The Incredible String Band (aka ISB)

Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1965-66)

- Mike Heron -- vocals, rhythm guitar, sitar, keyboards 

- Clive Parker -- vocals, banjo

- Robin Williamson -- vocals, guitar , bass, drums, whistle


  line up 2 (1966-68)

- Mike Heron -- vocals, rhythm guitar, sitar, keyboards 

- Robin Williamson -- vocals, guitar , bass, drums, whistle


  line up 3 (1968-71)

- Mike Heron -- vocals, rhythm guitar, sitar, keyboards 

NEW - Christina 'Licorice' aka 'Likky' McKechnie --

  percussion, Irish harp, harmonium, keyboards

- Robin Williamson -- vocals, guitar , bass, drums, whistle

NEW - Rose Simpson - bass, violin, percussion


  line up 3 (1971-72)

- Mike Heron -- vocals, rhythm guitar, sitar, keyboards 

NEW - Stan Lee (aka Sta Schnier) -- bass, pedal steel guitar 

NEW - Michael LeMaistre -- vocals, bass 

- Christina 'Licorice' aka 'Likky' McKechnie -- percussion,

  Irish harp, harmonium, keyboards

- Robin Williamson -- vocals, guitar , bass, drums, whistle

- Rose Simpson -- bass, violin, percussion


  line up 3 (1973-74)

NEW - Gerard Dott - keyboards, reeds (1973-74)

- Mike Heron - vocals, guitar, sitar, keyboards (1966-74)

- Michael LeMaistre - vocals, bass (1973-74)

- Robin Williamson - vocals, guitar , bass, drums, whistle






- C.O.B. (Clive Palmer)

- Mike Heron (solo efforts)

- Robin Williamson (solo efforts)




Genre: folk

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Changing Horses

Company: Elektra

Catalog: EKS-74037

Year: 1969

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: --

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: 

Price: $15.00




At the turn of the '70s, the Incredible String Band began to lose some of their momentum. The album Changing Horses was not as engaging as the band's previous collections, and the group's eclecticism became a liability rather than an asset. Bassist and pantomimist Malcolm LeMaistre joined in 1971 for U, a well-received stage show that did not translate as easily to record. The band made the transition to electric rock & roll in 1972


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

SO GLAD to see the Incredible String Band CDs released again! The only potential drawback is nabbing two ISB albums, not always on the same level.

As much as I love The Incredible String Band, "Changing Horses" is one of those releases that I spun over and over, and each time it left me flat. While I wouldn't call it horrible music, it comes off as a long studio session in need of some quality editing. Songs like "Dust Be Diamonds" and "White Bird" ring like songs that start off with promise but wind up with nowhere to go.

"I Looked Up," on the other hand, is prime ISB! Blackjack Davey is an upbeat ballad that will spin through your head after just one sampling. On the other end of the mood spectrum, "Pictures In a Mirror," is the chilling narrative of Lord Randall awaiting and experiencing his execution in a hallowed jail. This is the perfect song to play to a room full of friends (friends who, preferably, are unfamiliar with the Incredible String Band!) during a late night blackout (a thunderstorm outside outside helps too!) I've tried it, and it creeps out my compadres without fail!

"I Looked Up" is a solid album all around. If you are new to The Incredible String Band, and want to pick up the best of these double-CD compilations, I recommend "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter/5000 Spirits" combo.

Despite my lackluster opinion of "Changing Horses," this CD is worth the price for "I Looked Up" alone. And, in all fairness, The Incredible String Band went through a lot of phases; some fans like their earlier releases, some prefer the later albums that introduced electrical instruments into the band's repetoire. This combo is a good dose of two sounds of ISB. Who knows, maybe you will find something hep in "Changing Horses" that escaped me?

Help other customers find the most helpful reviews  
Was this review helpful to you?  Yes No
Report this | Permalink

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars Begging To Differ . . ., December 31, 2004
By  The Devonian (England) - See all my reviews
I have just read the other review for this item and, sometime after the fact, thought I would put a completely opposite point of view. While I Looked Up is okay, and nothing more (neck and neck with No Ruinous Feud in the Least Enjoyable ISB Album Stakes), Changing Horses is a near masterpiece that pays repeated listening. It is obviously not in the same league as such monumental classics as Wee Tam & The Big Huge, Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, etc., but that does not diminish its plus points:
1. Big Ted: whimsical, amusing, take it on its own terms and be entertained.
2. White Bird: a prolonged joy. Not as rambling and unfocused as it seems if the original Indian music is listened to. Sheer beauty. So uplifting it's almost painful!
3. Dust Be Diamonds: more whimsy, slight but still enjoyable.
4. Sleepers, Awake!: I just love this song.
5. Mr. and Mrs.: the low point of the album but not as low as some critics would have you believe. Quite tolerable.
6. Creation: possibly Robin Williamson's finest ISB related hour. A masterwork without a doubt!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews  
Was this review helpful to you?  Yes No
Report this | Permalink

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Very musical, June 24, 2006
By  Bruce P. Barten (Saint Paul, MN United States) - See all my reviews
Hopefully those who get these two CDs in a single set will be able to appreciate this music without worrying much about which song is on which CD. I am used to hearing some of these songs at the end of a 2-record set called `Relics of the Incredible String Band.' "This Moment" seemed like the perfect ending for that attempt to capture the joys of existence in songs. "I just want to tell each one of you that each note, it is different from any before it, each note, it is different, it's now." Getting more songs after that is like Richard Brautigan trying to come up with 186,000 endings per second for the novel A CONFEDERATE GENERAL FROM BIG SUR. "Fair As You" is a nice, soft, flutey ending, stating the impossibility of having a song which is as fair as you. The eleven minutes penultimately placed between those two songs provides the sentimental message, "`When You Find Out Who You Are' beautiful beyond your dreams." I think that message is sentimental, but my mood might be influenced as much by the spirit in which these songs are sung and float in my memory. Some of their themes might make you feel like you are in church, and if you like `Sleepers, Awake!' you should probably get up on Sunday mornings and see how the church choir is doing. Modern peer to peer filesharing habits are like the chorus of `Dust Be Diamonds:' "buy for a million and sell for a dime." These are the songs by the Incredible String Band that I heard first, because I did not discover the group until 1970, and everyone I knew then was moving so much, no one had a complete collection of anything. If you never heard the Incredible String Band, starting with this set might be good enough so you'll never forget them.
This album caused quite a split among the band's fans when it first came out: some saw it as the culmination of the brilliant hippy wierdness developed over previous gems like "Hangmans" and "Wee Tam" - to others it was just boring. What we get are a couple of fairly obvious throwaway songs: "Big Ted" is fun but not much more, "Sleepers Awake" is OK as an unaccompanied piece but not much in comparison to (say) Steeleye Span, and "Mr & Mrs" and "Dust Be Diamonds" are fine but hardly quintessential ISB. The two real contenders here are the long tracks: Mike's brilliant, quirky meditation "White Bird"" (not to be confused with Its a Beautiful Day's song) and Robin's awesome elegy on no less a theme than Creation itself. Both pieces are slow-burning with repetitive dreamlike choruses which either send you into realms of wonder or bore you stupid. Either way, the album is an experience which, on its own terms, has never been equalled. Its either the epitome or the nadir of the String Band depending on which side of the great divide you fall. As for me, I love it and always will, but its flaws are self-evident which is why it loses a star. Great cover (the band in full hippy regalia perched in a tree - they were never lovelier).
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews  
Was this review helpful to you?  Yes No
Report this | Permalink

