Wee Tam and the Big Huge

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Wee Tam and the Big Huge
Studio album by The Incredible String Band
Released November 1968
Recorded April - August 1968, Sound Techniques, Chelsea, London
Genre Psychedelic folkfolk
Length 86:48
Label Elektra / Warner Music Group
Producer Joe Boyd
The Incredible String Band chronology
The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
(1968)
Wee Tam and the Big Huge
(1968)
Changing Horses
(1969)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[1]
Pitchfork Media (8.1/10)[2]
Rolling Stone (positive) [3]

Wee Tam and the Big Huge is the fourth album by the English psychedelic folk group, the Incredible String Band, released in Europe as both a double LP and separate single LPs in November 1968 by Elektra Records. In the US, however, the two discs were released separately as Wee Tam and The Big Huge.

The album is considered by many to be, along with its predecessor The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, the best work the band ever produced. Consisting of a varied selection of songs by Robin Williamson and Mike Heron, with intriguing and poetic lyrics, the album is rich with eclectic and adept instrumentation and arrangements. Around 15 instruments are featured, played mainly by the two band members Williamson and Heron but also, in supporting roles, on a few tracks by Rose Simpson and Licorice McKechnie. Williamson explained the title as follows:- "I saw a man with a huge big dog, [and] we knew somebody called Wee Tam, in Edinburgh. It seemed like it was a good idea in terms of one person looking up at the stars; Wee Tam and the Big Huge. Just like the vastness of the universe".[4]

Background[edit]

The Incredible String Band were fairly busy in the latter half of 1968. With their popularity and reputation growing on both sides of the Atlantic, they began selling out large venues like the Fillmore and the Royal Albert Hall. As Heron explains, "...we were touring maybe six months of the year and by that time we all lived together, in eight cottages joined together in this place called Glen Row. When we were not on the road we were either in the studio or playing each other songs we'd written. So it came out of the experience of just being in each other's company all the time".[5] With their recent exposure to the musical style of the U.S., the band returned to England hoping to incorporate both of their English and American influences. The internal politics of the band also changed as both Heron and Williamson both had a desire to have a say on one another's arrangements. More important was the emergence of Simpson to balance out the role of McKechnie, which, upon further developments, exerted a positive effect on the band. With the incorporation of the two new personnel, live performances could more closely resemble album pieces, which was in the band's mind as Wee Tam and the Big Huge was simpler in comparison to its predecessor.[4][6]

Recording took place between April and August 1968 on an intermittent basis at Sound Techniques Studios in Chelsea, London. The tracks were more conventional in concept, but the band still continued to utilize eastern instrumentals in the album's development.[7] Wee Tam and the Big Huge, like on past albums, exudes a specific message of serenity, harmony, and overall well-being. The album had an optimistic outlook on life, nature, and the universe while retaining a sense of eclecticism.[8] Heron and Williamson's interaction on another's compositions also played a large role, more so noticeable on the instrumental development of the tracks. The whole process was complete with less overdubbing than on past albums due to the more standard arrangements and lengthier recording period.[4]

Release[edit]

In November 1968, Wee Tam and the Big Huge was released by Elektra Records as EKL 4036. In the UK, the album was released as a double LP, but in the U.S. the album was released individually as Wee Tam and The Big Huge. This effected sales and chart position in the U.S., but, more importantly, it diluted the single thematic continuum the band had expected the album would express.[9] The front and back covers were featured as both covers, and lyric sheets as the design was simply showing the lyrics of all the tracks. For the individual albums, there are images of Williamson and Heron posing in a garden. On the inside of the gatefold sleeve, a poem by Williamson, along with two accompanying pictures on each fold are present.[10] Upon release, the album, again, earned the band success in the UK, but after the decision by Elektra's American office to split the album, the sales fared less successfully. Still, Wee Tam managed to reach number 174 on the Billboard 200, and The Big Huge also charted at number 180.[6]

Track listing[edit]

Disc one (Wee Tam)[edit]

Side A
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Job's Tears"   Williamson 6:40
2. "Puppies"   Heron 5:30
3. "Beyond the See"   Heron 2:16
4. "The Yellow Snake"   Williamson 2:04
5. "Log Cabin Home in the Sky"   Heron 4:00
Side B
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "You Get Brighter"   Heron 5:44
2. "The Half-Remarkable Question"   Williamson 5:01
3. "Air"   Heron 3:12
4. "Ducks on a Pond"   Williamson 9:17

