Returning to England after having travelled extensively in Afghanistan and India Incredible String Band founder Clive Palmer formed COB (Clive's Original Band) with Mick Bennett and John Bidwell. Based in the rustic, away from it all, surroundings of Cornwall it wasn't long until the ISB connection led old friend Ralph McTell to come in contact with the bohemian folkies. McTell instantly fell in love their distinctive eerie songs and helped the trio to get signed with CBS. Moyshe McStiff And The Tartan Lancers Of The Scared Heart was released in August '72 and it's an eclectic stew of folk traditions based on Palmer's interest in Rastafarianism (a few years before Marley graced the British charts), ancient Middle Eastern and English music. The material is approached in a similar manner to the ISB, but less fraught and purposefully weird. Bennett's gentle winsome vocal counteracts Palmer's coarser, direct manner of singing, whilst a variety of stringed instruments, pipes, harmonium and percussion make for a deliciously simple, yet effective acid-folk blend. An ethereal, bleak beauty blankets much of the music. Wonderfully poignant, and memorable. A lost classic! (shindig-magazine.com)
Steeleye Span - Commoners Crown (1975)
"Commoner's Crown," Steeleye's seventh album, was first released on vinyl in the US on the Chrysalis label in 1977 (two years after it's initial release in England). Today, it is only available on CD by import. This is a real shame as it ranks with the Steeleye's best.
The songs this time out tend to fall well within the term eerie. "Little Sir Hugh," which kicks off the album may seem a bright little ditty on first listen, but the cheery melody is in direct contrast to the song's woeful tale of murder. (It also has an acapella break that'll make the hair on the back of your neck stand at attention). "Long Lankin" still haunts with its tale of uprising and violence. In "Demon Lover" a young woman learns (the hard way) the true identity of the man who has been courting her, and "Elf Call" offers the odd comfort of an elf king taking pity on a woman who has lost her child.
Not all here is so bleak and spooky. The album ends with a good natured "New York Girls' that is complete with a ukulele solo (and backing vocals) from Peter Sellers, and offers a humorous send off for what otherwise just might be the ultimate album for All Hallow's Eve! (amazon.com review)
Sabicas - Rock Encounter With Joe Beck (1966)
In 1966 Sabicas, one of the great Flamenco guitarists, went into a studio in New York with jazz/rock guitarist Joe Beck and three of NYC's best session players, producing what is probably the first fusion album. Only it's not jazz/rock fusion, it's flamenco/rock fusion! The juxtaposition of Sabicas's precise acoustic playing with Beck's out of control, fuzzed-out, 60's style leads is awesome and I'm sure unique. Really has to be heard. My only complaint is that it's so short, like all albums of the period.
Koerner, Ray And Glover - Blues, Rags And Hollers (1963)
Koerner, Ray and Glover were the coolest group to emerge from the 1960's "Folk Revival" movement, and this album, their first, is an absolute classic. They were the perfect antithesis to the perpetrators of "Tom Dooley" and "Puff, The Magic Dragon". Groups like the squeaky-clean Kingston Trio must have been absolutely horrified by these dudes. They were weird - "Spider John" Koerner sometimes played a 7-string guitar, they were known to appear at festivals in a drunken state, their music could be ragged and enthusiastically sloppy - and they played blues. I mean check out their pictures on the cover and then look at photos of Peter Paul and Mary or the Chad Mitchell Trio. Koerner Ray and Glover looked like trouble-makers for sure! In 1963 the Folk Music world was segregated - black performers played the blues and white acts played Appalachian/European material. K, R & G might be the first white group to play 'black' material. To be honest, there are a few 'ragtimey' tracks that don't do much for me, but this is a brilliant album and every folk music fan should have this. Tracks like "One Kind Favor", "Down To Louisiana", and "Jimmy Bell" are so damn good it's not funny.
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Michael Chapman - Fully Qualified Survivor (1970)
Michael Chapman's second release is a sadly overlooked classic of English 'contemporary folk' and contains some of his best known songs, including his only hit, "Postcards of Scarborough". This is also the first appearance of Mick Ronson, whose work on this led to his long-time collaboration with David Bowie. Steeleye Span bassist Rick Kemp is also on hand. Melancholic and passionate, Chapman's brilliant songwriting, his gravelly vocals and his accomplished finger picking make this an album for any fan of folky music.
Hank Williams - Alone With His Guitar
This collection of solo performances is divided between radio appearances before he became famous, and demo recordings made after he was already well-known. The radio recordings are all from 1949, and all but one are covers of popular country songs of the day. The only original, "Alone and Forsaken" is so eerily moving it is almost scary. The balance of the disc, the demos, included performances that may or may not equal the finally releases versions. Being just him, there is a intimacy there that is striking. Great stuff indeed. If you have 1998's 10-disc set you already have this stuff. You probably don't - so you need this!!
OK that's it for now. Check next week for more psych/prog/kraut!