The Best Of John Fahey Vol 2, 1964-1983 John Fahey


Catalogue Id:
CDTAK 8916

In his book The People's Music (Pimlico, 2003), Ian MacDonald calls John Fahey the "Minstrel of the Mysterious". Guitarist Fahey was certainly unique, a creative force who spent most of his musical 'career' in a seemingly endless, and timeless, meditation on the primitive folk process: deconstructing the sounds and techniques of early country blues and synthesising them into his very own distinctive guitar style (complete with very audible string slides, hammer-ons, chokes and pull-offs). Whether he was 'mysterious' reduces down to how esoteric his music seems in comparison to that of the early blues giants. A sometimes unschooled, illiterate, black American musician of the 1920s creating, unaided, a brand new music of great chordal and harmonic complexity seems far more mysterious to this writer than Fahey ever will (and I suspect he would have agreed). What's certain is John Fahey's music touched people emotionally with its raw beauty and lack of commercial compromise. MacDonald refers to Knott's Berry Farm Molly as "a sonic Blair Witch Project" and it's this sense of an 'outsider', plumbing the emotional depths of the psyche, which creates this 'skewed' aural perception.

To the rural traditions of both black and white American music, John Fahey added elements of Indian music and touches of the work of 20th century 'serious' composers like B??la Bart k and Oliver Messiaen. It's a tribute to his vision that his recordings sound as fresh and vital today as they did when first put to tape. He is one of the few 1960s progressives whose work is not rooted in 'its time'. Writers like MacDonald are obviously captivated by the classic material he recorded between 1959 and '63 but, great though that work is, Fahey never stopped evolving (towards the end of his life he even began exploring industrial noise guitar).

For this Volume 2 of The Best Of John Fahey, music has been selected from the period 1964 to 1983 and the choice confirms his importance in American acoustic music. Twilight on Prince George's Avenue, Sligo Mud and Tuff are three tunes from his long-lost, unreleased Takoma album "Azalea City Memories". (Versions of the first and third of these tunes appeared on his 90s albums "Old Girlfriends And Other Horrible Memories" and "The Epiphany Of Glenn Jones", respectively.) There is also as a long work from 1966, 'The Fahey Sampler', originally included on the Takoma sampler "Contemporary Guitar" (Takoma 1006) but rare and unheard for many years. Dance Of Death is a rightly a classic and comes from "The Dance Of Death And Other Plantation Favorites" (Takoma 1004): the bluesy, raga-like Orinda-Moraga is from 1965's "The Transfiguration Of Blind Joe Death" (Takoma 7015). The guitar rivalry/wishful thinking of The Assassination of Stefan Grossman comes from 1975's "Old Fashioned Love" (Takoma 1043): The Approaching of the Disco Void and Steamboat Gwine 'Round De Bend are both from 1981's "Live In Tasmania" (Takoma 7089). Hark The Herald Angels Sing/O Come All Ye Faithful are quirky 1968 readings of these carols included in "The New Possibility" (Takoma 1020). Frisco Leaving Birmingham is from 1983's "Railroad 1" (Takoma 7102): On the Beach at Waikiki goes back to 1967's "Death Chants, Breakdowns and Military Waltzes" (Takoma 1003) Ann Arbor/ Death by Reputation is drawn from 1979's "Visits Washington D.C." (Takoma 7069): closing out is the sublime guitar hymn Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, taken from 1980's "Yes! Jesus Love Me" (Takoma 7085).

By John Crosby


Track listing


Side 1

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