ELECTRIC EDEN

UNEARTHING BRITAIN'S VISIONARY MUSIC

A dense, brilliant charting of England’s folk-music tradition and its multiplicity of modern mutations.

The Wire editor at large Young brings considerable acumen to bear in this ambitious critical history. Beginning with cult siren Vashti Bunyan’s quixotic 1971 journey across the countryside in a horse-drawn wagon, the writer explores a “silver chain” of impulses—pastoral, utopian, pagan—running through the indigenous music of the British Isles. Beginning in the late 19th century at the doorstep of writer-artist William Morris, the author probes the pioneering work of such song collectors as Ralph Vaughan Williams and Cecil Sharp. Moving into the age of recorded music, he celebrates key figures in the 1950s folk boom like A.L. Lloyd and Ewan MacColl. The meat of the narrative takes in the ’60s, when England’s folk clubs spawned seminal performers like guitarist Davy Graham, vocalist Shirley Collins and family harmony group The Watersons, who in turn inspired the great folk-rock acts of the era. Young focuses on the major names—Fairport Convention, Pentangle, the Incredible String Band, Nick Drake, John Martyn, Steeleye Span—but he doesn’t ignore dozens of lesser-known performers in tune with the Arcadian muse. After a look at the waning of folk-rock, which coincided with the late-’70s ascent of Thatcherism, Young surveys the works of such latter-day inheritors as Kate Bush, David Sylvian, Julian Cope and Mark Hollis’ Talk Talk. It’s impossible to completely convey the sweep and detail of the author’s work, which reflects a deep knowledge of congruent works in English literature, film and visual arts. He logs the connections between the folk boom and parallel developments in Early Music and world music, and doesn’t ignore its tangential connections with genres like heavy metal. He ties the movement to the English landscape itself in a compelling chapter on festivals that culminates in Glastonbury’s 1971 debut. While the book is massive, it never bogs down in pedantry, and Young’s lyrical, good-humored, bracingly intelligent narrative voice keeps the story moving at a brisk pace. A breathtakingly accomplished, entertaining and illuminating epic.

 

Pub Date: May 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-86547-856-5

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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