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inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #226 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Tue 7 Oct 03 15:43
    
One French '60s artist on the margins of folk-rock worth mentioning is
Francoise Hardy. Not all (or even the majority) of her stuff was
folk-rock by any means, but sometimes she did merge British pop-rock
and folk-rock with something of a French chanteuse/Continental folk
sensibiity. At times she sounded a little like Marianne Faithfull did
in the mid-1960s, but more interesting and gutsier. The French
influence in this material wasn't overwhelming, though. She often
recorded with British musicians and producers, covered material by
English-language songwriters (though often translated into French), and
indeed recorded a good deal in English, though far more often in
French. Though it's not her best material, she did some covers of songs
by Leonard Cohen, Phil Ochs, Beverly Martyn, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and
Neil Young. She also knew Nick Drake, who was interested in writing
some material for her, though that didn't come to pass before he died.

One footnote about the influence of American comic books on folk-rock
that's pretty obvious, maybe so obvious that it's missed: Donovan's
"Sunshine Superman." "Superman and Green Lantern ain't got nothing on
me..."
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #227 of 254: Berliner (captward) Wed 8 Oct 03 01:50
    
<rik> mentions something I should have mentioned myself, having penned
a big article on the Finnish folk revival a couple of years ago. My
favorite of their bands -- one which should appeal to any folk-rocker
worth his or her adenoids -- is called Gjallarhorn, who have a new
album out and whose website (www.gjallarhorn.com) I haven't visited in
about a year. A project for later today, I guess. There are similarly
exciting things happening in Sweden and Norway, although the Danes,
with whom I have the second-best connection after Finland, don't seem
to be doing much, from what I can tell. 
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #228 of 254: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Wed 8 Oct 03 07:12
    

There is a pan-euro folk-rock thing that swirls from
what I can hear around sort of a pan-celtic sound. Here in
the Czech Republic Jaz Coleman formerly of Killing Joke produced
one the best selling CD's here last year for a band
called 'Czechomor', which uses many traditional melodies,
and influences.

The formula is that they get a few local instruments, sing in
the local language and add a rythm section and sometimes electric 
guitars. Gjallerhorn's Riendeer Dreaming is a good example
of when they unearth some wonderful nearly forgotten intonations
and make it rock, makes for some good concerts but I've bought
few Cd's of this genre.

This is like 30+ years later though, why now?

Also <rik> and <captward> are you hearing in these musics the level
of inovation that was heard in Folk-Rock of the era Richie is writing
about.  I'm not sure if I do, maybe though I need to listen to more
of it.  
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #229 of 254: Berliner (captward) Wed 8 Oct 03 07:47
    
I think to make that judgement we'd have to be fairly expert in the
original folk material. It's easy enough for an American to see where
the Byrds went with a Pete Seeger tune, but it's difficult to assess
just how many liberties Gjallarhorn take with their Ostrobothnian
originals, since I'd never even heard of the Ostrobothnians before I
got turned on to them. 
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #230 of 254: I'm on the Chet Atkins Diet. Pass the BBQ, please. (rik) Wed 8 Oct 03 09:03
    
There's an outfit out of mpls/st. paul, called Northside Records, that's
been importing and repackaging the Nordic folk rockers, and the scope of
what's going on up there is pretty impressive.   I've got all their samplers
and have picked up a lot of albums of their various acts.  Gjallerhorn is a
winner, for sure.   My favorite of the bunch is Sweden's Vasen, which is
made up of viola, nyckelharpa, 12-string and percussion.   They're stuff
varies from straight traditional folk through ECM-style jazz into stuff that
flirts with rock.   Hoven Droven combines traditional fiddle music with
heavy metal, and would mop up the floor with camper van beethoven.   JPP,
out of Finland, is famous for thier "wall of fiddles", featuring four great
fiddlers up front, backed by stand up bass and harmonium.  They're too
saccharine for my taste on record, though.

