“The Pogues were actually from London but there was never any denying the Irish blood in their veins. Not to mention Guinness, Jamesons, all manner of other substances, particularly front man, Shane McGowan. But they made it all work, found the raw punk heart of all those jigs and reels and shanties and faerie stories, set them on fire and unleashed an Irish folk revival that none us realized we needed until we heard it and then f*** yeah! How had we ever lived without it?” (Philip Random)
“Fred Frith being one of those geniuses who pretty much always let his playing do the talking, Gravity being an album that dates back to 1980, but it was deep into the 1990s before I gave it a proper listen. Music that stood the test, no doubt about that. Or more to the point, music that had confidently showed the way to the cool future we were then having. Rock and jazz and folk and all manner of exotic elements all humming along very nicely together, not world music per say, but what the world actually sounded like, with Hands of the Juggler a delirious standout, particularly once it shifts gears around the three-minute point.” (Philip Random)
“I never much bought into all the death cult stuff, the young artists who were just too pure for the world, or whatever. I guess I feel it’s the living we should focus on, the ones still dealing with it (whatever it even is) rolling with it, not ending it, intentionally or otherwise. Or as a stoned friend once put it of Jimi Hendrix, I prefer the stuff he did before he died. Which gets us to the only Nick Drake selection on this list, the only one I heard before I had any idea of why he was so damned important. True he was already long dead when I first stumbled upon Northern Sky via the Great Antilles Sampler (the 1980s sometime), but I didn’t know that. I just liked the song and it how it served the album’s overall eclectic flow – from folk to pop to free jazz to full-on experimental avant-everything. Music worth living for, goddamit.” (Philip Random)
“John Martyn generally gets defined as a folkie or a singer-songwriter in the history books, but something must’ve got slipped into his tea here (and a few other places), and the universe has forever expanded because of it. Seriously, Outside In (from 1973’s Inside Out) is the kind of zone I could inhabit forever. Endlessly spaced out, yet soulful as well, like nature itself, always in flux, forever mutable, yet working an infinite groove.” (Philip Random)
If I Should Fall From Grace With God is the album where the Pogues made it clear that they were more than just a rowdy bunch of ex-punks who’d figured their parents folk music went well copious amounts of alcohol and drugs. Nah, they were worldbeaters now, with a raw handle on their roots-based instrumentation that let them go pretty much anywhere they cared, slay any dragon. Only the aforementioned drugs and alcohol could stop them now, which they did. Sort of.
The Strawbs started out as a folk band in the 1960s, but somewhere along the line, things started getting so-called progressive, which Rick Wakeman‘s stint on keyboards only accentuated. But even after Yes scooped him up, the Strawbs continued with the progressing and expanding, and nowhere so seriously, intensely, psychedelically as The Life Auction, found on 1975’s Ghosts. It’s tea time, the middle of England somewhere (or maybe just some drab Canadian suburb) and the acid you dropped an hour or so back is finally kicking in hard, the truth about everything revealed in the polluted haze of another diluted day.
“I knew nothing about Lindisfarne other than the fact that they were on Charisma, the same label that Genesis got started on. Which is why my friend Carl’s big brother bought Lindisfarne Live. He figured any album with that Mad Hatter graphic in the middle couldn’t be bad. He listened to it once, and (not being into ‘folk shit’) gave it to Carl, who didn’t think much of it himself, so it ended up with me, buried in the deep end of my collection, barely listened to for at least a decade before I dragged it out one sloppy, stoned 1980s evening, and holy shit, it was fun, it had edge, it had drunken British hippie folkies taking wets on the wall. Radical shit.” (Philip Random)
Jethro Tull main man Ian Anderson was nothing if not level-headed come 1978. While many of his fellow formerly cool rock star types were scrambling (often pathetically) in attempts to reinvent themselves as somehow edgy and relevant in the face of punk rock etc, he just told it like it was — that he was more concerned about his farm up in Scotland than the state of the zeitgeist, the big horses in particular. The album in question may have seemed a throwback at the time, but over time, its mix of folk and rock elements has come to feel more timeless than anything.
“The Pogues were exactly what the mid 1980s needed. The original London punks had finally blown all their fuses, with the Clash’s inglorious meltdown being the most recent notable calamity. Enter a bunch of guys (and sometimes a girl) with way too much Irish blood in their veins, grabbing their parents old instruments off the wall (and a few of their tunes), and thrashing away like it truly f***ing meant something, which in the case of The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, it did. Because as the wise woman said, the universal soldier, he really is to blame.” (Philip Random)