The Incredible String Band

Bloomsbury 2000

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This CD documents a historic event, the 2000 reunion of the full Incredible String Band. There'd been tentative steps toward it for a couple of years before, but this was the acid test to see whether the magic still prevailed after all these years. "Maker of Islands," with its Mike Heron vocal, reassures listeners from the outset that everything is just fine, as Robin Williamson offers gentle support. From there it's simply triumph to triumph. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the event is some of the choice of material -- even a couple of tracks from Wee Tam/ The Big Huge, one of which ("Air") features a Clive Palmer vocal that probably works better than the original. Palmer, who left the band quite early in their career, gets to show his banjo skills on "Goodbye," and the evening closes with the glory of "October Song," one of the band's best-known pieces. While there's not the sense of childlike discovery that existed in the early days when they were fusing folk and world music (a term that wasn't even in use then) in cavalier fashion, this remains a joy. Maturity hasn't really tempered them, and, if anything, the musical and vocal skills have improved. For many years no one believed a concert like this could happen. That it did is worth the memory of a CD like this. That it's so good is close to a fairytale ending.

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