Riley throughout the ‘Reed Vikings’.
A Faerie Symphony II is one of the most challenging releases from Tom Newman. It is staggering, hypnotic, weird, romantic, surreal, and mind-blowing. Like what Zappa had done in his lifetime, Tom would take these different styles of music from his new album by putting them in a blender and knowing that there aren’t any rules. Even though we abide by them, we need time to break it apart, one by one. A Faerie Symphony II it is quite the journey to return back to the mystical forest for one last ride.