Volumes 1 - 3: the 1967 sleeve notes

When Takoma reissued Fahey's first three albums in sleeves designed by Tom Weller in April 1967, the records acquired new sleeve notes, somewhat briefer than those for the original pamphlets. They form an amusing exchange of views between 'Sir Joshua Reynolds' and 'Jack Banister'.

Volume 1:

I have been asked to contribute some explanation of the contests of this recording so that the casual pursuer may have some advance preparation for the initial ex­posure, a task for which I am hardly equal. However, the publishers have prevailed upon me, saying that they would accept notes from no other, and consequently I have agreed, rather than allow the recording to go, as it were, naked, into the world.

This recording is Mr. Fahey's initial public statement, somewhat revised in 1964 to repair some defects that he and the publisher felt had crept in to the original during the feverous preparation for issuance during the hot summer of 1959. Those who possess the original will doubtless be interested to compare the versions to see which parts the composer felt suitable for change after a five year period. Par­ticularly of interest in this respect is the Transcendental Waterfall.

For those that are totally unfamiliar with Mr. Fahey's work, I hasten to add that, like all of his publicly available works, in this recording subsists the better part of an hour of the performances of this remarkable performer and composer. His own compositions will be found mingled with those of others particularly those others who also worked the fertile vein of music known to us today as the American style of acoustic guitar. The style generally, and Mr. Fahey's particularly sensitive rendering specificly, is noted for its slow unveiling of great depths of beauty.

Sir Joshua Reynolds

Volume 2:

It is time that criticism of Fahey's work was taken from the hands of the shelter­ed academics, with their ideal theories about his hodology, the epistemological value of his work, and indeed the nature of his inspiration. What matters is the music itself, and not the abstract structures that may be constructed upon it.

Anyone who has heard John's playing in the clubs of Berkeley & Boston knows how far removed John himself is from these controversies, as he sits alone on the stage pondering the next piece to play, bursting into hour long improvisations upon the themes he has embodied in his work. And who could forget the side of Fahey which is seldom written about, the man who talks with his audience about peacocks and intergration, the relative merits of alcohol and lsd, the man who can hold you spell­bound with tales of steamboat races, where is this man in the pratter of the Joshua Reynolds of this world.

Just take this record and play it, forgetting the theoretic trash, and listen to the pouring forth of John's soul as he recalls the familiar scenes of his childhood, the legends of the Downfall of the Adelphi Rolling Grist Mill which the older Fishermen of Heliotrope still spin late in the evenings, leaning back on their porches, and witheredly pulling on their pipes.

Jack Banister

Volume 3:

The weeds of the self-named common man school of criticism has reared its head among the flowers of criticism, and I take this opportunity to reply to the re­marks of one Mr. Banister lest he prevent the listener from access to the steps of wisdom. While it is true that much of the debate among the Iess informed as to the validity of classifying Mr. Fahey's work with those of the American folk artists from whom he has drawn so much inspiration, has obscured the equally engaging point that he is one of the few artists who have managed to transmute, thru the heat of his artistic forge, the beauties of a lost age into a contemporary idiom thus mak­ing available to the modern consciousness the revelations which were the common knowledge of man before the recent and unfortunate technologising of our culture; it is also true that without a knowledge of the roots of mans art the transmission of culture breaks down. Let those who would disparage academic discussion recall that is what separates us from the yawling tribes of aboriginal savages who still inhabit portions of the globe.
Sir Joshua Reynolds

When I think of the years that it takes the timorous to break thru the structures of the dry scholars who sit in their ivyed buildings comparing the portraits of the dead, I weep for mankind. The greatest glory John has is that he is not afraid to leave the bonds of tradition burst behind him in the dust. We cannot forever hide in the truths of the past seeking to endlessly polish our repetitions of the discoveries of other men, particularly those discoveries tossed off in an afternoon intended for the moment and accidentally frozen forever by recordings. Let us be inspired by the courage of the innovators of the past, so that we may live in. the present, and create the future.
John has been one of the first composers of his generation to take advantage of the modern ear for chords and melodies, not to mention the fact that his perform­ances are being recorded on the loose flexible tape used in the industry today rather than the brittle waxen disk common 30 years ago. Creative use of the technology surrounding and liberating us is all that separates us from those yawling tribes of withered aboriginies who sit high in concrete trees passing dried banana shins among themselves and commenting upon their wisdom in saving these relics.
Jack Banister

Blind Joe Death. Volume 1 the 1967 monaural recording

I promised this some time ago and finally here it is - the 1967 mono version of the Blind Joe Death album. The CD issue of this album used a damaged tape (or maybe it was just poor mastering, but there's audible distortion on the left channel) of the later stereo mix which did the recording no justice whatever, but here (with apologies for surface noise) is the original, 'newly recorded in magnificent mono'.

I've already posted the equivalent recording of Death Chants, where I give a rather blunter assessment of Fahey's use of stereo.

(Note: the troublesome link for the download has now been corrected)