search for the holy grail: episode 4

Posted by Whitmore, November 11, 2007 11:32am | Post a Comment

A particularly rare and much sought after EP from Anne Briggs, The Hazards of Love from 1963 on Topic Records, draws a pretty penny these days on Ebay and other auction sites. Though she never sold a vast number of albums, Briggs was a leading figure on the English folk music revival of the mid 1960’s. First gaining prominence as a traditional a cappella singer, (“The Hazards of Love” has just one song complemented by any instrument, a bouzouki), by the late sixties Briggs would add a bit of instrumentation to her recordings but more significantly she would also include some of her own compositions. Her musical legacy is significant; it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say she was the defining voice of the era, influencing virtually every folk singer from June Tabor, to Sandy Denny, Jacqui Mcshee, Maddy Prior, to Eliza Carthy and Beth Orton. Many of her songs have been recorded by some of these artists plus others such as Pentangle, Bert Jansch, and Dorris Henderson.

Anne Briggs has always been something of an elusive and slightly mysterious figure on the British folk music scene. In the 2006 documentary, Folk Britannia, Richard Thompson recollects that he only ever stumbled upon Anne Briggs twice; and on both occasions she was drunk and unconscious. Her entire catalogue consists of only 3 full lengths albums and this EP, and half of those recordings are her singing completely unaccompanied. The common explanation for her limited output, Briggs retired from recording in 1973, has been her own anxiety and apprehension about the sound of her recorded voice. But whatever the reason, it’s been over 30 years since Anne Briggs has produced any new recordings, and it is unlikely anything new will come to light soon.  

On The Hazards of Love, one of the best cuts is Rosemary Lane, later to be recorded by guitarist Bert Jansch, and become one of his signature pieces. Anne Briggs was the source for quite a few traditional songs Jansch would later record (they’d been great friends since meeting in the late 50’s) including Blackwaterside. Jansch's instrumental accompaniment was later copied, virtually note-for-note, by Jimmy Page for Led Zeppelin's Black Mountain Side. Oh the tangled web we weave …  

Could this EP be the Holy Grail of folk records? ... you’d be surprised ...

Relevant Tags

1960's (84), 1970's (33), England (23), Folk Music. Bert Jansch (2), Anne Briggs (1), Pentangle (4), 45's (53), Record Geeks (28)