I am certainly in the minority in being a huge fan of The Incredible String Band, exponents of a unique form of psychedelic folk that was unprecedented in the 1960s and has not been encountered in any meaningful way since. Most people just don’t see the attraction. Equally, I don’t understand why.
This particular piece, The Queen of Love, is not entirely typical because it has quite an elaborate arrangement including strings and woodwind. But it demonstrates Robin WIlliamson‘s extraordinary compositional abilities, both musically and lyrically. His partner in the Incredible String Band, Mike Heron, does not feature on the track. Rather like Paul McCartney and John Lennon in the late 60s, they tended to take turns more than collaborate.
Here is Queen Of Love, as recorded in 1970, with production by Joe Boyd:
In 2020, on the 50th anniversary of the release of the track, I was laying in bed, flitting between sleep and wakefulness, working through in my mind how one of my favourite songs of all time could be reimagined for an orchestra. Realising this idea was no small task. True, the original track already featured orchestral instruments, but the rather unusual structure of the piece, with a wide range of themes and motifs, was not ideally suited to an instrumental adaptation. Still, I persevered and this is what I came up with:
The main purpose of this piece was to celebrate The Incredible String Band on a 50th anniversary and I’m happy that I achieved this. As an exercise in orchestral arrangement, I’m undecided – when I completed this work back in 2020 this was my first attempt at anything so ambitious so there are bound to be lots of beginner’s errors and missed opportunities. Anyway, if you have a few minutes please give it a listen and reflect on those heady days of peace and love in the late 60s.