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars More Myths from Hippie Central. Great Stuff., June 4, 2005
By  B. Marold "Bruce W. Marold" (Bethlehem, PA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Changing Horses (Audio CD)
`Changing Horses' is the fourth / fifth album by the four member Incredible String Band with Robin Williamson and Mike Heron being joined for the third time by Rose and Licorice on base and guitar respectively. As with every previous album, the lion's share of the songwriting is done by Williamson, whose songs also tend to be far more deeply steeped in myth, both traditional and created. One gets the feeling that Williamson was baptised with a copy of `The Golden Bough' rather than the `Holy Bible'. I also tend to prefer Williamson's songs over Heron's in general, but this album contains `White Bird', which may very well be Heron's best effort. It is certainly his best song on TISB albums up to this point. It is almost a shame that a great song of the same name by Linda and David LaFlamme of `It's A Beautiful Day' came out about the same time. I checked my old Columbia LP of `It's A Beautiful Day' and can find no copywrite date, but I recall hearing the LaFlamme's version first.

In looking at the original release dates of the first five TISB albums, I'm surprised at how close together they are for a group which I'm sure had only a fringe audience at best. On the other hand, I'm sure they and their handlers at Elektra believed that it was best to get the releases out there while the audience was buying.

After all these years of listening to TISB on vinyl and CD, it has finally dawned on me as I reviewed `The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter' that practically all their work can be seen as a musical analogue to `The Hobbit', `Alice in Wonderland', and `Winnie the Pooh', all stories nominally written for children but probably enjoyed much more by adults, especially adults with a countercultural persuasion. These are all songs from hippie central!

Aside from `White Bird', the most outstanding number on this album is `Creation', Robin Williamson's version of Genesis for the `New Age'. In structure, the song is very similar to `Maya', the first cut on `Wee Tam', where there most lines in the song lay out a series. In this case, it is the days of the week as they were created by a distaff diety.

My impression when I originally bought this album in 1969 was that this The Incredible String Band was giving us more of the same high quality tunes and performances, but that there was not a lot of development in evidence. This was in the days when two years separated the Beatles `I Wanna Hold Your Hand' and `Please Please Me' from Eleanor Rigby' and `Yesterday'. Strong progression of style was `de rigeur'.

In retrospect, we know that The Incredible String Band' never did develop much beyond their style established in these half dozen or so albums between 1967 and 1971. Robin Williamson has retreated to doing old Celtic storytelling and covers of traditional songs which served as his original inspiration. We can give thanks to the fact that we have these on CD after all these years.

Highly recommended for all unrepentant hippies everywhere.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews  
Was this review helpful to you?  Yes No
Report this | Permalink

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm still amazed, August 24, 2003
By  kirkeby (new email adress) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Changing Horses (Audio CD)
If there ever was something that change my life. It was definily this band. How modest they are to call themselves the Incredible Stringband when in fact they are/were the Incredible innovators of 'my thoughts' in all my early years, that is from the age of 13 well, until now. If anybody had an impact onmy life Robin certainly did. For many years ago, in Copenhagen, I meet licorice in a park, I wasgoing the same evening to a concert with the I.S.B. And there I was..... together with Licorice.. what a thrill... Until this day I remember that day. And the concert was great. There was light everywere and I mean light,because wereever the ISB played, there was light. I love these persons I know that they loved me. If ever you should listen to music, and offcourse you are, DO'NT MISS THIS. I love you but the maker he loves you the best.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews  
Was this review helpful to you?  Yes No
Report this | Permalink

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars overall Incredible String Band rating, February 28, 2001
By  Mark R. Dobos (Indian Harbour Beach, FL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Changing Horses (Audio CD)
This album being a personal favourite, for its extended transcendental meditative trance numbers, White Bird and Creation, only gives you an idea of the ground Robin Williamson and Mike Heron are capable of breaking. Its interesting for me to look back and see how I got turned on. It wasn't immediate acceptance, me being only 21,it was over my head--I wasn't at that level yet. Couple years later, I started to see(mostly for the lively blend/fusion of eastern influence and folk-rock including innovations on the sitar). Williamson's lyrics are beyond reproach from even Bob Dylan as is his completely unique and supplemental singing style--East is as far as music goes. And the Incredible String Band is as far as Eastern goes. I now acclaim Robin Williamson as the greatest music artist(and least acknowledged) perhaps in all of history. Accompanied by Mike Heron, on any of a half a dozen instruments, this is the most farthest reaching experimentation and exploration of the ultimate limit in music. But most people we'll never even come close to "seeing". I'm deeply effended when uncultured/uneducated individuals insult their genious with rude, negative verbal insults and unsubstantiated, uneducated comparisons to the Bealtes who , of course, is probably the only band this person ever heard of(And this sorry excuse for anything claimed to be from and "know" the 60's-don't make me sick. The Beatles never had what these guys do. The comparison to me is ludicrous. Assists from Licorice and Rose are more than just whip creme and a cherry. The Incredible String Band recorded many great albums. Whether or not you listen to them depends on what you're looking for. But do you know genious when you see it?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews  
Was this review helpful to you?  Yes No
Report this | Permalink

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
3.0 out of 5 stars and a poor change it was ..., December 15, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Changing Horses (Audio CD)
"Changing Horses", the first ISB album to appear after the summer-flavored and great "Wee Tam & the Big Huge" is in no way a match for its predecessors. Obviously the ISB's first (psychedelic) source of inspiration was flowing away rapidly, leaving the shell of a thought and not the thought itself. Not that it's a bad record - it's just a disappointment after the glory of their earlier records. Most songs are quite good, although it seems that the smile the ISB present to the world with this album is a little brittle and forced.

