New Electric Muse II: The Continuing Story of Folk into Rock

Various Artists

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New Electric Muse II: The Continuing Story of Folk into Rock Review

by Dave Sleger

This three-disc set is the companion to the 1996 release New Electric Muse: The Story of Folk into Rock. This compendium features many of the same artists from that initial release, but a few surprises are included as well. Since it's released on Essential Records, a descendant of Transatlantic Records, many of the acts from that pioneering British folk label are showcased, and in some cases, multiple times. Pentangle, the Johnstons, the Ian Campbell Folk Group, Dave Swarbrick, and Bob Pegg are among the many Transatlantic artists who form the foundation of this study of the evolution of British folk music. A 48-page booklet details every artist from these three CDs and explains their significance to the study at hand. Certainly, this story could not be told without perhaps the four most influential late-'60 and '70s artists, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, the Albion Band, and Richard & Linda Thompson. A total of 13 tracks are devoted to those four acts, which essentially cover the '70s. The 1980s are represented by a new, insurgent breed of folk artists like Oysterband, Billy Bragg, Home Service, and the Barely Works. Artists like the Pogues or the Men They Couldn't Hang certainly could have been substituted for those listed, but the prevailing point would still be made -- that is, British folk manifested itself in the mainstream in the '80s by adopting an alternative edge, just as pop music in general did. The '90s brought a return to classic folk-rock (Oige and Burach) and a broadening of it via techno and worldbeat music (Mouth Music and Shooglenifty) as well as the holdover of punk-related folk forwarded by Oysterband and others. In short, the '90s ushered in less restrictive and more creative ways in which folk musicians could create and thrive. This box set emphasizes the early years of the folk into rock transmogrification, so hopefully the next volume will pay closer attention to the hundreds of bands and artists creating scintillating and unique modern folk-derived music.

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