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ROBIN WILLIAMSON "The Merry Band's Farewell Concert" PWMD 5001
ROBIN WILLIAMSON "Mirrorman's Sequences 1961-66" PWMD 5002
THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND "Chelsea Sessions 1967" PWMD 5003

I'm of the generation who can remember the 60s - I know they say if you can remember them you weren't there - but it was a time of exciting music. A lot of it I wasn't ready for. (Imagine walking out of a Martin Carthy gig 'cos he was boring, shame on me.) I remember the ISB but certainly was not ready for their music, being more into Herman's Hermits, but as you age so does your taste.

I saw Robin Williamson with an ex-Pentangle singer a few years ago and became interested. Then saw him work a particular noisy room in Fleetwood and realised how good he was, sorry, is. These are welcome, if different, examples of his work. The most listenable of them is "Sessions", coming from the time they (RW and Mike Heron) recorded the much acclaimed "5000 Spirits". From the moment it opens with "Lover Man" you're hooked. They take you through the personal love song "First girl I loved", you float with the clouds, and presumably with the band, in "Little Cloud" before landing with a bump in "Good Dog". Incidentally Dolly Collins features here, and she reworked this with her sister on "Anthems".

Definitely of the period but stands the test of time.

Which is more than can be said for the Merry Band's Farewell concert CD. Listening to this probably explains why this was the last. Sorry, but not for me, only for RW completists!!

The strangest of the three is "Mirrorman". Here we have Robin's other self explaining in story form about the events surrounding the time of "Sessions". It was written in 1971-72, first published in book form, I think, in 1977, but has only just been recorded. I listened for the whole 80 minutes +, fascinating stuff. It's basically story telling, and can be enjoyed just as that. There is occasionally instrumental backing but it can get in the way. The only doubt I've got about this project is whether it will stand repeated listening - but I'll soon find out.

Buy "Sessions" if you can only afford one, listen to "Mirrorman", and unless you're really a fan, perhaps give "Merry Band" a miss. Then go and see Robin Williamson live. In this way you will see just how good he is, where he has come from and how he is, in his own way, keeping the tradition alive.

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 25 of The Living Tradition magazine.