Electric Eden by Rob Young
Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music

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Synopsis

A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction of 2011 title

In the late 1960s, with popular culture hurtling forward on the sounds of rock music, some brave musicians looked back instead, trying to recover the lost treasures of English roots music and update them for the new age. The records of Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Steeleye Span, and Nick Drake are known as “folk rock” today, but Rob Young’s epic, electrifying book makes clear that those musicians led a decades-long quest to recover English music—and with it, the ancient ardor for mysticism and paganism, for craftsmanship and communal living.

It is a commonplace that rock and R&B came out of the folk and blues revivals of the early 1960s, and Young shows, through enchanting storytelling and brilliant commentary, that a similar revival in England inspired the Beatles and Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Traffic, Kate Bush and Talk Talk. Folklorists notated old songs and dances. Marxists put folk music forward as the true voice of the people. Composers like Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams devised rich neo-traditional pageantry. Today, the pioneers of the “acid folk” movement see this music as a model for their own.

Electric Eden is that rare book which has something truly new to say about popular music, and like Greil Marcus’s Lipstick Traces, it uses music to connect the dots in a thrilling story of art and society, of tradition and wild, idiosyncratic creativity.


 

About Rob Young

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Rob Young has worked at Wire magazine since 1993, including five years as editor. He is the author of Rough Trade and Warp, and the editor of Undercurrents: The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music and The Wire Primers: A Guide to Modern Music. He has contributed to publications including Uncut, the Guardian, Sight and Sound, Frieze and Art Review. He lives in London.
 
Published May 10, 2011 by Faber & Faber. 672 pages
Genres: History, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Electric Eden

Kirkus Reviews

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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.

Mar 02 2011 | Read Full Review of Electric Eden: Unearthing Bri...

The New York Times

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Fairport Convention is the group that contemporary listeners can derive the most enjoyment from, thanks to both Thompson, whose lacerating guitar work and bleak songwriting are still potent today, and the doomed Denny, whose dulcet yet weary voice had the authority to embody some of England’s gho...

Jun 03 2011 | Read Full Review of Electric Eden: Unearthing Bri...

The New York Times

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The brilliant and largely forgotten critic Seymour Krim (1922-1989) grew up, as have so many American readers, worshiping those writers who captured what he called “the unofficial seamy side of American life.” The excitable Krim put it this way: “I dreamed Southern accents, Okies, bourbon-and-bra...

May 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Electric Eden: Unearthing Bri...

AV Club

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That sentiment underpins Rob Young’s Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music, a chronicle of British folk that offers a sprawling alternate view of pop music in the ’60s and ’70s—decades better known for the amplified innovations of The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, S...

Jun 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Electric Eden: Unearthing Bri...

Publishers Weekly

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In this massive, beguiling history of 20th-century British folk music and its legacy, music journalist Young surveys the scene from the Edwardian revival through its postwar coffee-house heyday to contemporary outcroppings.

Feb 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Electric Eden: Unearthing Bri...

Scotsman.com

Young persuasively draws together the strands of the early English folk revival and its cultural context, with Cecil Sharp, Holst, Vaughan Williams and their ilk debating William Morris's vision and the later revivalists of the 1960s and early 1970s inclining to the pastoral while Ewan MacColl ra...

Jul 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Electric Eden: Unearthing Bri...

The New Yorker

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Jul 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Electric Eden: Unearthing Bri...

Austin Chronicle

Young establishes a compelling pattern of "the inward exodus, with musicians in pursuit of rural tranquility" – evidenced by artists ranging from the McCartneys at Kintyre to Donovan on Skye island – and the ongoing influence of and fascination with American roots music.

Jul 15 2011 | Read Full Review of Electric Eden: Unearthing Bri...

Book Forum

There are countless books on the history of British music in the '50s, '60s, and '70s.

May 19 2011 | Read Full Review of Electric Eden: Unearthing Bri...

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