"The Winter Tree, (formerly MAGUS) is a band formed by composer/multi-instrumentalist Andrew Laitres, (a.k.a. Andrew Robinson) with vocalist/guitarist Mark Bond and his wife Deb Bond on keyboards" (http://www.thewintertreeband.com/about.html, 2011). Andrew was inspired to create his own epics after visiting, "a New York City YES fan convention in 1994"
This new project for Andrew Laitres and crew really captures the power and presence of the music I grew up with as a kid. It is magical and transports you back to a time when we seemed to have more time to sit back and enjoy music to its fullest. "In May", "The Three Hills" and "A Twilight in Middle March", are poetry set to music and are some of the highlights of the album that bring back that 70s era prog. "The Other" and "The Adventures of Prince Caspian" will bring you right up to the present. This album will figure prominently on my best albums of the year list.
"Voices from a Lost Age" opens cool and mysteriously with deep dark key sounds before synthesizers whirl and swirl and build a tempest; just before softer keys take over and calm the soundscape. A brilliant and powerful opener.
Deep drums and percussion fill the soundscape with synths and keys providing the momentum to open "Babylon" perfectly. Andrew Laitres captures the glory of the poetry of Ralph Hodgson and fills it with an incredibly grand sound. "If you could bring her past to pass!"
"Keeper of 10,000 dreams don't take it all away. I never wanted anything except another day" are the wonderful lyrics that open "Guardian Angel", one of the best tracks on the album. The keys and guitars rise up to meet the power of the lyrics and vocals. Deb's electric piano and Andrew's lead vocals walk us through this song of comfort.
"Fading Shadows" is a soft and brilliant keyboard interlude. A nice bridge between songs.
"In May" is a wonderful spring song filled with flute like organ sounds and wonderful acoustic guitar. Despite the band's name this spring song captures the feeling so well in words, "And sit beneath the trees, and share my bread with birds whose homes are there", and music. Adapted from William Henry Davies poem, this is another wonderful slice of life, full of the sound of seagulls and the ocean.
Piano like organ sounds and drums fill the air for "Now That You've Flown". Mark Bond sings lead vocals on this song. He and Andrew are close enough in sound that it's hard to tell the difference. More great lyrics, "I would climb every mountain, swim across the sea. Oh, to have you with me I'd do anything". A great song of longing full of some great guitar solos and excellent key work.
"A Twilight in Middle March" is a classic song full of all the memories of prog's great past. Based on a poem by Francis Ledwidge, this is the best song on the album. Takes you right back to Trick of the Tail or earlier. The guitar work and keys are just phenomenal. The strings, bells, and chimes will send shivers. The lyrics and vocals capture all the power and imagery of the change of seasons in this mighty month. "Yet sweeter music never touched our heart". Yes, that sums it up perfectly.
Ocean and radio wave like sounds open "The Other", before a very cool Blade Runner/Tron keyboard ride. This is Deb Bond's keyboard showcase/extravaganza and she doesn't disappoint. The best keyboard song on the album, bare none."The Three Hills" is adapted from J.C. Squire's poem. All of the imagery is captured well in word and song. The keyboards and percussion will take you right back to the 70s and some of the best songs you remember from that golden age. "Where are the old hills gone?" Yes the vocals and piano - like keys bring the sympathy and feeling that just wells up and surrounds you with warmth.
Deep piano notes open the sad song, "Stranger", with a longing for a time now passed. The words are powerful, "It seems like such a long, long way to go. The end is nowhere in sight. Only love can change your life". The guitar solos really drive the emotions along with those keys.
"The Adventures of Prince Caspian" is a wonderful instrumental journey to close this epic debut album. The keys summon all the magic and power of the books and movie to build an impressive musical experience. Only complaint, it was way too short for an epic.
This one gets an easy 4 out of 5 – Everyone should be gifted enough to create this powerful a debut album!
1) Voices from a Lost Age
3) Guardian Angel
4) Fading Shadows
5) In May
6) Now That You've Flown
7) A Twilight in Middle March
8) The Other
9) The Three Hills
11) The Adventures of Prince Caspian
Part I - Under a Narnian Sea
Part II - To The End of the World
Part III - Voyage of the Dawn Treader