“Staring at the stars wondering what it’d be like to get to go that far”: Burning Tree – Burning Tree (1990)

burning tree

I picked this one up recently cause it was £4.99 on Discogs and I’ve been looking to add this long forgotten album to my record collection.  It’s strange when you listen to albums like this.  Y’know, the type that are largely ignored and become forgotten until, in 2121, the Indiana Jones of record digging uncovers it in some dusty storage archive.  Wiping the dust from the sleeve they proclaim they are startled by the discovery.  “The Holy Grail! After all these years …”  Or something like that.

Burning Tree’s one and only album came just before the ‘grunge’ boom.  Legend has it that there was enough of a buzz about the band to land them a deal with Epic and a support slot for The Black Crowes.  So, they were, at some point at least, highly thought of.  The album itself is a wonderfully psychedelic coloured slice of rock n’ roll.  Complete with loose grooves, snaking guitar, and swamp stomp.

Opener, Burning Tree, is brilliant. Seriously good.  So good that I’m happy to waive the penalty points that I dish out for self-titled songs.  Anyhoo, it has a real Hendrix Experience vibe going on.  Even the snaps of lead – with just the right about of buzz – and the solo.  Nice, restrained, snazzy, but not too showy.  Wigs, Blues And High Heeled Shoes is worth sticking with if it doesn’t light up immediately.  Ford’s subtle guitar and the breakdown around the 1:35 mark is particularly smashin’.  In fact, there’s a real ‘Washington State’ buzz there – like Nirvana, Mudhoney, and early Screaming Trees especially.  The bass roaming and the guitar snapping.

Fly On that’s the real highlight of the album, in my opinion.  A swampy stoner swagger.  Some psychedelic guitar flourishes and a wonderful vocal from Marc Ford.  There’s also some incredible harmonies between the three of ’em, too.  Fly On is a great example.  All Alice In Chains like.  I should actually add that the vocal responsibilities, like the songwriting, is shared by all three of the chaps here.  All do stellar jobs, though Ford’s vocals appeal more to these ears.  Baker’s Song and Playing in the Wind complete side 1 brilliantly.  Particularly the latter, with is flowing psychedelic grooves about dreams, man.

Side 2 lacks the immediate ‘yowsa!’ factor that kicked off side 1.  In fact, there’s not a song as great as either Burning Tree or Fly On, but it’s no less stellar.  Actually, that being said, Masquerade, Last Laugh and Mistreated Lover are probably pretty close.  The latter having something of Hendrix’s version of All Along the Watchtower about it, while Masquerade is the side opener; coming across all 70s psychedelic rock n’ rolla before the likes of Kula Shaker came along and briefly made that whole psychedelia revisionist thing happen with Hush and their version on Hey Dude. Again, the playing from all is exceptional, but Ford knows when to play and when not to – simple rhythms lit up with some really intricate lead playing.  Man, that guy can play.  There’s loads of nice wah laden solos, hanging notes, and crunching staccato flicks here and there.  Last Laugh on the other hand is all buzzing chainsaw swinging from a rafter and a nice big buzzing lead.

The other tracks on side 2 are Crush – a ‘being in a band’ ballad – and Turtle.  Both have some really brilliant melodies and Turtle in particular is a really exceptional take on 60’s rock n’ roll.  Also happens to round things off really well too.

So yeah, there you have it. Burning Tree’s sole LP.  A masterpiece?  I’d argue that it is.  There’s definitely the shadow of Hendrix, Cream, and some Stevie Ray Vaughan (which I only really noticed after getting into Stevie Ray Vaughan pretty heavily the last year!).  Of course, Ford would quit the band to join The Black Crowes.  That move made The Black Crowes great, though it signalled the end for Burning Tree.  Bah.

burning tree backThe LP comes with a plain white inner.  No lyrics, no detailed credits, and, most importantly, no glamorous band shots.  My copy is near mint.  Really doesn’t look as though it had been played!  I also noticed that the track order is different from the 2010 CD reissue.  Aside from the order, there’s two less tracks (Same Old Story and Baby Blue are missing).  Personally, I prefer the LP.

Well, of course I do.

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23 Comments

    1. I thought so. I’m awfy fond of this one. I honestly couldn’t express how much of a great album this is! I reckon you’d remember if you gave it a listen …

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    1. He’s really pretty incredible with that ol’ thing they call a geeta. I tend to consider that album his … like you say, he smokes!

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  1. Really good review J.

    Never heard the LP, but I saw them support Dogs D’amour in 91 – I think it was the only time they ever played over in the UK. They were very good, but maybe missing a bit of dynamism.

    What a great find, I’d snap this up if I saw it.

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    1. Thank ya.

      You saw them? Awesome. I don’t think they played too many shows in the UK at all, so reckon you lucked out there. There’s an EP recorded in London called, eh, Live In Leeds I think.

      But yeah, I reckon you’d dig this.

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  2. Great find! Been intrigued by this for years… love Ford and Classic Rock Mag did an “Every Home Should have One” type feature on it years ago that grabbed me. Almost bought the CD a couple of times but I’m glad I didn’t now!

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    1. Definitely one to snap up if you see the LP, though the CD is certainly worth buying too if you see it. Especially the reissue (there’s some live tracks I forgot to mention!)

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    1. Glad to meet a fellow enthusiast! Really isn’t a bad track on here, huh? I was fairly excited a few years ago (10!?) when they had reformed, but other than a handful of shows nothing really happened (other than Ford’s Weary And Wired). But still, they gave us this. Hurrah!

      … and thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Rather late to the party on this one, J. But curious about your aversion to self-titled songs. I was just over at Geoff’s place burbling with excitement about a (mental) list of Song title = Album title = Band Name. And your post above has one of these. Wowie Zowie!

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    1. I’m not sure exactly what it is about self-titled songs. I think maybe it just feels a bit laboured … “I really like the name of our band, so …”.

      Dare say there are some good self-titled songs, but I often roll my eyes when I see such a thing on an album and make up my mind there and then. I’d also acknowledge that this may be irrational.

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