Tom Newman, who was Mike Oldfield’s engineer and producer on his 1973 breakthrough album, Tubular Bells released on the Virgin Label that was the little engine that could from manager Richard Branson, decided to follow in Oldfield’s footsteps after the release of his second album, Hergest Ridge. But it was going to be something different from the first two albums that were atmospheric, folky, and new age in the earliest resemblance of Oldfield, Bo Hansson, and Tangerine Dream’s work with an Avant-Garde Medieval taste.
Released in 1977 at the peak of Year Zero when Punk was attacking Prog as “Dinosaur Rock”, Faerie Symphony, originally released on the Decca label and reissued by Esoteric Recordings back in 2008, was recorded at Newman’s studio in which he build called The Barge on a canal boat called in London’s Little Venice which is north of Paddington where the Canals meets by taking trips on a boat through Madia Vale onto Regent Park and Camden. He played all the instruments along with a little help from Jade Warrior’s Jon Field to lend a friend some collaboration to work on this bizarre but obscure gem.
Listening to this album is almost like an alternate soundtrack to the 1982 animated cult classic, The Last Unicorn or Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings back in 1978 that made them wish they could have gotten Newman to do the score for two of those films with a bizarre and twisted soundtrack like this. You could tell that he was doing a lot of research reading a lot of the Mythological stories from Joseph Campbell, Grimm's Fairy Tales, and listening to classical, world, and Irish folk music to capture the essence of Faerie Symphony.
There’s a lot of strange twists and surprises from the album including the Piano crash turned Celtic Militant Rock on Dance of the Daohne Sidhe while the homage to Schubert’s Ave Maria turned into a grand mourning composition on The Spell Breaks, makes it an emotional turned haunting centerpiece to really take notice on why Newman was ahead of his time. The Seelie Court meanwhile is poignant guitar structured virtuosity along with flutes and oboe setting the scenery in a Scottish countryside for the fairies to come there and play their instruments and dance the night until dawn for them to go to sleep.
While The Fairy Song resembles the vocalization by doing the bass drum part of the Christmas piece, The Little Drummer Boy and could have been recorded in a Catholic church, it’s Aillen Mac Midna that is an eccentric short piece with tapes going backwards as the flutes and guitar go on into the forest as it segues into The Unseelie Court. Here, this is the climatic beauty where everything comes in at the right time at the right place.
It goes into this Goblin meets Aphrodite’s Child 666-era groove with a dosage of slow turned fast time changing signatures into quick chipmunk voices, guitar work, the instruments going into a chaotic mode as if they were locked in an asylum, screaming and screeching vocalization, and making it into a massive nightmarish hell that would send a shiver down the listener’s spine. Faerie Symphony is not an easy album to listen to, but this is one of the most must listen to albums in the history of the obscure progressive rock genre of the 1970s.