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The Incredible String Band

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The Incredible String Band Earthspan album cover
2.87 | 15 ratings | 3 reviews | 21% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1972

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. My Father Was A Lighthouse Keeper (4:28)
2. Antoine (3:58)
3. Restless Night (3:34)
4. Sunday Song (7:29)
5. Black Jack David (2:44)
6. Banks Of Sweet Italy (3:07)
7. The Actor (3:55)
8. Moon Hang Low (3:23)
9. Sailor And The Dancer (2:39)
10. Seagull (6:04)

Total time 41:21

Line-up / Musicians

- Robin Williamson / guitar (3,6-10), violin (1,5,6), cello (1), oboe & mandolin (4), flute (4,7,10), bass (6), electric piano & viola (7), guimbri (9,10), Chinese flute (9), whistle (10), lead vocals (3,5,6,8)
- Mike Heron / bass (1,3,7,8), piano (1,4,7), church organ (2), electric piano (3), organ (4,6), acoustic (5,10) & electric (10) guitars, Hammond & accordion (10), horn arrangements (3), lead vocals (2,5,10)
- Christina "Licorice" McKechnie / lead (4,6) & backing (3,9,10) vocals, bass (10)
- Malcolm Le Maistre / acoustic guitar (1), mandolin (5), whistle (6), harmonium (9), vocals (1,4,6,7,9)

- Stuart Gordon / violin, viola & vocals (1,2,5)
- Stan Lee / bass & high hat & handclaps (5)
- Jack Ingram / handclaps (5)
- Dave Mattacks / drums (1,3,8)
- Brian Davidson / drums (4)

Releases information

Artwork: Mitch Walker

LP Island Records ‎- ILPS 9211 (1972, UK)
LP Reprise MS 2122 (1972) US
LP Island 86429 IT (1972) NL
LP Island IL 34776 (1972) Australia
LP Island ILPS 9211 (1972) DK
LP Island 86429-1 (1978) Spain
LP King ICL 48 (1978) Japan

CD Edsel Records - EDCD 360 (1992, UK)
CD BGO (2004) w/No Ruinous Feud

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND Earthspan ratings distribution

(15 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(21%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (36%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars By the time of "Earthspan", ISB was losing whatever "incredible" status they may have had among critics, not to mention the cult following that sent their disks up the British charts, albeit only to the lower regions of the Billboard in the US. They began to take on a more rock orientation which might have helped them reach a less rarefied audience, but their increasing involvement in Scientology really didn't help get the message across to fans.

Still, the irritating feyness of their earlier material was a welcome casualty, and "Restless Night" and "Sunday Song" are among the best songs I have heard from them. Finally, the band is at least using strings as befits their name, especially in the powerful outro to "Sunday Song" and their rendition of "Black Jack Davey", with a healthy dollop of Appalachian whimsy. "Banks of Sweet Italy" exploits Licorice's childlike voice to excellent effect. The songs are much more tuneful than we are used to from ISB, which might disappoint old fans. They certainly are less distinctive here, but they remain plenty recognizable nonetheless. There are certainly plenty examples of falling off the wagon, as in the opening 2 yawn-fests and the dreadful cabaret of "Moon Hang Low". But shanties like "Sailor and the Dancer" go a long way to freshening the scent.

"Earthspan" gives us a much needed, more grounded ISB, for the most part, which is probably as good as it gets. A good effort.

Review by ClemofNazareth
2 stars Here is an album that’s not much more than a snapshot of a band whose time had sadly passed. Gone was the shrewd management of Elektra whiz-kid Joe Boyd, who had returned home to the U.S.; long gone also was the charming and talented Rose Simpson. Changing times and tastes left the band on the much less spectacular (and more spendthrifty) Island label ever since their lackluster and forgettable Woodstock appearance.

‘Earthspan’ was produced by Octavia effects-pedal inventor Roger Mayer, not exactly the expertise they had enjoyed in their heyday. Old Robin Williamson friend Gerard Dott had been recruited for the record, along with Jack Ingram and Stan “Stan Lee” Schnier, who I believe had produced the band’s previous couple of albums. The increasingly eccentric Licorice McKechnie remained, but frankly her modest talents are underutilized here and by the time their next album (the dubiously-named ‘No Ruinous Feud’) released the following year she too would be off.

Much like the band’s final album ‘Hard Rope and Silken Twine’, I find this one to be quite sad, and not in the intrinsic way some of their earlier work was. This one sounds more like a handful of guys just sort of searching for lost magic but rather resigned to the knowledge that the boom days have passed. Williamson is his usual bardly, whimsical self for the most part, but a touch less buoyant and certainly nowhere near as adventurous musically. Mike Heron proves competent, but also lacks spark of any sort.

The first couple of tracks are not much more than effected acid hippie flashback, and frankly I can’t imagine anyone but failure-to-launch or shell-shocked 30-ish hippies adjusting poorly to the new decade even paid them much mind. “Restless Night” is mildly jazzy with interesting keyboards, but lacks focus or even a blurred vision.

The band almost finds their voice on the lengthy “Sunday Song”, in which McKechnie does find her voice in an impressive lilting way (which she would employ again a few minutes later on the less-ambitious “Banks Of Sweet Italy”), and the interesting tempo and mood shifts make for an engaging mood piece; but even here there’s no poignant message or original arrangement that would merit its inclusion on a greatest hits album or anything.

There’s a remake of “Black Jack David” from the band’s 1970 album “I Looked Up” for some reason, though much shorter and offering nothing new except to resurrect a violin for the first time in a while. There are also a couple of odd, swing-like tunes with horns that I believe were co-written by Williamson and Malcolm Le Maistre and a wholly out-of-place here before Heron closes with yet another of his rambling and guitar-driven dirges (“Seagull”). This one isn’t a bad tune, but it seems completely archaic on a 1972 album; truly, this was a band whose best days had ended at least two or three years earlier.

I’m a bit surprised this record has been reissued at least three or four times over the years, including the Beat Goes On 2004 release where it is coupled with the band’s twelfth album ‘No Ruinous Feud’. I don’t think it deserves that many chances, but I suppose this is a testament to the group’s ardent followers. This is definitely collector material only, but apparently there are enough collectors out there to merit its several pressings. Two stars and only mildly recommended.


Latest members reviews

4 stars I must admit the first few times I listened this recording I was not that impressed, but over the years it has really grown on me the the extent that I revisit it often. The songs are all pretty strong the exception possible being "My father was a lighthouse keeper" which sounds a little silly. H ... (read more)

Report this review (#2169007) | Posted by RossJWarren | Wednesday, March 27, 2019 | Review Permanlink

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