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Qobuz’s experts gather all the essentials of each genre. These albums have marked music history and become major landmarks.

With the Ideal Discography you (re)discover legendary recordings, all whilst building on your musical knowledge.

Albums

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Folk - Released January 1, 2013 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Folk - Released January 1, 2013 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Folk - Released October 31, 2011 | Spinney Records

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Folk - Released May 13, 2011 | WM Spain

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Folk - Released October 18, 2010 | Columbia - Legacy

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Folk - Released June 12, 2007 | Rhino - Elektra

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Folk - Released January 23, 2007 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Folk - Released March 22, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

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Folk - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Elektra

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Given the late Fred Neil's near mythic reputation as a songwriter, singer, environmentalist, and recluse, the reissue of his 1965 album Bleecker & MacDougal is of historic importance. But rather than being an artifact of the man who wrote "Everybody's Talkin'," "Other Side to This Life" (which appears here), and "Dolphins," this album is made of the material that gave Neil his enigmatic presence. This is a highly evocative and emotionally charged set of material, nearly all of which Neil composed. The lineup on the album was similar to his previous outing with Vince Martin, and featured John Sebastian on harmonica, Felix Pappalardi on bass, and guitarist Pete Childs (who also played dobro and electric on the date -- the latter was heresy for a folk record), with Neil playing 12-string. The pace of the set is devastating, from the greasy blues of the title track to the strolling darkness of "Blues on the Ceiling," the jug band stomp of "Sweet Mama," and the balladic heraldry of "Little Bit of Rain," a dynamic Tim Buckley would bring his own magic to as he emulated it a few years later. In addition, there's the tough Chicago blues meets California swagger of "Country Boy," which Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield would perfect two scant years later. "Other Side to This Life" is its own elegiac painting in sound, with glistening dirge-like textures caressed by Neil's baritone. The tough, battered "Travelin' Shoes" is an early example of folk-rock with a big accent on the word "rock." Yet, on the album's lone cover, a gorgeously wrought and multi-textured rendition of "The Water Is Wide," Neil added spare, haunting jazz overtones to the arrangements, transcending the folk coffeehouse prison the song had been encased in for a decade. In fact, if one listens to Bryter Layter by Nick Drake, it would be easy to hear the connection. The album closes with the winding dobro that sparks "Gone Again," underlining the album's feeling of rambling transience and willful acceptance of both the graces and hardships life offers. In 13 songs, Neil transformed the folk genre into something wholly other yet not unfamiliar to itself, and helped pave the way for an entire generation of singer/songwriters who cared as much for the blues as they did for folk revival traditions. This is -- more so than his fine compilation The Many Sides of Fred Neil (also on Collector's Choice) or his debut Capitol album, Tear Down the Walls -- the Fred Neil record to have. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Folk - Released June 1, 2003 | Rhino

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The second album Judee Sill made proved to be her last. A notoriously slow songwriter, this brief though enjoyable outing took its toll on Sill during its making, turning her back to her recently kicked heroin addiction and away from the desire to create more music. Instead of using an outside arranger for the strings (as she did on her previous album), Sill did all of the work herself. Her lack of formal training and the immense amount of orchestral overdubs certainly would have made such an outing a hardship for anyone. The album doesn't suffer much from its sometimes syrupy exterior, though -- the songs are almost as strong as any of those from her debut. To wit, Heart Food suffers only in comparison to its predecessor; otherwise, it's a stellar example of the kind of singer/songwriter fare the music industry was mining in the early '70s. The supporting cast of top L.A. studio musicians solidifies Sill's unique brand country-flavored pop, which moves from introspective meanderings to loping rock, often within a single song. © Alex Stimmel /TiVo
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Folk - Released January 1, 1997 | Fantasy Records

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A strange man, John Fahey, with an unusual set of guitar styles. This album, originally released on Riverboat Records and later reissued by Fahey's own Takoma label, has a lot of rough edges in terms of the recording but a tremendous amount of power when it comes to the music. Fahey was at the top of his game, alternately playful and dark, so there's never a dull moment. There is always something new to be heard on each playing. © Steven McDonald /TiVo
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Folk - Released January 1, 1988 | Elektra Records

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Folk - Released June 30, 1975 | Rhino