A couple of years ago, Northside sent Vasen, JPP, and the exquisite
Hardanger fiddler Annbjorg Lien, out on an American tour, and I drove all
the way up to Medford OR to catch a show.   It was well worth the drive and
one of the best concerts I've seen.   These peopole are all better than
their records, and Vasen is the best of that bunch.     They had the entire
theater on their feet, screaming for more.

Vasen is playing Freight and Salvage in two weeks, on Sunday the 19th, and
I'll be ther with as many of my friends as I can get to come.   This is an
amazing band they will open your ears.     Their two best US albums are
"Whirled", and "Spirit", which is a compilation of several scandinavian
albums and some live cuts.    I can't hype this band hard enough.  If you
are in the bay area, do not miss this.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #231 of 254: John Ross (johnross) Wed 8 Oct 03 10:42
    
Vasen will also be playing Seattle.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #232 of 254: I'm on the Chet Atkins Diet. Pass the BBQ, please. (rik) Wed 8 Oct 03 10:50
    
Don't miss these guys.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #233 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Tue 27 Apr 04 16:36
    
On Wednesday, May 5 from 7-9pm, I'll be showing and discussing rare
vintage cult rock film clips at the Park Branch of the San Francisco
Library on 1833 Page Street. These clips will include footage of many
of the artists discussed in my books, among them:

Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett: Performing "Astronomy Domine" live in
1967 on BBC TV, followed by interview with Barrett and Roger Waters by
uncomprehending stuffed-shirt academic

The Electric Prunes: Performing their hit "I Had Too Much to Dream
(Last Night)" on TV, circa 1967

Love: Doing "Message to Pretty" from their first album circa 1966 on
Dick Clark's TV show

Wanda Jackson: Singing and playing guitar on television live, circa
1958

The Collins Kids: Live on TV, late 1950s

Young Marble Giants: Playing "Credit in the Straight World" live in
November 1980, New York City

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: Doing their smash "Fire" on TV in the
late 1960s, complete with Arthur Brown dressed in helmet-on-fire

The Pretty Things: Singing "Midnight to Six Man," British TV mid-1960s

Richard & Mimi Farina: Playing "Bold Marauder" live on Pete Seeger's
educational TV show, mid-1960s

The 13th Floor Elevators: Performing their hit "You're Gonna Miss Me"
on TV, mid-1960s

The Pentangle: Playing the non-LP B-side of their first single,
"Travelling Song," live in 1968

Fairport Convention: Covering "Reno, Nevada" live on French TV on
extended psychedelic version in 1968, with Richard Thompson on guitar

The Avengers: Penelope Houston's SF punk band, performing live in the
late 1970s

Davy Graham: Playing "She Moves Through the Fair" on British TV in
1963

Tim Buckley: Solo acoustic version of "Song of the Siren" from an
episode of "The Monkees," late 1960s

Love: Promo video of non-LP 1968 single

The Monks: Doing "Monk Chant," German TV circa 1966

...plus more surprises!
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #234 of 254: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 27 Apr 04 17:14
    
wow.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #235 of 254: David Gans (tnf) Wed 28 Apr 04 09:53
    
Cool, Richie!

Hey, I saw you at the "Festival Express" screening.  What did you think?
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #236 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 28 Apr 04 12:46
    
Actually, I wrote a capsule review of this for the All Movie Guide, so
here it is, prefaced by the synopsis for those reading this unfamiliar
with the "Festival Express" film:

Festival Express synopsis

The footage for Festival Express was shot in 1970 during the tour of
the same name, a traveling rock festival of sorts -- including the
Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Buddy Guy,
the Band, and others -- that went across Canada by train. Although it
didn't generate a rockumentary at the time, several decades later, Bob
Smeaton used the footage as the basis for the Festival Express film.
(Smeaton, though credited as the director, was not involved in the
original filming, which was carried out by others.) Working from 90
hours of raw negative and 40 hours of uncut sound recording, Smeaton
assembled a 90-minute film, adding new interview footage with several
of the Festival Express participants that was shot several decades
after the festival took place. The resulting movie incorporates not
only these interviews and onstage musical performances from the
festival's various Canadian venues, but also scenes shot on the train
carrying the acts cross-country, as well as some of the hubbub that
surrounded the shows themselves. Festival Express premiered at the
Toronto Film Festival in 2003 and was subsequently shown at other film
festivals in advance of a general public release, and the release of a
DVD with extra material. 

