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Fula - "Kissing Trees" - Reviews

Fula
Kissing Trees never released

In the run up to the final release of Fula's 2002 album The Beautiful, The Delicate and The True, Musical Discoveries' dialog with songwriter Rob Gould revealed some of Fula's earlier recordings. Our review of the band's Songs From Beyond The Merrygolight drew attention to the stunning vocal work of the band's first lead singer Nadeen Plant. Further discussion with Rob revealed an additional fourteen tracks which have been compiled onto the SFBTM Vol.2 aka 'Kissing Trees' album reviewed here.

Fula have actually had four vocalists during their eight year run. Nadeen Plant, featured here again, was their first singer. She preferred studio work to gigging and was subsequently replaced for a short time by Janet Galloway. Zoe Stafford joined the band next and sung on Fula's Dark Matter. The album received widespread acclaim in the progressive rock press and mention in the BOTY awards by England's Classic Rock Society.

Josie Bostin joined Fula after Zoe departed to pursue other interests, toured with the band for a couple of years and recorded The Beautiful, The Delicate and The True, the band's latest release. But Josie has just recently departed to complete her formal education. A replacement has been identified but at this writing has not been named. Musical Discoveries is working with Fula to arrange a comprehensive interview that may very well include inputs from the vast majority of their prior vocalists!

Musical Discoveries has contrasted the work of three of the vocalists--Nadeen, Zoe and Josie--in previous reviews and our editors are delighted to review this earlier recording featuring b>Nadeen Plant. Readers interested in catching up on Zoe Stafford's current work should visit the website for her latest project--One Window--where various samples of the band's work be heard.

Nadeen Plant has a well-trained theatrical vocal style--full of lush vibrato--that can be most closely compared to Tracy Hitchings (feature). Her powerful, sweet and wide-ranging voice is perfectly suited for progressive rock which aside from her dislike of touring made her involvement with Fula ideal. The recording of Nadeen's vocals on 'Kissing Trees' is especially notable.

The recordings on Kissing Trees date back to 1997 and while they serve to acoustically document the work are unfortunately limited by the equipment available to the group at the time. The instrumentals are dominated by keyboards and generally lack percussion or other arrangement and therefore are reminscent of Clive Nolan's Strangers On A Train series (review). The tracks included are quite short for the most part with an average running time of only three or four minutes, some less. While this is atypical from a progressive band, one must listen to them recognising they are demos of material that could have been developed into much more.

'Kissing Trees' is principally an album of Fula rarities--at least it is at this writing! It opens with the original sensually sung (layered) version of "Behind Cold Eyes" accompanied only by keyboard. Like "Nothing More" which follows and some of the other tunes presented here, it was subsequently recorded with Zoe Stafford for Dark Matter. "Where Did We Go Wrong," with its incredible bluesy sax-driven arrangement, and "River One" are original Nadeen Plant-version Fula rarities. The gentle keyboard-ridden ballad "Ragamuffin Man" is entirely unique with a moody spoken word part which deeply contrasts Nadeen's soaring vocal excursions.

Readers will instantly be drawn by Nadeen's vocal work in the stunning showcase heart-wrenching ballad "Something" sung over the lightest keyboard arrangement. The more richly arranged but equally gentle "This House" shows that, even in full splendour, Fula's progressive instrumentals could be modulated to not overpower. The lush instrumental was co-written by Rob Gould and Nadeen Plant. A further original version of a Dark Matter tune is "Everything". Nadeen's vocals, like in "Something", soar above the powerful instrumentals.

The album includes a short middle eight from an early and rich instrumental-only version of "Vanity" in this unique compilation complete with percussion, bass and saxophone. Nadeen's evocatively sung original version of "Banner Of Shadows" is also included on this album. Despite the shortness of the tracks and lighter arrangements of the demos, a dynamic instrumental bridge in "Shadows" illustrates where Fula were progressively when the recordings was made. "Shadows" was later recorded with Zoe Stafford and released on Dark Matter.

We especially enjoyed the lovely ballad "The Drowning Man", a well-arranged and accessible showcase number reminscent of "Gingerbread World" from Beyond The Merrygolight. The album concludes with two further numbers, the first a sensually sung ballad accompanied by keyboard entitled "Small House" and the second a full-on progressive instrumental entitled "Big House"

Although the recording quality suffers from the equipment available when the material was produced, the project is clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey. We hope that the artists will join up again to record new material. Until then, Nadeen Plant's work with Fula on "Songs From Beyond The Merrygolight - Volume 2" is a must listen!

Russ Elliot
Musical Discoveries









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