Not if I can help it.Early treat for you all, off for an early night so here it is…
The Incredible String Band - The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter
Studio Album, released in 1968
Songs / Tracks Listing
1. Koeeoaddi There (4:49)
2. The Minotaur's Song (3:22)
3. Witches Hat (2:33)
4. A Very Cellular Song (13:09)
5. Mercy I Cry City (2:46)
6. Waltz of the New Moon (5:10)
7. The Water Song (2:50)
8. Three Is a Green Crown (7:46)
9. Swift as the Wind (4:53)
10. Nightfall (2:33)
Total time: 49:51
Line-up / Musicians
- Robin Williamson / lead (1-3,6-8,10) & backing vocals, acoustic guitar, guimbri, whistle, percussion, pan pipe, piano, oud, mandolin, Jew's harp, chahanai, water harp, harmonica, arrangements
- Mike Heron / lead (4,5,9) & backing vocals, acoustic guitar, sitar, Hammond organ, hammered dulcimer, harpsichord, arrangements
- Dolly Collins / flute organ, piano, arrangements (6,7)
- David Snell / harp
- Christina "Licorice" McKechnie / vocals & finger cymbals (2)
- Judy Dyble / vocals (2) - not credited
- Richard Thompson / vocals (2) - not credited
LP Elektra - EUK-258 (1968, UK) Mono audio
LP Elektra - EUKS-7258 (1968, UK) Stereo audio
LP Elektra - EKS-74021 (1968, US) New cover art
LP Sundazed - 5129 (2003, US)
CD Hannibal Records - HNCD 4421 (1991, US)
CD Fledg'ling Records - FLED 3078 (2010, UK) Remastered by Simon Heyworth
It’s 1968 and among Burnage Grammar School sixth formers there is only one burning choice that needs to be made, whose side are you on?
It isn’t whether you are blue or red, City or United. The choice you have to make is whether the vinyl album that never leaves your turntable is the execrable “My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair… But Now They Are Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows”, the debut album by the psychedelic folk band Tyrannosaurus Rex or “The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter”, the third album by the Scottish psychedelic folk group, The Incredible String Band.
For me there was no contest.
The Incredible String Band blew me away. Picked up and promoted by John Peel on his radio show it also achieved financial success in the UK album chart staying in the chart for 21 weeks and reaching number 5 and was nominated for a Grammy. They were one of the few British bands to play at Woodstock and Robert Plant acknowledged their influence on Led Zeppelin.
And yet this band are like marmite. Some, like me, loved their output, and still play their albums today. Others cannot stand what they do, calling it an amateur cacophony. They produced work that embraced British folklore, medieval traditions, and Far Eastern mysticism using a ridiculous melange of instrumentation, deconstructing traditional song structure such that verse/chorus rarely happens as they wander around playing with words and sentence construction.
It was Captain Beefheart who took blues and jazz music and said: “Let’s see what happens if we take this music and play it the wrong way.”
The Incredible String Band it could be said did exactly the same with this album.
The opening track, Koeeoaddi There, opens with a nice guitar riff accompanied by Robin Williamson’s plaintiff singing. Sitars join with a jaw’s harp as the vocals wander off. From now on you never know where this album is going.
Next up is The Minotaur’s Song, the catchiest, most “normal” sounding song on the album, with its traditional structure and it’s almost military bounce, Williamson’s dissonant song being responded to by Heron and the girls.
Witches Hat is an almost traditional Scottish folky tune, guitar and flute and Williamson’s voice until again it wanders off.
My favourite follows. A Very Cellular Song, where Heron takes elements of folk and blends them together around a traditional spiritual lament “We Bid You Goodnight”. All very comfortable and traditional and folky it is with harpsichord and flutes and organs and then it becomes about amoebas splitting before returning to a traditional hymn of well wishing.
Mercy I Cry City is a song about the destruction of simpler country life by urban living. The band did later decamp to a country house in Innerleithen in Scotland and set up a commune and further their creativity.
Waltz of the New Moon a simple folk tune that has Williamson’s vocals driving it or ruining it? You choose.
The Water Song opens with flutes and Williamson singing a short paean to the value of.. water, before turning into a free jazz style jam of instruments and running water.
Three is a Green Crown has Williamson pushing out the limits with his vocal gymnastics, convoluted lyrics, meandering pitch changes all accompanied by sitar. If you like Beefheart, or Bitches Brew, this might be your cup of tea.
Swift as the Wind follows with Heron starting off with his wailing before adding lyrics where a child is being derided by his parents for his mystical visions.
The album concludes with Nightfall. Williamson takes the vocals this time on a short, beautiful sitar accompanied lullaby.
So there it is. Indescribable, quirky, a curates egg of an album, a mix of styles from all over the world, this album got me, and many others, hooked on the Incredible String Band.
I love it but I am willing to bet it gets the lowest rating on here!