The first album by the trad folk duo of Tim Hart and Maddy Prior, Folk Songs of Olde England, Vol. 1, is as interesting for what came of it as for what it is. This album, recorded in 1968, led directly to the formation of Steeleye Span, whose early albums were an electrified variation on this album's traditional acoustic British folk-rock. It could also be argued that Hart and Prior's example was influential in Fairport Convention's decision to move from a California-style folk-rock sound into something more uniquely British. In light of what came after, Folk Songs of Olde England, Vol. 1 sounds a bit tentative and at times slightly twee (Prior's voice has not quite matured into the rich, expressive instrument it would soon become), but on their own merits, these sensitive renditions of traditional British folk favorites like "Maid That's Deep in Love" or "A Wager a Wager" are respectful of tradition but not bound to it, performed with an infectious enthusiasm quite similar to what the Young Tradition were doing around the same period.
Notwithstanding one or two isolated exceptions, it wasn’t until the mid-Sixties that independent female voices really began to be heard within the music industry. The feminist movement naturally coincided with the first signs of genuine musical emancipation. In North America, Joan Baez and Buffy Sainte-Marie emerged through the folk clubs, coffee-houses and college campuses to inspire a generation of wannabe female singers and musicians with their strong, independent mentality and social compassion, while the British scene’s combination of folk song revival and the Beatles-led pop explosion saw record company deals for a new generation of pop-folkies including Marianne Faithfull, Dana Gillespie and Vashti Bunyan.
This three-CD set documents some historic country-blues performances by the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, Bukka White, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Mance Lipscomb. The urban side of things is well represented by Lightnin’ Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, Muddy Waters with Otis Spann, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and The Chambers Brothers turning in a riveting rendition of “See See Rider.” Included here are 11 previously unreleased tracks. A must for acoustic-blues fans.
Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. of AMG wrote of the lager 8 disc set: Time-Life's The Folk Years is a massive survey of folk, pop-folk, and folk-rock from the 1950s and 1960s spread out over eight discs. At 15 songs per CD – equaling 120 total – this chronicle offers a healthy sampling of popular folk music covering dozens of known and forgotten singers and bands. The emphasis of the collection is on popular folk and popular music influenced by folk, meaning that most of the songs here charted. This emphasis also gives The Folk Years a broader appeal than the average folk revival compilation, making it as fun as it is educational.
Prior to the early Sixties, folk and pop musicians inhabited largely different worlds. There were folk records that had become crossover pop hits, but in essence there was little or no common ground in terms of instrumentation or ideologies. But in the wake of the British beat/R&B boom (or, if you were in America, the British Invasion) and the emergence of Bob Dylan, such barriers were broken down for good. With British acts making music that, for the first time in nascent pop history, matched the quality of their American counterparts, suddenly everything was grist to the mill and musical cross-pollination was almost de rigueur.