The Incredible String Band | Artist
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The Incredible String Band was a British psychedelic folk band formed 1966 in Edinburgh, Scotland, by Clive Palmer, Robin Williamson and Mike Heron. Palmer and Williamson had worked as a folk duo for several years before taking on third member Heron, under the mentorship of influential producer and Head of Elektra Records UK, Joe Boyd. Following Palmer's early departure, Williamson and Heron performed as a duo, later augmented by other musicians, including Christina 'Licorice' McKechnie, Rose Simpson and Malcolm Le Maistre. The band split in 1974, then reformed in 1999 and continued to perform with changing lineups until 2006. Defining characteristics of the band's sound were the experimental treatment given to traditional folk sounds by songwriters Williamson and Heron, and the bewildering array of traditional and non-traditional stringed, wind, keyboard and percussion instruments played by each member. They became pioneers in psychedelic folk and, through integrating a wide variety of traditional music forms and instruments, in the development of world music. By early 1967, the group performed regularly at London clubs, including Les Cousins. Joe Boyd became the group's manager as well as producer and secured a place for them at the Newport Folk Festival on a bill with Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. But their brush with fame came when they were invited by Michael Lang to play at Woodstock, where they performed a short set on August 16th 1969, slotted between heavy rockers Keef Hartley Band and Canned Heat. Their performance, on a day that featured mainly hard rock acts, didn't overly impress the massive audience. Also they were not included in the filming of the festival. Over their career, ISB released 13 studio albums, including The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion (1967) and The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (1968) which are generally held to be their best albums. Other standouts include The Big Huge and Wee Tam (also released as a double album compilation) from 1968, plus the excellent Liquid Acrobat as Regards the Air, from 1972. Also recommended is Live at the Fillmore 1968, plus the 2007 archival compilation Across the Airwaves: BBC Radio Recordings 1969-1974. Palmer, Williamson and Heron have also each released many solo albums and collaborations. Out of interest, In 1994 Rose Simpson, former member of the band, became Lady Mayoress of Aberystwyth, Wales. Also, in 2003 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who had previously chosen ISB's "The Hedgehog's Song" when he appeared on Desert Island Discs, wrote the foreword for a full-length book about the band, describing them as "holy".
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