Top positive review
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most any morning, most any day, like to be born into my guitar day
on 2 November 2016
Approaching this from their debut album - as opposed to in reverse order, from Hangman's Daughter, as I originally did - it suddenly becomes a lot more understandable. ISB had started as a quirky but conventional-enough folk group; here they suddenly lurch into all kinds of whimsicality and psychedelia, obvious as soon as you look at the cover. Of course the growth of flower-power counter culture, the Beatles and all that, had something to do with it; but crucially, that happened to coincide with them getting loved-up. First off it was Ian Heron, with someone called Licorice - who was promptly invited to join the band. Awks! Maybe this was the start of what became a frosty relationship between the two principals. But rather than throw his toys out the pram, McCartney-style, Williamson soon followed suit; before you knew it the whole band (and a gaggle of kids) were shacked up together in a house in Wales, wearing ponchos. Far out! - if ever a band defined that expression, they were it.
So where the first album was notably lacking in love songs - in fact the vibe was 'hey babe, don't tie me down' - here you have Heron suddenly warbling dreamily about paint boxes and oceans and little clouds floating in the blue. Williamson, temporarily the gooseberry, in response produced the rueful First Girl I Loved, one of his best songs. The wispy vocals of Licorice, together with the need each felt to impose himself on the other's songs with out-there harmonies and instruments, started what was to develop into the definitive 'acid folk' sound.
A few weeks ago I was convinced my ISB phase was long over; then a clip on BBC4 re-ignited my interest, and I've realised they are in fact the greatest band of all time. Which is simply to say that this is a record which you have to be in the mood for, and to take in the context of its era. That said, and if you disregard the whimsy, individually this is probably the strongest set of songs on any of their albums.