"Big Ted" is as "naive" a song as you can get, but it works. "White Bird" is far more ambitious, and shows Mike Heron trying to expand his repertoire of lengthy songs (the best example being "A very cellular song"), and a brave effort it is - but it's simply too long. "Dust be diamonds" is a not very successful song (and "naive" again), while "Sleepers awake" features some quite nice singing. "Mr & Mrs" sounds ok. The most ambitious song is the last one. "Creation", demanding even more time from us than "White Bird" already did, takes us through enough different landscapes to make the journey pleasant - but here too, its sheer weight is always threatening its structure and so it's not the comfortable ride we used to have when riding with mr. Williamson.

Compared to a lot of later albums, "Changing Horses" is still very much an "early" ISB record. Nevertheless, the down-hill slide had begun and already the top seemed to be awfully far away.

Hans Wigman

Help other customers find the most helpful reviews  
Was this review helpful to you?  Yes No
Report this | Permalink

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEGINNING OF CHANGES..., March 11, 2003
By  Larry L. Looney (Austin, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Changing Horses (Audio CD)
CHANGING HORSES was originally released in 1969, not that long after the ISBs WEE TAM/BIG HUGE double-LP release (separated into two individual albums for release in the good ol USA). Some of the gentle mood of WT/BH carried over into this recording, but for the most part it feels like the growth process that it is  the band was extending its instrumental reach into electric guitars (included on 3 of the 6 tracks). The listener could almost feel what was to come with future releases  the bands personnel would change and expand, and they would become more of a rock outfit by the time EARTHSPAN was released in 1972. The changes were welcomed by some and dreaded by others.

The set opens with Big Ted, a Robin Williamson composition devoted to the life and death of a pig  done up in his inimitable style, and including some great, gently humorous lines. White bird, a 14-minute-plus Mike Heron opus, follows  the booklet reproduces Mikes artwork as well as his calligraphy accompanying this song. The song goes through some nice, interesting changes, and overall works very well. Dust be diamonds is next  the first collaboration between Mike and Robin to appear on any of their records  with Robin taking the lead vocal. Sleepers awake! follows  a Mike Heron composition, sung a capella by the four members of the band in their beautiful sounds-like-a-rehearsal style. The voice blend into a lovely mix, and those of the girls are particularly effective in this setting. Mr. & Mrs. is next, another Robin Williamson composition. The arrangement here is the closest to a rock band that appears on this record  but its not at all overbearing, and seems to suit the song well. The lyrics are a bit hard to understand  its always been a disappointment to me that only two of the songs (the aforementioned White bird and Creation) were included in print. The swirling Leslies on the organ played by Licorice on this track are a great touch. Creation ends the album, a long (over 16 minutes) work composed by Robin. Its an ambitious track, working elements of several creation myths into the lyrics, and its successful overall. My only problem with this track (and this is a personal peeve, not a serious criticism of the bands work) is the inclusion of the megaphone effect on Robins vocal near the end of the piece  its a little too self-consciously vaudevillian for my tastes (he resorts to it again on a later album).

Robin and Mike were amazing prolific writers  thus the frequency of the ISB releases, 12 (13 if you count WEE TAM/BIG HUGE as two) releases between 1966-1973. This is an astonishing output that doesnt even include compilations. There are more, recordings from early in their career and recordings made since they got back together a couple of years ago. They went through a lot of changes in a short period of time  but their work was generally of high quality, and always interesting, always pushing whatever envelope in which they imagined themselves  much to the listeners delight. This is one of their better efforts, close to their best  definitely a great asset to my collection.

Help other customers find the most helpful reviews  
Was this review helpful to you?  Yes No
Report this | Permalink

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
3.0 out of 5 stars A Classic never fades, August 19, 2000
By  Lululu (Howell NJ) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Changing Horses (Audio CD)
This cd is a classic ISB cd. It is not as good as previous releases but it is still a must have for all ISB fans. Mr. and Mrs. are and Creation are among my favorites. This cd is a departure from the norm and is a nice change of pace from the everyday folk singers releasing cd's now. ISB music still remains original and cutting edge, 30 years after it was released.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews  
Was this review helpful to you?  Yes No
Report this | Permalink

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars It's more than incredible!, September 28, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Changing Horses (Audio CD)
If there ever was something that change my life. It was definily this band. How modest they are to call themselves the Incredible Stringband when in fact they are/were the Incredible innovators of 'my thoughts' in all my early years, that is from the age of 13 well, until now. If anybody had an impact onmy life Robin certainly did. For many years ago, in Copenhagen, I meet licorice in a park, I wasgoing the same evening to a concert with the I.S.B. And there I was..... together with Licorice.. what a thrill... Until this day I remember that day. And the concert was great. There was light everywere and I mean light,because wereever the ISB played, there was light. I love these persons I know that they loved me. If ever you should listen to music, and offcourse you are, DO'NT MISS THIS. I love you but the maker he loves you the best.
One of the most satisfying characteristics of progressive music is its ability to transcend time. This is an inherent trait considering music of the genre is by-definition pretty much ahead of its time, at least when first created. But not all progressive music stands the test of time equally well, and this album is unfortunately one example of poor aging.

The Incredible String Band were innovative in their time, with an ever-evolving style that blended traditional folk instrumentation and storytelling songs with an eclectic mix of unusual instruments, often Eastern philosophical and compositional nuances, and the effervescence of youth, love and hippie naiveté. The band managed to remain quite active in various forms for a decade or so and sporadically resurfaced for decades after their formal disbanding in 1974. But this 1969 release really marks a pivotal turning point in many ways, and the band would never regain the same level of creativity or appeal they experienced in the late sixties.

The most pronounced change in the band was their lineup. Following several years as largely a duo consisting of Robin Williamson and Mike Heron (with various transient members and Williamson’s girlfriend Licorice McKechnie performing on their earlier albums), the band had settled on the lineup of Williamson, Heron, McKechnie and Heron’s girlfriend Rose Simpson. Dr. Strangely Strange keyboardist Ivan Pawle plays piano and organ, and Walter Grundy would come aboard with his harmonica for this and a couple of subsequent albums, but for the most part the band for a brief period was primarily its two founding members and their significant others. Many instruments on this album are plugged in as well, with the band beginning to move to a more electric sound.

The four members also claimed to have gone ‘clean’ prior to these recording sessions, leaving behind the drugs that clearly had fueled some of their creativity in 1967 and 1968. And both Williamson and Heron were dabbling in Scientology at the time, which may have had something to do with both of their girlfriends’ departures a couple years later.

