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The Incredible String Band - The 5000 Spirits or The Layers of the Onion CD (album) cover


The Incredible String Band


Prog Folk

3.95 | 61 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND formed as the trio of Clive Palmer, Robin Williamson and Mike Heron in 1966 after Palmer and Williamson had been performing together since 1963 in night clubs. As a trio the band released only one album, its eponymously titled debut the same year as formation and immediately clicked with a folk crazed public with kudos even from Bob Dylan who claimed the STRINGS were his favorite new band however for whatever reason Clive Palmer decided to go separate ways thus leaving the band as only a duo.

Given the changing times as the year 1966 ceded into the Summer of Love, THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND adopted the psychedelic flavors of the brave new world and released its second album THE 5000 SPIRITS OR THE LAYERS OF THE ONION to critical claim for its bold transition into a more progressive style of folk music that added the contemporary Indo-raga trends of incorporating not only the sitar but also other exotic instruments such as the oud, tamboura, bowed gimbri as well as finger symbols.

The album was quite long for the sixties with thirteen tracks that added up to over 50 minutes but somehow managed to be squeezed in on a single album. THE 5000 SPIRITS was perfectly tailored for the psychedelic 60s with an audacious but beautiful colorful album cover and authentic English folk melodies accompanied by exotic instrumentation which were performed by four guest musicians including Pentangle's Danny Thompson on double bass and legendary UFO Club owner John Hopkins on piano. Nazi Jariazbhoy performed the sitar and Christina McKechnie added some feminine charm in the form of background vocals.

Despite only reaching #25 on the UK album charts, THE 5000 SPIRITS was championed by none other than DJ John Peel who played multiple tracks during his gigs and even Paul McCartney jumped on board as a big fan thus making the album quite successful in folk circles. The album featured excellent original songwriting with thought provoking lyrics as well as fairly complex folk arrangements for the year 1967 and the impetus for the world of psychedelic folk to expand in the following years. In addition to the world ethnic sounds the folk guitar strumming is also accompanied by the occasional harmonica, mandolin, flute and drums.

THE 5000 SPIRITS OR THE LAYERS OF THE ONION is one of those albums that perfectly epitomizes the era from which is arose but also retains a sense of timelessness as the album resonates even more than a half century later. By adhering to the traditional folk values that preceded the psychedelic movement with only enough experimentation to capture the attention of the folky freaks of the era, THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND not only successfully reinvented themselves with a STRING of beautiful albums to follow but also provided a blueprint for all the psych bands on the mellower side to follow. In short, this is a beautiful pastoral piece of poetic acoustic music that came out in the wild and crazy 60s that ages quite well.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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