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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Adrian Whittaker/Various - Be Glad: An Incredible String Band Compendium(book [Helter Skelter Books - 2013]

The Incredible String Band were one of the most distinctive, original & unequal bands to appear from the  1960’s music scene. The bands sound mixed together elements of psychedelic folk, world music, and other  musical genres to create a truly unique & creative sound.  'Be Glad: An Incredible String Band Compendium’ originally appeared back in 2003, and the book charts & discusses the bands career taking in different types of writing, from fan remembrance, ISB & related interviews, album dissections,  more scholarly song theme analyse, concert reviews & beyond. This new 2013 edition of the book sees manly of the articles up-dated, and also offers up a selection of new interviews/ pieces.

The book takes it’s Be Glad title, and many of it’s articles from the ISB fanzine of the same name which was published between 1992 & 2002. Music journalists & long term Incredible String Band fan Adrian Whittaker edits & writes a few of the many pieces inside the book.  But most of the  books many articles/ pieces come from all manner of people, going from famous ISB fans such as Billy Connolly & the Archbishop of Canterbury, onto a selection of fan writings, and more professional journalistic articles & interviews.

The 450 page book follows the band career in a mostly chronological form going from the bands start in 1966 to it’s end in 1974. The book comes in the form of a paper back which feature a full colour cover, with black & white text & images inside(these take in all manner of rare photos, flyers, artwork, letters, etc).

The book is broken up into thirteen lengthy chapters(along with forwards, band introduction, and a lengthy Appendix), and these take in the following: Chapter one-The Edinburgh Years( which discusses the  pre history/ bands origins, & the bands first self titled 1966 album). Chapter Two- From Onion Layers To a Beautiful Daughter( takes in various views of the bands most celebrated & critically  acclaim albums 1967’s ‘The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion’ & 1968’s The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, and a look at key ISB related places around Edinburgh). Chapter Three-Wee Tam And The Big Huge to Changing Horses( which covers & discusses the bands 4th & 5th albums, and key album tracks). Chapter Four-Interlude( which takes in a selection of fan related tales). Chapter Five-The Penwern era( which takes in the ISB time living in a communal farm house, the bands Peter Neal directed movie ‘Be Glad For The Song Has No Ending’ and it’s soundtrack album). Chapter Six- Woodstock and the U show( which takes in the bands set at Woodstock, the bands 6th album ‘I looked up’,  U- the bands live mixed-media stage show, and it’s soundtracks double album). Chapter seven- Live At Glen Row(discussing  the bands time living in a selection of eight terraced houses on  Glen country estate in the Peeblesshire Hills). Chapter Eight- Individual Views( which features interviews with bands producer/ manger Joe Boyd). Chapter Nine-Mike & Robin( discussing the bands two main singer & songwriters early 1970’s solo albums). Chapter Ten –The Island Year( which covers the bands first two albums on Island records, and takes in features/ interviews with two of the bands more charismatic & brief members). Chapter Eleven- Mike, Scientology & Zen( which takes in a interview with one of the  two main song writers/ singer Mike Heron, the bands early 70’s joint obsession with Scientology, and Zen connection with their work). Chapter twelve- An Anthology( which takes in a selection of  fan various writings about the band in genreal).  Chapter Thirteen- ‘Did we step wrong somewhere?- the final years; Fate & ferret unmasked (which discusses the bands last two albums, looks at their 70’s soundtrack work, a few interview with band member & ISB related figures, and a epilogue). Appendix ( ISB family three, A to Z guide to ISB often exotic instruments, interview with second key song writer/vocalist Robin Williamson, band discography / bibliography, Be Glad Magazine back issues, and band related figure interview)

The book mangers to nicely side-step a lot of the clichés connected with band history type book format, due to the many different types of articles, and type of people writing them, from fans, to celebrities, onto journalists. And it’s very much the type of book you can dip in & out of how every you please, & you don’t really have to read the book it in chronological fashion either.


All told this is a most worthy & rewarding book, which will be of interest to both old & new fans of this most original & distinctive of projects. The book can be ordered direct from publisher here

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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