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The Incredible String Band

Prog Folk

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The Incredible String Band The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter album cover
3.36 | 65 ratings | 13 reviews | 32% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1968

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Koeeoaddi There (4:49)
2. The Minotaur's Song (3:22)
3. Witches Hat (2:33)
4. A Very Cellular Song (13:09)
5. Mercy I Cry City (2:46)
6. Waltz of the New Moon (5:10)
7. The Water Song (2:50)
8. Three Is a Green Crown (7:46)
9. Swift as the Wind (4:53)
10. Nightfall (2:33)

Total time: 49:51

Line-up / Musicians

- Robin Williamson / lead (1-3,6-8,10) & backing vocals, acoustic guitar, guimbri, whistle, percussion, pan pipe, piano, oud, mandolin, Jew's harp, chahanai, water harp, harmonica, arrangements
- Mike Heron / lead (4,5,9) & backing vocals, acoustic guitar, sitar, Hammond organ, hammered dulcimer, harpsichord, arrangements

- Dolly Collins / flute organ, piano, arrangements (6,7)
- David Snell / harp
- Christina "Licorice" McKechnie / vocals & finger cymbals (2)
- Judy Dyble / vocals (2) - not credited
- Richard Thompson / vocals (2) - not credited

Releases information

Artwork: Osiris Visions

LP Elektra - EUK-258 (1968, UK) Mono audio
LP Elektra - EUKS-7258 (1968, UK) Stereo audio
LP Elektra - EKS-74021 (1968, US) New cover art
LP Sundazed - 5129 (2003, US)

CD Hannibal Records ‎- HNCD 4421 (1991, US)
CD Fledg'ling Records ‎- FLED 3078 (2010, UK) Remastered by Simon Heyworth; Original cover art

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter ratings distribution

(65 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(32%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(23%)
Good, but non-essential (29%)
Collectors/fans only (15%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars This isn’t the first Incredible String Band album (it’s actually their third), but it is the best place to start getting to know them and their music. I didn’t know anything about these guys back when they were still together, and when I first heard their debut years later I dismissed them as another contemporary folk band with one foot in the past in the vein of Dando Shaft, Heron, Robin Lent, etc. That turned out to be a mistake.

While ISB’s debut is a fairly unremarkable folk affair featuring banjo and mandolin and the rather elusive Clive Palmer, Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter has all the marks of the late sixties on it, plus evidence that the musicians were more than just a handful of high hippies tripping out on studio tapes like so many of their contemporaries.

Robin Williamson was back from an extended journey to Morocco with his girlfriend Cristina “Licorice” McKechnie after the breakup of the original band, and he had brought some toys with him. He and Mike Heron reformed under the name Incredible String Band, but the music was about as different as ‘Please Please Me’ was from Sgt Pepper’s. The band’s second album had moved further into acid folk territory and the instrumentation reflected both Williamson’s Celtic roots and his growing interest in spiritual mysticism and eastern music. Here the transition of the band is even more complete, with Williamson adding finger cymbals, a water harp and chahanai to the oud, gimbri and sitar he had brought back from the East. The band also employs heavy use of a harpsichord and Jew’s harp as well as hammered dulcimer, and a couple of organs. So the sound is much richer than either of their previous works, and while at times the arrangements seem like a bit disjointed (see the lumbering “A Very Cellular Song”), for the most part the band does an admirable job of layering the various instruments’ outputs to achieve an engaging sound.

Williamson and Heron were also experimenting with various forms of modal tuning ala some of the stuff Ry Cooder, Robbie Basho and the tastefully name Clem Alford were into in the same period. This results in some of the western string instruments taking on the same tones as the sitar and oud. The singing goes this route as well, which makes some of the vocals tracks sound more like almost constant monotone droning with tonal variations corresponding to rhythm changes. This isn’t particularly melodic music, but it is an interesting style to listen to.

The best track is the opener “Koeeoaddi There” which manages to both be a sitar-driven tune and still sound slightly melodic, mostly thanks to Williamson’s acoustic guitar and vocals. The band would start to wander and experiment from here on out.

At times Williamson goes a little over-the-top, like on “Waltz of the New Moon” where his vocals are almost minstrel-like and floating directly on top of the mandolin and flute organ note-for-note. This would be interesting as a transitional piece, but on a five minute long song it gets just a bit tiresome. “The Minotaur's Song” suffers just a bit for the same reason.

On the other hand “Three is a Green Crown” has great use of the sitar (with Heron playing it), and “Swift as the Wind” has a great persistent guitar rhythm track that gives continuity to the oddly inflected vocals coming from Williamson.

