Sifting through over two hundred albums released in 1971 has been enjoyable, at times surprising, and occasionally daunting. It would have been impossible without the Vinyl Connection database. An early approach involved allocating each entry into a band: 10, 20s, 30s, etc. then sorting each cohort into order. That helped me map out a rough ‘Top 100’ which was a start, though fifty percent too many. Eventually I threw science and logic to the winds and resorted to some strange amalgam of enjoyment, respect, familiarity and accepted wisdom (aka “importance”, something I attempted to de-emphasise).
Inevitable sacrifices to expediency (and time) were made, leaving some genres under-represented. I was mulling this over after the previous post. As I listed the previous 1971 articles it was obvious that repetition was as unavoidable as omission. I decided not to bother and just plow on. No-one is auditing the blog and really, who actually cares if Daddy Cool or Sandy Denny didn’t make the cut?
Yet I kind of care. The idea of Vinyl Connection has always been to share an eclectic and multi-national range of music and for some reason the inclusion of the Steeleye Span album in the last post got me thinking about all the other folk/folk-rock albums on the shelves. So here, after this rambling preamble, are some other 1971 releases that are strongly influenced by the Anglo-Celtic folk tradition. If any of these albums are favourites, please share your connection in the comments.
Steeleye Span released two LPs in 1971. Posting the CD re-issue cover, I totally forgot I had this original version of Please To See The King. The other album goes by the glorious title of Ten Man Mop Or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again. While Steeleye Span were an emerging force in British folk-rock, Fairport Convention were the undisputed monarchs of the style. Yet the band had gone through numerous personnel changes by the early 1970s, including the departure of guitar legend Richard Thompson and, even more crucially, singer Sandy Denny. Although entertaining and beautifully played, neither of these 1971 releases number amongst Fairport’s best work.
Sandy Denny was not idle after leaving Fairport Convention, and her 1971 album The North Star Grassman And The Ravens is a corker. Her voice is fabulous and the material varied and engaging. Listening again today, I found it hard to hear how this excellent folk-rock album wasn’t in the top 71. Sorry Sandy.
No Roses, by the Albion Country Band (featuring Shirley Collins) is a traditional folk album and a fine glimpse of the music.
Across the Irish Sea, musicians were also exploring folk roots and branches. Tír na nÓg formed in Dublin in 1969. Like Nick Drake, they mostly played their own compositions, with a pleasing melodicism and and gentle acoustic momentum. This was their first album:
The Chieftains became an institution of Irish folk music, much parodied and sniggered at. Unfair. The early albums are a treasure trove of masterly acoustic folk music played on traditional instruments with love and enthusiasm. It wasn’t their fault they had a hit single in the mid-70s and subsequently were forced into collaborations with everyone from Sinead O’Conner to Sting.
Named after a ‘holy’ island with a history dating back to the sixth century, Newcastle’s Lindisfarne had a sizeable hit with the title song from their 1971 album. I’m not a huge fan, but would love to hear from others who are.
One band I am a massive fan of is The Pentangle (who later dropped the definite article from their name). Their early albums are marvellous and ground-breaking and should be in any eclectic collection. Reflections, from 1971, is well-played and entertaining, yet somehow misses the exciting edge of the earlier records. The ten minute title track which closes the album is, however, an absolute highlight.
If you are of a certain age, chances are you can sing along with Ralph McTell’s classic folk hit “Streets of London”. It was actually on his 1969 LP Spiral Staircase, McTell’s last for the Transatlantic label. What is odd is that the song was not a hit single until the mid-70s, after several other artists had covered it with some success (Hello Roger Whittaker!). Anyway, this was Ralph’s next album, the oddly titled You, Well-Meaning, Brought Me Here. I bought it from a charity shop in the UK, mainly for the wonderful cover photo, but have enjoyed it’s singer-songwriter tunes and excellent guitar playing.
Now 1971 has been well and truly folked.
Next: The countdown continues…