This 80 minute DVD vividly encapsulates the intensity of The Incredible String Band in the late 1960's. Live sequences show the band at the height of their powers, casting a spell on the audiences with their unique blend ... more »of theatrical and musical metaphy« less
"I've been a fan - make that a devotee - of the Incredible String Band since I first heard their music in the late 1960s. I've heard about this film since the 70s, when it was made - I only saw it for the first time last night, thanks to its recent release on dvd, and what a gift it is. Director Peter Neal used exactly the right approach in presenting the ISB on film - as he mentions in the interview included on this disc, he went into the project without a `plan', realsing that any attempt to control the film in the usual sense would doom it to utter failure. The ISB was much too eclectic and unique an ensemble - employing conventional methods would never work. Instead, he allowed the music and the band members' personalities to speak for themselves - and the results are stunningly successful (if a bit too short for the long-whetted appetites of their many fans, many of whom have waited 30 years to see this documentary).The film includes the `obligatory' concert footage - and it's amazingly successful, considering the restraints imposed by the limited budget and the restrictions of the concert hall itself. Neal and his crew were only allowed to use two cameras. Fortunately (in this situation) only Robin and Mike were performing on this evening, and the camera operators skillfully made the best of their tools - the results are wonderful. Seeing Robin playing harmonica and tinwhistle simultaneously on `Mercy I cry city' was priceless. The concert footage also includes a long poetry reading by Robin and Mike - wearing some great homemade masks as `Noah' and `The dove'. This is a great taste of the incredible (and I'll try to make that the ONLY use of that word NOT in caps here...!) scope of the ISB's performance art - they were NEVER `simply' about music. Elements of sound, poetry, theatre, dance and myth intermingle effortlessly and naturally.There are also songs included that were filmed in Sound Techniques Studio (the ISB's indoor `home' for recording their art), engineered by John Wood. Likki and Rose join Mike and Robin for these selections, and the sound as well as the visuals are as near perfect as could be attained. I particularly enjoyed seeing the band perform `The iron stone' from their WEE TAM/THE BIG HUGE album. The more `controlled' atmosphere of the studio allows the musical aspect of their art to shine. There is no overdubbing apparent on these selections - the four musicians perform the songs in `real time', allowing the viewer to see how all of the elements are combined to form the whole.There are a couple of short `interview' segments - the longest being a session with Mike at his home in Edinburgh with a reporter from NEWSWEEK. The reporter does a nice job - the questions he poses are thoughtful (if a bit predictable) - but it's Mike's answers that are brilliantly simple, and thus so very illuminating.One of the brightest treats of the film is the last half, comprised of a fable created by the ISB - complete with homemade costumes and props - entitled `The pirate and the crystal ball'. Robin, Mike, Licorice and Rose take part, of course, along with many friends and neighbors - including Malcolm LeMaistre, a member of the dance troupe Stone Monkey who collaborated with the ISB on their stage presentation and recording of `U'. Malcolm became a full-fledged member of the ISB later, after the departure of Rose.As I mentioned above, the dvd also includes an interview with Peter Neal, in which he discusses his attraction to the music of the ISB, his approach to the film, and their approach to their music. He also delves into why they were not more `commercially accepted' at the time - and why their appeal has been so long-lived and timeless.It's a true gift that the film is now available again - and in such a `viewable' form. The notes on the dvd state that `each frame (has been) cleaned and enhanced'. The results - both audio and video - are great, making this an essential addition to the collection of any ISB fan. The ISB's combining of music (instruments from all over the globe), theatre, spirituality, myth and magic is as unique today as it was when this document was made, over 30 years ago.HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION."
