Christmas With John Fahey, Volume II
1. Oh Holy Night
2. Christmas Medley: Oh Tannenbaum, Angels We Have Heard On High, Jingle Bells
3. Russian Christmas Overture
4. White Christmas
5. Carol Of The Bells
6. Christmas Fantasy (Parts One & Two)
Tracks 1,2,3 and 5 are in duet with Richard Ruskin.
Recorded at United/Western Recording, Los Angeles
Mastered at Fidelatone by Bruce Leek
Artwork by Stephanie Pyren
CD pressing 1986, Takoma Records
thanks to Rab Hines for the rip
Well this medicine may be too late to cure the auditory disease known as Christmas Music Earworms, considering that many of you have been subjected to the stuff for well on two months now. But better late than never.
This is a holiday record by that most unlikely Santa Claus, guitarist John Fahey. He had released an earlier (and far superior) Christmas album called The New Possiblity, hence this one being dubbed a “Volume 2.” It is not your average Xmas record and probably won’t fit on a playlist with Johnny Mathis. Just stare at the album cover for a while and you will swear that somebody spiked your eggnog with something a bit stronger than rum.
While the New Possibility was a revelation for me, this record is a little bit of something that Fahey rarely was: predictable. And I say a LITTLE BIT because it’s not an entirely fair criticism. Maybe he just had so much fun making the first one that he was compelled to make a second, or maybe there was commercial incentive involved. The album is consistently pleasant, but there just aren’t many surprises until you get to the second side. “Oh Holy Night” is pretty but kind of tame, and the Christmas medley is actually kind of bad. Things get much, much better with the Russian Christmas Overture. White Christmas has the kind of halting slippages that make you think they might be mistakes but then we all know Fahey was a genius and MEANT it to sound that way, right? This is the only track on the first side that is not a guitar duet with Richard Ruskin (who also had three records put out on Fahey’s Takoma label). Maybe that is at the core of my misgivings – Ruskin is an excellent guitarist, but so much of what charms me about Fahey are his idiosyncrasies coupled with his mastery of the instrument, and when playing with other musicians those idiosyncrasies are by necessity kept in check. “Carol of the Bell” is quite gorgeous, however.
The second side of the original album is one long, meandering acoustic guitar experiment called “Christmas Fantasy” – the kind of Fahey you had begun to desperately miss after five fairly straight arrangements. Playing all on his lonesome, he can manipulate time and space and bring me to that same cocoon-like, familiar place as his most cryptic and dense material, and make me feel welcome with Yuletide cheer. It sounds mostly improvised although knowing Fahey it is probably more planned-out than it sounds. As fun as it is, it almost feels like over-compensating for the straight readings of the material on the first side. A bit self-indulgent, maybe, although I don’t mind it when Fahey indulged himself.
From the very first notes of “Joy To The World” on The New Possibility, you knew you just signed on to a singular experience. Possibly bordering on the transcendent. Traditional Christmas material approached with Fahey’s vast musical knowledge but none of the reverence usually accorded to it. I don’t use the word “irreverence” because it’s not as if there was anything iconoclastic about the record – it was just refracted through Fahey’s interpretive lens, which was always kind of bent. The “Volume II” album, on the other hand, comes across mostly as just straight-up Christmas music that happens to be played by John Fahey and a friend (except for the bonkers second half).
1973 Philips 6349.072
A1 Vaquejada 5:13
A2 Duda No Frevo 2:20
A3 Três Três 1:54
A4 Ladainha 2:22
A5 Engenho Novo 3:39
A6 Minha Ciranda 2:42
A7 Pipoquinha 1:47
B1 Beira De Estrada 2:25
B2 Baião Do Quinjí 1:57
B3 Abraço Ao Hermeto 5:26
B4 Forró Do Dominguinhos 2:17
B5 De Uma Noite De Festa 3:15
B6 Cavalo Marinho 3:13
Sando – flauta
Marcelo – violão
Fernando – viola
Luciano – percussão
Toinho – contra-baixo
Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced (for 16-bit). Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.
“I believe that Brazilian musicians, including the entire young generation, are coming around to looking within, searching for their own roots and origins, in a path more personal and true where they can walk with security, originality, and inventiveness, and not just building on what has been done outside our country.”
Released 1970, Stormy Forest
Open Your Eyes 2:48
It Could Be The First Day 2:15
Ring Around The Moon 2:05
Baby Blue 4:50
There’s A Hole In The Future 1:59
I Started A Joke 2:51
Tiny Little Blues 1:57
Shouldn’t All The World Be Dancing 7:58
Richie Havens – guitar, autoharp, sitar, koto, vocals
Warren Bernhardt – organ
Daniel Ben Zebulon – drums, conga
Monte Dunn – guitar
Donny Gerrard – bass
Ken Lauber – piano
Bill Lavorgna – drums
Eric Oxendine – bass
Bill Shepherd Singers – string arrangements
Paul “Dino” Williams – guitar
“To all the temples built by man of stone and other transient material: I wish to live to see them all crumble into truth and piles of light!
And to the temple where divinity resides, even with all your newcomers: How quiet!
To divinity: (the socio-physio-spiritus-harmonious-concludus) It is a pleasure to know you!
And least and last, to the body, the substance, the hull, the distinguished main portion, the vessel of molecular pilots and passengers, and its power receiving, transmitting, perceiving, transcending equipment: The truth temple, I’ve seen your face, the earth and its inhabitants, a magnanimous collection. Concentrate on your heartbeats, regulate your breathing even so that flowers may live.
