Various Artists

New Electric Muse: The Story of Folk into Rock

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The original Electric Muse was released in 1975, a four-LP box set that professed (and, for the most part succeeded) to tell the story of (primarily) English folk music as it was electrified during the '60s and early '70s. A magnificent undertaking, packed with every significant name in the genre's development, it nevertheless sold poorly and slipped out of print after just a few years, to become a Holy Grail of sorts among an ever-growing army of folk-rock aficionados. Two decades later, The New Electric Muse arrived to plug that breach and continue that story into the '90s, this time spread over three full CDs. It was not a full recounting of the original package -- the vinyl's opening medley lost its Fairport connection, while the whole of side one's investigation of the movement's acoustic routes was likewise absent, to be replaced with a crop of new (and, for the most part, more representative) recordings -- Dave Swarbrick, the Copper Family, Shirley Collins & Davy Graham, etc. Thereafter, however, the running order echoed the vinyl with pleasing accuracy, as it traveled from the Ian Campbell Folk Group and the Dubliners to John Martyn and the great Steve Ashley, via Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, Lindisfarne, Pentangle, Traffic, and more. And, on those occasions where a track from the original package was omitted (due to licensing difficulties for the most part), the substitutes are invariably more than adequate replacements. We lose the Chieftains, for instance, but gain Sweeney's Men; we lose Al Stewart but gain Fotheringay. The era encompassed on the original Electric Muse consumes the first two CDs; disc three then picks up the story and carries it up to date via 19 additional tracks, revisiting a few familiar friends (Swarbrick, Richard Thompson, Bert Jansch), but also ushering in a crop of later talents: Energy Orchard, Four Men & a Dog, Eliza Carthy. All are well-chosen; all slip effortlessly into the original framework. The New Electric Muse is by no means a replacement for your original vinyl copy. You really should own them both.

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