Various Let The Electric Children Play – The Underground Story... album review

Going underground

Cover art for Various Let The Electric Children Play – The Underground Story... album

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Following Island Records’ lead as an underground rock epicentre, Nat Joseph broadened the roster of Transatlantic, the label he had started to release folk and blues on in 1961, to mirror the changes happening in British music.

Leading his attack were Pentangle, whose self-titled 1968 debut album became one of the biggest influences on late-60s rock by introducing folk and jazz elements. This stellar band are represented by two tracks that are the most familiar items on three CDs constructed from the Transatlantic archives.

Alongside the better-known Stray and Jody Grind lurk a kaleidoscope of delights, including Sallyangie (featuring pre-Bells Mike Oldfield), Mel Collins’s Circus, prog-jazzers Marsupalami and CMU, the Dave Gilmour-mentored Unicorn, folk-rockers Gryphon, psych-proggers Jan Dukes deGrey, pre-Camel Peter Bardens, Lindisfarne’s Alan Hull, plus Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty as The Humblebums.

The set also shows how Transatlantic provided an outlet for London underground stalwarts Skin Alley and The Deviants, which led to Mick Farren’s anarchic Mona – The Carnivorous Circus being recorded with percussion nutters Twink and Steve Peregrine Took. It tops an engaging chronicle of a time when rules were there to be broken, musical or otherwise.

Kris Needs

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!