Thursday, 13 August 2015

"I Looked Up" by THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND (2014 Beat Goes On CD - Andrew Thompson Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...This Moment..."

When the INCREDIBLE STRING BAND put out the vinyl double-album 'U' in October 1970 complete with a pantomime show to accompany its half-genius and wholly indulgent sprawl - many fans thought they'd lost it - and critics of course had a total field day. And perhaps the single album "I Looked Up" that preceded 'U' only months earlier (which also tested people's patience) lit the fuse for that backlash. Whatever way you look at it - four and half decades later - and along comes Beat Goes On of the UK with a spiffing new CD remaster and quality presentation. They're hoping of course you'll reassess the whole hairyman affair in 2014...and if you're a fan - you should. Here are real ale details...

UK released September 2014 - "I Looked Up" by THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1166 (Barcode 5017261211668) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 1970 LP - comes in an outer card slipcase - and breaks down as follows (41:27 minutes):

1. Black Jack Davy (Mike Heron)
2. The Letter (Mike Heron)
3. Pictures In A Mirror (Robin Williamson)
4. This Moment (Mike Heron)
5. When You Find Out Who You Are (Robin Williamson)
6. Fair As You (Mike Heron song)

Tracks 1 to 6 are the stereo vinyl album "I Looked Up" - released April 1970 in the UK on Elektra 2469 002 and Elektra EKS 74061 in the USA

Consisting of multi-instrumentalists ROBIN WILLIAMSON and MIKE HERON (Guitar, Mandolin, Sitar, Flute, Piano, Bass, Various English and European String Instruments and Vocals) - the band also had ROSE SIMPSON on Bass and LICORICE McKECHNIE on Duet Vocals and Guitar. The 16-page booklet features two photos of the ISB and detailed liner notes by noted writer JOHN TOBLER that go into a long history of the groups stay at Elektra. But the big news is a lovely new remaster by ANDREW THOMPSON that brings out the music in a really great way. Many of these tracks are essentially acoustic guitars, mandolins and high vocals - the remaster has hiss on some tracks - but the clarity is fab.

Musically if I were to single out two extremes (bad and good) - it would be the near unlistenable nonsense of "Pictures In A Mirror" which goes on for eleven minutes and is painful to listen to. A contrast is the lovely six minutes of "This Moment" - even if it has the "oh no" vocal refrain towards the end. And the remaster is amazing on "When You Find Out Who You Are" as it goes into those delicate vocal duets between Robin and Licorice. But perhaps best of all is the old world madrigal folk of "Fair As You" with its Flute, Gimbri and layered vocals. It has hiss on it for sure but it's not been dampened down in the transfer at the expense of the prominent acoustic guitar and flute (deftly done).

The Incredible String Band would go on to the altogether better "Liquid Acrobat As Regards The Air" album when they signed to Island in 1971. To sum up - it's a bit Bovril - you either love it or loathe it. But if you're a fan - you need this superb remaster in your collection...

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