The Incredible String Band had a large flurry of releases in the late 1960s. Of course, this is another one of their well-received and arguably legendary albums released in 1968. Although it is not seen as their best album overall, it is completely worth observing in the history books of popular music. Let’s take a listen to the music on this album and hear where it takes us.
Maya begins this album which launches straight into it with gorgeous acoustic guitar and straightforward, yet beautiful singing. This is a nine-minute long piece but sounds instantly good and captivating listening. It has Sitar in the right channel, which is typical of the era of release, but totally different sounding today. The piece quickly launches into a Hippie groove, which is different and unique. Songs about the differences between East and West are on this song, and the whole thing sounds like a stripped-down, acoustic-based trip into the music of 1968. After a few minutes, we launch straight into a full-on Sitar led jam. This may seem extremely unusual today, but at the time of release, was not. Singing about class and cultural differences, The Incredible String Band sound truly amazing, and this isn’t even their best record in their collection. A fantastic, colourful and simple song to listen to, this does sound really fresh and instantly amazing. The whole band are on top form, with acoustic guitars, Sitar, bass guitar, awesome singing and basic percussion. In short, a miraculous creation and one that definitely is worth your time. Nothing but amazing, The Incredible String Band prove their worth well and truly. The second half has more jamming within it, and just is clever and really top. The lyrics and singing dominate this piece, primarily in the second half and are truly irresistible. The jam recommences along with poetic lyrics to match, and Bob Dylan has some serious competition on this song. A wonderful and unique piece of stripped back music, this is truly wonderful. A great and moving listen, 100% worth listening to. Brilliant, it ends abruptly and segues into the next track.
Greatest Friend has the recorded sound of chirping birds, shortly followed by sweet harmonica and nice acoustic guitar strumming. A beautiful song emerges with pretty and pure singing that sounds fantastic. This music sounds truly amazing and is a true delight. This piece comes across as a love song of sorts, but regardless of whether it is or not, it sounds spot on in delivery. With singing simple and truly poetic nature, this piece does sound really great. A nice gentle tune to move you to smile and appreciate the good things in life, this clearly sounds top. Great, great music, it sounds top-notch. A short and sweet tune to listen to.
The Son Of Noah’s Brother is only 17 seconds long. It is a short and straightforward message with just acoustic guitar and singing. A nice little slice of music to whet your appetite for more.
Lordly Nightshade follows with 12 string strummed acoustic guitar, nice piano and what sounds like either recorder or flute. Openly political lyrics about Hitler and other strange things are here, but despite that, this is an impressive and listenable piece. It’s about what the Hippies stood against, and is a decent mixture of music and politics on this song. The instrumentation is interesting and captivating and regardless of if you are a radical left-wing Hippie or not, this is really enjoyable listening throughout. A really energetic and easy listening sort of song, The Incredible String Band lives up to their name on this album. An original and truly competent bunch of musicians, this song (and album) is fantastic. These guys took the basic concepts of Psychedelic lyricism, poetry and music and take it to the next level. At the end is gorgeous wind chime sounds to finish up this pretty piece. Mint.
The Mountain Of God is another short piece of music, beginning with an organ. Quickly enough, gorgeous multitracked harmonies enter and we have another really top piece of music listening. This is a short intermission styled piece that sings deeply about Christian based religious concepts. It’s an odd prayer to God, but a very good one at that. Lovely listening.
Cousin Caterpillar is a longer piece with plucked acoustic guitar, assertive bongos and nicely played basslines to get you listening. Another clever, inspired and amazing listen, this is a really great and fine listen with some articulate and clever singing on it. Really great music, it sounds like these guys were naturally talented musicians. There are la-la-la’s aplenty on this song, and much stop/start suspense throughout. It will make you smile and feel uplifted by the music at hand. It is simply that great and just sounds really fine and excellent music to listen to, particularly at home. Really awesome and top music, this is different but in the best way possible. The music on this album is nothing but amazing and this is noticeable. Sure, this may be decades old, but the appeal of this music never wears out. A loveable and enjoyable set of songs, along with this song too. It ends with some great singing.
The Iron Stone is a longer piece at six minutes long, and it has a strange-sounding intro, obviously using some unusual musical scales and chords to grab your attention. Sitar returns once again, adding to the eerie ambience of this song. After about a minute, this piece gets going nicely and the singing/lyrics take centre stage. It is super weird but then again, one cannot but feel that this is the case. It is an odd and surreal tale perfectly orchestrated by the musicians on this song. If anything, The Incredible String Band sound much more musically natural than most other musicians out there. The second half eventually has this piece musically propelling itself into the unknown with bongos, frenetic instrumentation and Impressionistic lyrics throughout. A thrilling and very excellent listen for such a weird song, this does not fail to impress at all. The music on this album is really fantastic and demands full attention. The Sitar playing, in particular, is really excellent to listen to on this song. A wonderful journey through sound, it gets quieter towards the end, before finishing with crashing hi-hats. Brilliant.
Douglas Traherne Harding is next and starts with acoustic guitar arpeggios and a mesh of wind instruments and other sounds to match, such as the fiddle. This is, once again, different but that should not prevent you from listening to this glorious and professionally delivered album. In any case, this six-minute-long song sounds incredibly amazing and fresh. With tales and lyrics that could have been set to an intellectual novel of some sort, this does sound super excellent. The fiddle here doesn’t really fit the music per se, but even so, is completely forgivable for what it is. A really top, youthful and unique sounding piece of music that just is really great, this does take one elsewhere. If this is considered (and frankly, why shouldn’t it be?) Hippie music, then perhaps the Hippies were seeking a higher and more intellectually intelligent consciousness through music in particular. This is proof of that. Towards the end, the whole thing stops and singing alone will make you feel happy and satisfied with the loveable multitracked vocals. Excellent stuff.
The Circle Is Unbroken is the last song on this album, and begins with subtle organ and wind instrumentation. This sounds really awesome and sweet, it just hits the spot nicely. Before long, singing about the change of seasons and other strange musings emerge. This is very suspenseful and just sounds really excellent. With references to traditions of the past, along with space and time, this is a wonderfully pretty piece of music. There is a flute solo in the middle which is very awesome and interesting listening and just sounds really top and unique. A shorter song, but also definitely worth your time. Refreshing, original and beautiful music, this takes one’s imagination to the next level. Excellent music and an excellent album, and absolutely worth hearing.
Although this is clearly music that could be recognised as Hippie music, this album and The Incredible String Band are really much more than that. They took basic musical concepts and have made some amazing tunes throughout their career. This album, although not their most popular, sounds incredibly artistic, articulate, professional and amazing. Do seek this album out if interested, not a bad moment here to listen to.
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