Tom Newman has had quite a long and distinguished career in music. Many will know of his production work with Mike Oldfield, but he has also worked with Hatfield And The North, Doll By Doll, and NWOBHM act Charlie ‘Ungry among others. Working with Richard Branson from 1970, he also helped to build renowned The Manor recording studio in Oxford. But running parallel to this, from the mid-1970s Tom began to release albums under his own name. There has been a dozen or so of these so far, but it would be fair to say none of them became as well-known as his work on other musician’s releases. The Faerie Symphony II, as the title suggests, is a sequel to one of those, Faerie Symphony which was released in 1977.
The Faerie Symphony II is a gentle, eccentric and often ethereal album. Tom is joined by a few guest musicians although his own guitar, keyboard and occasional percussion work dominates. The music is quite diverse in character although dominated by a folkish feel it also takes in rock, world music, maybe a little American roots music along with sections that wouldn’t be out of place on a contemporary jazz album. The opening track, Strong Ladies Promenade, begins in a similar vein to Floyd’s Grantchester Meadows with twittering birdsong and acoustic guitars before veering off into something more dreamily folksy than Pink Floyd’s effort. Elsewhere the music continues in this familiar style, although The Orchid People’s Dilemma has a gentle take on present-day jazz at one point. It must be said that there are tunes that would not be out of place on a Mike Oldfield album too, Theena Shee being one of these. But as the album appears to flow between one track and another, and even within tunes there are some marked divergences, the album could almost be considered and listened to as one complete piece.
The mellow nature of the music is maintained throughout, indeed there is very little drumming on any of the pieces – maybe a flourish here or a drum roll there. The momentum comes from the compelling lilt of the themes. There is a rather winsome air to it all, as if you are being shown something that has existed but you have never noticed for yourself before. In that sense, the narrative is quite revelatory. There is nothing strident or demonstrative on display, nor anything over dramatic.
If this album appeals to you, it is one that you would want to listen to a few times to appreciate. It ebbs and flows but doesn’t make statements. The fancifulness may be a little off putting for many, and the concept could be considered more than a little fey. But if you like to spend time with a piece of music and reflect upon it, then you will find much here to appreciate on this unconventional album.
1 Strong Ladies Promenade 4:26
2 Come In, Don’t Be Scared 3:25
3 The Orchid People’s Dilemma 5:36
4 The Rebellion 7:22
5 A Return To…. 2:15
6 Theena Shee 2021 5:32
7 Hard Dance Pt. 1 1:33
8 Faerie Waltz 4:11
9 Reed Vikings 2:57
10 Fitina 4:52
11 Sad Goodbyes 1:48
12 The Lordly Ones 2:10
Executive-Producer – Rob Reed
Flute – Jon Field
Guitar [Hofner Verithin], Acoustic Guitar [Paul Brett ‘Raven’], Bass [Fender 6 String], Acoustic Guitar [1/2 Size Japanese Nylon Strung Spanish], Guitar [1/2 Sized Kids Strat], Bodhrán, Keyboards [Nasty Midi Keyboard] – Tom Newman
Guitar [Hofner Verithin], Bass [Fender 6 String] – Jim Newman
Guitar [Rat] – Zak Sikobe
Guitar [Strat] – Pete Cook
Instruments [His Stuff] – Rob Reed
Producer, Mixed By – Tom Newman
Vocals – Jennifer Banks
Gatefold digifile with 8 page booklet
Release date: 7th May 2021
Label: Tigermoth Records