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Folk/Americana - Released July 18, 2006 | Rhino - Elektra

CD$12.99

Folk/Americana - Released July 18, 2006 | Rhino - Elektra

In 1967, Joe Boyd had signed the Incredible String Band, who were then down to Robin Williamson, Mike Heron, and Licorice McKechnie, to Elektra. The 5000 Spirits or Layers of the Onion had been crafted in a cottage in Glasgow, but Boyd wanted a proper recording studio to get it on tape. He chose engineer John Wood's Chelsea studio for the sessions. Recorded on a four-track machine, Boyd and Wood proceeded to capture the very best of the dozens of songs Williamson and Heron brought in. Influenced heavily by the era -- this was the summer of love, after all -- and North African music due to Williamson’s recent trip to Morocco, the set is one of the most ambitious albums in the band’s catalog. The trio were also accompanied by Danny Thompson on bass on seven tracks, as well as Nazir Jarazbhoy on sitar. The standout tracks include “First Girl I Loved” (later covered by Judy Collins and Jackson Browne), and the cosmic folk-blues “The Mad Hatter’s Song.” On this set, British folk often comes up against against Williamson’s fascination with Middle Eastern sounds -- check the bowed gimbri hovering and flitting about the acoustic guitar on “Chinese White,” and the hand drums underscoring the acoustic slide guitar on “The Hedgehog Song.” Thompson’s bass and Williamson’s harmonica are the only elements that keep “Blues for the Muse” on the ground -- barely a blues at all because of the way it pushes the 12-bar envelope. The brief “My Name Is Death” begins as a one-chord drone before it moves back to a more formally constructed 18th century traditional song. The meld of all ISB’s influences are heard on “Gently Tender,” a beautiful if somewhat anarchic tune where flutes, acoustic blues, hand drums, bass, gimbri, and sitar are all employed. This set stands as one of the true masterpieces in the group's catalog. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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U

Folk/Americana - Released July 18, 2006 | Rhino - Elektra

Of the records that the Incredible String Band recorded for Elektra, U is easily the strangest -- even by the band's standards. The sprawling double album was the musical element of a Robin Williamson theatrical presentation of the same name (with input from Mike Heron), that put the band on a stage with the Stone Monkey troupe, who did dances to these songs, complete with light projections. It played in London and at the Fillmore East in New York before it closed with disastrous financial results. Sans dancers, the group -- Williamson, Heron, Licorice McKechnie, and Rose Simpson -- went on and completed a limited tour of the West Coast before recording U. They recorded the double album in just two days. Along with their usual wacky and wonderful meld of psychedelic-cum-traditional folk, sitar, tabla, faux raga, and exotic world music aspirations, are songs that encompass blues, singer/songwriter fare, and more. Disc one features a shambolic, yodeling saloon song ("Bad Sadie Lee") offered by cover painting artist Janet Shankman, followed by the dreamy "Queen of Love," which was written by Tom Constanten (more famously a keyboard-playing guest of the Grateful Dead). There are plenty of other things, too, including the beautiful droning guitar and mandolin Baroqueness of "Time" and even rock -- check the psych instrumentals "Partial Belated Overtime" and "Bridge Theme." The second disc contains some wonderful vanguard moments in the solo guitar instrumental "Astral Plane Theme," the barrelhouse piano stride of "Robot Blues," and two long Heron pieces. The first is the gorgeous ballad "Light in Time of Darkness." "Rainbow," which closes the record, is a 15-plus-minute exercise in medieval minstrelsy. At the time and given its length, U was a stretch for all but the most adventurous of ISB fans. In the 21st century, it is still somewhat unfocused, but its best material rates with some of the best in the band's catalog. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released July 18, 2006 | Rhino - Elektra

