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The Incredible String Band - The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter CD (album) cover


The Incredible String Band


Prog Folk

3.42 | 58 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
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.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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