Ian Campbell

The Circle Game

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For most of the 1960s, the Ian Campbell Group (more often known as the Ian Campbell Folk Group) played acoustic folk music. This late-'60s LP is a real oddity in that much of it augments the group with pop or folk-rock arrangements, the additional musicians including a pre-Fairport Convention Dave Pegg on bass. The new approach doesn't quite come off, not because of anything inherently crass about moving from folk into pop/rock, but because the material and backing is so maniacally scattered. Traditional folk songs that differ little if any from their previous output are interspersed with covers of songs by Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Randy Newman, and Tim Hardin, as well as more British folk-based compositions by Ewan MacColl and Leon Rosselson. The production ranges from acoustic folk to horns, strings, and light folk-rock rhythms that sound more grafted-on than integrated. It's not bad, really, but neither is it inspired, and the group doesn't seem comfortable adapting to pop-folk-rock. Of greatest interest is the inclusion of an early Joni Mitchell song that Mitchell herself never recorded, "Doctor Junk." This one really has to be heard to be believed: Not only is the lighthearted, trendy drug satire not too typical of Mitchell, but the band pulls out all the stops they can in a mere two minutes, setting much of it to a Bo Diddley beat (!) and interjecting period touches like Pink Floyd-ish organ, quasi-sitarish notes, and psychedelic echo on the fadeout. Also weird is the Swinging London organ-horn soul-rock of "On the M.1," and the mellotron that decorates their cover of Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today."