CD$12.99

Folk/Americana - Released July 18, 2006 | Rhino - Elektra

The debut release from the original Incredible String Band trio -- Robin Williamson (violin/whistle/mandolin/guitar/vocals), Clive Palmer (banjo/guitar/vocals), and Mike Heron (guitar/vocals) -- was also their most simple. It is this minimalism that allowed the natural radiance of the band's (mostly) original material to be evident in the purist sense, and likewise without many of the somewhat intricate distractions and musical tangents that their future work would incorporate. Immediately striking is the group's remarkable and collective prowess on seemingly all things stringed -- hence, their apropos moniker. With an unmistakable blend of distinct instrumentation and harmony vocals, the Incredible String Band take inspiration from traditional music on both sides of the Atlantic. Their impish charm and tongue-in-cheek fairytale mythology also add to their folkie mystique. This first long-player -- originally issued in 1966 -- contains a bevy of songs that, while steeped in conventional folk music, are completely unique. This likewise holds true for the three traditional pieces, "Schaeffer's Jig," "Whistle Tune," and the rare Clive Palmer instrumental solo, "Niggertown." Palmer, formerly of the highly underrated Famous Jug Band, would exit the Incredible String Band after this record, and thus the perpetually rotating personnel that would guide the group for the remainder of its existence began, perhaps aptly, at the beginning. The original songs range from light and airy love ballads -- such as the Williamson solo "Womankind" or the understated mischief of "Dandelion Blues" -- to the high and lonesome sound of Mike Heron's mandolin-driven "How Happy I Am." There are likewise darker -- yet no less poignant -- tunes such as "Empty Pocket Blues" and the haunting "Good As Gone." While this album is a tremendous launch pad for potential enthusiasts, be aware that every Incredible String Band recording is also extremely individual and reflects the current membership of the group. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released October 12, 2010 | Rhino - Elektra

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Folk/Americana - Released October 12, 2010 | Rhino - Elektra

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Folk/Americana - Released July 18, 2006 | Rhino - Elektra

Although generally regarded as one of the Incredible String Band's sub-standard efforts, Changing Horses has an appealing looseness and sense of fun which nicely balances the often over-serious nature of the band's always strange mix of English folk and psycheldelia. With two tracks topping the 15-minute mark in length, some of the record comes off like a rambling, drunken living room jam session. This version of the Incredible String Band includes two women, Rose and Liquorice, who add some nice, high vocal harmonies to the standard Mike Heron/Robin Williamson sound. Rose also contributes some nice tuba-influenced electric bass work throughout the album. Changing Horses has a distinct lack of memorable songs (with the possible exception of Williamson's "Mr. and Mrs.," which, because of its raw production, organ and guitar work, bears a striking resemblance at times to the Velvet Underground) but, due to the group's willingness to take chances, bears repeated listenings. © Pemberton Roach /TiVo
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Pop - Released February 22, 2016 | Quadrant Records

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Folk/Americana - Released August 1, 2013 | Castle Communications

Essentially, this two-disc compilation pairs the Incredible String Band's previously issued Chelsea Sessions 1967 (with one bonus track -- a medley), with a live set from Canada in 1972. Therefore, it's not material recorded between the years, as the title would suggest, so much as from those years. (It should be said, for the sake of accountability, that perhaps "God Dog" may date later than the other cuts; no one seems to know.) The 1967 material is wonderful, coming as it does from the sessions that resulted in the band's second album 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion. Six tracks made the LP. Many of these tunes feature Robin Williamson debuting his material solo, accompanied only by his guitar. The sound on the first disc is great throughout. The second disc here is from a Canadian gig in 1972 that featured Mike Heron and Williamson with four (then) new-ish members, including the band's equipment manager on drums and their soundman on bass. It was previously issued on CD as The First Girl I Loved in 1998 on Mooncrest. There is some debate here as well about the material being taken form various shows instead of a single concert. The original issue contained at least one cut, "Ithkos," that was from 1974. That song has been replaced by other bonus tracks from the same gig, or series of gigs: "Oh Did I Love a Dream," and "The Hag with the Money." The sound on this set is a bit more marginal, but the material and performances are lively and savvy. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released April 18, 2006 | Rhino - Elektra