It is easy to underestimate how influential The Incredible String Band was way back in the late 1960s. Formed as a Scottish group that played Folk Music, these guys changed the way that music was heard and became so influential that they even played in the Woodstock festival of 1969. Seriously, that is how influential their music was. In any case, this is their debut album with their original lineup. Still, is it any good? Let’s find out.

The album begins with Maybe Someday which begins with gorgeous acoustic guitar playing and fiddle. It is a good start to the group’s career, the song is about desiring love and sounds beautiful. A short yet accomplished piece of music, this is no doubt widely influential on the music of the time. The singing, in particular, is very, very good and sounds very much quality rather than something that is autotuned. The harmonies at the end, along with the sped-up outro are both magical.

Next is October Song which begins with some Folk like acoustic guitars which are intricately played, before launching into a wonderful and simple piece of music that sounds really top. A really simple, yet grand piece of music, there is nothing quite like this in the history of music that sounds so beautiful and unique. It is really fine and awesome listening, with poetic lyrics and fine musical backing. This could easily influence musicians of all styles to this day and shows that there are decent vocals that can be done without autotune (which Ed Sheeran should have done on his = album). A great piece of music to listen to at home, and smile happily with, this sounds very joyous and unique. Great effort, a must-listen.

When The Music Starts To Play begins with a wind instrument of sorts, likely a recorder. It quickly launches into a great song that is nothing but magical and captivating listening. It is a really strong and fine listen and will take your imagination to new places. It is an extraordinary effort, being just simple, beautiful and magical. A very decent nice ode to the music itself, it sounds really wonderful and immaculate. This is just as impressive for fans of older styles of music as it is for newer fans, too. It ends with acoustic guitar and the expressive wind instrument playing along very well.

Schaeffer’s Jig is a banjo and fiddle led piece that sounds really interesting and solid. A short and interesting instrumental at less than a minute long, it is a nice intermission piece that sounds great. Not bad at all, even for an instrumental.

Next is Womankind which begins with some gentle and beautiful acoustic guitar parts, before going into a Folk Pop sounding classic piece of music that sounds precise and is a devotion to a lover of sorts. It is a simple, beautiful and pretty piece of music, although there is an air of darkness on this particular song. A very good piece of music with psychedelic lyrics that match it, this is likely influenced by Folk music of the day, as well as others such as The Beatles. A really fine and captivating piece of music, this is a great listen from start to finish. The lyrics here are very deep and meaningful, with references to rainbows and the like. It finishes with some intricate acoustic guitar playing. Very, very good.

Following is The Tree which begins with some interesting and slow acoustic guitar parts that sound ridiculously good. A slow and tranquil sounding piece of music, this is really fine and awesome listening. It goes to show that simplicity in music is highly underrated. This blows away many of The Incredible String Band’s contemporaries, it just sounds marvellously beautiful and accomplished. It’s also very short, at under three minutes in length, and sounds just superb. A really great sounding tune, this is another great song with psychedelic, poetic lyrics. Good job.

Whistle Tune is a short one minute piece with a wind instrument that sounds very passionate and well delivered. A really nice sort of break between the main songs, it is a great and joyful listen. A must-hear, along with the rest of the album.

Dandelion Blues has some awesome dual tracked acoustic guitars that are really gentle and beautiful, before a picture-perfect vocal emerges over the top. The chorus, in particular, sounds majestic and although this is no doubt music designed for Hippies and similarly minded people, this does sound really top. A really cool listening experience, this is a great combination of musicianship and passionate delivery. Looks like Bob Dylan had some serious competition with these guys, without a question. A strange piece lyrically, but still in fine form. Another great listen.

Next along is How Happy I Am which is very Greek sounding and totally joyful, with some Southern American styled vocals. It is a song about being happy in solitude without an unfaithful lover and drinking whiskey to be happy. This is another fine listening experience that sounds amazing, a very good pseudo-Country Folk piece. Very good and different from what most music of the time was like. Effortlessly great.

Following is Empty Pocket Blues which begins with some acoustic guitars and wind instrument playing that sounds very professionally done and wonderfully ecstatic. A really good listen, this is a tranquil and lovely piece that shows The Incredible String Band as a great force of musical nature. This song is about playing music for money in a traditional sense but is so well done that one can forgive such a sentiment. It’s nothing like Rap music where money is demanded, it’s just a smooth and gentle Folk music song that sounds great. It discusses romantic ideals, in typical 1960s fashion. A great piece of music that is one of the more popular songs by The Incredible String Band, and an awesome listen. Towards the end are some finger-picked guitars and flute sounds. Very very good, no musician today would make music as outstanding as this.

Smoke Shovelling Song comes along next, opening up to a story about keeping a fire burning during winter and other strange ongoings. A really good piece of consistent music, this is a bit of an eccentric sounding tune lyrically. Musically, it is perfectly matched with acoustic guitars that are decent and dramatic. It goes into a thunderous piece of acoustic strummed music that sounds really amazing. These songs may be short, yet the performance, melody and surreal lyrics make this a very impressive listening experience.

Can’t Keep Me Here begins with some nicely plucked acoustic guitars which are super intricate. Singing quickly emerges that is really fine. The lyrical content is very good, and this piece will take you to places you have never thought of before. There is a brief semi-guitar solo in the middle before the story continues. Another lovely song, this is catchy and enjoyable. Nice tune.

After that is Good as Gone which begins with some very unusual and interesting acoustic guitar parts, before launching into a pretty sounding song that has become a catchphrase these days. That’s how good this is, it is certainly an enjoyable and unique listening that just sounds incredibly wonderful and good. This is a really deep and enjoyable piece of music that sounds really fresh and inspiring to this day. The singing here is top-notch and puts all the Punk vocalists a decade later to shame. Nice piece of music, with an unusual riff towards the end. Wonderful tune, the acoustic guitar parts at the end are insanely good.

Following is Footsteps of the Heron which launches straight into another very imaginative and beautiful sounding piece of melodic songcraft. This is ideal music for those who love acoustic guitar music for any mood, and it sounds totally fresh. Think of something like The Beatles on acoustic guitar, but is in a class of its own. Real music for real listening, there is no way this could be considered something that could be textural or a sell-out, unlike the music of today on mainstream radio. A very lovely song, awesome listening.

Niggertown is a pretty damn racist title for a piece like this. It begins with some plucked string instruments and other similar-sounding gear, which sounds very eastern. It is an upbeat and wonderful piece of instrumental music that hits the spot. Which, considering the title of the song, is likely a very good thing that it is indeed an instrumental. A great and grand-sounding instrumental, the repeated melodies throughout are very, very good. A nice listen.

Everything’s Fine Right Now is the last song on this album, and from the beginning sounds really oddball. It retains the quality and musicality of the album though and sounds like another romantic 1960s gem. The music here is insanely good and is a very decent conclusion to this album. A beautiful and intricate listening experience, this is a very good piece of music, once again.

This album is hugely underrated. So much so that it could be recognised as one of the greatest debut albums of all time. The perfect mixture of calm singing, acoustic guitars, melodies, harmony and the occasional extra instrument is unbeatable. These guys were both inspired and inspirational and should be proud of this effort here. It’s not even the best album by The Incredible String Band. Future successes were to come as well, but this is a landmark debut album. Extraordinarily good.




If you liked the article and would like to support the author in his musical review quest, please donate to show your support. Thank you for your consideration. Chris Airey