Sunbeam Rec. Clive Palmer 's Banjoland (UK,1967)***°'
This distinctive album by Clive Palmer was recorded some time after the first album with The Incredible String Band who was at that time a trio of Clive with Heron and Williamson. After this first album, Williamson headed for Morocco and Clive to India, bringing back perhaps the ideas which would lead to the revolutionary changes in folk music soon to be caused by The Incredible String Band. Clive was offered the opportunity to record this solo album. On this recording he showed his deep interest in digging further into tradition, from a very different origin of inspiration compared to Heron and Williamson who were heading to more, seemingly Indian flavoured, freer variations. Banjo in that time, and still mostly was know for its American traditions. Stimulated perhaps by Wizz Jones, who soon was going to form a duo with him, Clive seemed to try and succeeded in forming his own English expression. Listening to how he expresses this, it sounds much more in the vein of how Bert Jansch and John Renbourne in their early works and around the same time, started to define their own guitar styles. The new discipline he hereby explored was expressed the same way as a rough acid blues recording, which, in combination with his singing and deeply felt song inspiration makes it sound skilled and makes him almost like a genius amongst others. I have no idea if these ideas had its predecessors, because I heard little of such original early folk explorations, from before 1967, especially not from the UK. I guess that the Edwardian banjo tunes were a new, but successful formula. A few tracks are played with guitar, like “Stories of Jesus”, arranged with additional strings.
I can imagine how some ideas of this album lead to the Famous Jug Band, the band Clive had after this, and who recorded an album the next year. A part of the additional styles which were developed there and some other cooperations would lead after that to the legendary C.O.B. band. Before these new changes, Clive first tried to explore this “banjoland” to the limit. But it seemed that record companies simply didn’t see how the recorded album could be interesting to release. If there would have been an English Takoma label this could have become some kind of classic, but I guess this ‘new tradition’ simply was too new an idea, and I guess the time perspective was more focused on other new directions that already were unfolding. Clive formed shortly a duo with Wizz Jones trying to pursue this interest in banjo, but soon after a BBC radioshow session they quit after having the feeling they had shown already the best of what they had. The four bonus tracks were from that period.
Most of the traditional tracks, especially those two from the BBC session, are too much contrast against the deliberate simplicity, purity and exploring energy of the album, so I would have preferred them not to be on this album. “Old Maid’s song” perhaps still fits ok, but I think is also already of a different order.
Recently Clive Palmer played with Espers,..
Additional related info : The two C.O.B./Clive Original Band's albums are highly recommended and are classic, not to miss folk/psychfolk items (both ****°) (one of them is reviewed under this one). Also related to C.O.B. and also with banjo is The Famous Jug Band who released a very good album in 1969, and another, good folk album in 2001. My own, quick description of this new album you can read further down->