Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Robin Williamson & His Merry Band

"Journey's Edge" 1977

Although undisputed genius Robin Williamson must have had a pretty clear vision of the direction he intended to take after the demise of the Incredible String Band in 1974, it took him a few years to settle to a musical formula which enabled him to express his richly varied ideas. This first album featuring the excellent Merry Band shows him still experimenting, nearly always with very enjoyable results. The overall sound is relaxed and easy on the ear, with a gentle swing to tunes like "Border Tango" and "Red Eye Blues", although there is no shortage of of ISB-style vocal and instrumental magic from Robin as he swoops and soars through "Tomorrow" and waxes suitably deep and, well, mythic on "Mythic Times". To say that this is the album's standout track and that it would not be out of place on "Wee Tam" is not a put-down of the Merry Band, just a reflection of the huge reputation Robin had built up from the glory day of the Incredibles. "The Maharaja of Mogador" is a typical example of Robin's humorous songs (be warned!)In many ways, this album represents for Robin what "461 Ocean Boulevard" was for Eric Clapton - getting back to the kind of music he always loved to write & perform while retaining much of the "feel" of the music which made him famous. The Merry band went on to make better albums with Robin, but "Journey's Edge" has its own great charm and no fan of the String Band, or of Robin's later solo work, will want to be without it.

"American Stonehenge" 1978

Hans Wigman:
In the build-up to his masterpiece "Glint at the Kindling" Robin produced two albums: "Journey's Edge" and "American Stonehenge". Both albums show he was still looking for the right formula, even though he had already collected the right musicians for the job.
"American Stonehenge", though more in tune with the mentioned "Glint", is less satisfying than "Journey's Edge", mostly, I think, because of a lack of consistency. Some songs are quite good, especially the instrumental pieces "Port London Early" and "Her Scattered Gold" and the Celtic-flavoured "These islands green" and "When evening shadows". Also, the whisky-praising and good-humoured song "Rab's woollen testament" is a definite highlight on this album. The other songs are shaky. Somehow, Robin doesn't sound right when trying to incorporate elements of other than British or Irish nature in his songs (and I think that's true to this very day).

This album presents us the work of a man who doesn't know if he wants to be a Scottish American or an American Scotsman. In the end, as we all know, his Britishness took over completely and I think we can be very satisfied with that result. Considering this, "American Stonehenge" can be seen as a sort of diary of a man who was already on his way home.


Anonymous arbor said...

Yet another great post on my favorite blog!

30 November, 2006 10:56  
Anonymous 5147hoppe said...

thanks for these fine albums. i heard williamson´s poems are teached in scottish schools.
will gladly take everything from robin williamson that still lingers around somewhere.

01 December, 2006 04:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

likewise.. keep up with the excellent music that I would otherwise not get to hear.

01 December, 2006 04:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for these 2 Lizardson. Some of this stuff is really hard to find, and your efforts are much appreciated here.

05 December, 2006 20:02  
Anonymous fletcher said...

here are the lyrics:

23 February, 2007 19:18  
Anonymous Micheal H. Quinn said...

I think you are a bit hard on the album. I am so glad you have put this here. My Vinyl copy has picked up a couple of jumps.

It was great to hear Robin's defence of the 60s ethos again in "Sands & the Glass".

"When Evening Shadows Fall" fair reeks of Celtic melancholy. It's a song I'd have them play at my funeral to get them all weeping.

The only track I'd perhaps skip now is the comedy number "Zoo Song".

23 November, 2007 20:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nearly 2 years on & the links still work! excellent - i have the vinyl of edge but have never come across stonehenge before - good listening tonite!

01 October, 2008 02:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for these albums
Robin Williamson lives about half a mile from me in Cardiff, South Wales and I keep bumping into him in Tescos, I've always loved his music but it's quite hard to find.
I recommend the album "Songs Of Love And Parting" if you can find it.

18 March, 2009 01:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bumping into robin williamson in tescos must be a completely surreal experience, and also songs of love and parting is possibly one of my favourite albums of all time, excellent.

05 July, 2009 23:02  
Blogger Thomas Ruys Smith said...

Any chance of reupping American Stonehenge? Many thanks.

26 July, 2010 18:25  

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