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Folk - Released January 1, 1972 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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After two albums of tastefully orchestrated folk-pop, albeit some of the least demonstrative and most affecting around, Drake chose a radical change for what turned out to be his final album. Not even half-an-hour long, with 11 short songs and no more -- he famously remarked at the time that he simply had no more to record -- Pink Moon more than anything else is the record that made Drake the cult figure he remains. Specifically, Pink Moon is the bleakest of them all; that the likes of Belle and Sebastian are fans of Drake may be clear enough, but it's doubtful they could ever achieve the calm, focused anguish of this album, as harrowing as it is attractive. No side musicians or outside performers help this time around -- it's simply Drake and Drake alone on vocals, acoustic guitar, and a bit of piano, recorded by regular producer Joe Boyd but otherwise untouched by anyone else. The lead-off title track was eventually used in a Volkswagen commercial nearly 30 years later, giving him another renewed burst of appreciation -- one of life's many ironies, in that such an affecting song, Drake's softly keened singing and gentle strumming, could turn up in such a strange context. The remainder of the album follows the same general path, with Drake's elegant melancholia avoiding sounding pretentious in the least thanks to his continued embrace of simple, tender vocalizing. Meanwhile, the sheer majesty of his guitar playing -- consider the opening notes of "Road" or "Parasite" -- makes for a breathless wonder to behold. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
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Folk - Released January 1, 1970 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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It's little wonder why Drake felt frustrated at the lack of commercial success his music initially gathered, considering the help he had on his debut record. Besides fine production from Joe Boyd and assistance from folks like Fairport Convention's Richard Thompson and his unrelated bass counterpart from Pentangle, Danny Thompson, Drake also recruited school friend Robert Kirby to create most of the just-right string and wind arrangements. His own performance itself steered a careful balance between too-easy accessibility and maudlin self-reflection, combining the best of both worlds while avoiding the pitfalls on either side. The result was a fantastic debut appearance, and if the cult of Drake consistently reads more into his work than is perhaps deserved, Five Leaves Left is still a most successful effort. Having grown out of the amiable but derivative styles captured on the long-circulating series of bootleg home recordings, Drake imbues his tunes with just enough drama -- world-weariness in the vocals, carefully paced playing, and more -- to make it all work. His lyrics capture a subtle poetry of emotion, as on the pastoral semi-fantasia of "The Thoughts of Mary Jane," which his soft, articulate singing brings even more to the full. Sometimes he projects a little more clearly, as on the astonishing voice-and-strings combination "Way to Blue," while elsewhere he's not so clear, suggesting rather than outlining the mood. Understatement is the key to his songs and performances' general success, which makes the combination of his vocals and Rocky Dzidzornu's congas on "Three Hours" and the lovely "'Cello Song," to name two instances, so effective. Danny Thompson is the most regular side performer on the album, his bass work providing subtle heft while never standing in the way of the song -- kudos well deserved for Boyd's production as well. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
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Folk - Released January 1, 1970 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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With even more of the Fairport Convention crew helping him out -- including bassist Dave Pegg and drummer Dave Mattacks along with, again, a bit of help from Richard Thompson -- as well as John Cale and a variety of others, Drake tackled another excellent selection of songs on his second album. Demonstrating the abilities shown on Five Leaves Left didn't consist of a fluke, Bryter Layter featured another set of exquisitely arranged and performed tunes, with producer Joe Boyd and orchestrator Robert Kirby reprising their roles from the earlier release. Starting with the elegant instrumental "Introduction," as lovely a mood-setting piece as one would want, Bryter Layter indulges in a more playful sound at many points, showing that Drake was far from being a constant king of depression. While his performances remain generally low-key and his voice quietly passionate, the arrangements and surrounding musicians add a considerable amount of pep, as on the jazzy groove of the lengthy "Poor Boy." The argument could be made that this contravenes the spirit of Drake's work, but it feels more like a calmer equivalent to the genre-sliding experiments of Van Morrison at around the same time. Numbers that retain a softer approach, like "At the Chime of a City Clock," still possess a gentle drive to them. Cale's additions unsurprisingly favor the classically trained side of his personality, with particularly brilliant results on "Northern Sky." As his performances on keyboards and celeste help set the atmosphere, Drake reaches for a perfectly artful reflection on loss and loneliness and succeeds wonderfully. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
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Folk - Released December 1, 1969 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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In the decades since its original release, more than one writer has declared Fairport Convention's Liege & Lief the definitive British folk-rock album, a distinction it holds at least in part because it grants equal importance to all three parts of that formula. While Fairport had begun dipping their toes into British traditional folk with their stellar version of "A Sailor's Life" on Unhalfbricking, Liege & Lief found them diving head first into the possibilities of England's musical past, with Ashley Hutchings digging through the archives at the Cecil Sharp House in search of musical treasure, and the musicians (in particular vocalist Sandy Denny) eagerly embracing the dark mysteries of this music. (Only two of the album's eight songs were group originals, though "Crazy Man Michael" and "Come All Ye" hardly stand out from their antique counterparts.) Liege & Lief was also recorded after a tour bus crash claimed the lives of original Fairport drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson's girlfriend, Jeannie Franklyn; as the members of the group worked to shake off the tragedy (and break in new drummer Dave Mattacks and full-time fiddler Dave Swarbrick), they became a stronger and more adventurous unit, less interested in the neo-Jefferson Airplane direction of their earlier work and firmly committed to fusing time-worn folk with electric instruments while honoring both. And while Liege & Lief was the most purely folk-oriented Fairport Convention album to date, it also rocked hard in a thoroughly original and uncompromising way; the "Lark in the Morning" medley swings unrelentingly, the group's crashing dynamics wring every last ounce of drama from "Tam Lin" and "Matty Groves," and Thompson and Swarbrick's soloing is dazzling throughout. Liege & Lief introduced a large new audience to the beauty of British folk, but Fairport Convention's interpretations spoke of the present as much as the past, and the result was timeless music in the best sense of the term. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Folk - Released June 1, 1968 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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By far the most rock-oriented of Fairport Convention's early albums, this debut was recorded before Sandy Denny joined the band (Judy Dyble handles the female vocals). Unjustly overlooked by listeners who consider the band's pre-Denny output insignificant, this is a fine folk-rock effort that takes far more inspiration from West Coast '60s sounds than traditional British folk. Fairport's chief strengths at this early juncture were the group's interpretations, particularly in the harmony vocals, of obscure tunes by American songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Emitt Rhodes, and Jim & Jean. Their own songs weren't quite up to that high standard, but were better than many have given them credit for, with "Decameron" and "Sun Shade" in particular hitting wonderfully fetching melancholic moods. It's true that Fairport would devise a more original style after Denny joined, but the bandmembers' first-class abilities as more American pop-folk-rock-styled musicians on this album shouldn't be undersold. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Folk - Released July 1, 1966 | Epic

