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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally thorough history of acid folk, 12 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk (Paperback)
"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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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Aug 2011 12:44:52 BDT
Barnsey says:
I've read a few of your reviews and, like many, appreciate their quality. I very much enjoyed your affectionate satire in the opening paragraph of this review as it chimed with some of the band names I've recorded under over the years; The Mystic Wizards ('78 to date, still living in oblivion), Suede Bingo (a Uni funk band), Airport Convention (invented for a TV comedy drama about English folk music), and my current outfit, Tractor Countdown (six albums to date and available on ReverbNation). This is unashamed self-promotion (no kidding!), but I do have a couple on here if you'd be so kind as to review (one of them?).
L P

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Aug 2011 09:20:35 BDT
Hi Barnsey,
Thanks for the note, I love the names - Airport Convention is brilliant though I wouldn't want the copyright problems if it ever got famous! I'd be delighted to write something about Tractor Countdown. Buying CDs on Amazon is often bizarrely expensive - where's the best place to get hold of a copy? MLIR

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Aug 2011 11:16:10 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Aug 2011 07:46:04 BDT
Barnsey says:
Hi MLIR,
thanks for replying. I've just put the album, LP, on Soundcloud for you to download free. Go to: http://soundcloud.com/tractorcountdown/sets/lp-1
I'm in the process of putting most of my music up there anyway. I hope that's ok for you. If not, we'll have to think of another way. As for Airport Convention - I can't see 'them' ever getting anywhere since they only reside in my head. I'm enjoying reading Seasons They Change and it's good to be able to hear the music on Spotify. Barnsey.

I've just added two more set lists on Soundcloud: Airport Convention (for fun), and a Sampler set. All can be downloaded free from the site.

Posted on 2 Jan 2012 16:57:27 GMT
Suede Bingo is a genius band name , and Tractor Countdown had me howling also, Barnsey! Nearly as good as The Family Mahone...

I love MLIR reviews although can't help suspecting from the tone and style, which I know very well, that this is the nom de plume of a certain very well respected Radio presenter person operating usually with a similarly northern partner in crime. Don't worry, you're among friends here...and that'll be £10 please!

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jan 2012 18:24:22 GMT
Barnsey says:
Dear C. G, that's an interesting supposition regarding the true identity of MLIR. Judging by the play stats on Soundcloud, I got the impression that not only does he feel that modern life is rubbish, but that it's also too short to review the Tractor Countdown lp, LP, thus compounding my philosophy that life in oblivion is it's own reward.

As with all band names there are stories as to how they came about, and so it is with Suede Bingo and Tractor Countdown. Add to that the list of personnel associated with both bands (which even I find alarming in retrospect), there's plenty to tell, if you so desire.... It'll cost you a tenner, of course!
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