Monday, June 4, 2018

Review: 'Gathered from Coincidence: The British Folk Pop Sound of 1965-1966'

In 1963, The Beatles revolutionized pop with a distinctly English ear for melody and harmony and an uncompromised big beat yanked from the yanks. That same year Dylan rearranged the face of folk with a ragged edge that brought the sanitized harmonies of The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, & Mary to Earth and a surreal ways with words that kicked it back into the cosmos. As dissimilar as their styles were at the time, there was already some cross-pollination between folk and pop happening. As early as 1962, Dylan rocked up his hootenanny with the obscure “Mixed-Up Confusion”, and The Beatles’ debut single, “Love Me Do” was more folk than pop with its turgid beat, absence of electric six-strings, and wheezy harmonica. Once Dylan and The Beatles became aware of each other, such heavy petting was over and the marriage was officially consummated as Dylan’s influence loomed all over “I’ll Be Back” and much of Beatles for Sale and The Beatles’ beat inspired Dylan to plug in… though his stripped down, thumping sound was always more Stones than Beatles. It took The Byrds to pointedly fuse Dylan’s far-out poetry and The Beatles’ clean jingle-jangle, officially putting a face on the new folk-rock genre.

Between Mersey Beat-dominated ’64 and psychedelic ’67, folk-rock was the dominant pop style for young, white artists. Even such hardened souls as the Stones, Kinks, and Pretty Things got sucked into it. Appropriately, Grapefruit Records’ new triple-disc collection Gathered from Coincidence: The British Folk Pop Sound of 1965-1966 limits its scope to those two years, and while its reasonable to wonder if its location and period limitations result in a limited listening experience, they don’t.

Instead of just spotlighting songs that reflect The Byrds’ 12-string shimmer, Gathered from Coincidence presents a variety of sounds that fall within its narrow premise. There is electric jangle (Peter and Gordon’s “Morning’s Calling”, The Silkie’s “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, The Hollies’ “Very Last Day”) but also solo acoustic pieces (Donovan’s “Catch the Wind”), full-band acoustic rambles (The Kinks’ “Wait Til the Summer Comes Along”), heavy-beat rock (The Pretty Things’ “London Town”, Manfred Mann’s “If You Gotta Go, Go Now”), shades of distinctly British baroque pop (Marianne Faithfull’s “Come and Stay with Me”), bubblegum folk (Twinkle’s “Golden Lights”, Heinz’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”), elaborate productions that fly in the face of folk’s dogged simplicity (Murray Head’s “The Bells of Rhymney”, Justin Hayward’s “Day Must Come”), and some of the turgid, old-fashioned stuff that Rock & Roll mostly swept away (Ian Campbell Folk Group’s “The Times They Are-A Changin’”, First Gear’s “Gotta Make the Future Bright”).

As you probably sussed from the artist and song names, Gathered from Coincidence contains some big groups and a lot of Dylan covers. It also has some varying perspectives, as parodies such as Alan Klein’s “Age of Corruption” and Micha’s “Protest Singer” protest the protest singers, though neither are particularly listenable (however, John Cassidie’s “Talkin’ Denmark Street” is the uncanniest Dylan send up I’ve ever heard). Fortunately, such bum tracks are pretty rare and Gathered from Coincidence ends up a mostly consistent and varied collection of songs from the beginning of pop’s most fruitful period.
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