SOME 1971 FOLK

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…

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27 comments

  1. I liked Streets of London and the McTell album but only came to love it with the Sex Pistols version. No accounting for taste (or lack thereof).

    Lots here that I will enjoy sharing with Z.

    Thank you Bruce,
    DD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think once you topped the 250 hearings of ‘Streets’, the Pistols version was very refreshing.

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  2. So glad you did this post! Wandering off into the Misty Celtic Foggy Folk World w/Bass Line Added, as if guided and compelled by an unseen mystical hand, yeah! I have most of the Steeleye Span albums but somehow never even knew of “Ten Man Mop.” The Chieftains “Bells of Dublin” has become part of the standard Xmas rotation at my parents’ house, but I always like to watch the video of them with The Pogues, even though I feel tense the whole time, waiting for Shane MacGowan (I think? someone drunk and disreputable-looking) to knock over the mike and punch one of the old dears or maybe barf on them. And my kid sister loves Pentangle, not surprising since she prefers jazz and folk to rock’n’roll. OK so now I have to go get Ten Man Mop and check out Ralph MacTell, reading your blog is proving to be pretty expensive proposition, but that’s ok, appreciate it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Brilliant stories, Robert. Really glad you shared them. I think perhaps The Chieftains became a kind of bolt-on folk authenticity appliance at some point; hard to imagine they appreciated Shane’s loose cannon approach!
      McTell is a very good acoustic guitarist indeed. Good hunting!

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  3. No Roses and North Star Grassman are both excellent IMO.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. chris delprete · · Reply

    I always loved Pentangle for their deft touch and instrumental brilliance. Their sound was as light as a feather. Lindisfarne was a band I enjoyed for their earthiness. Comparing the two is a little like comparing The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers. I’d recommend a listen to Alan Hull’s solo album ‘Pipedream’ with its Rene Magritte cover.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember the cover well! Used to have it in the record shop I worked in back in the 70s. Don’t think I ever played it, though. Thanks for the tip Chris!

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  5. Such a treasure trove there, I may argue about the Fairport albums, they fall into the trap they have had since Thompson left of enjoyable but just falling short, they have never really recovered it seems, No Roses is masterful and Lindisfarne are always fun, there Christmas shows were legendary. I think you have a good chink of my record collection there Bruce. I had never realized how very prolific Ashley Hutchings was in 1971.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Richard Thompson’s boots were near impossible to fill, that’s for sure. Although the two featured here are solid rather than exceptional, I rather like the subsequent ‘Rising For The Moon’. Is that one you enjoy, Neil?

      You’re right! Ashley H was Mr Everywhere at that time! Glad to have shared a folk-rock moment, Neil. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rising For the Moon is an enjoyable album. The last attempt for commercial success by the band and management. I think pretty much every album has moments.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. True. Every member (and there have been dozens!) has been a master of their art. Hence the festival, I guess!

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  6. Wow that’s a lot of great stuff. Haha “folked.” I see what you did there.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, you’re being audited here, Bruce. Don’t kid yourself. We vinyl lovers audit you constantly. 😉 But including Sandy Denny is most honorable at anytime, so you get big points for that. My sister was a huge Pentangle fan; I’ll have to send her a link to this post. They never got their full due. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the smiles, Marty. I’m with your sister: Pentangle were absolutely special. Jacqui McShee out front and the twin guitar brilliance of Renbourn and Jansch, plus the peerless rhythm section of Danny Thompson and Terry Cox. “Sweet Child” should be in every collection!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You folked it all night long Bruce. That Ralph McTell LP cover is wonderful, truly great. I almost bought Babbacombe Lee once and I totally agree with your comments on the Chieftains, my dad used to play their early stuff quite a bit and I like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s cool, Joe. I only have the first three Chieftains albums and I recall how delighted I was by the honest, unaffected enthusiasm of the playing.

      Don’t you wanna be Ralph?

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  9. I do tip my toes in folk land. Even with a few of the ones that made your cut.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    My favorite from this era, though they stretch outside of straight-up folk I think, is Dando Shaft. Looks like they put out records around 70-73. One of my favorites for fall.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are but a name to me Bill. Must remedy that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Working for a city with a name not unlike Dando, seems a good enough reason to seek it out.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You’d be a ‘nong not to, DD!

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          1. …head nodding stuff.
            I also found it funny to find that the soundstage pitched the voice out off an Edwardian picnic scene print on the wall behind the stereo.

            Liked by 1 person

      2. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        I just sent you a reco for an album to check out.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Good picks there. Absolutely agree that Pentangle top the lot. And the mere mention of Sandy Denny always brings a lump to my throat. Her passing was tragically premature. Thumbs up, too, for Ralph McTell.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Out of this lot I like Lindisfane the most, but gotta check some of these as they are new to me. I would add Comus “The first utterance” as another interesting folky album from 1971 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Comus will indeed be making an appearance in the top 71 of 1971. 🤘

      Liked by 1 person

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