As far as the music, much of it is rather tepid; not bad necessarily, but certainly not of the caliber and novelty of the second and third albums that had brought them some measure of renown. But in keeping with the sort of split-personality that characterized the group’s music thanks to the distinctively different styles of Williamson and Heron, the six songs here are really a mixed bag. “Big Ted” is a disjointed acid folk tune that tells the story of a pig that supposedly broke into the band’s communal house and ransacked their record collection. “Dust Be Diamonds”, the only ISB song in which Williamson and Heron claimed co-credits, features singing from all four members with McKechnie on kazoo, and degenerates into repetitive and mostly nonsensical lyrics early on. The album also includes an a’cappela number (“Sleepers, Awake!”) which is interesting only in that it’s the only instrument-free song they ever recorded. And Williamson offers up another of his trademark bard-like Brit folk numbers with “Mr. and Mrs.”, featuring mostly – well, him.

The rest of the album consists of two incessantly long and drifting compositions that would find some favor performed live, but seem to be a bit too unfocused for a studio release. “White Bird”, written by Heron, is pleasant and melodic when the band manages to focus, which is only for about three or four of the nearly fifteen minutes the thing runs on. Like many ISB songs there are mild Eastern lilts and several extended laconic stretches of acoustic noodling, and overall the band’s claim of being hallucinogen-free is somewhat suspect when this song is listened to in the sterile detachment of the twenty-first century.

The other lengthy number is Williamson’s sixteen-minute alternate-reality version of the Genesis story, “Creation”. This one is comparatively more coherent than Heron’s dirge, and features a wide array of instrumentation and percussion in addition to the soothing chanting of both of the band’s ladies. Like I said at the outset though, some things don’t stand the test of time all that well, and Williamson’s wandering tale comes off as rather staid and kitschy some forty years later. This may be a bit harsh for those folks who are old enough to have enjoyed the band back in the day, but for anyone attempting to discover them now there is little likelihood they will come away with the same sorts of epiphanies that the band’s hippie fans did those many years ago.

Joe Boyd, who had discovered the original lineup that included Clive Palmer, would once again act as producer. But the times they were a’changing, and so was the band. A stint at Woodstock would turn out to be a bust, and both Simpson and McKechnie would be gone within a couple of years. In fact the most memorable thing to come out of the Woodstock appearance was a handful of photos of a radiant Simpson on stage in a long cotton dress made see-through thanks to the heat, sweat and humidity of that day. Boyd would move on as well after another album, with Heron taking a more prominent role in the band’s direction as their music moved closer to the standard-fare rock that was more his style; and the band would fade out completely after 1974’s ‘Hard Rope and Silken Twine’.

This was a pivotal album for the band and their fans back in 1969, which itself was a pivotal period for anyone who was drawing breath at the time. The album undoubtedly garnered stronger reactions back then, either for the better or worse. But today it comes off as simply another mildly interesting and mostly forgettable period piece that most modern progressive music fans won’t find much to get excited about. Three stars since it is a good representation of the day, and a pleasant enough example of what ISB was capable of; but not much more. Only recommended to hard-core prog folk fans and those who have fond memories of the band.

How do you follow up a sprawling 80 minute double album? By releasing a 6 track album, thats how. still clocks in at 50 minutes though. Champion.

This album doesnt quite reach the high standards of the band's previous two albums though, and if i was being totally honest i'd probably say that my 4.5 rating is a tad high. But then i dont just view this as a stand-alone album, i also see it as being another chapter in the ISB story, and it represents the beginnings of the next stage for the band: the period of them as a four piece with the addition or Rose and Likky. As such, i find that whole "communal" period of the band really attractive, one where they were no long just an isolated two-piece but were instead part of a larger community in their cottage in Penwern. You could of course argue that that was a bad thing but as i say, i find it attractive, a relic from a bygone era.

So this is the first album recorded as a four-piece and again if i'm being totally honest, i dont think that they really clicked until the following I Looked Up album. Instead i get the impression that a couple of these songs, if they'd been performed by the two-piece line-up on Wee Tam and the Big Huge, would have been much more successful, and here i'm thinking of Dust Be Diamonds and Mr and Mrs. Here it feels as if both tracks were forced to fit the four-piece line-up. Still, I like Mr and Mrs a lot, but it's just a shame its a bit half-baked sounding.

I'm not sure i could say the same for Dust Be Diamonds. Well, i mean i could say its half-baked but i wouldnt say i like it a lot as its by far the weakest song on the album and there's too much going on and too many stops and starts. And if there's one thing the ISB didnt have it was a sense of rhythm so stopping and starting was perhaps not a good idea. It's also got a bit of a murky production too and its a pretty lifeless performance and really at just over 6 minutes in length it drags. An earlier BBC version is shorter and bit more spritely with the edition of a flute not on this version, and though it still not a classic ISB song it is superior.

The two other short songs are Big Ted and Sleepers, Awake!. The latter is a perfect acappella song, while the former is fun little throwaway song about a pig. The fact that Big Ted is one of the ISB's more lightweight offerings means it's never going to be considered as an ISB classic, but its not without its charms and its a gentle way of easing you into the album before its first real behemoth of song in White Bird.

Now personally, White Bird is my all time favourite song and i cant say enough good things about it. Its just a truly stunning song, from Mike's wonderful vocals, his strongest to date, to Robin's flute and sarangi to the clattering, climactic final chorus, at just under 15 minutes in length it's more than the equal of anything else they had recorded previously. So the String Band went shit in 1969 did they? Not according to this, they didnt. Though you could of course point out that this was written during in 1968...

The other massive song here is the closing Creation. Its probably the most excessive String Band song and its either a product of genius or madness. Either way, this is the String Band at their prime and is truly a unique song like no other. The only problem with these two songs is that they do tend to overshadow their shorter companions, which is the main stumbling block for this album. Sleepers, Awake! is distinctly odd, but the other three shorter songs sound distinctly normal in comparison to White Bird and Creation, and "normal" is not what you want or expect from the String Band. And so it seems odd that they never chose to record Fine Fingered Hands for this album. One of Robin's most obtuse songs, its the equal of their early material and why it remained unrecorded remains anyone's guess. Maybe it didnt lend itself to the new four piece line up? Maybe it, along with the contemporary All Writ Down, which only appeared as the b-side of Big Ted, were deemed too old and so werent considered for inclusion. But then White Bird and Creation both predated them. Either way, had All Writ Down and Fine Fingered Hands been included instead of Dust Be Diamonds and Mr and Mrs i'd have no hesitation in calling this a 5 star album. As it is its a flawed and frustrating album, but it's still another great ISB album that's for too long been neglected simply because it isnt Hangman's or the 5000 Spirits.
EKS-74057 Vinyl LP (1969) [Rating6314977]
innocent76 Jan 03, 2009 3.50 stars|