Festival Express review

Bob Smeaton -- previously known for his work on rockumentaries such as
the Beatles' Anthology -- deserves substantial credit for rescuing the
footage shot in 1970 for Festival Express from the vaults, and then
somehow making a fairly coherent film out of it several decades later,
with the help of newly shot interview segments with many of the event's
principals. While it's a notable piece of rock history, however, the
film itself isn't of nearly the monumental significance of the era's
top festival-generated rockumentaries, such as Woodstock, Monterey Pop,
Gimme Shelter, or even Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festiva (the
last of which too had to wait more than a quarter-century before it
was prepared for general release). It's more a nice, but not essential,
supplement to the visual record of rock festivals in general, and of
some of the featured performers in particular, circa 1970. The footage
of the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin is okay, but not on par with
their best film clips from the era; the Band fare better, in part
because there's not as much other footage of the group to serve as
comparison, playing particularly well on "I Shall Be Released. Other
onstage clips -- of Buddy Guy, Sha Na Na, the Flying Burrito Brothers,
and the forgotten Canadian band Mashmakhan -- are entertaining, but
well short of great, and the blues jam centered around Ian & Sylvia's
Great Speckled Bird is disappointingly mundane. A bigger problem,
perhaps, is that the non-stage footage of protesters at various venues
of this Canadian traveling festival, as well as the scenes of the
performers partying and jamming on the train, are a long way from
compelling, though they're sporadically amusing. The shots of a train
rushing down the tracks, in fact, are the main links of continuity
throughout the film, indicating that the event was more interesting
than it was truly historic. The more recent interview segments (often
shown via a split-screen setup that shows a talking head on one side
and footage from the festival on the other) do much to illuminate the
proceedings, with comments by festival promoter Ken Walker, Bob Weir
and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead, Sylvia Tyson (of Ian & Sylvia),
Buddy Guy, Eric Andersen (who's not, mysteriously, shown performing in
the archive footage), and others. 
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #237 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 28 Apr 04 12:52
    
Just wanted to add, in a more informal non-reviewer mode, that a good
number of people who've seen "Festival Express" seem to enjoy it more
than I did. I thought it was nice but not essential. It might be of
specific interest to many WELL readers, however, in that some of the
footage of the Grateful Dead shows them playing live acoustic, which to
my knowledge has not been captured often on film.

As for the folk-rock connections in the film, I was disappointed that
the Ian & Sylvia song (a cover of "See See Rider") was, in my view, not
representative of their sound and certainly not of their strongest
material. When the segment started, I thought to myself, "I just hope
they don't do a blues song," because their occasional blues songs on
their albums were to my mind by far their weakest tracks. But that's
just what they did, and my heart sank like a stone.

The Band footage is also of interest since they weren't filmed in
concert all that often during this period, and they get a good amount
of screen time (though I would have substituted a different song for
their cover of Little Richard's "Slippin' 'n' Slidin'").
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #238 of 254: Gary Lambert (almanac) Wed 28 Apr 04 13:04
    

Well, that's varying mileage for ya -- I was really happy to see that
they put The Band's "Slippin' 'n' Slidin'" in there --it was a standard
encore of theirs the first couple of years that they toured, and I
always really liked their version.

I agree that it's a bit of a shame that "See See Rider" is what they
chose to represent Ian & Sylvia. I remember liking the Great Speckled
Bird album a lot, and would love to hear some material from that played
live.