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Paced by the title track, one of Donovan's best singles, 1966's Sunshine Superman heralded the coming psychedelic age with a new world/old world bent: several ambitious psychedelic productions and a raft of wistful folk songs. Producer Mickie Most fashioned a new sound for the Scottish folksinger, a sparse, swinging, bass-heavy style perfectly complementing Donovan's enigmatic lyrics and delightfully skewed, beatnik delivery. The two side-openers, "Sunshine Superman" and "Season of the Witch," are easily the highlights of the album; the first is the quintessential bright summer sing-along, the second a chugging eve-of-destruction tale. The rest of Sunshine Superman is filled with lengthy, abstract, repetitive folk jams, perfect for lazy summer afternoons, but more problematic when close attention is paid. Accompanied by acoustic guitar and a chamber quartet, the second track, "Legend of a Girl Child Linda," plods on for nearly seven minutes, Donovan's hippie-dippie delivery rendering "lace" into "layyyzzz." After that notable low point, he performs much better, tingling a few spines with his enunciation on the ancient-sounding folksongs "Guinevere," "Three King Fishers," and "Ferris Wheel." Elsewhere, he salutes the Jefferson Airplane on "The Fat Angel" and fellow British folkie Bert Jansch on "Bert's Blues." Donovan's songs are quite solid, but Mickie Most's insistence on extroverted productions (it would grow even more pronounced with time) resulted in a collection of songs that sound good on their own but aren't very comfortable in context. © John Bush /TiVo
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Folk - Released January 17, 1966 | Columbia

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Simon & Garfunkel's second album, Sounds of Silence, was recorded 18 months after their debut long-player, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM -- but even though the two albums shared one song (actually, one-and-a-half songs) in common, the sound here seemed a million miles away from the gentle harmonizing and unassuming acoustic accompaniment on the first record. In between, there had been a minor earthquake in the pop/rock world called "folk-rock," which resulted in the transformation of their acoustic rendition of "The Sound of Silence" into a classic of the new genre, complete with jangling electric guitars and an amplified beat that helped carry it to the top of the charts. The duo hastily re-formed, Paul Simon returning from an extended stay in England with a large song bag (part of which he had already committed to vinyl, on his U.K. album The Paul Simon Songbook). Simon & Garfunkel rushed into the studio in the fall of 1965 to come up with a folk-rock album in a hurry: fortunately, they'd already recorded two sides, "Somewhere They Can't Find Me" (actually, Simon's rewrite of their first album‘s title track) and "We've Got a Groovey Thing Goin'," both featuring a band accompaniment. Davy Graham's bluesy "Anji," a rare instrumental outing by Simon, filled another slot, and "Richard Cory" filled another. The latter, Simon's adaptation of poet Edwin Arlington Robinson‘s work, was a sincere effort at relevance -- Richard Cory has every material thing a man could want but still takes his own life, a hint at one aspect of middle-class teenaged angst of the mid-'60s; high school English teachers were still using it to motivate students in the '70s. Though a rushed effort, this was a far stronger album than their debut, mostly thanks to Simon's compositions; indeed, in one fell swoop, the world learned not only of the existence of a superb song-poet in Paul Simon, but, in Simon's harmonizing with Art Garfunkel, the finest singing duo since the Everly Brothers. But it also had flaws, some of which only became fully apparent as their audience matured: the snide, youthful sensibilities of "I Am a Rock" and "Blessed" haven't aged well. And the musical concessions, on those tracks and "Richard Cory," to folk-rock amplification have also worn poorly; even in 1966, the electric guitars, piano, organ, and drums, sounded awkward in context with the duo's singing, like something grafted on, though in fairness, those sounds did sell the album. The parts that work best, "Kathy's Song" and "April Come She Will," two of the most personal songs in Simon's output, were similar to the stripped-down originals Simon had cut solo in England, and among the most affecting (as opposed to affected) folk-style records of their era; similarly, Simon's rendition of the folk-blues instrumental "Anji" is close to composer Davy Graham's original, just recorded hotter, while "Leaves That Are Green" is pleasantly if unobtrusively ornamented with electric harpsichord, rhythm guitar, and bass. © Bruce Eder /TiVo