13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 6 June 2009
At last, Kip Of The Serenes has been re-issued on cd!
I bought Halcyon Days earlier this year and was delighted with it, and became all the more eager to finally hear Kip Of The Serenes when it transpired that it was to be re-released. For a few years I'd been smitten with Robin Williamson's version of "Strings In The Earth And Air", as performed on his beautiful, wayward solo album Myrrh, and had wanted to track down the original. Well, now I have it, and I am delighted, it is quite as lovely as I pictured. The whole of Kip Of The Serenes is equally great, and I am duly thrilled to own a copy!
From the opening of "Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal" to the last notes of "Donnybrook Fair" I'm in "that pleasant waking dream", and I'm speachless. Some songs have so many layers of subtle complexity to them I'm sure I could appreciate them differently each time I listen indefinately. They clearly had an acute sense for the little details and for how to tell their eccentric stories, unexpectedly baffling the listener by introducing a new tune mid-song, only for it to vanish again, as on the mellifluous "Dark-Haired Lady", when "Goldenhair" by James Joyce is quoted to an unexpected jazzy-Brazilian interlude (I have to wonder if there is any connection between this use of "Goldenhair" and Syd Barrett's, or did both DSS and Syd invent the wheel independently?). They were having a whale of a time making this album and that happy vibe rubs off on the listener.
Beyond the album itself there are four bonus tracks, all worthy additions. I think this version of "Mirror Mirror" is greater still than the very fine one featured on Halcyon Days, and the instrumental version of "Strings In The Earth And Air", in all its fragility, is very charming and acts as a great compliment to the album version.
My expectations for this album were exceeded, and now "Halcyon Days", in relationship to Kip Of the Serenes comes over more as an appendix, which in a sense is what it is.
It often seems that when Doctor Strangely Strange are mentioned, the Incredible String Band come into the conversation, but whilst I am sure that they were inspired by ISB, I think that it's unfair to cast them always in their shadow. To my thinking Kip Of The Serenes is stronger than The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter and 5,000 Spirits, it is possessed of some gorgeous intricate music, lyrics of a higher order, and more charm. Where the ISB on occasion might decay into a stoned stupour, everything on Kip... seems lovingly crafted, with great humour and a theatrical ear for the spell-binding that pays off again and again.
This is one of those albums that I feel an instant affection for, accompanied by an impossible wish that somehow I could turn back the calendar to 1992 and have known it since then, because I would have loved it all these years alongside the two Trees albums that came my way at that time. There's probably some means in the Strangely Strange universe to make that wish real...
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2010
"Kip of the Serenes" is a beautiful and eccentric record that still deserves a level of attention that has for too long been withheld. In many ways this remains my favorite DSS record, of the too few that there are. The remastering is extremely effective here. There's still something about acoustic recordings from this period that reveal an almost holographic illusion of dimension, and it's revealed here again. Not on every track, but in several pieces things do find their spots within the soundstage with remarkable conviction. In addition to the time improvements, there's a warmth to the voices and a bounce to the dynamics that were hard to extract from the original vinyl and completely absent from the early digital transmutations. Some of the hi-end percussion elements now exhibit artifacts akin to sibilance, but these are probably just the revealed shortcomings of the original mics and have nothing to do with the remastering itself. The extra tracks are OK, interesting bits but not essential. Just nice to have around. As is the informative booklet with some historical snaps, notes, comments and complete lyrics.
As for the music itself, it still strikes a lovely balance between opposites: charming and profound, innocent and informed, naïve and quite knowing. And quite melodic. The Stranglies hit on a few particularly wonderful pieces in their earliest days: "Strings in the Earth and Air" (favored by an ethereal cover on Robin Williamson's "Myrrh") and "Frosty Mornings" leave one wondering why greater recognition did not follow. The first, an atmospheric and mythic enigma, the second a joyful observation of the every day sum the two poles of DSS. Add a nod to James Joyce -- apparently not acknowledged on the original release -- and the simple but lovely "Tale of Two Orphanages", some spontaneous laughter and large doses of traditional folk voicing as well longer, more "progressive" constructs, and you have a very fine debut. At the time "Kip" struck me as a nearly ideal middle ground between the lushly imagined worlds of The Incredible String Band and the meticulous reinterpretations of traditional music by Fairport Convention.
To those who have chased down various CD versions of this one-of-a-kind release -- distinct even within the Strangely catalog -- there's no doubt that the recovery here has been worth the wait and is well worth buying for the third or fourth time.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 October 2009
I bought this album based on the wonderful Island "Nice Enough To Eat" sampler in order that I could recreate it myself as Island have never seen fit to re-issuing it - other than the "Nice Enough to Join In" release, which misses out two or three key tracks. Fortunately that album contained Heavy Jelly's "I Keep Singing The Same Old Song" which is otherwise unobtainable (why?). If you want to follow the trail of that start with Jackie Lomax but heaven only knows who "Heavy Jelly" were. But I digress. At first I was disappointed with Kip of The Serenes but fear not, the insanity grows on you. Dr Strangely Strange are rightly compared by other reviewers to the Incredible String Band but whether they were consciously influenced by the Incredibles or just found their own route to insanity I have no idea and does it matter? Listen to Donnybrook Fair, which to my mind is the pick of a wonderful selection and you will hear lines about imitating Jim Reeves (the deep tones in his awful "Distant Drums") followed by a brief imitation that precipitates laughter throughout the following bars. Asking a unicorn "what he is for". The King of Love my Shepherd Is etc etc. Finally a puzzle for you. The latter half of the album lyrics seem out of sync with the titles - Ship of Fools is about Strings of the Earth and Air etc. Maybe this is a mistake or just part of the prevailing departure from normality. Buy this album and treasure its cheerful insanity as a talisman to protect you against the harsher realities of the real world and put things in perspective.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 1999
I bought an Island sampler called "Nice Enough To Eat" around 1970. On it was a track called "Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal" from this album. Subsequently I bought "Kip of the Serenes" on vinyl. And now, nearly 30 years later, I am buying the CD, as, believe it or not, I still play the vinyl record, and still like it. Some recommendation. Not for everyone though.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 1 August 2008
I too first came accross this band on Nice Enough To Eat, in itself a wonderful collection.
I bought Kip of the Serenes and found what is probably my favourite album ever. The pleasure of listening has never left me and I am now looking for a new cd as my old one has been lost during a move. Very whimsical, very witty and with beautiful melodies, this is a great album for people who like the odder side of late 60's/early 70's folk and alternative rock. Brilliant!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 April 2009
Been waiting for this in cd form for ages. Bought the vinyl L.P.on the day it came out years ago. My kind of music/song akin to Incredible String Band although it doesn`t have the power/magic of Robin or Mike (of ISB).
Nice bit of nostalgia!
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2009
Be warned, this is for hardcore flower children only.
No other cultural artefact distills the essence of flower power better than this record.
Kip Of The Serenes convinces me that the greatest leap of a vanguard from a bad unhappy society to good happy one took place forty years ago. To describe it as charming is to deny how crucial were the values the hippie movement championed.
That this record could be recorded and released without irony reminds us of what a tragic cultural decline we have witnessed in the intervening years.
Indeed, it is a lot like the Incredible String Band. And why not?