Another shame: that Gram Parsons left the Burritos just weeks before
the Festival Express got rolling. Damn, GP would have been a huge asset
to that tour and the film.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #239 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 28 Apr 04 13:38
    
I've wondered how much some of the choices of what songs to show were
limited by what footage was available. The director spoke after the
screening, and indicated that the material available for rescue was
haphazardly organized (and sometimes haphazardly shot), with some of
the  audio not complemented by usable video and vice versa. Maybe there
wasn't much Ian & Sylvia footage they could make something presentable
out of. I'd also guess that Eric Andersen didn't make the film (though
he was one of the contemporary interviews spliced in) because there
might not have been any satisfactory clips of him from the original
filming.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #240 of 254: David Gans (tnf) Thu 29 Apr 04 15:01
    

I'm sure that's true.  Bob said that after the screening, and said similar
things to me in a private conversation not long ago.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #241 of 254: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Wed 12 May 04 10:28
    
Interesting observation, Richie:

"The footage of the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin is okay, but not on
par with their best film clips from the era."

Are you referring to Monterey (1967) as the better footage of Janis
Joplin? I wonder which Dead footage you have in mind?

I'd say the main reason it has not got the same monumental
significance as Woodstock, Monterey, Isle of Wight is that it did not
see the light of day for 33 years, while those movies were reflecting
straight back to and reinforcing the cultural choices of the audience,
as well as acting as primers for the younger aspirants. Having seen
Woodstock, Festival Express and Monterey in recent months, this time
traveller found FE to be the more effective transport.

I'd certainly agree, though, that the concert songs were not optimal
selections from the repertoire in many cases. It is a real pity that
more A grade tunes could not be salvaged from the raw material, but the
forthcoming DVD, with a lot of additional concert footage, may be
revelatory even if unsuitable for theatre release.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #242 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 12 May 04 12:44
    
I think the Monterey 1967 footage of Janis (with Big Brother; she was
solo by the time of Festival Express) is definitely a lot better than
the Festval Express clips; also I found some of the footage in the
"Janis" documentary more exciting. The gap's not as big for the Dead,
but I prefer some other clips I've seen here and there, as in the
"Anthem to Beauty" video.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #243 of 254: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Thu 13 May 04 06:19
    
Yes, got to retrieve my copy of Anthem to Beauty.

Moving slightly back towards topic, I recall an article from around
1970 or so (Revolution magazine?) which heralded the emergence of a new
American rock sound, one that had absorbed and built on earlier
musical traditions. Most of the seminal recordings cited (Music from
Big Pink, Workingman's Dead, Do you Believe in Magic, Sweetheart of the
Rodeo) are now recognised classics and all of them bore, to varying
extents, the marks of a folk rock sensibility. There was one album that
never did seem to make the cut, though: Mad River's "Paradise Bar and
Grill". I always liked that album, especially the title tune.

In Australia in the early seventies I found that Mad River album
bobbing up from time to time in collections even though, as far as I
know, it was never released locally. Maybe its influence goes wider
than has been so far acknowledged.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #244 of 254: Berliner (captward) Thu 13 May 04 09:10
    
It came out on Capitol, as did their first album. The band spawned
songwriter Lawrence Hammond (who had a couple of albums on Adelphi that
the folks at Fantasy told me will be released ten days after hell
freezes over -- dunno why they hate him so much) and Greg Dewey, who
wound up playing drums with Country Joe and the Fish. I bought my
Gibson J-50 from their rhythm guitarist, whose name escapes me. The
album's been re-released on CD by Evangeline, I believe. 
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #245 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 13 May 04 09:31
    
I like Mad River; in fact, I wrote the liner notes to a two-fer-one CD
reissue of both of their albums (on Collectors' Choice Music). The
liner notes are posted on my website at
www.richieunterberger.com/madriver.html.

