What a weird time its must have been for England in 1974. It was during this year that the IRA started to launch an all-out offensive to rid Northern Ireland from England’s grasp, rampant energy blackouts forced the reintroduction of Three-Day Weeks to conserve electricity, Monty Python was ending, and the government itself was having trouble even convening to vote in a Prime Minister going through the a Hung Parliament for most of the year with hardly anyone controlling the flow of ministry. Something about this tumult, started to infiltrate into the musical world. I can see why some of the most important releases then, and in musical history, were products of such time. King Crimson’s Red, Brian Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets/Taking Tiger By the Mountain, Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom, Renaissance’s Turn of the Cards, and many more all had a certain toiled over blood, sweat, and tears vibration. England was never going to be the same spiritually, or musically, after this period of unwelcome gravity.

adieu

Neo-folk itself was transforming, it had to. In a way that you’ll see in the near future, but in a way, that Shirley Collins’ last great traditional-style album Adieu to Old England signaled. Lean times, in all aspects, called for rethinking of ways to evoke certain comforts and things of the past. Teaming up again with her sister Dolly Collins, and letting her husband Ashley Hutchings produce (much like in the earlier Albion Band release), she released another very minor-masterpiece of a forgotten album that harkened to a folk past other groups were now swiftly abandoning for a modern style. Employing all sorts of period instruments like melodeon, autoharps, flute-organs and more, her new release sounded like a ghostly apparition haunting new times. There’s a lot to be said for what the words in this traditional round conjure, but the melody laid so bare, ambient, and spectral will be fleshed out in different ways by modern instruments in the near future. Adieu to Old England for sure, but hello to a new one tomorrow…

Listen to Adieu to Old England at YouTube.

Bonus track, the oh, so archaic yet timeless reflective piece “One Night As I Lay On My Bed”, from the same album: