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on 28 December 2010
Jeanette Leech's "Seasons they change" is an excellent and enjoyable book about acid (or psychedelic) folk, and you may be surprised to find how many artists can be tagged "acid folk". She handles the subject in a sympathetic and gentle way and if her style is somewhat terse, this is quite likely due to space limitations - considering the 350+ pages (though personally I wouldn't object to a considerabe expansion).

It's obviously well-researched and apparently she's spoken to quite a few of the artists she writes about. And there are a lot of them. I rummaged through my collection and practically all of them feature in this book (which made me realise how much of an acid folkie I am!). From the pivotal Incredible String Band to Pearls Before Swine, from COB to Circulus, from Vashti Bunyan to Holderlins Traum, from Mr Fox to Stone Breath, they're all here (except for, puzzlingly, Faun Fables).

Leech sticks to the facts and embellishes these with quotes from those involved, and thus avoids unnecessary and unwanted notions. When she does ventilate opinions (for a large part in her assessment of who's important and who's less so) I generally agree with her. She bravely undertakes to bring a narrative thread to the multitude of facts, persons and times she brings up, and this is perhaps the area where she's least successful - but no blame there as far as I'm concerned. Additional editing should eliminate a few typos like "Quicksilver Message Service".

The physical aspect of the book is fine as well, excepting its binding - it takes some effort to keep it open.

A warning is due: this book is dangerous. It makes you want to look into artists you weren't aware of, which will certainly drain more money from your pocket. Otherwise, it's highly recommended, nay, quite obligatory for all who take interest in folk that's not solely "trad.arr".
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on 6 January 2011
A well researched history of the origins, life, death and resurrection of Acid and Psychedelic Folk. It's brought to life by a plethora of interviews specially undertaken for the book.

There's so much breadth, information and detail that I found it important to listen to Jeanette Leech's accompanying Spotify playlist. This complimented the reading experience and gave life to strands that I wasn't familiar with. Indeed, if she hasn't thought of it already, I suggest that she produce a series of sampler albums under the same 'Seasons of Change' banner.

A beautifully presented book, readable and informative.
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on 12 June 2011
"Cosmic Tumble Drier was founded by Jefferson Stoner, formerly bass player in Norwich-based prog rock outfit Jam Sponge, together with percussionist Mungo Zboing (formerly Paul Smith) and virtuoso violinist Amelia Molecatcher. After touring the university circuit for a couple of years, it was spotted by Ebenezer Hare and signed to his Majestic Hat Stand label. The group's first album, `The Wizard walks from East to West and back again' emerged in 1971. This delicate succession of moody, wafer thin folk was heavily influenced by traditional Celtic music and West Coast psychedelia, and sold 57 copies. This was followed by `All Hail to the Goddess of the Trouser' (1973), a rougher-edged, more dynamic composition introducing elements of blues and brass band music. However, the cracks were already beginning to show. At a performance in Milton Keynes, disagreements over the correct use of a Corby Trouser Press saw the band disintegrate: Stoner went on to play in a series of psychedelic folk groups, most notably Druidic Fridge and Toboggan Wheel Harmony Experience, while Molecatcher enjoyed some success with death metal outfit, Extreme Terror Donut. Zboing, meanwhile, dropped out of the scene altogether to fulfil his lifetime ambition of becoming a traffic warden."

That's a paragraph taken from chapter 7 of `Seasons They Change'. No it isn't, I'm lying. I just made it up. However, it might as well have been.

Now, please don't take this the wrong way. I'm not taking the mickey. Well, alright I am, but only a little and affectionately. The truth is that this is a good book and I enjoyed it. It has many strong points, foremost amongst them that the author has done an incredibly thorough job of researching every aspect of alt. folk, weird folk, folk rock, acid folk, psychedelic folk, new weird America and a heap of other genres I hadn't even heard of. She has conducted a large number of original interviews, and gone into great depth to outline the histories of bands that in many cases only enjoyed a mayfly life. And she hasn't just limited herself to the US and Britain - you can find information here on alternative folk in Italy, Germany, even Eastern Europe before the crumbling of the iron curtain. For sheer thoroughness it's impossible to imagine how Seasons they Change could be beaten.

This makes it an ideal book for anyone who already has a good knowledge of the area and wants to plug some gaps. If that's your aim you will not be disappointed. However, the general reader should probably be warned off it. One of the other reviews described this book as `encyclopaedic', and that's exactly what it is. Unless you want to immerse yourself in the field as quickly and as completely as possible, it can be very hard going. Most of the chapters concern the doings of one small band after another, and unless you already know the music of at least some of them then pretty soon it can start to feel a bit samey.