Disc two (The Big Huge)[edit]

Side A
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Maya"   Williamson 9:24
2. "Greatest Friend"   Heron 3:30
3. "The Son of Noah's Brother"   Williamson 0:16
4. "Lordly Nightshade"   Williamson 5:13
5. "The Mountain of God"   Williamson 1:51
Side B
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Cousin Caterpillar"   Heron 5:15
2. "The Iron Stone"   Williamson 6:33
3. "Douglas Traherne Harding"   Heron 6:15
4. "The Circle Is Unbroken"   Williamson 4:47

Personnel[edit]

  • Robin Williamson - lead vocals ("Job’s Tears", "The Yellow Snake", "The Half-Remarkable Question", "Ducks on a Pond", "Maya", "The Son of Noah’s Brother", "Lordly Nightshade", "The Mountain of God", "The Iron Stone" & "The Circle is Unbroken"); guitar ("Job’s Tears", "Puppies", "The Yellow Snake","The Half-Remarkable Question", "Ducks on a Pond", "Maya", "Greatest Friend", "The Son of Noah’s Brother", "Lordly Nightshade" & "The Iron Stone"); bass guitar ("Puppies", "Beyond the See", "Maya" & "Cousin Caterpillar"); guimbri ("Puppies" & "Beyond the See"); percussion ("Puppies", "The Half-Remarkable Question" & "Douglas Traherne Harding"; sarangi ("The Yellow Snake"); violin ("Log Cabin Home in the Sky" & "Douglas Traherne Harding"); harpsichord ("You Get Brighter"); piano ("Ducks on a Pond" & "Lordly Nightshade"); organ ("The Mountain of God"); flute ("Air"); kazoo & bass drum ("Ducks on a Pond"); whistle ("Beyond the See" "Lordly Nightshade", "Douglas Traherne Harding" & "The Circle is Unbroken"); harmonica ("Greatest Friend"); Irish harp ("The Circle is Unbroken"); drums ("Lordly Nightshade")
  • Mike Heron - lead vocals ("Puppies", "Log Cabin Home in the Sky", "You Get Brighter", "Air", "Greatest Friend", "Cousin Caterpillar" & "Douglas Traherne Harding"); guitar ("Puppies", "Log Cabin Home in the Sky", "You Get Brighter", "Air", "Cousin Caterpillar" & "Douglas Traherne Harding"); bass guitar ("Puppies"); sitar ("Puppies", "The Yellow Snake", "The Half-Remarkable Question", "Maya" & "The Iron Stone"); organ ("Beyond the See", "Air", "The Son of Noah’s Brother" & "The Circle is Unbroken"); harpsichord ("Beyond the See"); washboard ("Log Cabin Home in the Sky"); percussion ("Ducks on a Pond" & "Lordly Nightshade"); harmonica ("Ducks on a Pond")
  • Rose Simpson - violin ("Log Cabin Home in the Sky"); percussion ("Maya", "Cousin Caterpillar" & "The Iron Stone"); backing vocals
  • Licorice McKechnie - percussion ("Maya" & "The Iron Stone"); Irish harp ("The Iron Stone"); backing vocals

Charts[edit]

Chart Album Entry
date
Peak
position
Weeks charted
The Billboard 200[11] Wee Tam March 22, 1969 174 3
The Billboard 200 The Big Huge March 22, 1969 180 3

References[edit]

  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ Pitchfork Media review
  3. ^ Nooger, Danny (3 May 1969). "Records". Rolling Stone (San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc.). 
  4. ^ a b c Adrian Whittaker (ed.), Be Glad: The Incredible String Band Compendium, 2003, ISBN 1-900924-64-1
  5. ^ Jeanette Leech. "Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk". Google.com. Retrieved March 29, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Lindsay Planer. "Wee Tam". allmusic.com. Retrieved March 15, 2015. 
  7. ^ Rob Young. "Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music". google.com. Retrieved March 15, 2015. 
  8. ^ "All Music Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul". google.com. Retrieved March 15, 2015. 
  9. ^ Thom Jurek. "Wee Tam and the Big Huge". allmusic.com. Retrieved March 15, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Incredible String Band - Wee Tam and the Big Huge". discogs.com. Retrieved March 15, 2015. 
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel; Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Albums, 1955-1996; p. 366. ISBN 0898201179