Paul Bryant: Blind Joe Death. The different editions of Volume 1

I am very grateful to Paul Bryant for letting me have this analysis of the various editions of the Blind Joe Death album.


NV = new version1959.........1964.........1967
(1996 CD)

On Doing an Evil Deed Blues 4.37……..NV 5.07 (1964)……..NV 3.56 (1967)

St Louis Blues 5.29…………………… edited to 4.56 (1964)……NV 3.15 (1967)

Poor Boy Long Ways from Home 3.12…….………………………NV 2.23 (1967)

Uncloudy Day 3.12 ……………………....………………………………..NV 2.22 (1967)

John Henry 3.20 ……………………….....………………………….……. NV 2.05 (1967)

In Christ there Is No East or West 2.37…NV 2.21 (1964)…NV 6.30 (1967)

The Transcendental Waterfall 6.34……NV 10.35(1964)……NV 6.30(1967)
(CD has 1964 version only)

Desperate Man Blues 4.04…………………………………………….NV 3.58 (1967)

Sun Gonna Shine in my Backdoor &c 3.32……………..………. NV 4.36 (1967)

Sligo River Blues 3.05………………………………………………….. NV 2.23 (1967)

West Coast Blues 3.12………………………Omitted (1964)…… Omitted(1967)
(CD has 1964 outtake)

I'm Gonna do all I Can for my Lord - 1967 only

Notes:It seems strange to have included the incongruous 1964 outtake of "West Coast Blues" on "Legend" - copies of the first edition were readily available.

See Legend Notes p6 : on the reproduced back cover of BJD II it clearly states that 4 songs were rerecorded in April 1964: On Doing an Evil Deed Blues, The Transcendental Waterfall, In Christ there is no East or West, and Uncloudy Day. This is untrue - Uncloudy Day was not rerecorded. (Legend Notes confirms this.) Legend Notes incorrectly state that the cover lists 5 rerecordings, adding Desperate Man Blues. That song was also not rerecorded.

Legend Notes also say "the recording of The Transcendental Waterfall used on BJD III was the one recorded for BJD II with about 4 minutes lopped off". This is untrue, TW was rerecorded in 1967. That rerecording is omitted from Legend.

Legend Notes say "what of the six missing tracks from BJD I?" In fact there are four - In Christ, Evil Deed and Waterfall, which Fahey rerecorded, and West Coast Blues, which wasn't reissued at all. The full take of St Louis Blues is presumably being counted as the fifth and Glenn's misplaced conviction that Desperate Man Blues was rerecorded makes up the six.


Stephen said...

I'm intrigued by the cover used for the CD; it has the Takoma 'T' logo and it appears to be credited to Tom Weller. The style is entirely consistent with Weller's work for Takoma in the 60s but as far as I am aware it has never appeared before. Can anyone shed any light?

If I have a beef with the CD issue, it is the sound quality on the 1967 recordings which have crackle and distortion on the left channel, as if the azimuth has been mis-set on the mastering tape head. It's very apparent at the start of 'Evil Deed'. I have the Ace UK issue; can I take it the Fantasy US release is the same?

Stephen said...

I presume that Fantasy didn't hold the copyright to the unissued '59 recordings, and that JF never assigned them to anyone; hence the quite open release of an 'unofficial' pressing not that long ago.

Malcolm Kirton said...

The Dance of Death notes give this accurately:

Takoma C 1002, second edition (with issue numbers and printed jacket)

Transcendental waterfall

On Doing An Evil deed Blues

In Christ There is no east or West

The other selections on the second edition were taken from one of the few copies of the first edition to survive. West Coast Blues was not included because the record had a bullet hole through that track. When truth is known, there are many surprises.

Excepting – maybe, maybe not – the detail about the bullet hole!

Malcolm Kirton said...

Sorry, in my previous post I omitted the session details for the three newly recorded 1964 tracks, as follows:

21. April 13, 1964 Arhoolie Studios - Berkeley, California

Stephen said...


I know what the Dance of Death notes say but I simply don't believe that most of the second issue of BJD was mastered off a surviving copy of the first; the sound on the '64 master tapes is far too good. Fahey would certainly have been given his original '59 tapes back when he collected his records from the RCA plant; the masters they retained (and then destroyed) were the metal masters. Fahey was never casual with his tapes, and it's unlikely he lost them.

As for that bullet hole... :-)

Stephen said...

Although 'Uncloudy Day' on the '64 version was not re-recorded, it is listed as having been recorded (but not used) at the Arhoolie April '64 session in the 1966 Dance of Death notes. Presumably Fahey had initially intended to use that newer recording (maybe he was thwarted by the electromagnetic radiation), and that is why it was listed on the '64 cover as re-recorded.
'Desperate Man Blues' is shown (presumably incorrectly) on the liner notes for Early Sessions as having been recorded at the April '64 session, although it's not listed there in the Dance of Death notes.

Malcolm K said...

Presumably “In Christ…” was re-rerecorded because of the awkward tape splice, just after the opening harmonics, where in fact the opening bar of the piece is missing.

“Evil Deed Blues” has some mistakes and the 1964 version is a much better performance.

The re-recordings can be easily identified aurally. As on the Dance of Death sessions, Fahey was using a different guitar (probably Bill Barth’s Gibson) with a distinctive wirey, mid-range heavy tone; he had also begun using fingerpicks between 1959 and the later session. Gene Rosenthal says that the microphone placement clearly identifies the sessions he engineered. I don’t know enough about recording to verify this myself, but am sure that is true. According to Rosenthal outtakes were used on 3 subsequent Takoma releases.