An interesting contrast is with Rob Young's recent book on British folk, `Electric Eden'. Young's work is narrower in that it concentrates on Britain - really England - and has nothing much to say about developments after the 1970s. It is certainly a great deal less thorough, either in terms of the number of bands covered or the mistakes made (Electric Eden contains a number of embarrassing errors while, the odd typo and the inevitable disputes over selection aside, Seasons They Change seems relatively error free). However, Electric Eden is still probably the better book, especially for the more general reader. In concentrating more on the key people and developments, and then weaving them into the context of broader trends in society and culture, it feels more like a story and less a series of tenuously connected episodes.

The four stars is a compromise. If you know a fair bit about this area already and want to expand your listening further, this is the book for you - five stars. If, on the other hand, you have a few Steeleye Span LPs and a vague interest in hippie culture then you might want to start somewhere else.
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on 25 March 2011
This is a most readable book and contains a great wealth of information on a vast time-scale covering all kinds of slightly skewed folk and folk-related music. The book contains some interesting new interviews, and gives some accurate insights into the lives of under-the-radar musicians.

This book seeks to establish a lineage between the psychedelic folk of the mid-late 60's onwards culminating with the recent psych-folk revival of the early-mid 2000's. The author tends to favour chapters switching between the UK and the US chronologically, though there are some other European examples too. There is some background to the British folk scene from Cecil Sharp onwards, with particular emphasis on the Shirley Collins and Davy Graham-inspired resurgence in the mid 60's. There isn't however, much on the US-equivalent, beyond that provided by the Holy Modal Rounders. I was surprised by the lack of discussion on Harry Smith (in general) and his Anthology of American Folk Music (in particular). Arguably, this release had the biggest influence on the whole Greenwich Village coffee house folk scene and far, far beyond.

Despite my enjoyment of the the book, it is not without problems. As an introduction to the many bands and scenes mentioned, it's not bad at all. But, often it feels like the subject is changed, just as the conversation gets interesting. It's rare we get much depth, and some bands or artists are mentioned, but with little else other than their name and a sentence worth of information given. And sometimes, even someone who's been interviewed gets only a scant paragraph or two, like Mary Hampton, who is surely worthy of more depth? Conversely, some bands/artist get far too much attention. Personally, I've never been a fan of the Incredible String Band (even though I know I'm supposed to be) or Donovan, and it sometimes feels like the author should just have written a book specifically about them.

Another problem is that the whole genre issue is never really tackled head on. What is folk? Let alone acid folk/psyche-folk etc. This lack of definition means some things are ignored that perhaps shouldn't be, and vice versa. For example, as much as I am a great admirer of Skip Spence's 'Oar', I would say it is more psychedelic rock than folk. If anything, there are more country influences in it than folk.

In another section, the author (whilst discussing the Incredible String Band's use of a variety of exotic acoustic instruments) states that no other band at that time was doing anything like that. Well, that is apart from the Kaleidoscope (USA) who were doing precisely that without the hideous amounts of ISB whimsy. I read on, expecting Kaleidoscope to get a mention in a later chapter, but they never appeared. Also, bands like Beatles, Stones and Traffic were all incorporating exotic instruments into their work by that stage - an obvious point perhaps, but one that was not made. Also, Sandy Bull was playing Oud as much as guitar by then, and on bills with Jefferson Airplane etc. My point is that it was not as unprecedented as the author suggests.

Which brings me on to other omissions. I suppose any book with such far-ranging scope is going to miss some things out, but there seems to have been quite a few.

When talking about the recent psyche-folk from the USA, most main players are discussed, though some notable omissions include Arborea, Pamela Wynn Shannon, and A Hawk and a Hacksaw. However, the UK version of events seems to neglect most of the players? There is no real discussion of the Fence Collective. And what about all the artists/bands on Manchester labels like Red Deer Club/Recordings, Humble Soul, Little Red Rabbit, Timbreland Recordings? Sheffield's Big Eye Family Players? Leeds-based acts like 7 Hertz and George Thomas? James Reid's Autumn Ferment label? Liverpool's Regular Beat Recordings? Sam & the Plants, David A Jaycock, Dean McPhee, Cian Nugent, C.Joynes? And many, many more... Also, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci (who never really fitted any category) are not mentioned. As well as many examples elsewhere in their diverse output which are worthy of attention in the context of this book, their acoustic mini-album, 'The Blue Trees' came out in 2000, predating the fashion for nu-folk by several years.

The discussion of anti-folk fails to give any attention to the song 'The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane' by Jeffrey Lewis, which is amongst the most overtly acid folk songs ever written.

There could be much more discussion on the links between folk-rock, psychedelic rock and psych-folk? Many of the bands in the book are probably highly influenced by say, the Byrds (the psychedelic Eight Miles High and the traditional John Riley appearing on the same Fifth Dimension album in 1966, for example). But they don't even get a cursory mention.

To be fair to the author, it is probably impossible to write a book that covers so much music, over such a large time-scale and not be prey to criticisms such as these. Also, I have spent the best part of 15 years listening to much of this music and reading about it, as well as being a gigging musician and promoter in this niche, so I have an unhealthy amount of knowledge in this particular area.

