Various Artists. Electric Eden.

Blabber’n’Smoke received a copy of Rob Young’s exhaustive history of, for want of a better term, British alternative folk and folk rock, Electric Eden last Christmas. As a long time listener of the likes of the extended Fairport Convention family tree, John Martyn, Nick Drake, Pentangle at al we devoured the book wondering at the vastness of it all and greedily devouring via Spotify and YouTube numerous artists we’d either forgotten about or had never heard in the first place. Young uses the early chapters to explore the late 19th and early 20th Century roots of the folk revival in some detail to advance his thesis that this ties in with a uniquely British innate desire to return to and commune with a bucolic faerie fuelled past. He then tops off the book with a look at the likes of Kate Bush and Julian Cope in the eighties but the meat of the book is in the blossoming of a new type of folk, fuelled by the beatnik, hippie and rock movements of the 50s to the 70s. As a true companion to the book this album would have been required to be a box set of some sumptuous proportions, sadly it is not so however Young has compiled a fine primer which manages to balance familiar and obscure relics of the highwater years from 1966-1979.
With the two discs subtitled “Acoustic Eden” and “Electric Albion” there’s a rough division between those bands and artists who upheld more traditional sounds and those who plugged in and with drums, bass and a rock’n’roll heart. A mite misleading as some of the electric songs are much more traditional than the acoustic ones with Comus (acoustic) scary as hell and Shirley Collins & The Albion Country Band (electric) sounding as if they were conjured from a Thomas Hardy novel. That quibble aside the 36 songs here capture the spirit of adventure and daring that allowed such songs as Tim Hart and Maddy Prior’s False Knight On The Road to rub shoulder to shoulder with prog and Krautrock on the late John Peel’s radio shows. While the likes of Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson, Pentangle, John Martyn and Steeleye Span are well represented here the real thrill is in hearing names that have been thrown up as influences by the freak folk crowd but are rarely represented on compilations. Thus Bill Fay, Peter Bellamy, Meic Stevens, COB, Shelagh McDonald, Mick Softley, Trees and even our very own Archie Fisher (with a wonderful rendition of Reynardine complete with sitar) are offered a moment in the sun with around a dozen others. Even David Bowie gets in here with Black Country Rock. Nicely packaged with liner notes by Young it’s an engaging trip down a mystic country lane for those who remember those times and a great place to start for anyone wanting to dig deep into what the likes of Devandra Banhart is on about.

Tracklist

CD1
ACOUSTIC EDEN
1. Peter Bellamy – ‘Oak, Ash and Thorn’
2. Traffic – ‘John Barleycorn Must Die’
3. Bert Jansch – ‘The Waggoner’s Lad’
4. Fairport Convention – ‘Stranger to Himself’
5. Archie Fisher – ‘Reynardine’
6. Bread, Love and Dreams – ‘Brother John’
7. Bill Fay – ‘Garden Song’
8. Water Into Wine Band – ‘Stranger in the World’
9. Tudor Lodge – ‘Willow Tree’
10. Comus – ‘Diana’
11. Meic Stevens – ‘Yorric’
12. Magic Carpet – ‘The Dream’
13. Sweeney’s Men – ‘The Pipe on the Hob’
14. Tim Hart & Maddy Prior – ‘False Knight on the Road’
15. Dr Strangely Strange – ‘Dark-Haired Lady’
16. Albion Country Band – ‘I Was a Young Man’
17. COB – ‘Music of the Ages’
18. Roger Nicholson – ‘The Carman’s Whistle’
19. Bridget St John – ‘Fly High’
20. John Martyn – ‘She Moves Through the Fair’
CD 2
ELECTRIC ALBION
1. Richard Thompson – ‘Roll over Vaughn Williams’
2. Steeleye Span – ‘The Lark in the Morning’
3. Unicorn – ‘Country Road’
4. Fairport Convention – ‘A Sailor’s Life’
5. Trees – ‘Glasgerion’
6. Fotheringay – ‘Gypsy Davey’
7. David Bowie – ‘Black Country Rock’
8. John Martyn – ‘Glistening Glyndebourne’
9. Mike Cooper – ‘Paper and Smoke’
10. Shelagh McDonald – ‘Mirage’
11. Spirogyra – ‘Disraeli’s Problem’
12. Mick Softley – ‘Time Machine’
13. Shirley Collins & The Albion Country Band – ‘Murder of Maria Marten’
14. Pentangle – ‘Jack Orion’
15. Incredible String Band – ‘Painted Chariot’
16. Nick Drake – ‘Voices’

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One thought on “Various Artists. Electric Eden.

  1. Pingback: Jon Budworth. Trees Turn To Fire. | Blabber 'n' Smoke

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