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..."
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.
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.
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.
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.
John Ross (johnross) Wed 8 Oct 03 10:42
Vasen will also be playing Seattle.
I'm on the Chet Atkins Diet. Pass the BBQ, please. (rik) Wed 8 Oct 03 10:50
Don't miss these guys.
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!
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 27 Apr 04 17:14
David Gans (tnf) Wed 28 Apr 04 09:53
Cool, Richie! Hey, I saw you at the "Festival Express" screening. What did you think?
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.
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'").
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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."
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).
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.
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.
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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