British folk-revival of the 60s-70s (Part I)

When I conceived an article about the British folk-revival and the subsequent folk-rock boom, I approached the question somewhat frivolously-it was the idea to write about the 6-8 most significant collectives, so as not to drive the unprepared reader into the melancholy. However, when compiling the list of groups, it became clearly clear that there is much more interesting material, and all of it obviously does not fit within the framework of one article. As a result, I prepared a series of five (?) Materials, the first of which I am happy to present today.

A couple of words about why it is folk-revival. Folk, in fact, was the forerunner of rock music. Since the early 60’s, folk has gained momentum both in America and in England, becoming more difficult and growing in new layers. By the mid-sixties folk had become an integral part of rock, giving it a special lyric depth and sensitivity and thereby opening new facets for talented musicians. However, whatever one may say, in terms of interest in new music, it was the United Kingdom that was ahead of the whole planet. And the transformation of English folk (and American, too, but this another time) had a tremendous impact on the formation of rock music as we know it now. Well, if without too much pathetic – I just like this music.

I’ll start with the most important group for the then British folk scene, called Pentangle. This group for folk-rock had the same meaning as Cream for blues-rock. It was founded in 1967 around two iconic guitar virtuosos – Bert Jansch (Bert Jansch) and John Renburn (John Renbourn), who by that time had already released several solo albums and one joint. Complemented by the young and unknown then vocalist Jacqui McShee, as well as jazz musicians – double bass player Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox, who previously played in the group of Alexis Corner and Duffy’s Nucleus (together with the famous John McLaughlin (John McLaughlin)).

A few words about the remarkable duet Bert Jensch and John Renburn. Neither one nor the other was a classic singer-songwriter, as one might think. Everyone was primarily a virtuoso guitarist, although they both had good vocals (although Jensch was more of a focus on vocal parts thanks to a beautiful voice). Again, both were influenced by both American blues music (Lead Belly, Big Bill Broonzy) and the protest folk (Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger), and English – folk-scene (Davey Graham, Wizz Jones) and traditional music.

Although, of course, they were comrades and cohabitants, but stylistically played quite differently – Jensh was always somewhere at the intersection of the above directions with a desire for folk rock, and Renborn gravitated toward traditional music, medieval melodies and baroque folk. Their iconic albums before Pentangle it’s a joint Bert and John 1966 and the work of Jensen – Do not bother me (1965) and Jack Orion (1966), where there was an adapted traditional composition Blackwaterside, which will then be processed into instrumental by Jimmy Ptij (Jimmy Page) and it will be released on the debut of Led Zeppelin under the name Black Mountain Side. By the way, and not one he borrowed from Bert.

Success came to Pentangle almost immediately, which is not surprising, given the composition of the performers and an absolutely innovative sound – so no one sounded either before or after. The jazz rhythm section, two acoustic guitars and a male with female vocals merged into something completely magical. Jazz-folk, electric-folk, folk-rock, baroque-folk – the coverage is extensive, multifaceted and unique. In its classical composition Pentangle from 1968 to 1972 released six albums. There were both purely folk works (Solomon Seal) and more eclectic (Reflection), however, the brightest and most obligatory for acquaintance is the first-born – The Pentangle (1968), canonical live album – Sweet Child (1968), the most commercially successful – Basket Of Light (1969) and the final – Solomon Seal (1972).

After the breakup in 1973, Jensch successfully released solo work, Renburn ran a group in the name of himself and subsequently spawned many imitators of his style, the most famous of which, perhaps, Greg Joy.

Pentangle reunited again in 1981, but already without Renburn in the lineup. Jensh died in 2011 as a recognized master and “Guitarist Guitarist”.

The second landmark group is the Fairport Convention. The beginning of the collective was laid when, in 1966, bassist Ashley Hutchings and guitarist Simon Nicol found each other in London. A little later they were joined by another guitarist Richard Thompson and drummer Shaun Frater, who was soon replaced by Martin Labde. The name of the group was borrowed from the name of the building “Fairport”, where Father Nicola had medical practice and their rehearsal base on the floor above. Soon they were joined by vocalist Judy Dybool (Judy Dyble). So the first group was formed. After a series of club appearances, they acquired management in the person of Joe Boyd and, at his insistence, singer Lain Matthews was invited to record the debut album.

