Last Sunday, whilst my head was recovering from the previous night’s Slayer concert, I was in need of something a little more gentle to listen to. Being partial to a bit of folk music, I decided that it was the perfect time to check out an album that I’d been meaning to get around to – “Dust On The Nettles : A Journey Through The British Underground Folk Scene 1967-72” – a three disc compilation which was released earlier this year.
It turned out to be nearly perfect. Mood wise the bulk of the material contained here is laid back and mellow, with early highlights including The Pentangle’s “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme” and the wonderful “Willow’s Song” by Magnet, the latter being from the soundtrack album to the film “The Wicker Man” which is a wonderful record in its own right.
Other highlights come from contributions from the fair few names that I was already familiar with including the likes of Spirogyra, Comus, Dando Shaft, Trees, Heron, C.O.B., Marc Brierley, Anne Briggs and Bristol group Folkal Point – all of whom already featured in my collection, as well as the more well-known acts like The Incredible String Band, Steeleye Span, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Fairport Convention.
Alongside these, however, are a treasure trove of new artists to discover. Chrissie Quayle’s “The Seagulls Scream”, complete with seagulls in the background, is delicate and haunting.
Oberon are akin to Jethro Tull with the eight minute “Minas Tirith”, which features not just Tull-like flute and progressive leanings but also a drum solo which comes from nowhere at just under the four-minute mark and gives way to the gentle acoustic guitars etc. again after two minutes of rattling around the kit. Bizarre but oddly brilliant!
Elsewhere, Moonkyte adorn “Way Out Hermit” with sitar and a real psychedelic edge, Shelagh McDonald’s “Stargazer” is a beautiful piano and strings accompanied vocal performance, and “The Mutant” by Trader Horne another highlight of this set.
Less successful to my ear are Clive Palmer’s “Stories Of Jesus” and Gerald Moore’s “Pilgrim”. This may be because they are essentially retreads of gospel songs and thus reminiscent of a church group, or may be simply a personal reaction to the subject matter. In truth, I feel it’s more likely to be the former as there are plenty of pro-Christian songs that I can happily listen to regardless of my religious views.
The sound quality varies throughout the three discs, as is only to be expected given that some of these tracks were either unavailable before or only in very small quantities, suggesting that sourcing decent quality copies may have been difficult well over four decades later. That said, the sound is very good for the vast majority of the songs presented.
With sixty-three songs and a running time of just under four hours there is an awful lot to digest in this comprehensive look around at the various differing strands of folk music being made in these fair islands in the late Sixties and early Seventies, but it’s a musical journey well worth making…
“Dust On The Nettles : A Journey Through The British Underground Folk Scene 1967-72” tracklist:
1. Let No Man Steal Your Thyme / 2. Willow’s Song / 3. Come All You Travellers / 4. Love Is A Funny Thing / 5. Images Of Passing Clouds / 6. Peek Strangely And Worried Evening / 7. Glass Of Water / 8. Winter Is Blue / 9. Winter Is A Coloured Bird / 10. The Seagulls Scream / 11. Stories Of Jesus / 12. Amanda / 13. Curious Crystals Of Unusual Purity / 14. Roses For Columbus / 15. Till The Morning Comes / 16. Black Girl / 17. The Garden Of Jane Trelawney / 18. Weirdsong Of Breaking Through At Last / 19. Minas Tirith / 20. Prisoners, Victims, Strangers, Friends
1. The Pentangle / 2. Magnet / 3. Wight / 4. Spirogyra / 5. Gary Farr / 6. Synthanesia / 7. Bob & Carole Pegg / 8. Vashti Bunyan / 9. Comus / 10. Chrissie Quayle / 11. Clive Palmer / 12. Steve Peregrin Took’s Shagrat / 13. Bridget St. John / 14. Mark Fry / 15. Dando Shaft / 16. Mary-Anne / 17. Trees / 18. Principle Edwards Magic Theatre / 19. Oberon / 20. Paper Bubble
1. Pilgrim / 2. River Lane / 3. Way Our Hermit / 4. All Things Are Quite Silent / 5. Upon Reflection / 6. Love Is Come Again / 7. Stargazer / 8. There Are No Greater Heroes / 9. Visionary Mountains / 10. Glow Of The Firelight / 11. Searching For Lambs / 12. Samantha Carol Fragments / 13. Fotheringay / 14. You Know What Has To Be / 15. Meanwhile Back In The Forest / 16. First Girl I Loved / 17. Halfdan’s Daughter / 18. The Mutant / 19. Meeting By Moonlight Mill / 20. Highways (Misty Mist) / 21. Gabilan / 22. Sand All Yellow
1. Gerald Moore / 2. Melton Constable / 3. Moonkyte / 4. Steeleye Span / 5. Heron / 6. Parchment / 7. Shelagh McDonald / 8. Tony Caro & John / 9. Joan Armatrading / 10. Tuesday / 11. Warm Gold / 12. Benjamin Delaney Lion / 13. Fairport Convention / 14. Frozen Tear / 15. Hunt Lunt & Cunningham / 16. The Incredible String Band / 17. The Moths / 18. Trader Horne / 19. Dry Heart / 20. Tyrannosaurus Rex / 21. Duncan Browne / 22. Keyin Coyne
1. Garden Song / 2. Music Of The Ages / 3. A Song For The System / 4. The Colour Is Blue / 5. Silent Village / 6. Welcome To The Citadel / 7. The Evil Venus Tree / 8. Standing On The Shore / 9. Kind Sir / 10. Eagle / 11. Rosemary Hill / 12. The Happy King / 13. Me And My Kite / 14. Wizard Shep / 15. Scarborough Fair / 16. Prisoner / 17. Patrice / 18. Girl Of The Cosmos / 19. Elegy To A Dead King / 20. Silence Returns / 21. Orange Days And Purple Nights
1. Bill Fay / 2. C.O.B. / 3. Everyone Involved / 4. Country Sun / 5. Wild Country / 6. Marc Brierley / 7. The Occasional Word / 8. Anne Briggs / 9. Agincourt / 10. Mick Softly / 11. Fresh Maggots / 12. Music Box / 13. Fuchsia / 14. The Sun Also Rises / 15. Folkal Point / 16. Marie Celeste / 17. Simon Finn / 18. Shide & Acorn / 19. Chimera / 20. Beau / 21. Mother Nature