The name Tom Newman probably rings a bell with some prog fans, based on the association with Mike Oldfield. This man was responsible for (co-)producing a large number of albums by the British genius, including his world-renowned debut album Tubular Bells. He also stood as the basis of the success of Virgin Records and the recording studio The Manor. The fact that he also acted as producer for Canterbury band Hatfield And The North is less known, and the fact that he already has about a dozen albums to his name as a performing artist will hardly be on anyone’s mind. The latter also applies to yours truly.
No wonder I was somewhat surprised when his new album, A Faerie Symphony II, was released recently. The title is a dead give-away, it turns out to be the sequel to the Faerie Symphony album from 1977. At the time it didn’t cause much controversy, the rise of punk may have had something to do with that. Later on, Steven Wilson sang his praise, resulting in renewed interest in new material by Fine Old Tom, now 78 years old.
With the help of tireless musical jack-of-all-trades Robert Reed (Magenta, Kompendium, Sanctuary, etc) and a select group of musicians including singer Jennifer Banks and flautist Jon Field (Jade Warrior), Newman took to the studio to create a sequel for his obscure sophomore attempt, 44 years later. Newman makes eclectic music, the old hippie still making some unexpected twists and turns. The album is full of folk-like sounds, acoustic guitars, mixed with sound collages of birdsong and babbling brooks, at times laced with fragments of Oldfieldian tunes. Chants, oriental percussion, there is no end, without any clear direction. The music is largely instrumental, no (comprehensible) lyrics are used. I’ll be honest: it was no easy feat to work my way through this album. It could have been the soundtrack for a psychedelic movie about trolls, fairies, dragons, hobbits and golums, living in harmony in a fairytale forest, somewhere far away. Mystical, surreal, eccentric and unconventional are just a few words that apply to the old master’s newly released album.
Cult group The Enid once released an album entitled Aerie Faerie Nonsense, light, fairytale-like silliness. Quite an accurate qualification for Mr. Newman’s most recent work. This is truly an acquired taste. The man himself makes the following comment: “I am open to feedback and constructive criticism, no holds barred, but it must be remembered that this album is not intended to be comfortable, predictable or commercial!” He hits the nail on the head. Curious to see what Steven Wilson’s verdict will be.
It’s nice for Tom Newman that at this point in his career he still gets the respect and appreciation he has earned over the decades, especially through his work as a producer. I doubt whether that is also the case for his work as a musician. An eclectic album, a special collection of musical fragments, that’s all I can make of this, no matter how much I appreciate his acclaimed work for Mike Oldfield. On the other hand, I am quite interested in the biography he is currently writing. Old Tom has experienced quite a lot in his music career that has lasted more than half a century.
01. Strong Ladies Promenade (4:26)
02. Come In, Don’t Be Scared (3:25)
03. The Orchid People’s Dilemma (5:36)
04. The Rebellion (7:22)
05. A Return To… (2:15)
06. Theena Shee 2021 (5:32)
07. Hard Dance Pt. 1 (1:33)
08. Faerie Waltz (4:11)
09. Reed Vikings (2:57)
10. Fitina (4:52)
11. Sad Goodbyes (1:48)
12. The Lordly Ones (2:10)
Total Time – 46:07
Jon Field – Flute
Tom Newman – Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Bodhrán, Keyboards
Jim Newman – Guitar, Bass
Zak Sikobe – Guitar
Pete Cook – Guitar
Rob Reed – Numerous Instruments
Jennifer Banks – Vocals
Record Label: Tigermoth Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 7th May 2021
– A Faerie Symphony II (2021)
– The Calling (2015)
– The Secret Life of Angels (2014)
– The Hound of Ulster (1999)
– Tall Scary Things (1999)
– Faerie Symphony and Other Stories (1999)
– Hotel Splendide [Live] (1997)
– Snow Blind (1997)
– Bayou Moon (1986)
– Aspects (1986)
– Ozymandias (1988)
– Faerie Symphony (1977)
– Live at the Argonaut (1975)
– Fine Old Tom (1975)