Where are the reviews?
catfan | Saudi Arabia | 03/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I remember the first time I was introduced to the music of The String Band in the summer of '69 up in the Rocky Mts of Canada. At that time, I admired the Incredibles' interest in folk/ethnic musicology as I had also begun listening to Albanian, Bosnian, Romanian, Turkish, Iranian and Indian folk recordings at my university's record library. Now, after all these years, I have finally got to see Robin and Mike, Licorise and Rose on film. As the first reviewer of this historic DVD has mentioned, seeing Robin in action on "Mercy I Cry City" is alone worth the price of this DVD. I also agree that after viewing this film, one wishes that it could have been much longer. But,the one full length studio version of "The Iron Stone" included on this DVD is proof enough of how magical and innovative this group really was. Since the late 1960s, has any artist even come close to approximating the extraordinary versatilty and ingenuity of Robin and Mike? What a sad bunch are today's "musicians" whose rap-artistry pales in comparison to the Incredibles' enormous talent and musicianship. For anyone who remembers the Incredibles with fondness from their youth, this short documentary alone will not disappoint. I would also like to recommend Adrian Whittaker's excellent book (available from Amazon.com)"beGlad - An Incredible String Band Compendium" to those reading this. Finally, I am surprised that no other String Band fans have written reviews of this DVD. Where are ya mates?"
Filmmaker, Worldchanger | Amherst, MA | 03/09/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"As a long time ISB fan, I looked forward to this DVD in hope of recapturing the ISB glory days. But while this disk has a couple of good performances, much of the disk is devoted to a silly high-schoolish skit/movie that captures the playfulness of the time, but not the true magic.
Also the film says its 80 minutes, but this includes a half hour, longwinded review with the director who explains that this didn't make the cut with BBC, even though they paid for it.
All in all, there's maybe 10 to 15 minutes of quality concert footage and the rest is a kind of avant garde digression. "
See The Incredible String Band
Bruce P. Barten | Saint Paul, MN United States | 02/17/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm amazed that I did not find this by looking for a DVD by the Incredible String Band. The individuals certainly appear in the film, but the basic idea is that they spontaneously perform as the Incredible String Band whenever they give a concert. The fable at the end, which starts when someone has a wood play pirate sword and the music in the background has hardly any words, includes some people who might not be at most of their concerts, but they probably ehjoy the Incredible String Band or they wouldn't all be on the same wavelength. I bought this DVD in 2006 and vaguely remembered that it had some of the group's songs: "Mercy I Cry City," "Air," and "The Iron Stone." Robin plays the end of "Mercy I Cry City" with a whistle in one hand and a harmonica in the other hand, which would be called flexibility in the jobs I've had. I'm not sure of the title for a song that sounds like "Ha." A sitar is shown during the song "The Iron Stone," which is introduced by Robin saying that a song could be based on a fantasy, a dream, or about suddenly understanding something.
The beginning is a combination of the ARK story, word association, a list of instruments, "and then some," their solution to "this evolution problem," and finally has singing about "to give a little schoolboy his first love" and "oh those goodtime girls" which seem to be part of a title song, "Be Glad for the song has no ending."
Peter Neal directed and provides an interview about trying to get it on the BBC's Omnibus arts program. The photography often provides a picture of just two faces, a single face, and during the song "The Iron Stone," gradually gets close enough to show a single eye."
Earth, water, fire and air
J. Panettiere | trumbull ct usa | 12/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The 20 minute fable, "the Pirate and the Crystal Ball" is worth the asking price alone for this DVD. I literally watched it about 10 times within the first few days of seeing the film. The fable is so comically enchanting and absurdly spiritual. The music in the fable, which I had yet to hear before the film is the ISB at their instrumental and compositional best. The music fits each scene perfectly, despite being incredibly varied in terms of instrumenation and styles. There is a timeless beauty to this fable that reminds me of something I might have seen as a kid, yet also of nothing I've ever seen before. As for the rest of the dvd, the interviews with Robin and Mike make you appreciate their art all the more. The poetry reading is second to none and the performances of "Iron Stone" and "All Writ Down" are superb. The only changes I would like to see are more of their live performances. Despite their brush with commercial success, their is little to no documentary footage of them playing live and to have more of that would be delightful. Nonetheless, anyone who is reading this must be a String Band fan, and if so, this is a crucial element of their art that would be unfortunate to miss."