Despite my criticisms, I did actually enjoy the book, and can well imagine it would be like opening a treasure chest for the uninitiated. I can think of few books that inform the reader of such a wealth of great amazing music, and the historical overview ties it all together very well.
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on 3 April 2012
This is an extremely interesting and well-written book, and provided me with a lot of new information and leads, and I've been listening to this kind of music since 1965. I'd certainly agree with what seems to be Leech's central view, namely that the key group in all this process is The Incredible String Band.Many of the groups are new names to me, and I'm starting to buy some, starting with Pearls before Swine's recent double cd reissue " The use of ashes"/ "These things too". Inevitably in a book of this scope there are omissions, and I find it surprising that Richard Thompson's post Fairport Convention work isn't mentioned nor is John Martyn's work and, given that this book tries to straddle the Folk/Psychedelic divide, I would personally have included my pre-eminent pychedelic group Country Joe and the Fish. Other names I feel should be included would be Robyn Hitchcock and Stan Ridgway. Nonetheless this is the best overview I've read of this fascinating area and is highly recommended
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on 22 January 2013
At times the book does sound a bit like the Monty Python " Toad the wet sprocket" sketch where the band goes through a myriad of name and personnel changes. If you don't know the artists concerned it can be a very dry read. The first half of the book deals with the late sixties and early seventies and it's there my knowledge is good enough to hold my attention. When the book gets to the last ten years though its harder reading for me as I know much less. However, I wanted to find more bands to listen to and this book has given me a list as long as my arm. Amazon should give a copy of this book away to everyone found buying acid/psych folk albums off them, they would soon make the cash back from sales of CDs and downloads of bands you never knew you had to own. There are some good acid folk compilations on Amazon, "Gather in the Mushrooms" and "Strange folk" to name two. Its worth getting hold of these as they will give a taster for some of (what for me were) lesser known names, although despite having lived in Norwich during the height of the first acid folk boom I still haven't heard of Cosmic washing machine.
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on 26 April 2011
I finished this book in few days. It is like the encyclopedia of acid folk music from beginning to end. It starts in the early days of the 60's with Shirley Collins, Vashty Banyun and the almighty incredible string band and ends in our times with Espers and Circulus.
It's mostly deals with English bands, although there is quite a lot about American bands and also bands around the world especially in Europe.
It tells the story of this fantastic sub genre in progressive music. I love this genre and I flund few great bands I haven't heard of before together with many great I did heard- Comus, Spirogyra, Trees, Stone Angel, Fresh Maggots, and many many many other. It has interviews with many artists from the genre like Judy Dyble (Trader Horne, Fairport Convention) and many others. It's recommended for Acid folk fans.
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on 29 March 2013
To research, explore and explain the whole story of Acid and Psychedelic folk is a monumental undertaking, but Greg Weeks has done a superb job in so doing and has produced a tome that covers a very wide range range of artists, old and contemporary, and made the whole era come alive with some little known facts about artists and some sparkling anecdotes. I knew some of the artists cited in the book, though I wasn't a huge fan of the genre per se, but the book has made me want to seek out artists I previously knew little or nothing about. I enjoyed the book very much and I recommend it.
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on 16 December 2013
This is a useful and informative book which digs into the Acid Folk movement of the 60s and shows how its influences still exist today. For those of us who were around at the time it brings back memories of 12" vinyl albums and gigs in small halls with bottles of brown ale.
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on 4 June 2011
I bought this book out of greed and by mistake (I saw "acid" and "psychedelic", and didn't pay an attention to "folk"). Although I do not fancy the subject, the book is brilliant - I finished it off in a couple of days, and it's an excellent research, and a well written one. Probably the best ever written - about the past, present and future (if there is any) of acid/psychedelic folk. A kind of anthropological and ethno-cultural study equal to Fraser The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (Oxford World's Classics), and proving that for a talented scholar and writer acid-folk tribes might be as fascinating and exotic as Goths and Headbangers.
Pity, that Stephen Titra didn't make into it (OF WONDROUS LEGENDS - he is well above these musical sectarians and righteous ones. Strange enough, but similar heresy existed behind the Iron Curtain where it reached the level of mass hysteria (maybe perhaps rock was banned); it was called "KSP" (club of amateur songwriters). Hundreds and thousands suddenly migrated to the woods like lemmings to listen to some voiceless commie=wannabe Zimmerman praising romantic pleasures of soaking your ass in the marsh and being bitten to death by moskitoes, while listening to some smart arse Judas singing about pleasures...
The book is bloody good. The Almighty always has mercy for fools, freaks, and fakes. He has sent them Jeanette Leech
But seriously - a must for anyone who wants to look into the roots of rock/pop as socio-cultural phenomenon - not only folk.Full of brilliant thoughts and ideas
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