I kind of wish I had known of this band thirty-five years ago so their music would be more familiar. Then again, it’s always fun to discover old music today and try to understand the thought processes those musicians went through that resulted in the albums they released. For Incredible String Band just reading about the histories of their various members makes it obvious how they arrived at the place of ‘The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter’. I can’t quite bring myself to give them four stars mostly because the album doesn’t age particularly well, although I can imagine folks who have known them for years would probably think differently. Anyway, a very high three stars and recommended to just about any prog folk fan.


Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

If the leap from the debut to 5000 Spirits was enormous, the one from Onion layers until Hangman's Daughter is just as important, but not reflected by the album's artwork displaying group and kling-ons in a pastoral woodlands (could be Hyde Park for all I know). Again the Boyd/Elektra connection, but the group is now assisted with the returning Scot weird howler Licorice (voices and finger cymbals), Dotty Collins on organ and harpist Snell. As you can guess the organ brings on fairly different sound, but it's not the only thing different here. The songwriting is much different, sometimes very ambitious, at other times frankly botched up. While this album is not far from one of the most important in the prog folk genre, it hasn't aged well, even though it profited from brand new technology in terms of the first 16 tracks studio in UK. By this time, tensions were growing between Heron and Williamson and they were always negotiating on their songs and Williamson's offering a spot to his girlfriend Licorice in the band's entourage could've lead to a Lennon/McCartney comparison, all things considered and weighed carefully.

Opening on the charming Koeeoaddi There, the album gives an aura of another planet as its origins, as all "earthly" characters described in the song help no further as to what this would be about. Minotaur Song sounds like a nonsensical barroom sing-along and its shallow sound (as if piano, guitar and all vocals were recorded on one microphone (on 16 tracks studio capacity, this is weird), and it quickly gets on the nerves. Actually it's not just this track, but a bit most of those "exotic" instruments that are all used as to do "something else", not well-played, but present for colour purposes. In some ways, this is also very much a trick that you'll find in many of the psych group of that era (The Move in particular) used those as freak-outs rather than real interventions. After the short spooky Witches May and before the flute & harmonica-laden but spooky as well Mercy I Cry City, the album finds the 13-mins A Very Cellular Song, which is just that: a bunch of short ditties stuck together more or less artificially through different techniques. As ambitious as it may sound, it only succeeds partially and seems not only disjointed, but completely improvised and assembled on the spot.

On the flipside, Waltz Of The New Moon is a superb spine-tingling, drama-laden song, which is this case seems to have found a prolongation into the following Water Song that rides on bubbly waters. Then comes the album's highlight, the lengthy Three Is A Green Crown, starting on detuned guitars and developing in a wild raga. The following Swift As The Wind is yet another sitar-laden track that charms its way through your brains, and the almost a capella (at first) closing Nightfall holding much madness through Thompson's bass and weird percussion (Licorice) and dronal voices.

HBD is certainly ISB's most impressive album (one that Dr Strangely Strange will try to emulate in their two albums, especially in Kip Of Serene), maybe their best, but like all ISB albums it hasn't aged well at all and some of that time's experiments have failed to survive the next century step. But HBD is clearly the album that every proghead wanting to investigate ISB must hear.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
2 stars Well, Iīve been hearing a lot of praising for this album through many, many years. When I finally got it I was quite disappointed. Clearly those guys are very good musicians, and their music is interesting. But I think I heard it all done quite better by other bands of the period (like The Pentangle). Besides, the overall feeling is of somewhat sloppiness. The arrangements sometimes sound disjoined, but what really gets me are the vocals: Wlliamson and Heron have very limited habilities In that field and sing as if they donīt care much. A pity, for there are good moments (like The Water Song) until the vocals get in the way.

My CD version has a good production for its time. the cover is also beautiful. They are good, ok, but I really prefer bands that have tighter arrangements and better vocalists. Folk acts in England and Europe always have a reputation of great singing, and this is clearly not the case. For fans of psychedelic folk only.

Review by kenethlevine
2 stars A self consciously dissonant and dissident work, "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter" is hard to appreciate outside the context of its time of release, with drug induced hippie fantasies dominating the nascent album oriented music scene. This middle and far eastern wide eyed consciousness even made it into some hit singles of the day, but ISB was of course too cool for that.

Robin Williamson and Mike Heron are just too aware of themselves and their charade here to come across as convincing. Even the most off kilter vocal harmonies and out of the blue drum rolls, and believe me there are many of both, sound like they have been rehearsed ad infinitum. The lack of compelling songs only draws their self absorption into focus, so that you really need to have tripped on whatever they were taking to feel any sense of belonging with and acceptance by the clique. All I can remember by the end is the aforementioned voices and lots of meandering sitar, even though I think a variety of other precious instruments fall into the ring. For instance "Mercy I cry City" is ISB does Dylan, poorly. The "Minotaur Song" is one place where the song is not sacrificed to the "atmosphere", while "A Very Cellular Song" has some worthwhile segments that are legitimately adventurous.

