I must confess to really wanting to like Treetop Flyers. They hit all the right buttons, their name copped from a Steve Stills song, their vibe that West Coast seventies highway hum, the liquid guitars spiralling into the sunset. Palomino, their second full album, continues in the vein of its predecessor, 2013’s The Mountain Moves, the vocals recalling America’s Dewey Bunnell but at times the music is reminiscent of mid seventies bands who added soul music, Latin influences and jams to the initial clear air of the originals.
Several of these songs exceed the six minute mark and are dominated by whirling organ and guitar flourishes that cloud the quality of the songs. Live they may be quite exhilarating but on disc there’s a temptation at times to skip to the next track. Having said that the setting might be an issue here as when I listened to the album in the car on an hour plus drive it was quite invigorating and remained in the player for a second listen.
The album gets off to a fine start with the grand sweep of You, Darling, You, a song that does inhabit that same Ventura Highway that America ventured down but in this case instead of long hair flowing in the breeze of a convertible there’s a sense of claustrophobia, windows tight shut against the night, the road a lost highway. Sleepless Nights zips into action with Allman Brothers’ guitar like duelling as the band buckle up for another bumpy ride, turning off to Altamont instead of Woodstock with a fine pastoral coda acting like a rear mirror view of what could have been. There’s another left turn as Lady Luck tucks into another strand of yesteryear, UK post psychedelic rock, Canterbury bands such as Caravan. Here mellotron and guitar swirl around portentous lyrics, the song wouldn’t be out of place on an early King Crimson album. From here on in there’s a patchwork of sounds. A lysergic soul number in It’s A Shame, a Santana like rumble on the lengthy Dance Through The Night (which, if were a stick of rock, would have Fillmore West stamped throughout it) and on Never Been As Hard they dive into a submarine world of swooning guitars and soft mallet percussion as Reid Morrison plumbs emotional depths the likes of Mercury Rev could only imagine. There’s a magical end to this song as a discordant piano outro abruptly stops as the band launch immediately into their closer, Wild Winds.
Apparently, the album was recorded following a period of turmoil for the band members and this is reflected in the barest song here. St. Andrews Cross is a stark lament set to acoustic guitar, the harmonies casting some light on the darkness like a stained glass window in some dark cathedral. It starts wonderfully but like several of its siblings it could have done with some pruning. Overall, the album is a bold venture but it lacks focus although there are some killer songs in here that definitely grow with repeated listens and which are tailor made for the stage.