The Incredible String Band: Live at the Fillmore 1968

In 1968 the Scottish duo Mike Heron and Robin Williamson, known as the Incredible String Band, were at their peak and this previously unreleased concert album from New York’s Fillmore East was their final stop on a tour of the USA. The ISB had already made three remarkable albums and were shortly to release their fourth – an adventurous double album Wee Tam & The Big Huge which added American roots influences to their eclectic forays into the music and instrumentation of Europe, Asia and the Middle East in what would later be labelled ‘world music’.

Heron and Williamson were on a high of creative invention at the time which unfortunately was not sustained in the 1970s following more changes, additions of personnel and other vicissitudes. So they remained cult musicians foremost and you either loved them or hated them, or perhaps didn’t even know about them. But when they played the Fillmore in June 1968 they were on a roll and their loyal cult following in the UK had already begun to spread to the USA.

ISB

These recordings have been remastered from the original tapes and the sound is very good. The interminable tuning up sessions between songs, for which the ISB were infamous, have been edited out so that the album is almost fast-paced by their standards. Almost all of their best compositions are here including Heron’s lengthy but superb ‘A Very Cellular Song’. There is also an extended and reworked version of Williamson’s ‘October Song’.  Heron’s excellent ‘You Get Brighter’ and ‘Chinese White’ are both here, while the concert ends with the classic ‘Maya’.

Mike Heron (left) and Robin Williamson

Mike Heron (left) and Robin Williamson

The only bit of excess or whimsy is the track entitled ‘Bell Ringing’ – an interlude of crowd participation in which Williamson conducts members of the audience on bells and penny whistles. It nevertheless provides an amusing and enjoyable break. The concert on CD runs to 78 minutes and is a valuable addition to the Incredible String Band canon.

The liner notes include a piece from Robin Williamson who observes: “This live concert captures here the spring-like freshness those magic times were all about.” More than that it shows how their music has lasted and is ripe for re-discovery. Nowadays, when musical boundaries are collapsing all around, the ISB still manage to sound fresh, innovative and just a little bit weird.

Live at the Fillmore 1968 is released on Hux Records.

www.huxrecords.com

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2 Comments on “The Incredible String Band: Live at the Fillmore 1968”


  1. Thanks, John. I always enjoyed Incredible String Band, so I might have to acquire this.


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