Monday, August 30, 2010

Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music by Rob Young

When I saw that "Winwood, Steve" came between "Winstanley, Gerrard" and "Witchfinder General" in the index, I knew that I was going to love this book. I am currently halfway through its 650 pages.

As the blurb puts it:

In this groundbreaking survey of more than a century of music making in the British Isles, Rob Young investigates how the idea of folk has been handed down and transformed by successive generations - song collectors, composers, Marxist revivalists, folk-rockers, psychedelic voyagers, free festival-goers, experimental pop stars and electronic innovators.

In a sweeping panorama of Albion’s soundscape that takes in the pioneer spirit of Cecil Sharp; the pastoral classicism of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Peter Warlock; the industrial folk revival of Ewan MacColl and A. L. Lloyd; the folk-rock of Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, Nick Drake, Shirley Collins, John Martyn and Pentangle; the bucolic psychedelia of The Incredible String Band, The Beatles and Pink Floyd; the acid folk of Comus, Forest, Mr Fox and Trees; The Wicker Man and occult folklore; the early Glastonbury and Stonehenge festivals; and the visionary pop of Kate Bush, Julian Cope and Talk Talk, Electric Eden maps out a native British musical voice that reflects the complex relationships between town and country, progress and nostalgia, radicalism and conservatism.

An attempt to isolate the ‘Britishness’ of British music - a wild combination of pagan echoes, spiritual quest, imaginative time-travel, pastoral innocence and electrified creativity - Electric Eden will be treasured by anyone interested in the tangled story of Britain’s folk music and Arcadian dreams.

Anyone with the slightest interest in this sort of music will enjoy this Electric Eden. I bought my copy in Browers Bookshop in Porthmadog while on holiday and it will no doubt inspire some of my Sunday music videos in weeks to come.

There is also an Electric Eden blog.

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