Stripped of its rampant solipsism, this daughter is a plain Jane.

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album switches in the full throttle of experimentalism for this group, but nevertheless I can't escape feeling that the record is little incoherent and distracted listening experience, containing both very fine musical moments among unpleasant and confusing elements.

"Koeeoaddi There" starts the album, having dominant vocals and sitar flowing over guitars creating surreal feeling. The song is composed quite fearlessly from different kind of parts, which build a yet quite logical entity, flowing free as a thought, and focusing to a rolling theme resembling a lullaby. Among the best songs of this album for me. "The Minotaur's Song" has piano, guitar, vocals and upright feeling, and isn't very exceptional in my opinion. Following "Witches Hat" is a nice romantic shortie with classical sounding chord progressions and naive madness, resembling little the first Pink Floyd record. "A Very Cellular Song" is the longest piece here, starting with organ and slightly painfully played violin. The strong vocal parts and powerful melodies in gospel style verse lead to a kazoo, flute & harpsichord madness, which is really irritating to listen. This kind of sequences are paired with returns to the start theme variations. "Mercy I Cry City" is then more compact composition for voice and guitar, which is attacked with all kind of short visits of musical instruments. "Waltz of the New Moon" is more minimalistic and oppressing song for guitar, wailing voice and supporting instruments. Following "The Water Song" is a medieval tune for organ, pipe, and voice, paired with an avant-gardist sequence, being really pretty. "Three Is a Green Crown" is also a fine song with powerful vocal presence, waving structure, resembling Indian raga music with hypnotic long run of chord improvisations, making up one of the strongest song here. "Swift as the Wind" is then for wailing voices and simple chords, deep emotional load and pretty melody. Closing track "Nightfall" rises from beautifully lingering notes of sitar, voice and guitar.

So this record has not grown as my personal favorite, though there are also fine moments in it. It is probably very sincere, but there are too much incoherent moments in it to fit my own taste totally. I have understood that this record has historical impact as the sound started to grow very experimental with this record, and it merges together interestingly influences from different cultures, but these facts do not affect to my abilities to enjoy this album as a totally exceptional musical experience. Thus it is recommended for those who like experimental and raw hippie music, and who are not drawn away from slightly off-key singing and violins.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter is the 3rd full-length studio album by UK folk rock act The Incredible String Band. The album was released by Elektra in 1968.

The music on the album is psychadelic folk rock with progressive elements. The 13:09 minute long A Very Cellular Song is the best example of the progressive side of the bandīs sound. The band play fully acoustic music ( Ok thereīs a hammond organ somewhere, and that doesnīt really qualify as acoustic, but still) and in addition to acoustic guitars there are a lot of exotic acoustic instruments on the album. Iīll not name them all but flute, harp, Jew's harp, harpsichord and gimbri are just some of them. The many different instruments create a varied and warm soundscape and some of the most exotic ones also create an eastern tinged sound. The vocals by Robin Williamson and Mike Heron are pleasant, warm and at times quirky and humourous. The atmosphere on the album varies between jolly and dark which is a thing I think the band masters really well. All songs on the album are well written and cleverly arranged and the production is of high quality too.

The bandīs 2nd full-length studio album The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion (1967) was an excellent release and while The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter is certainly excellent too, itīs not fully on par with The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion IMO. Iīm not sure what it is but I just like The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion better. Still The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter is worth a 3.5 - 4 star rating and I find that itīs a highly recommendable album if youīre interested in psychadelic folk rock with progressive elements.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Prog Specialist
2 stars This is an album I haven't heard for at least 20 years until yesterday, but due to a post in which THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND was described as great, went to the "Arc of the lost records" (a box where I keep the albums I never listen), found the LP and placed if on the old turntable....Immediately remembered why it was in the forgotten disks box, because in my opinion is boring, unimaginative and full of depressive flat vocals.

Even when the Medieval and Celtic influence (and some music that reminds me of the soundtrack from the "George Clooney" movie "O Brother Where Art Thou?"), place this band in the Folk realm, that's all I can say. because I sincerely don't know if it's a Prog Folk album.

Of course it has a lot of late 60's elements (which band didn't in 1968?), but I believe it's a failed attempt to fusion Folk and Psychedelia, because they are never really experimental. A few weird noises and percussion plus some sitar ands a Beatlesque touch is not enough to make an album Psychedelic....Much less a Prog one.

I won't even attempt to review every song, because all the albums sounds as an endless 50 minutes repetitive and boring track.

Except for a few good soft piano passages in "The Minotaur's Song" and the beautiful "Witches Hat" with some nice melancholic organ passages, the album is tedious, boring, dissonant (not in a good sense) and absolutely predictable, I honestly don't know if this guys are really good musicians, because the instruments are left as background for the vocals, which by the way are terrible (Who told this guys they had to sing?....Seems they were not able to keep a tune even if their life was in risk).

