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CD Review: Clive Palmer, All Roads Lead to Land

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This creaky solo effort from the Incredible String Band‘s longtime banjo player only hints at the accomplishments of the British folk revival. The songs are mostly forgettable and the singing is, well, not good.

It’s true that great singing was never ISB’s strong point, but the band projected an everyperson sincerity and enthusiasm that made you feel you were sitting in a comfortable living room by a fire singing good songs with good friends. Folk (and even outsider music) vocals can be affectless or amateurish and still convey deep feeling, but Palmer, here, just sounds weary and emotionally flat.

The members of ISB could (and can – see their recent reunion release, Just Like the Ivy) – really play. The flowing quality of their instrumental interplay was always a big part of their appeal, with Palmer, an acknowledged master of the banjo, a major element in that chemistry. But here, even his banjo playing (front and center on most of these tracks) is often dull and non-evocative, unable to carry the weight it’s asked to bear. And when other instruments provide atmospherics, as in “Paris,” the vocals can’t match the musicality of the instrumental fills and solos.

“Breizh” is an interesting, wordless chant – from Brittany, I assume – accompanied only by pipes. I also rather liked “Linden Lea,” a William Barnes poem set to a tune by Ralph Vaughan Williams, while the banjo solo “Dans La Campagne” is a good example of Palmer’s tasteful, light touch on the instrument. But except for a few such spots, the parts don’t add up to a very satisfying musical experience. Much better to hear this well-respected musician in his element: with the Incredible String Band.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. He writes the blog Park Odyssey, for which he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City—over a thousand of them. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. By night he's a working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.
  • http://www.templestark.com/blog Temple A. Stark

    Jon

    I’m intruding here to let you know I posted your review of this to the Advance.net Web site.

    I’m the new music review editor guy at Blogcritics.

    The review can be found at a few different places on the Advance network around the country, but here’s one of them.

    http://www.cleveland.com/newslogs/musicreviews/

    It’s on the front page right now but that will change as I catch up and add more reviews. Then you can find it by hitting the archive on that link for 11/04.

    – Temple Stark
    http://www.templestark.com/blog

  • Jon Wright

    Jon, I agree with your review of this fairly unremarkable record but would draw your attention to the truly astonishing Moshe McStiff and Spirit of Love recordings made by C.O.B. He may have been a founder of I.S.B (no shortage of acronyms in his career is there), but he found his playing and voice across both these records and they are the undiscovered masterpieces of his entire career. In my humble opinion.

    Yours,

    Jon Wright
    Record Collector Magazine
    UK

  • Clive

    No-one’ll ever read this but this reviewer knows / knew nothing. Clive was never in the ISB on record, except 3 tracks, 2 of which instru. only, on the first one, then went his way.
    Longtime banjoist? Listen to the ISB? You’ve not even listened to them! Do your research or why even bother posting.

  • Jan Zarebski

    What on earth is this chap Sobel talking about? – total unsubstatiated drivel. Doesn’t take much to find out that Clive was barely in ISB and certeinyl was not their long-time banjoist – laughable.

  • jeffb1973

    Clive is a hero. Get it right.