The Transfiguration Of Blind Joe Death John Fahey


Catalogue Id:
CDTAK 7015

This was John Fahey's fourth solo album and was recorded by Brian and Barry Hansen in 1965. As with its predecessors it became widely influential for other guitarists and composers including Leo Kottke, Robbie Basho and Bob Brozman, all of whose work can be found in the Ace Records catalogue. These players, and others, shared John's ambitions for furthering the place of the solo steel-stringed guitar, and for some of them this album was seen as one of the very best. It was originally issued on the small Riverboat label and then re-issued on Takoma. The original issue included a lengthy booklet of Fahey's tangential and mystifying writing, amongst other things continuing the 'biography' of Blind Joe Death that had been so much a part of his earlier releases. This booklet does not form part of this package, though as we will see other notes that make up for its omission.

John Fahey had a mass of diverse influences on his music and playing style. Most obvious were the early blues guitarists like Charlie Patton (whose work formed the basis for his college thesis), Bukka White, Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt, but aside from these there was a wealth of old time music, South American and European influences. He saw himself as a sponge and this album very much proves it as we can hear his bluesy slide playing on ‘How Green Was My Valley’ and ‘The Death Of A Clayton Peacock’ with the much-loved old standard ‘Bicycle Built For Two’ sandwiched in between. Unusually for someone who didn't normally play with other instrumentalists, there are two tracks here, ‘Beautiful Linda Getchell’ and ‘Come Back Baby’, where is is joined by banjo player L. Mayne Smith who co-composed the first of these with him.

One of the great joys of this re-issue for guitarists is the amount of precise detail in the notes of Fahey's playing and tunings. There are general tuning notes followed by a breakdown of exactly how each track is played that will enthuse the casual listener but enthrall the expert fan. As well as this there is an added note from Samuel Charters, the Vanguard producer to whom John sent his first album for consideration. After an ongoing period of persistence, Charters eventually realised that the man wasn't going to go away, and indeed his work was being enjoyed by  growing numbers, and the two men would eventually work together on album releases for which there was a better budget for John to move to a higher level. Charters suggests that this album was both a summation of Fahey's achievements to this point and a starting point for further development. His appreciation of the playing that he had at first not understood is heartfelt, pointing to the haunting work on the dissonant ‘Orinda-Moraga’ and the impressionistic ‘On The Sunny Side Of The Ocean’, and to the fact that the album ends with ‘St Patrick's Hymn’, reflecting the fact that another path for Fahey could have been as a minister.


Track listing


Side 1

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