I ignore how legendary or popular THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND was when this album was released (I was four years old), all I know is that when I heard it in the early 80's was already dated but today can only be described as absolutely anachronic.

So will give the band the benefit of the doubt and rate "The Hangman's Daughter" with two stars instead of the 1 lonely star I was tempted, at least until I find and listen The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion that must be gathering moth somewhere in the closet, and discover what they pretended.

Review by friso
5 stars The Incredible String Band - The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (1968)

This odd folk group has made some very enjoyable records, this one and 'The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion' being the most original in my opinion. The band has in its core Mike Heron and Robin Williamson, two songwriters and multi-instrumentalists with distinctive voices and styles. They both wrote their songs on their own, agreeing on the fact that the other could then later add instruments and lines without interference or too much discussion. The clumsy yet very authentic sound of the Incredible String Band is unique, yet it can also be quite challenging for some. A lot of the large arsenal of musical instruments sound like played by an amateur with much enthusiasm. Girlfriends Dolly Collins and Licorice McKechnie would also join the band and play percussions and keyboards.

The Incredible String Band deserves its place on the progarchives because of the original multi-part songwriting skills portrayed by both Heron and Williamson. At their best their power of imagination is unmatched and the free flow of inspired musical ideas is why I love to listen to a record like this. In addition, the music and lyrics can be really funny and a bit psychedelic. Perhaps a bit like Pink Floyd's debut album.

This album is a nonstop flow of original songs with surprising and fresh sounding ideas. I can highly recommend it, though it can take a while to get into what at first glance sounds amateurish ' but proves to be the reason why this album is among the few ageless and undying sixties records. I'm going to give this warm four and a halve star rating, enjoy!

Review by LearsFool
5 stars One of the names oft forgotten when remembering the original psychedelic era, The Incredible String Band was one of the first psych bands, and they plumbed through an almost purely folk sound that they left drenched in psychedelia, hippie mores, and light elements of what we now call prog. This sound was rather simple, sparse, and seemingly out of place when comparing to the main run of psych bands that embarked through rock. There was a whole folk/country side to the hippie scene, however, and ISB, for two glorious albums, rode that side to an artistic zenith and a good share of popularity. The second of those is this masterwork, where this sparse sound is beautiful, warm, intelligent, and at times delightfully unique and complex. All sorts of instruments - guitar, sitar, singing saw, pipes and whistles, a Hammond - are used and mixed. This is a journey through all four corners of the acoustic side of psych, and a well steered one at that. There's just something about allowing oneself to enter into the light and welcoming music ISB had to offer that even many folk bands forget about, then and now. Perhaps too minimalistic for some - and not by intention - but this is wonderful and enjoyable work.
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars More true folk music than prog, the influx of Robin Williamson's ever-growing eclectic collection of world instruments is possibly where the "prog" tag got linked to them--that or their attempts at long epics. The songs on this album are quite polished, quite witty (almost Canterburian but, yes, I get it: They're Scotsmen.)

Favorite songs: the Led Zeppelin training songs, "Waltz of the New Moon" and "Three Is a Green Crown"; "Swift as the Wind" (the best vocal on the album); "Water Song" with its amazing solo by the water (:)); "Witches Hat"; the final theme of "A Very Cellular Song"; the musical palette of "Mercy I Cry City";

Too much Jew's harp and kazoo for me. Plus, one of the lead singers (I'm guessing it's Mark Heron) is rarely pitch-perfect.

Review by Warthur
4 stars For many a high point in the Incredible String Band discography - it's shorter than the sprawling double album Wee Tam and the Big Huge, and crucially it predates their conversion to Scientology which sent them spinning down an often-contentious path - this is a nigh-archetypal work of psychedelic hippy folk. Nods to Indian raga music, a strange sense of humour, and the help of some friends allow the duo of Heron and Williamson to produce the closest a prerecorded studio album can get to sounding like a spontaneous hippy jam session. Fairport Convention guest on backing vocals, providing a chorus used to good effect in The Minotaur's Song.

Latest members reviews

2 stars "Koeeodaddi There" opens the album with a melancholic, perhaps nostalgic sort of Psychedelic/Raga Folk. Unsurprisingly full of many sounds and more than decent melody. Then we have "The Minotaur's Song", quite seriously about the Crete Labyrinth legend from the perspective of the minotaur... It' ... (read more)

Report this review (#2743462) | Posted by DangHeck | Wednesday, May 11, 2022 | Review Permanlink

4 stars These guys where part of a list that my dad gave me, because of their eccentries. I was recomended them because I was slowly getting into Zappa and more experimental prog, so when I found this album, I immediately bought it. I was a bit confused when I first listened to it, because it is very ... (read more)

Report this review (#289464) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Wednesday, July 7, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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