I only gave them one paragraph in "Eight Miles High" because they were
a relatively minor band and because they crossed the line from
folk-rock into pretty weird, creepy psychedelic music for most of their
first (self-titled) album. The second album, "Paradise Bar and Grill,"
was much more in the laidback country-rock style. They did fit into
the folk/folk-rock/psychedelic evolutionary path of numerous San
Francisco Bay Area bands, as their leader, Lawrence Hammond (who had an
indefinably strange quavering voice), was a transplanted midwestern
folkie. They preceded their album with a self-released EP that contains
one of the great overlooked war protest/folk-rock-psychedelic songs,
"Orange Fire." That track is now easily available on the Big Beat CD
compilation "The Berkeley EPs," which has rare early Bay Area
psychedelic EPs by Mad River, Country Joe & the Fish, Frumious
Bandersnatch, and Notes from the Underground. Mad River never did
become too influential, even in a "cult" fashion, as far as I know.
They certainly weren't very commercially successful: the first album
didn't make the charts and the second one only got to #192.

Robin, what was Revolution magazine? I'm not familiar with that title
(and wouldn't have been able to check it out when it was around, as I
was too young).
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #246 of 254: Berliner (captward) Thu 13 May 04 09:39
    
The first album didn't chart because Capitol made the brilliant move
of releasing, as its first single, a song called "Amphetamine Gazelle."
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #247 of 254: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 13 May 04 10:08
    
It's long been speculated, in the circles of psychedelic collectors
whose seriousness borders on unhealthy obsession, that the first album
was mastered too fast. This would explain why, as I wrote in my liner
notes, Lawrence Hammond often sounds like someone's just given him the
hot foot.

But was it mastered too fast? Reports have conflicted over the years,
some accounts asserting it was, others denying that anything of the
sort happened -- enough so that I didn't even refer to the controversy
in my liner notes. Anyone ever heard the scoop on that? (The producer,
Nik Venet, is no longer around for comment.)

In discussing this with a fellow aficionado, it was mooted that
perhaps one of my future books should be "Urban Legends of
Rock'n'Roll," devoted to nagging myths like this that refuse to go away
over the years, like the controversy over whether Jimmy Page played
the solos on the early Kinks hits "All Day and All of the Night" and
"You Really Got Me" (though producer Shel Talmy confirmed to me and
many other writers that these were indeed played by Dave Davies).
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #248 of 254: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Thu 13 May 04 10:15
    
In response to your penultimate, Richie, this may not be totally
accurate, but to the best of my recollection:

Revolution magazine was an Australian underground publication that was
around in the late sixties through to about 1970 or 1971. It featured
a sex, drugs and rock'n'roll aesthetic, with political flavourings.
There was an insert of Rolling Stone magazine record reviews, an
invaluable service for those of us in Queensland, where Rolling Stone
was banned (because of the political content, those were the days,
eh?). It started out as a broadsheet but mutated into an A4 sized
newsprint (with colour) magazine. That version only lasted a few issues
and then it seemed to mutate again into High Times (or maybe
Revolution disappeared the same time High Times appeared, but the
formats were very similar). I think it was an Oz version of High Times
but with a lot of the articles copped from the US.

Now you've got me wishing I'd kept my 1972 Sociology paper on
underground magazines. My favourite of all the Australian
"undergrounds" was The Living Daylights, which featured illustrated
Bruce Lee Kung Fu lesson centrefolds.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #249 of 254: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Thu 13 May 04 10:31
    
One of the Mad River legends circulating in Oz was that the tents were
folded because, after "Paradise Bar and Grill", there was nothing left
to be said.
  
inkwell.vue.196 : Richie Unterberger: "Eight Miles High"
permalink #250 of 254: David Gans (tnf) Thu 13 May 04 10:33
    

> perhaps one of my future books should be "Urban Legends of Rock'n'Roll,"
> devoted to nagging myths like this that refuse to go away over the years

That's a terrific idea, Richie.
  

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