Water Vision (Independent)

Olive Trees

By David Lilly

Local access television lied to me (said with a wink). My first exposure to the music and lyrics of Stephen Spanbauer and the singing of Karen Spanbauer, then known as Olive Trees, was underwhelming. However, when I learned that they'd expanded and revved up their sound a bit, I did my best Mills Lane-as-claymation-referee imitation ("Let's get it on!") and acquired a copy.

With the addition of bass and drums, they've blossomed and released their first full-length CD, Water Vision. Hmm, we have trees and water here; what could be missing in this musical landscape? Why, rocks, of course. What a coincidence -- that's exactly what this new version of Olive Trees does.

Other than the improvement in overall sound, what intrigues me is that the title of the first song, the radio-ready "Collection of Lines," could describe the majority of the lyrics on this disc -- as in a lot of not necessarily related lines. Yet when the lyrics are sung and the music played, it all fits together nicely to make a quilt of accessible but still artistic songs.

One exception to that is the reflective and angst-ridden "Living Sun." One of the band's attributes is that Mrs. Spanbauer has a good "looking" voice, which is to say she is easy on the ears (even when it sounds like she is singing through a megaphone). Another plus for this disc is the abundant use of echo, which always enhances the sound of music.

Opportunity knocks on the exit door as the last song is a 1997 recording of the then-acoustic duo's version of "No Biting," which is in it's new format on this CD. That gives you a chance to hear what I refer to as the metamorphosis of their sound. You can offer feedback (from your mind, not your amp) at