Review Archive

‘Electric Eden’ by Rob Young - subtitled ‘Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music’

(August 23, 2012)

here’s a book anyone remotely interested in folk should read - it’s called ‘Electric Eden’ by Rob Young - subtitled ‘Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music’. Rather than an examination of folk and Electric eden folk-tainted music from ancient to modern it concentrates on British folk from the 60’s and 70’s.

The book does drift gently around folk’s ‘origins’ but the focus is on the folk-fuelled eccentricities of late 1960 and beyond. Described by The Times as an: “An authoritative account of British 20th-century folk music that is packed with obscure and delightful details.” Although you may not class it as ‘un-put-downable’ or a cover-to-cover read it’s equally useful as a dip-in, dip-out volume. However, good though a book about music may be, what about the music? Well I’m pleased to say that alongside the book there now stands the double album ‘Electric Eden’.

To make life easier 'Electric Eden’ is conveniently split into ‘Acoustic Eden’ and ‘Electric Albion’. First, most self-respecting affacionados of British folk, especially from the period in question, will already have these tracks (probably on the original albums) in their collection. Second, comprehensive though it is in mapping British folk, within its scope there are some surprising omissions and equally unexpected inclusions. Ranging widely across the folk music landscape from Peter Bellamy and Bert Jansch to John Martyn and Richard Thompson, through Pentangle and Dr Strangely Strange to Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention it’s definitely an ‘interesting’ album – but does it ‘Unearth Britain’s Visionary Music’ not too sure about that. What I am sure about is ‘Electric Eden’ is one of those albums you should acquire and play from time to time just to recall those formative and faintly magical folk years.

Perhaps not definitive ‘Electric Eden’ lets you listen to the author’s view on a snapshot of the British folk music tradition and how that ‘folk-feel’ developed into folk rock, psych-folk and beyond. With more than a hint of a longed-for return to English rustic bliss that never really existed beyond romanticised folk tales and fashionable pastoral-legend, and despite searching for those elusive elements all in all it’s an album worth the listening. 

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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