The self-titled album came out in early 1968 and was essentially the acidic folk of the American spill (the nearest landmarks are Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, The Byrds). Before the recording of the second album, Dibull was replaced by the beautiful vocalist Sandy Danny (Alexandra Elene MacLean “Sandy” Denny). With her arrival, firstly, the music became much more folk-oriented, and secondly, the group began to climb to their creative peak. Second album What We Did on Our Holidays in 1969 marked the group’s path to mixing acid rock and traditional music, but was very uneven in quality of the material. But with the arrival in the group of brilliant violinist Dave Swarbrick (Dave Swarbrick), while as a guest, to record the third LP Unhalfbricking (1969), the sound of the band gained that completeness and self-sufficiency, which brought Fairport Convetion into the absolute classics of rock music. The most powerful composition from this album, which indicated the direction for further movement, was the epic recycling of the traditional A Sailor’s Life.

Shocks, alas, did not bypass the collective, and after one of the concerts in 1969 the group got into an accident, and the talented drummer Martin Labde was killed to death. He was only 19. The replacement was found in the face of Dave Mattacks (Dave Mattacks). Swebrik also became a permanent member of the group – and this compulsorily updated composition was now recorded canonical Liege & Lief (1969). On this album FC brought their formula of folk-rock to an almost perfect consistency: a harmonious combination of overloaded electric guitar and fatal rhythm section with traditional melodies and instruments. And, of course, you can not say about Sandy’s brilliant vocals – bright, but not loud and some deep deep thought. The album is worthy to be auditioned entirely, but I will allow myself to distinguish three absolutely killer tracks – Matty Groves, The Deserter, Tam Lin. Classic!

After the release of the album, Sandy Danny left to organize her band Fotheringay, which was not very successful. She returned to 74 and stayed at the age of 75, struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, and in 1978 she died of a cerebral hemorrhage that occurred soon after falling down the stairs. Ashley Hutchings, wishing to play more traditional stuff, also left and founded a very successful Steeleye Span, which will be lower. Fairport Convention were reformed and after the break from 79 to 85 they continue their creative activity, however, it was Liege & Leaf.

So, when Hutchings left FC he met the club folk duo – vocalist Maddy Prior (Maddy Prior) and guitarist / vocalist Tim Hart (Tim Hart), the same couple of Steeleye Span family members – guitarist / vocalist Terry Woods (Terry Woods) and vocalist Gay Woods (Gay) added. And so, with two soloists and guest drummer Dave Matthews was recorded and published in 1970 the debut album Hark! The Village Wait. It consisted almost entirely of the newly arranged traditional compositions, and this feature became the rule for the group: with rare exceptions, all of their material is made up of traditional songs. The work sounded very cute: classy vocal harmonies, unobtrusive electric guitar, clear rhythm and unconditional mastery of musicians. Even then it was noticeable that the group has good commercial potential and their manner is very suitable for the format of radio.

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However, immediately after the recording of the album the group was left by the spouses of Woods (they created a group The Woods Band and released two good albums in 71 and 78, and from 86th Terry plays in The Pogues), and on the next three albums the sound of the band was quite amusing: the drummer was not at all, but there was an electric bass and an overloaded guitar. And all this despite the fact that they played some traditional material. It was like everything should have been arranged by Ashley, but after the release of the third album Jigs: Paddy Clancey’s Jig-Willie Clancy’s Fancy in 1971 restless Hutchings again left, leaving them the same group based. This time he put together The Albion Band, in which he played happily until 2014. Steeleye Span released two more albums without a drummer and decided that it was time to take the bull by the horns. And since LP 1974 of the year Now We Are Six They sounded like a folk-version of Fleetwood Mac and reached a commercial peak with a release in 1975 All Around My Hat.

Maddy in this video demonstrates amazing grace and plasticity, is not it?

Steeleye Span is still active and in 2013 released an excellent album Wintersmith. In the work on this album, Sir Terence David John Pratchett (Sir Terence David Pratchett), who recently left us, helped them.

PS On March 26, 2015 John Renbourne passed away. Well, the great duo was reunited in heaven.

British folk-revival of the 60s-70s (Part I)

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