avg 7,00
EKS-74057 Vinyl LP (1969) [Rating19875881]
wonkywhy Oct 13, 2008 3.50 stars|
Often seen as the ISB on a downward creative spiral.Makes little concession to any commercial concerns and the two long tracks might seem an overindulgence, whereas they are the strong centrepoints of the album.While not as strong as earlier masterpieces is still ahead of most of the freakyfolk pack.
EKS-74057 Vinyl LP (1969) [Rating18360181]
Tovan Jan 07, 2008 2.50 stars|
Too long songs with too little of the good stuff. Not recommended.
EKS-74057 Vinyl LP (1969) [Rating13113407]
BradL Sep 17, 2006 3.50 stars|
Minor ISB, a little more earthbound than the freewheeling classics of yore, and with lyrics a little more hectoring (this was the start of the overt Scientology years). Still pretty interesting though, and the highlights -- "White Bird", "Creation", "Sleepers Awake" -- wouldn't disgrace The 5000 Spirits.
EKS-74057 Vinyl LP (1969) [Rating6213432]
yerdenyere Jul 23, 2006 3.50 stars|
Highly recommended for those who, like me, mourn the co-optation of a large slice of the proverbial Sixties Ethos by mediocre jam bands and trustafarians.  Changing Horses is exactly what psychedelic folk music should be:  meandering and stream-of-conscious, both instrumentally and lyrically, without lapsing into monotony or excessive obscurantism.  The majestic "White Bird" rivals the more famous It's a Beautiful Day offering of the same title, while "Creation", the closing track which occupies the majority of the B - side, comes veering in from some kaleidoscopic plane on which Ali Farka Toure, Leonard Cohen and Krzysztof Komeda are giddy collaborators.  I enjoy the eccentricities of this album more with each listen, as I expect you will, too.  Today's neo-psychedelic flower children--Devendra, the Animal Collective, and their ilk--would do well to revisit their roots with a crash course in some of the Incredible String Band's more outre material; this irreverent, sprawling album is a fine place to start.
EKS-74057 Vinyl LP (1969) [Rating5583353]
daveb Dec 03, 2004 5.00 stars|
"Sleepers Awake" raises the question for all of us to do just that.
EKS-74057 Vinyl LP (1969) [Rating1316849]
bnoring Jul 21, 2004 3.50 stars|
Strike up another interesting album for ISB. Not as catchy as some of their albums, but pretty damn interesting regardless. Take into consideration "White Bird", "Dust Be Diamonds" and the 16 minute "Creation" opus. Unique British folk music with a difference.



Genre: folk

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Big Huge

Company: Elektra

Catalog: EKS-74037

Year: 1969

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: name written in pen on back cover and inner label

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: 4499

Price: $9.00


In the UK 1969's "The Big Huge" was couple with "The Wee Tam" as a double album set.  (In case you ever wondered, Robin Williamson explained the weird title as having been inspired by someone they knew in Scotland who went by the name 'Wee Tam'.)  Apparently concerned about costs and commercial viability, Elektra (ISB's American distributor), elected to break the collection up into two separate releases.  Produced by Joe Boyd, the album found the group working as a quartet consisting of Mike Heron, Robin Williamson and their girlfriends-cum-musicians Christina McKechnie and Rose Simpson.  Musically this is prime ISB, pulling together a quirky and total unique blend of sounds, including folk, mild psych and even atonal jazzy interludes.  This time around Williamson was responsible for most of the more experimental material, including the somewhat atonal nine minute plus opener 'Maya' and 'Lordly Nightshade' (the latter complete with references to Hitler).  In contrast, Heron-penned tracks such as 'Greatest Friend', 'Cousin Caterpillar' (don't even begin to ask us what it's about) and 'Douglas Traherne Harding' came off as being relatively mainstream and commercial (I'm using that term loosely) .  It isn't for everyone, but if you're reading this you probably already know what ISB is about.


"The Big Huge" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Maya   (Robin Williamson) - 9:24

2.) Greatest Friend   (Mike Heron) - 3:30

3.) The Son of Noah's Brother   (Robin Williamson) - 0:16

4.) Lordly Nightshade   (Robin Williamson) - 5:54

5.) The Mountain of God   (Robin Williamson) - 1:51


(side 2)

1.) Cousin Caterpillar   (Mike Heron) - 5:15

2.) The Iron Stone   (Robin Williamson) - 6:33

3.) Douglas Traherne Harding  (Mike Heron) - 6:16

4.) The Circle Is Unbroken   (Robin Williamson) - 4:47




Genre: folk

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  I Looked Up

Company: Elektra

Catalog: EKS-74061

Year: 1969

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: minor ring wear on cover

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID:  

Price: $15.00


1969's "I Looked Up" found former girlfrields/multi-instrumentalists Christina McKechnie (Likky) and Rose Simpson fully assimilated into The International String Band.  Recording as a full fledged quartet didn't make for much of a change to the band's sound, which remained rooted in a quirky mix English folk, folk-rock, and the plain weird. On the personality level the album underscored the growing creative rifts within the band, particular between Michel Heron and Robin Williamson.  While the two had seldom been true collaborators, this time out, with the exception of 'The Moment', they seemed relegated to the role of session player backing each other up on the other's compositions.


- 'Black Jack Davey' started the album off with a slice of English folk music.  Complete with raw fiddle and equally rugged Heron vocal, this one sounded like Robin Thompson era Fairport Convention.  Rose's little girl backing vocals didn't help the proceedings.  All told this one just didn't do much for my ears.   rating: ** stars

- Another Heron composition, 'The Letter' was the most commercial track on the album.  With Heron on electric guitar and with Fairport's Dave Mattacks on drums, this one actually generated a bit of folk-rock energy.  The lyrics were actually kind of  funny - Heron apparently crafting a song about having gotten a letter from a female American fan.   rating: *** stars

- Williamson's extended 'Pictures In a Mirror' was clearly a concept piece, though the story was lost on my ears.  This acoustic aural mess seemingly dragged on and on including  dischordent musical interludes, spoken narrative passages, and Williamson's bleating voice.  I've actually made it through the full 10 minutes, but just barely.  English folk at its worst.   rating: * star

- Heron's 'The Moment' captured the band at their quirkiest.  The one track where Heron and Williamson seemed to be on the same page, the acoustic number was also the lone track where the band actually sounded like they were having fun.   rating: *** stars

- The second WIlliamson composition, 'When You Find Out Who You Are' suffered from many of the same problems as the earlier 'Pictures In a Mirror'.   Clocking in at almost eleven minutes, the song seemed endless, bouncing all over the place without much of a melody.  Williamson's waivery voice was an acquired taste and the backing from Likky and Rose just served to irritate me.  Heron was notable in his absence.  The one positive thing came from the fact the song was a little more accessible than "Mirror', especially they final section where a recognizable melody actually popped up.   rating: ** stars  

- Heron's 'Fair as You' sure sounded like something that Williamson would have written.  Propelled by a flute and featuring Likky and Rose on vocals, it had that hippy-folk feel that folks either adore, or hate.  I'm more in the latter category.   rating: ** stars  


Love to be more positive off this one, but all-and-all a disappointment and certainly not the ISB album that I'd regularly play.


