INCREDIBLE STRING BAND Ducks On A PondRecorded live at the Lowry Theatre in Salford in 2003, Ducks On A Pond was originally released as Everything’s Fine back in 2007 but, and it’s a very important but, this edition is expanded with a DVD containing all nineteen tracks and an interview with the band.

The line-up was Mike Heron, Clive Palmer, Lawson Dando and Claire Smith, better known as Fluff. An Incredible String Band without Robin Williamson is a strange concept and the repertoire concentrates on Mike’s material and everything that Clive wrote for the group. There is a Williamson song in each half with Clive taking the opening lead vocal on the title track and Fluff and Lawson singing ‘The Water Song’. As Mike points out, the band is delving into ancient history and at the time both he and Clive were close to drawing their pensions. So the opening ‘Everything’s Fine Right Now’ comes as a bit of a shock if you’re expecting the lightness and jollity of the original. There is a bit of a struggle to get up to speed but they do so pretty quickly and by the time we get to ‘Maker Of Islands’ everything is going nicely. I don’t like everything on the album. ‘This Moment’ was originally a delicate, precisely arranged little song but here Mike drags everything he can out of it. He’s clearly enjoying himself and it’s his song so why not.

I’m not overly fond of concert videos – I don’t engage with recorded music that way – but the DVD is the best element here. The reason is simple: the CDs are lightly edited which I prefer; there is nothing so artificial as a live album with all the interplay removed. The downside is that it sounds rather loose: long-standing fans can be heard muttering “’twas ever thus”. Add the pictures and all the swapping of instruments and necessary tuning becomes part of the experience and the odd noises don’t grate. The interview with Mike and Clive is fascinating but it does deny rumours of personal differences and no-one who witnessed the final performances of the previous line-up with Robin and Bina Williamson believes that everything was a bed of roses within the group. The history of the songs, particularly the story behind ‘Douglas Traherne Harding’, makes this set an essential purchase for ISB fans.

Dai Jeffries

Label website:

‘Chinese White’ from the DVD:

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