Malcolm K said...

The cover design was done by Tom Weller and is presumably meant to evoke his earlier work for Takoma. One can’t help feeling that his heart wasn’t really in it — and the result is markedly inferior to his 1960s work.

RobG said...

When I brought home my first copy of the Blind Joe Death LP back in the early ‘80s, I was in for a surprise, wondering as I began listening why I never realized that Fahey had gone through an early “electronic” phase. I eventually realized that I had an oddity, a faulty pressing. The details may be of interest to the pedantic collector, and may illustrate some clues to the history of these records as well as the difficulties in dating them. (PS. I note that one of the commenters on another of your posts seems also to have one of these discs.)

I now have two copies of the LP, both with the “woodcut” Takoma sleeve, both marked stereo and copyright 1967. The older LP (a correct pressing) has the circa 1972 (gold) C-1002 label. The reverse of the LP sleeve gives the Takoma Records address as Box 2233, Berkeley, and quotes a price of $5 by mail. Several recordings by “Mr. Fahey” are listed. The sleeve design apparently dates from 1967 or 1968, since it says that “The Voice of the Turtle” will be available in June 1968. The LP itself is inscribed in the inner ring with C-1002-S-A and C-1002-S-B.

The newer (faulty) LP has the circa 1975 (white) C-1002 label. The sleeve has the same front cover but a redesigned reverse. The sleeve gives the Takoma Records address as P.O. Box 5369, Santa Monica, Calif. 90405, and a price is no longer quoted. Several recordings by John Fahey (instead of “Mr. Fahey”) are listed. The sleeve design apparently dates from approximately 1973, since the most recent Takoma recordings it lists as available are Fare Forward Voyagers and the Takoma R 9015 release of “Transfiguration.” The reverse of the sleeve also has a sticker applied that re-identifies the LP as TAK-7002, distributed by Chrysalis Records, 9255 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069. (I believe Takoma was not sold to Chrysalis until 1979.)

The newer record itself has the Fahey pressing on the B side, but the A side is pressed with Side 1 of “I Robot” by the Alan Parsons Project (which was released by Arista Records in 1977, catalog number AL 7002). How could this have happened? Looking at the inner ring of the LP itself, the B side is marked IT TAK-7002-B, and the A side is marked AL 7002A-1D CTH IT. So the pressing plant mixed up their “7002” masters from Arista and Takoma. The CTH code (and also apparently the 1D code) indicates that the pressing plant was the Columbia Records, Terre Haute, Indiana, plant (home of Columbia House). (ref: Note: Arista was founded (as a subsidiary of Columbia) in 1974. Takoma (or Chrysalis?) must have contracted with Columbia House for pressing in the late 1970s. The Columbia House pressing plant closed in 1982.

As an aside, the earliest Fahey LP I can find that lists a Santa Monica (instead of Berkeley) address for Takoma is America (1971), with the gatefold sleeve. (Note: it was P.O. Box 5403 at this time!)


Stephen said...

Rob Thanks for such a comprehensive description. You may have noticed that I have started to do posts covering all the various covers, as I have been doing with the labels, so I might in part be jumping ahead of myself here somewhat in responding.

The 'woodcut' design sleeve was introduced in 1968 (although volumes 1 & 2 appeared in stereo somewhat after the sleeve was designed). The rear paste-on was as you point out updated late 1973, the only update until after the sale of the company.

When Chrysalis acquired the company, it took over Takoma's remaining stocks in full. For a time they were clearing Takoma's existing sealed copies (they had the Chrysalis sticker on the outside of the shrink), and then used up the remaining sleeve stocks with their own pressings; in this case the sticker is applied directly to the sleeve. It is clear from what you say that they also used Takoma's original labels for a while; this is quite unusual though and I presume they only did so until their own labels came on tap, as it were.

The same situation applied when Allegiance acquired Takoma; they took on Chrysalis' remaining stocks. There were still some sealed Takoma era albums about; these were sold with two stickers outside the shrink; then the early Takoma sleeves now sporting two stickers applied directly to the sleeve. The substantial and disfiguring Allegiance sticker can be peeled (carefully) from the sleeve and leaves no glue residue; the Chrysalis sticker can't.

So what you have is as you obviously realise is a Chrysalis pressing inside the second of the Takoma era sleeves.

Chrysalis obviously used their own favoured pressing plant; the Fidelatone metals had been owned by the pressing plant rather than Takoma anyway so did not transfer across and all Chrysalis pressings were from new masters. You are not the only person to have acquired a faulty pressing like this; another visitor has reported exactly the same with a 'Transfiguration' pressing from Columbia!

Takoma's own pressing appear to have moved away from Fidelatone in 1977, and those 1977 - 1978 pressings are thin, with a label that is so poorly printed that one might suspect a bootleg. However, very few records were manufactured at that point; Takoma either had good stocks or poor cashflow, I suspect a combination of the two.

I am particularly interested to know that your record sports a 'white' dragon label; that brief variant had proved very difficult to date as against the same label in gold.

Your comment of course qualifies for inclusion in the draw if you wish to be included; perhaps you could email me if you do, as otherwise I have no means of contact. Thanks. said...

I had determined from that verbal exercise of his that he was a gas bag. Thats when I decided to leave. I had met you, TL, and many other fine folks. I had accomplished what I'd set out to do. Sadly, the wind bag did not provide me a good ending to my Mercer visit.
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