By the way, I don't have a clue why there were alternative covers.  Here's a snapshot of the other version which I think was the original issue.




"I Looked Up" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Black Jack Davey    (Michael Heron) - 3:58
2.) Letter
    (Michael Heron) - 3:09
3.) Picture's In a Mirror   (Robin Williamson) - 10:45


(side 2)

1.) This Moment    (Michael Heron) -  6:08
2.) When You Find Out Who You Are
    (Robin Williamson) - 10:58
3.) Fair as You
    (Michael Heron) -  6:25



Genre: folk

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Liquid Acrobat As Regards the Air

Company: Elektra

Catalog: EKS-74112

Year: 1971

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: 4696

Price: $15.00


Co-produced by the band and Stan Schnier, 1971's "Liquid Acrobat As Regards the Air" has always struck me as being ISB's version of The Beatles' "White Album".  I'm sure the two of you actually out there reading these reviews are wondering 'what's this dumbsh*t rambling on about?'  While Heron and Williamson always wrote separately, to my ears this is the first ISB album that didn't sound like a collaborative effort.  Instead, most of the twelve tracks sounded like solo efforts with backing from the rest of the group.  On material like the opener 'Talking of the End' Williamson seemed content to continue mining the group's quirky mix of folk and early world music influences.  Perhaps not as intriguing as some of his earlier work, the set had it's moments including the semi-martial 'Dear Old Battlefield', while 'Adam and Eve' incorporated one of the first reggae influences I'm aware of.  In contrast, tracks like 'Painted Chariot' (complete with Gerry Conway's drums the album's best effort) and 'Worlds They Rise and Fall' found Heron opting for a more conventional rock sound. Again, the results weren't perfect, but it's weird enough to warrant a couple of spins.   Elsewhere, 'Tree' was a needless remake of a selection from their 1967 debut, while  'Cosmic Boy' and 'Here Till Here Is There' featured Likky McKechnie's helium powered little girl voice. 

"Liquid Acrobat As Regards the Air" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Talking of the End   (Robin Williamson) - 5:30

2.) Dear Old Battlefield   (Robin Williamson) - 3:05

3.) Cosmic Boy   (Mike Heron - Christina McKechnie) - 3:49

4.) Worlds They Rise and Fall   (Mike Heron) - 3:32

5.) Evolution Rag   (Robin Williamson) - 4;42

6.) Painted Chariot   (Mike Heron) - 3:42


(side 2)

1.) Adam and Even   (Robin Williamson) -2:31

2.) Red Hair   (Mike Heron) - 2:05

3.) Here Till Here Is There   (Robin Williamson) -2:47

4.) Tree   (Mike Heron) - 2:57

5.) Jigs - 2:41

    i.) Eyes Like Leaves   (Robin Williamson) -

    ii.) Sunday My Wedding Day (traditional) - 

    iii.) Drops of Whiskey (traditional) - 

    iv.) Grumbling Old Men (traditional) - 

6.) Darling Bell   (Robin Williamson) -10:53




Genre: pop

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Earthspan

Company: Reprise

Catalog: MS-2122

Year: 1972

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+

Comments: cut top right corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6102

Price: $20.00


As you can tell from my other ISB reviews, I'm kind of on the fence with respect to these guys.  Their earlier albums attracted me to some extent due to the fact they were just so strange - a totally bizarre and unique mixture of influences and idioms.  They weren't always particularly listenable, but they were different.  And then you get to 1972's "Earthspan".  


- In contrast 'Antoine' was sheer over-the-top pretense ...  a plodding, shapeless melody with deep, literate lyrics that would have bored the pants off of an English major.  Yech.   rating: ** stars

"Earthspan" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) My Father was a Lighthouse Keeper

2.) Antoine

3.) Restless Night

4.) Sunday SOng

5.) Black Jack Davy


(side 2)

1.) Banks of Sweet Italy

2.) The Actor

3.) Moon Hang Low

4.) Sailor and the Dancer

5.) Seagull



At their peak in the late '60s, the Incredible String Band were wildly eclectic and virtually unclassifiable. Their blend of world folk musics and whimsical psychedelia made records like The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion and The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter sometimes deeply enigmatic but always absolutely compelling. By the time of 1972's Earthspan, however, the band was past its innovative prime and losing momentum. The core duo of Robin Williamson and Mike Heron remained in place, although both had already released solo albums and the latter's rock orientation would soon place a strain on the band's creative cohesion; Rose Simpson had left in 1971, with Malcolm Le Maistre joining the group, and Licorice McKechnie would quit after this album. 

Earlier ISB records offered listeners a glimpse into a unique, occasionally esoteric world of kaleidoscopic sounds and images; Earthspan is a more mundane, one-dimensional affair. It eschews the non-Western sensibilities and the ethnic instrumentation that distinguished the ISB's most captivating work, instead drawing only on European and American traditions. 

Whereas the ornate "Banks of Sweet Italy" and the mournful "Sailor and the Dancer" are nautical folk songs, "Black Jack David" (reprised from I Looked Up) is a hand-clapping bluegrass fiddle stomp, and "Moon Hang Low" a bland pastiche of early jazz. Some of the strongest tracks benefit from an injection of electricity into the predominantly acoustic arrangements: Le Maistre's "My Father Was a Lighthouse Keeper," the bluesy Van Morrison-esque "Restless Night" and the stirring, multi-part "Sunday Song," on which Heron and McKechnie trade vocals throughout the track's shifting moods and tempos. While this is a solid record with some great moments, overall it lacks the mystery, the idiosyncrasy and the degree of eclecticism which originally accounted for the band's singular personality, and instead settles for rather unremarkable folk-rock.

