Sunday, November 21, 2010


70. Folque - Folque (Norway) 1974: Sweden and Norway had some of the finest folk artists that took their cues from what was happening in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, but drawing on the fine folk music up north as well. This band was the most prolific and one of the finest Scandinavian bands. They had female vocals, violins, electric guitars, bass and drums and a cool, rich stinging sound. This album had Norwegian translations of Allison Gross, Cruel Sister and Twa Corbies made famous by Steeleye Span, Pentangle, and many artists respectively. Their Twa Corbies, called Ravenne, is my favorite version of this classic.

69. The Jam - In the City (UK) 1977: In the UK, All Mod Cons usually gets the nod as the classic Jam album. I am not sure if there is an American consensus, but this sharper punk debut does it for me and is the most universal album they did. Ferocious punk attitude combined with an early Who-mod sound made for some exciting listening when my friends and I were devouring everything punk we could find. There is a lot of excellent Jam material after this, but start here to hear how young artists are excited by the local scene and thrilled to have their say in it.

68. Eclection - Eclection (UK) 1968: This was a strong folk-rock band who had the fullest sound of any of the bands in the genre. It had members from Australia, the UK and Norway in it with strong female and male vocals. Sandy Denny's husband Trevor Lucas actually played bass and veteran Gerry Conway was on drums. There was just this one album and it occupies a nice sonic space between Fairport Convention and Mellow Candle with an extra dose of San Francisco psyche-folk-rock in the mix.

67. Spriguns - Revel Weird and Wild (UK) 1976: Initially called Spriguns of Tolgus, this band featured the pure vocals of Mandy Morton. Her delivery was straight forward, yet from far off in some surreal netherworld. Most singers had some intensity in some interesting direction, but Morton captures the mysterious nature of British folk music perhaps best of any of them. The band plays a mixture of electric and acoustic and made some excellent music across several albums. This one is the steadiest.

66. Arzachel - Arzachel (UK) 1969: A posthumous release by four musicians who were calling themselves Uriel at the time, but by release date, had success in the bands Gong and Egg. So out comes this early recording which I enjoy far more than anything they did subsequently. Steve Hillage's guitar is heavy, Dave Stewart's organ is big and spacey and the rhythm section moves things along with strength. Some songs sound of the era, with others from the psychedelic beyond. Amazing, and they really do have a sound that stands out from their future work.

65. Public Image Ltd. - Metal Box (UK) 1979: I gave this a sarcastic review in my college fanzine, but I was impressed with some of it instantly and all of it over time. The film canister was the most obviously audacious part of the release, until one actually listened to the invention or at least expansion of post-punk music. Swan Lake (Death Disco) is still one of the more dark and moving songs I have. When you can hear something 100 times or more and still be deeply moved tells me all I need to know.

64. Ougenweide - Eulenspiegel (Germany) 1976: Germany has the great krautrock bands (some on this list), but they had some nice folk artists as well. I still can't believe I could not fit Gurnemanz on this list, but I did find room for the better known and more prolific Ougenweide. They had many strong albums, but this one seems to move better from song to song, especially on Side One. Many albums still not on CD as far as I know, but this one was one of the early CD releases on the really cool Korean label, Si Wan. They are in the Steeleye Span style of sound with more of a Pentangle creativity I would say.

63. Spirogyra - St. Radiguns (UK) 1972: No, this is not Spyro Gyra, the USA fusion band that has been around forever. This was a folk collective that brought in Canterbury progressive sound to their three 1970s albums. They have a great contrast in the vocals with the harsh (and very cool) sound of Martin Cocherham (also on guitar) and the lovely range of Barbara Gaskin (who went on to work with Dave Stewart). Add a bass, violin, keyboards and Fairport's Dave Mattacks to help with some drums, and you have a great cross-genre sound that is out of Canterbury but far more unique. This was their first album and is the steadiest with great cuts all the way through.

62. Mudhoney - Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (USA) 1991: I suppose most people would put Superfuzz Bigmuff here, but I like the variety on this third album with its heavy psyche moves and even pop hooks. Green River Really got things rolling in Seattle with some great records but splintered into the very frustrating Pearl Jam and the very brilliant Mudhoney. Try as Eddie Vedder might, he could not match the sincerity and originality of Mudhoney which would be true even if they sold less records. Sadly Mudhoney did not sell as many records as Pearl Jam or Nirvana, but did acquire a strong cult of fans and respect of other musicians around the world. Grunge was just another great variation of post punk and these guys did it the best.

61. Mellow Candle - Swaddling Songs (UK) 1972: One of the rarest records and most talked about records of the psyche-folk-rock scene in the UK. This featured two young women (vocals, keyboards/songwriting), an electric guitarist and two ace session men on bass and drums. At first listen, I found some wildly creative music like Boulders on My Grave. The rest was interesting, but I had to go back to it many times before its real power got to me. My favorite moment is in Sheep Season where after a few minutes of the song, the band cuts into an instrumental passage for another three minutes until the fade-out. The weaving sounds that the four members put out are so intricate and wonderful, that I really wish I had a 30 minute version. Thankfully, lots of CDs and on-line sources are available, so you can use that $1,500 for other purchases.

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