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In Search of the English Folk Song / Ken Russell, Fairport Convention, Osibisa, Percy Grainger Chamber Orchestra

Various Artists , Ken Russell  |  NR |  DVD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Various Artists
  • Directors: Ken Russell
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, German
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: KULTUR VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: January 29, 2008
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000YKYT58
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,981 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews


Color me naive, but when I looked at the specs of this 1997 British television special, I, well, naively assumed it would be a scholarly treatise on the origins and development of the English folksong. What I failed to realize was the import of the first two words of the title: Ken Russell. The legendary British director, known for his visual excesses and borderline surrealism, is not one to calmly examine anything, and that joie de vivre and frankly anarchistic bent is well on display in this unconventional (to say the least), though highly entertaining, romp.

You know you're not in traditional documentary fare when the first shot of the video is a closeup into the recesses of Russell's nasal cavities, replete with quite a bit of hair. Russell, looking quite a bit like Andy Rooney's daffy English cousin, then begins playing an old Percy Grainger LP for his dog, which then sets him out on a quest to discover the English folksong.

What this video really provides is an excellent demonstration of how the folk sensibility and tradition now informs a whole new generation of styles and genres. Russell's first encounter is with the proto-punk stylings of a band called So What, thrashing about wildly on a tune called Kick It; which is hardly redolent of Kiri te Kanawa or Jean Redpath singing songs from the distant past of the British Isles. Russell then goes on to discover some frankly hilarious proponents of this new folk (including a British fan of American Indians, who has written a yet to be discovered classic entitled Gonna Put a Bar in My Car and Drive Myself to Drink. Along the way, Russell does indeed come across those who probably would fit in more comfortably with most people's notions of the folksong, notably Bob Appleyard, who records his own material in his bedroom, the folk renaissance stalwarts Fairport Convention, and Mr. Mellow Yellow himself, Donovan. There are also some fairly tangential relationships, as with the largely African and Caribbean band Osibisa.

For those who think of Grainger, Vaughan Williams, Elgar and their ilk when considering English folksong, Russell's inventive and sometimes provocative thesis may well be something of a jolt, but it is all presented with such disarming humor that it's hard to be offended by this broadening definition of what constitutes this particular genre. --DVD

Product Description

Ken Russell's knowledge of English folk music is rooted in music written by some of his favorite composers. The melodies of Ralph Vaughn Williams, Percy Grainger and Frederick Delius all owe a debt to the folk tradition. And recently, after decades of suppressed existence in the form of re-imported Country and Western, the New Age has brought a renaissance to the folk culture of England. The nation's authentic music is once again making its mark in a more eco-conscious and irreverent generation. Russell's turns out to be a mystic journey: from a village in the New Forest, Hampshire, to Fairport Convention's festival at Cropredy and on to Glastonbury, taking in a colorful collection of musicians and enthusiasts in an attempt to extract the essence of England's music from its more popular fusion with the spirit of the Celtic and New Worlds.

Brigg Fair - Siân-Elizabeth Rees
Kick It: So What
Gonna Put a Bar in My Old Car: Gary Fenna
The Fawley Flame: Bob Appleyard
Down at Greenham on a Spree: Lynne Fortt
The King of Rome: June Tabor
Seventeen Come Sunday: Fairport Convention
Sunshine Day: Osibisa
Good Morning, Mr Walker: Eliza Carthy
Young Man Cut Down in his Prime: Chris While with The Albion Band
Stars in my Crown: Waterson Carthy
Nirvana: Donovan
Shepherd s Hey: Edward II
English Country Garden: The Percy Grainger Chamber Orchestra, Conducted by Joe Conway

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Ken Russell's stomp through rural England in the search for the archetypal folksong is bright and fun, but chatting politely about pigeons with June Tabor, or picking daisies with the lefty ladies of Greenham Common does not an overblown, self-indulgent, black comedy make - so anyone with pre-set ideas of the elderly 'enfant' need to be wary about this outing.

Regardless, Russell digs deep in his quest: from Fairport Convention's tangible rock frisson at a huge festival, to a gang of janners cawing away in a churchyard, he applies equally impressive honesty; he is lucid and keen, and far too eccentric to EVER be considered a cliché.
His subjects on the other hand are certainly of a type: cider imbibing, dungaree sporting, flute toting soap dodgers to a man. This type of anti-fashion is resolutely uniform in every sense; as decisively conservative as the obligatory shots of bonnie country lasses in muddy fields, and the fibrous yokel accents of people whose fathers were in the Hussars. The whole environment appears socially mechanical, it's only the warmth and sheer psychotic enthusiasm of Russell that prevents a fair percentage of them disappearing down the Ouse...

There's Barry Lowe, a big beardie given to writing 3 songs a week about American Indians (he hates Custer and claims the Sioux have adopted him!) and has penned such immediate anthems as 'You Don't Need to be in the Ku Klux Klan to be a Wizard Under the Sheets' and 'I'm Gonna Put a Bar in My Old Car, and Drive Myself to Drink'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must see for folk music and Ken Russell fans alike! November 25, 2011
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Very wonderfully talented and light hearted look at folk music in the UK. Ken Russell steps away from his Gothic, Sci Fi and high art personas to get right in the pub with his friends and neighbours and on the road travelling all about the UK. This was originally shot for UK's Channel 4 so this is not a feature film documentary though Ken's camera work is of course top notch, light and crisp. Ken is such a great biographer and chronicler of artists both centuries renowned and totally unknown that he opens up new worlds for anyone who watches. So many highlights In Search of the English Folk Song but I especially loved So What doing "Kick It" in Ken's local pub, the sensual and wild Native American enthusiast/singer song-writer Barry Lowe who is known as "the Oliver Reed of Grosewood Films" Ken's production company and Osibisa. Will make a great gift for any singer/musician of folk, classical, jazz or world.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I have always enjoyed Ken Russells films, but only recently have I been able to listen to the man talk about the things he loves in life, or his opinions of film via his commentaries. So when I saw he had made a special on English folk music, something he loved, I knew I had to see this. The film is far beyond my expectations. Taking a fun look, almost like a childerens show but with a witty edge for adults, at the current state of English folk music.

Ken travels around his neighborhoods and near by villages, interviewing local musicians to learn what has evolved from traditional folk music. As his quest continues, he meets up with the likes of June Tabor, and even Donovan (the pop singer from the 60's) and many others. Ranging from private performances, to music festivals, we see many enetertaining songs ranging from simple to political to popular, to controversial.

A great movie, and proof that Mr. Russell should do more films such as this!
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ego and waist January 15, 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
some really fine musicain and music but full of ken russell head trips and silly comments. Could have been a great dvd if the music was allowed to be the dominating factor instead of Russell's ego.
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