MS 2122 (1972) [Rating31779337]
3scott3 Dec 03, 2009 4.50 stars|
koeeoaddi_there Nov 09, 2009 3.50 stars|
Back when i first heard this album i thought it was the worst album i had ever heard. All of the exoctic weirdness that made the String Band so great had been replaced by Mike and Robin trying to be "serious" songwriters, while Malcom chimed in with a couple of pretentious songs. Actually Malcolm more than "chimed in" because he is almost just as prominent on this album as his senior partners.

Now, however, I have to say that for all its flaws, I adore this album. Sure its a long way from the Hangman's Beautiful Daughter but in its own little way it's just as bizarre as anything else they recorded.

So as I mentioned, the album sees Mike projecting a new image of him as a "serious" songwriter - check out the new hair-do and the picture of him hunched studiously over some paper on the cover like he's mid composition. No cutsie songs here about caterpillars and hedgehogs from our Mike; no instead we get Antoine, which is all church organ and lyrics about some composer or other (brain fails me - I cant remember who at the moment.), or his bombastic music to Likky's words on Sunday Song. And really, here bombastic is the only word that'll suffice once you've heard those huge drums. Hang on a minute? Huge drums on a String Band song? 'Fraid so, but the song is the longest and weirdest here and if you're able to get over your initial shock upon hearing it for the first time, it reveals itself to be a fine ISB song.

Elsewhere, he resurrects I Looked Up's Black Jack Davy as Black Jack David, much in the same way he resurrected the debut's The Tree on Liquid Acrobat. Unlike that earlier re-recording, Black Jack David is by and large entirely pointless, and sports an underwhelmingly lifeless performance, particularly in relation to the I Looked Up version. His closing Seagull is much better fare, as it's slightly more progressive though it's hard to shake the feeling that it's overtly Scientology themed while its coda seems a tad like a bastardised version of A Very Cellular Song's sing-along fadeout.

Like Mike, Robin tries his hand at some more "serious" and contemporary songs in the jazzy (yes, really - they even boast horn sections) Restless Night and Moon Hang Low. Neither song is particularly great, but his Banks of Sweet Italy is better as it finds him in a more comfortable folk setting. The song itself is rather lovely, though maybe it'd be better if it was in a lower key so it wouldn't have forced Likky to screech like a witch on the verses.

The album also sees the emergence of Malcolm Le Maistre as a songwriter, and his contributions are generally positive, though im not quite sure about the opening My Father Was A Lighthouse Keeper. The problem is the offkey harmonies and the strange mix where the drums seem to be the loudest instrument on the track. The result is rather a bizarre track to with which to open the album, and one which makes it difficult to initially warm to the album. Indeed, that song was the major initial stumbling block for me getting into this album in the first place.

His two other tracks - The Actor and Sailor And The Dancer are much more effective, the latter surprisingly being the strongest track on the album. Perhaps the addition of Oh Did I Love A Dream would have been more welcome than the opening track, but then its mood is similar to that of The Actor which maybe explains its exclusion. Or rather that The Actor was co-written with Robin, so that probably explains its inclusion.

Strangely, given how evenly the writing credits are shared between Mike, Robin and Malc, Likky only contributes the lyrics to one song with her Sunday Song. This begs the question as to why her Secret Temple wasn't included. If you've heard the BBC version on the Across the Airwaves section, you'll know its almost vintage ISB in its weirdness and it's as good, if not better than anything contained on this album. However, if you've heard the unfinished studio outtake on the Tricks of the Senses you'll know that for whatever reason, that version just doesn't quite cut it. Either way, Likky's contribution here is much reduced, which may indicate that she was on her way out or that was her reason for leaving in the first place. Who knows.

So, to sum up most of my comments about individual songs actually seem pretty negative but this album's an odd one because of that fact. There ARE so many flaws with this album, but as a whole its an idiosyncratic one that sees the band trying to do something normal and mainstream, and though they largely succeed there's still something ever so slightly odd about this music. Certainly not as odd as their earlier work, but odd nonetheless, and that to me is the charm of this album. No, the only time that they would ever manage to do something totally straight was on next year's folk-pop No Ruinous Feud album, which is about as different from this as this is from The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter.
MS 2122 (1972) [Rating6316568]
playing_watten May 24, 2009 5.00 stars|
This album is just killer. Not the mystical eccentric pastoral folk people know The ISB for. Complex, gripping and very moving songs on this album. Side A is one of the best ever. Sunday Song is especially remarkable.. sometimes I can't believe its only seven and a half minutes long -- it can feel like you've spent a whole lifetime in the song. Amazing.
MS 2122 (1972) [Rating22776891]
Altair82 Apr 30, 2007 4.00 stars|


A bit strange seeing a mostly string band entering through the fields of a close, close jazz sound. I felt that in some songs. Examples: Maybe
Restless Night and specially in Moon Hang Low.
Coming out of that, for me, is their best album (of those I had the oportunity to listen) the creativity and diversity keeps constructing his way.

Sunday Song continues what they've done in the last song of the referred 71 album.
Just for the first ten seconds of
Black Jack David I could bet of which band was all about. It's traditional folk, of course, but it has that touch...
Banks of Sweet Italy is beautiful. Likky's voice, for start, would leave many doubts about it. It's one of those things that make me smile.
The Actor presents an aspect I hadn't listen so far: a picked guitar with a piano in the background. Was it for the new voice (or member) that appears in the album?
Sailor and the Dancer shows that the ISB is not a any band, condemned to oblivion of its time.
A strong 4.
MS 2122 (1972) [Rating9230908]
ochsfan Sep 01, 2006 2.00 stars|
When the ISB remade the song "The Tree" from their debut for inclusion on Liquid Acrobat..., it served to encapsulate how their sound had evolved over the intervening five years.  When they remake _I Looked Up_'s "Black Jack Davy" for Earthspan, it sounds rushed, and lacks the earlier spark.  Where the various imperfections of earlier ISB albums added to their charm, Earthspan accomplishes a boring perfection.

_Earthspan_ was the group's attempt at "going mainstream", and the album's lead track. "My Father Was a Lighthouse Keeper" was enjoyable, uneventful folk-rock that almost succeeded in redefining their sound towards the sort of plasticity that would foster top-40 success.  In attempting to become more radio-friendly, the group has been rendered flat and lifeless.

Part of the problem is the muddy production, which makes the smattering of good material here ("Antione", "Sunday Song") difficult to decipher.  Also, both Williamson and LeMaistre seem to have suddenly developed a preoccupation with jazz-influenced material, when they might have been wiser to follow Heron's more rock oriented leanings from the previous album.  Even the one song that sounds most like the ISB of old, "Banks of Sweet Italy" can't recapture past glory, as Likky tortures us with the highest notes of her upper register.

