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

DVD

3.4 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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(Jan 29, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

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

Review

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 Talk.com


Special features

None.

Product details

  • Actors: Various Artists
  • Directors: Ken Russell
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • 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: 3.4 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B000YKYT58
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,595 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
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