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MICHAEL RAVEN & JOAN MILLS WITH SAGA – THE JOLLY MACHINE LP

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MICHAEL RAVEN & JOAN MILLS WITH SAGA – THE JOLLY MACHINE (Folk Heritage UK 1974) M-/Ex-
slight corner bend  This bands other LPs goes for high 4 figures but this one can still be had fairly cheaply still because it’s really unkown. Here’s some interesting observations on this album by the dearly missed Patrick “The Lama” Lundborg (The Acid Archives etc ): ”Subtitled “Songs of industrial protest and social discontent from the West Midlands”, this ain’t your average joss stick hippiefolk trip. In fact, I haven’t encountered a single LP that takes the original folk music credo in such a literal manner. After years of hanging out with Shide & Acorn and Vasthi Bunyan it’s easy to forget that this was music originally born out of despair, as one of the few forms of expression available for people at the bottom of a strictly stratified society.

 Hope, humor and joy are given room in a few songs, but comes off more like a wild Friday night drinking binge squeezed in between workweeks of grinding oppression. The music is perfect; flawless adaptations of trad melodies along with a few equally flawless compositions by Raven, Mills and/or support band Saga. Most of it is moody, minor chord acoustic contemporary with guitars, violin, harmonium and occasional percussion; the few merry footstompers are appropriate for their subject matter. One may be inclined to compare it to Peelers or Green Man but this album is clearly superior. Apart from the lyrical and topical strength, the main reason for this is Joan Mills’ marvellous voice, which seems to carry the lament of thousands of working class women. I don’t know if this suffering timbre is her natural style, but in any event it’s a match made in heaven for our particular album. This is the best UK folk LP I have heard for some time. There aren’t many albums from which one could learn, in a literary sense, and still enjoy.

Michael Raven is one of the big names in the resurrected British folk scene. He collaborated with Ms Mills on several, and judging by the results on “The Jolly Machine” these are works that need more exposure”.