America John Fahey


Catalogue Id:
CDTAK 8903

In the late sixties the West Coast music scene was bursting forth in a myriad of new ways which brought about some changes to John Fahey's world. In 1967, his partner in Takoma Records, ED Densen, moved to managing Country Joe & The Fish, thus leaving John as Takoma's sole owner. It was around the same time that John had released two albums on the bigger Vanguard label that allowed him a budget of sorts for integrating sound collages with his music. However it was also a time for increasing sales of albums, so John picked up the reins at Takoma which had several new artists on its roster, including Leo Kottke, Robbie Basho, Peter Lang, Mike Auldridge and Max Ochs. Leo Kottke's “6- And 12-String Guitar album” (Takoma CDTAK 1024, here on the Ace website) was to become the label's biggest hit, with sales of some half a million over a period of time. Later on you could also find George Winston and Mike Bloomfield with releases on the label.

This 1971 album, “America”, became John's second back on his own label after his sojourn at Vanguard. Before this there had been 1968's “The New Possibility” (aka “Christmas With John Fahey Vol 1”).

“America” was originally planned to be a double vinyl album, but actually emerged as a single disc as John was unsure about the ability to sell a double album at the time. There was therefore much material that did not make the final cut in 1971, but almost all of it does appear here aside from around two minutes edited out of ‘Mark 1:15’ by reissue producer Bill Belmont to avoid it having to be a more expensive 2CD set. This track is one of three long tracks on the CD: the eleven-minute ‘Dalhart, Texas, 1967’, the nearly sixteen-minute ‘Voice Of The Turtle’, and the afore-mentioned ‘Mark 1:15’ at over fourteen minutes. The length of these tracks is relevant as each offers John the chance to stretch out and properly develop the moods and tonal feels, all at a time when track length was increasingly being seen as a mark of progression, within West Coast music especially. With John it was a genuine and extensive progression of themes and motifs, not always the case with others who went for length for length's sake.

The first nine tracks here are all the previously unreleased material. They include two public domain tracks, ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Dvorak’, which John has arranged for himself, and his version of Skip James's ‘Special Rider Blues’, a rare Fahey cover. The ‘Dvorak’ track is a beautiful arrangement of the third movement of Dvorak's Eighth Symphony. The title track, ‘America’, is possibly the only recording of Fahey playing a 12-string guitar, and the final track features gentle and humorous playing befitting its elongated title. Note writer Chuck Young states simply, "It was a masterpiece then, and it's twice the masterpiece now." Amen to that.


Track listing


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