Brothers Martin and Adrian Welham started playing folk music with their friend Dez (Derek) Allenby while still schoolboys in Grimsby (Lincolnshire).
Moving to the tiny village of Walesby near Market Rasen in the mid-60s, they initially named themselves The Foresters of Walesby and became regulars on the local club circuit, playing folk songs with their own distinctive brand of vocal harmonies.
Dez and Martin went to Birmingham University in the autumn of 1967 but continued to play live and communicate with Adrian (who added an ‘h’ to his name to become Hadrian) via tapes. They moved away from traditional material and devised their own idiosyncratic style, involving diverse instrumentation and more complex arrangements.
After a triumphant gig in Notting Hill’s All Saints Hall, they were offered a management deal with Blackhill Enterprises (home to Pink Floyd and Roy Harper, amongst others) and were soon signed to EMI’s nascent Harvest label.
Their eponymous debut album was recorded early in 1969 under the supervision of Harvest’s head, Malcolm Jones. Though titles like A Glade Somewhere, Mirror Of Life and Do You Want Some Smoke? hint at their lyrical concerns, strong songwriting, deft playing and energetic performances save the album from being a period piece.
A single (the non-album track Searching For Shadows) did not help sales, but Forest played various BBC sessions and became regulars on the college circuit and festival scene, touring in what John Peel’s sleevenotes describe as “a succession of the most absurd vans in living memory”.
Despite warm reviews, their 1970 follow-up, Full Circle, also failed to sell, prompting Allenby’s departure.
The Welham brothers struggled on until 1973, but prog rock was overshadowing the folk scene, and when it became clear that EMI did not intend to authorise a third album, they called it a day.
Martin Welham and his son Tom went on to perform as psych-folk duo The Story, while Dez Allenby recorded with his wife Cathy as Southernwood.
Vocals, guitar, organ, harmonium, piano, pipes, percussion
Adrian (Hadrian) Welham
Vocals, guitar, harmonica, pipes, cello, electric harpsichord, harmonium, percussion, organ, mandolin
Vocals, mandolin, harmonica, pipes, harmonium, percussion