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The Incredible String Band - The Incredible String Band CD (album) cover


The Incredible String Band


Prog Folk

3.24 | 29 ratings

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Eetu Pellonpaa
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The first studio album of The Incredible String Band was released in 1966, and here Mike and Robin are companied with Clive Palmer. The music is yet not so adventurous than in the forthcoming records, but in my opinion the overall quality of compositions, lyrics and playing succeed best in these early albums of the group. The long wailing voices are already here, and the moods change from mystical and serious thinking to very playful humor. The songs are accessible, and only surreal elements are present in some lyrics, not much in the music.

The music of the group at it best has charmed me, as I'm fond of the sincerity, spiritualism and goodness of it. The lyrics and the tunes which appealed me, have caused me to contemplate things, soothed in distress and amused me. I believe that is quite exceptional achievement, and I think I could write few lines from the best songs of this album to this review.

Raw violin and guitar runs present "Maybe Someday", having nice melodic vocals and a form of traditional love song. The next song is really fine, one of the best here, "October Song", a very lovely, hopeful, and sad ballad for guitars and singing, containing the long wailing vocals over pretty acoustic guitar, a trademark of forthcoming career of the band. The lyrics are very fine, an important aspect to me with this group, as I found them motivating to own contemplation. I never regarded these fellows as any kind of "spiritual leaders", or people knowing absolute truth whose disciple one should be. Actually I have quite different view of the world, but maybe this fact creates some kind of interesting synergy to these songs. There is something rarely beautiful and strengthening in their spiritual approach. "When the Music Starts to Play" is a playful, happy ballad enriched with flute, and "Schaeffer's Jig" a short traditional piece, proving they know this stuff well too. "Womankind" is a hypnotic, mystical and dreamy song, with down tune melody and dominant vocals. "The Tree" builds from narrative reciting of pretty, euphoric poem and quick mantra-like runs of guitar. "Whistle Tune" is another traditional pipe solo tune in raw medieval style. "Dandelion Blues" brings fine positive folk song in a more American style, reminding little Peter, Paul & Mary's music. This is followed by "How Happy I Am", a decent positive love song with mandolin licks and whiskey drinking verse. Next song proves that Clive was a good composer too, his "Empty Pocket Blues" is a really pretty minor ballad with descending melody and flute playing some nice "kettle tunes". Then "Smoke Shoveling Song" (Williamson) delivers a fine acoustic song with funny lyrics about a punk causing trouble to the police, and the focus starts wonderfully switching forward in associations related probably to the "smoke theme". "Can't Keep Me Here" is a decent simple happy song, and in "Good as Gone" the rhythm interestingly alters freely along with the fine lyrics. "Footsteps of the Heron" is a sincere personal poem, and "Niggertown" then a traditional mandolin piece with fine old Southern town feeling blowing in it. "Everything's Fine Right Now" closes the album in happy manner.

So, these musical elements create in my opinion a really balanced and fine record for anyone interested of 1960's well-crafted folk music. It is intimate, personal, accessible and thought provoking (at least for me). Though I like the band, and their later experimental albums containing more "experimental" material, nevertheless they in my opinion succeeded better in their earlier albums, this and the following. I think that the experimentalism is not a virtue in itself, if the end result isn't pleasant.

Eetu Pellonpaa | 4/5 |


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