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Becoming Elektra - Mick Houghton book review

Definitive tome on groundbreaking US record label gets facelift

In the early 1960s, when old school record companies ruled and Harvest and Vertigo were still years away, Elektra was the coolest label on the planet. Started by Jac Holzman in 1950 to release folk and world music, it tapped into the rapidly-evolving counterculture revolution, releasing 60s folk artists such as Fred Neil and Judy Collins then seminal bands such as Love and the Doors.

Elektra became so cool that anything it released was worth hearing, giving it a pivotal role in the burgeoning prog rock movement as British musicians realised they could set their sights higher and wider after hearing the extended improvisations on the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s East West or epic baroque textures of Tim Buckley’s Goodbye And Hello. Elektra provided a natural outlet for Britain’s Incredible String Band. When first published in 2010, Mick Houghton’s Becoming Elektra redefined chronicling historic music, covering every aspect of the label’s pioneering story in forensic detail with Holzman’s input. Now it’s back with a 2016 foreword from Doors drummer John Densmore, new interviews including John Renbourn, Joe Boyd, Gerry Conway and Bernie Krause, plus sections about Elektra’s UK presence and 23 esoteric lesser-known albums that missed the first edition. Beautiful and absolutely vital.