Various Artists

Folk Is Not a Four Letter Word, Vol. 2

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The second volume of Folk Is Not a Four Letter Word gathers an admirably eclectic variety of rare folk-rock of the late '60s and '70s from around the world, and not just from English-speaking countries or English-singing artists. There are some U.S. and U.K. acts here, to be sure, and most of the tracks are performed in English, but there are also artists from Sweden, Holland, France, and Germany. More often than not, this travels the gentler, folkier, more mystical and haunting side of folk-rock, with a higher percentage of female vocals than many such compilations boast, and with Pentangle and Joni Mitchell in particular (and perhaps some Mary Hopkin and Melanie) often standing out as audible influences. But this really is an eclectic anthology within its chosen genre, with some cuts that also show the influence of progressive rock and psychedelia. Which specific tracks you like the best might depend on your specific tastes, but certainly the Welsh trio Y Triban give Joni Mitchell's "Night in the City" a very effectively unusual (and very Pentangle-ish) arrangement; Elly & Rikkert's Dutch-sung "Heksenkring" is an almost menacingly playful male-female duet; and Paul Parrish's "Dialogue of Wind and Lover" is a fey Donovan-ish near-gem strongly recalling that singer's folk-rock-jazz-raga hybrids, though with shyer vocals. A few of these artists might be familiar to CD-age collectors for having been honored with reissues of their own in the years shortly before this 2006 release (Chuck & Mary Perrin, Jan & Lorraine, Susan Christie), but the substantial majority will likely be unfamiliar even to folk-rock specialists, so rare (and/or unexposed in the English-speaking world) were the original pressings. But it's not a snobbish collection that values rarity for its own sake or excludes artists who aren't usually classified as folk-rockers. Commendably, its scope includes a track by Pentangle themselves (by far the most famous artist on the CD), albeit it's a non-LP B-side "I Saw an Angel"; there's a late-'60s effort ("Sunrise") from Alexis Korner, usually thought of as a bluesman; a Christian rock band, 11.59; and a song by a German actress, Sibylle Baier (most known for her role in Wim Wenders' 1974 film Alice in the Cities), that was recorded in the early '70s but not released for decades. True, for the most part this doesn't rival the best folk-rock of the era, and it's unfortunate that not all of the original label and release dates are included in the annotation (though compiler Andy Votel's liner notes are excellent). But it's a good, adventurous compilation for folk-rock hounds, whether they just want to sample some virtually unknown recordings from the era, or use this as a sampler that might introduce them to artists they want to more fully investigate.

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