_Earthspan_ is the musical equivalent of a caged  animal.  It exists estranged from its true purpose, resigned to being a shadow of what it might be.  Though still beautiful in its own way, its spirit is utterly broken.
MS 2122 (1972) [Rating6022830]
jordiprog Dec 15, 2005 5.00 stars|
One of my favourite albums of all time. Best songs: My father was a lighthouse keeper, Antoine, Banks of sweet Italy, Restless night
MS 2122 (1972) [Rating3338815]
vitalwill Jul 11, 2005 3.50 stars|

This album sees the latest addition to the band Malcolm LeMaistre beginning to assert himself and the band changing to a fundamental bass/drums/guitar sound rather than their customary assortment of acoustic accoutrements and generally thought by ISB purists to have signalled the beginning of their protracted demise. However, the cleverness and quirkiness still shines through and the strength of the narrative voices in the band was glowing.


Genre: pop

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  No Ruinous Feud

Company: Reprise

Catalog: MS-2139

Year: 1973

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): NM / NM

Comments: promo white label copy with insert; still in shrink wrap (opened)

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4495

Price: $22.00

Cost: $66.00


Most dedicated Incredible String Band fans don't have much nice to say about 1973's "No Ruinous Feud".   Produced by Mike Heron, it's certainly different from anything the band had recorded up to that point in time, but the album isn't without it's charms.  The LP marked yet another personnel shake up, this line up including multi-instrumentalist Gerard Dott and former Stone Monkey dancer-cum-musician Malcolm LeMaistre.  Along with the David Bailey glamour shot cover photos, this time around band mainstays Heron and Richardson seem to have decided they needed a tighter, more commercial sound.  Mind you, using the term 'commercial' with an ISB product still left a lot of ground to cover.  The lyrics remained full of hippy-dippy imagery, complete with odes to lighthouses and pirates.  While you can still tell this is an ISB effort, material such as 'Explorer', 'Down Before Cathay' and 'Old Buccaneer' found the quartet abandoning their earlier penchant for obscure instrumentation in favor of conventional guitar-bass-drums arrangements.  Besides, whoever would have thought you'd hear ISB doing a pair of Dolly Parton covers, or backed by the UK band Greyhound, a reggae cover of Duke Reid's 'Second Fiddle'?  Best song here is LeMaistre's bouncy ''At the Lighthouse Dance (which was released as a UK single Island catalog number WIP 6158).  Worst song is probably Williamson's painful 'Circus Girl'.  


"No Ruinious Feud" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Explorer   (Mike Heron) - 3:20

2.) Down Before Cathay   (Michael LeMaistre) - 4:17

3.) Saturday Maybe   (Robin Williamson) - 2:43

4.) Jigs (instrumental)   (traditional arranged by Robin Williamson) - 2:49

5.) Old Buccaneer   (Robin Williamson) - 3:23

6.) At the Lighthouse Dance  (Michael LeMaistre) - 3:30


(side 2)

1.) Second Fiddle (instrumental)   (Duke Reid) - 2:23

2.) Circus Girl   (Robin Williamson) - 2:30

3.) Turquoise Blue   (Dolly Parton) - 3:59

4.) My Blue Tears   (Dolly Parton) - 2L00

5.) Weather the Storm   (Robin Williamson) - 3:02

6.) Little Girl   (Mike Heron) - 4:21





One of the most engaging groups to emerge from the esoteric '60s was the Incredible String Band. Basically the duo of Mike Heron and Robin Williamson, its sound was comprised of haunting Celtic folk melodies augmented by a variety of Middle Eastern and Asian instruments. Heron was a member of several rock bands in England in the early '60s, while Williamson and Clive Palmer played as a bluegrass and Scottish folk duo. Heron was asked to join as rhythm guitarist, and the trio named itself the Incredible String Band.

The band was spotted at a club by Joe Boyd, who was opening a British wing of Elektra Records. The trio gave Boyd a demo tape of mostly American bluegrass standards with a few original songs, which impressed him more than the standards. The Incredible String Band, released in 1966, featured mostly original numbers enthusiastically played in American and Celtic folk styles. Following the album's release, Williamson spent several months studying music in Morocco, and Palmer left the group to travel to Afghanistan. For the String Band's second album, The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion, exotic touches such as the Middle Eastern oud, Indian sitars, and tambouras began to permeate the group's sound. The band's lyrics also became more whimsical; highlights include Williamson's tale of insomnia "No Sleep Blues" and Heron's amorous "Painting Box."

The press raved about the Incredible String Band, and their next album, The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, was the band's brief flirtation with stardom. Although the music was less commercial than its predecessor, the LP reached the Top Ten in the British album charts and was also the group's highest Billboard chart placing in America, reaching number 161. The songs became less structured, as on the opening, "Koeeoaddi There," which changed tempo frequently as it cascaded joyously with sitars and jaw harp. The album's centerpiece, "A Very Cellular Song," was a suite of short pieces sewn together with the folk song "Bid You Goodnight." For Wee Tam and the Big Huge, the Incredible String Band were augmented by Williamson and Heron's girlfriends, Licorice McKechnie and Rose Simpson.

The group also began to electrically amplify its instruments. This expanded lineup performed at the Woodstock festival in 1969, but due to circumstances it was not one of the band's most memorable performances. The Incredibles' slot was originally to be Friday night after Joan Baez; however, due to heavy rain, the band opted not to perform. Folksinger Melanie took the Incredibles' place and went down extremely well, writing her big hit "Candles in the Rain" about that moment. The Incredible String Band got a lukewarm reception the next afternoon between Creedence Clearwater Revival and Canned Heat.

At the turn of the '70s, the Incredible String Band began to lose some of their momentum. The album Changing Horses was not as engaging as the band's previous collections, and the group's eclecticism became a liability rather than an asset. Bassist and pantomimist Malcolm LeMaistre joined in 1971 for U, a well-received stage show that did not translate as easily to record. The band made the transition to electric rock & roll in 1972.

In 1974, following the album Hard Rope & Silken Twine, the Incredible String Band disbanded. Both founding members had prolific solo careers; Heron's took him in a rock direction, while Williamson explored his Celtic roots. For several years the band was seen as a dated anachronism. Recently, with the resurgence in interest in the psychedelic '60s as well as world music, the Incredible String Band's music has been rediscovered by new audiences won over by its mystical charm. A double CD of rare tracks, studio outtakes, and live performances, Tricks of the Senses, was released by Hux Records in 2009.