The Incredible String Band - U [BGO Records - 2014]U was the seventh album from this high influential & distinctive Scottish project that mixed together Psychedelic & progressive folk with all manner of other genres. The double album was originally released in late 1970, and it saw the band at their most, challenging, quirky, experimental, and varied. Over the years the album has sadly been in & out of print, but this 2014 Double CD release is surely the most definitive version thus far, as it features a new digital re-mastering, and new inlay booklet taking in recent extensive liner notes, pictures, artwork & full lyrics for all the albums songs.
The music featured on the album is taken from the Incredible String Band's live mixed-media show of the same name, which run for ten nights at the Roundhouse in London April 1970. The U show was a puzzling & often highly quirky mixture of songs, skits, playlets, dances, parables, tumbling and mime. Sadly the show was a huge critical & commercial disaster, and in an attempt to try & recoup the money lost the band rushed into the studio to recording this album. By all accounts the double album was recorded over just 48 period, with band members taking naps between recording thier parts.
Over the albums one hour & forty seven minute runtime there are eighteen tracks featured . And really these cover a huge range of different genres & types of songs, moving from majestic but more than a little quirky sitar Ďní ethnic percussion lined folk/ world music instrumental tracks. Onto jaunting & theatrical psychedelic folk lined pop, through female vocal led pantomime-like takes on cowboy bar music. Onto less playful mixers of ornate string tipped singer songwriter fare with laid back acoustic guitar pick Ďní strum. Through to blends of felt piano & soaring rock guitar soloing, which move into bar room like jigs. Onto foot-tapping & quirky blues piano led songcraft. Through to more stripped folksy strumming playful-ness, which is edged with surreal & fairly tale like lyrics. Onto more discordant & dingy mixes of strained male & females vocals, wondering violin, sitar & tabular playing.
On the whole itís a wonderful & varied trip of an album- moving from quickness & playfulness, through to more moody & off kilter fare, onto more memorable forays into multi genre mixed singer song writer fare. Sure not all of it works perfectly, but as sprawling & lengthy double albums of the 60ís/70ís go this is fairly consistent through out.
So in summing this is a very welcome reissue of this most epic, challenging yet often rewarding of The Incredible String Bandís back catalogue. Iím not sure if Iíd advise this to those new to the ISBís work, as there is so much to take in( though itís a hell of a trip!), but if you already even semi-familiar with this most original of band this is well worth your time & effort.Roger Batty