– Richard P. Havens “
April 22, Richie Havens passed away. I
saw Richie play a few times in small clubs and was lucky enough to have talked with him briefly one such occasion. He was always approachable and interested in
talking to his fans after a performance.
Here was this man who was a living legend of his generation, with an
instantly recognizable style and always-evocative musical presence, and he
seemed genuinely just grateful that people came to hear him sing. In a way it seemed this fact was all that
mattered – that people were still listening.
this had nothing to do with his age – he was well into his 60s the last time I saw him perform – or out
of some pop-singer’s vanity to feel relevant.
It mattered that people were still listening because he still believed
in the urgency of his message as much as he did when he started out. His message
and his music had not changed much in a half century of recording and
performing, and he put them both across to us in a voice that never
wavered. He had a wise voice, ageless
and now quite literally eternal. You can listen to his singing on “Mixed Bag” (1967) and follow it with “Wishing Well” (2002) and be forgiven for thinking they were recorded around the same time.
1. Segue No. 1 – Go Ahead On
2. Ordinary Joe
3. Golden Circle
4. Segue No. 5 – Go Head On
5. Trance On Sedgewick Street
6. Do You Finally Need A Friend
7. Segue No. 4 – Go Head On
8. Sweet Edie. D
9. Occasional Rain
10. Segue No. 2 – Go Head On
11. Blues For Marcus
12. Lean On Me
13. Last Segue – Go Head On
Bass – Sydney Simms
Contralto Vocals – Shirley Wahls
Drums – Robert Crowder
Engineer – Gary Starr
Guitar – Terry Callier
Harpsichord, Organ, Producer – Charles Stepney
Piano – Leonard Pirani
Soprano Vocals – Kitty Haywood, Minnie Riperton
Recorded at: Ter-Mar Recording Studios, Chicago, Illinois.
This Sunday past I heard from a friend that Terry Callier had passed away at his home in Chicago. I don’t know why or how when some performer’s leave us, they leave behind a bigger sense of loss than others. Maybe it’s because with Terry there was always the feeling that he still had a lot more to say, and maybe the assumption that he would just keep on saying it at his own leisurely pace. The news is too sudden for me to digest fully.
Whenever a person hears a Terry Callier record, they ask themselves how it is that they had never heard him before that moment. Of course there are plenty of artists who never got their due during their lifetime, but it is hard to fathom how Terry’s early records could have been eclipsed by so much pedestrian music of lesser quality at the time. At least his story had happier ending, with his work finding recognition many years later and drawing him out of musical retirement to make a handful of satisfying records. Not to diminish his second flowering, but his albums on the Cadet label will always be the ones many of us cherish the most. There just hasn’t been anything quite like them before or since.
Although I have tended to favor “What Color Is Love”, probably because ‘Dancing Girl’ was the first of his songs I ever heard, the album Occasional Rain (which preceded it, but only slightly) is really every bit it’s equal, and set the tone for the rest of his career. How could any artist put out two records of this astounding caliber in the same year? This one has almost a concept-record feel to it due to the songs being strung together by acoustic guitar/vocal segments of folk blues (“Go Head On”) that recall Terry’s coffee-house days (captured on the album “The New Folk Sound…”) His voice still has the heavy vibrato, a common enough trait among folk singers of the 60s, but the similarilty pretty much begins and ends there. The Cadet recordings show the flowering of Callier’s participation in Jerry Butler’s songwriting workshop in Chicago. The song “Do You Finally Need A Friend” actually debuted the previous year on the fantastic “Jerry Butler Sings Assorted Songs With The Aid of Assorted Friends and Relatives” (Mercury ST-61320) on which he also appears uncredited along with Curtis Mayfield. Butler also has a writing credit on “What Color Is Love” and workshop members Larry Wade and Charles Jones contribute to that album as well as this one.
Looking at those album credits I got to thinking that we should just be grateful we had Terry Callier walking amongst us mere mortals for as long as we did. Jumping out off the page were two names of his colleagues who left us far, far too young. Keyboardist, producer and arranger Charles Stepney, who would later work with Earth Wind & Fire on their most interesting records and was also a founding member of The Rotary Connection, died in his 30’s from a heart attack. And then there is fellow Rotary alumnus Minnie Riperton, who I had never really noticed in the credits until Sunday, and who sings beautifully as always in Stepney’s choral arrangements. She died in her 30’s from breast cancer. Another Rotary Connection member, Shirley Wahls, also sings on the record. Phil Upchurch, one of Cadet’s ubiquitous session players, is absent from this session but would play on Terry’s two following efforts with great results.
Stepney deserves massive amounts of credit for the power of this album and Terry’s other Cadet recordings. And he has received that credit, especially from Terry himself. If you need convincing, you can check out earlier versions of some of these songs on the collection “First Light.” Those versions are impressive because they show the intensity of Callier’s songwriting and highlight (by virtue of his absence) just how much Stepney helped him realize his musical vision. “Occasional Rain” is the most ‘produced’ of his three Cadet albums, but that isn’t a negative in this case because these are artists on the same wavelength. (Contrast this with the desultory rerecordings of some of these songs on the Electra release “Turn You To Love.”) The psychedelic baroque-pop of Ordinary Joe probably has Stepney’s “producer’s stamp” most clearly on it, opening the record with strong stylistic overtones of Rotary Connection and mixed as if it could be a huge hit. But this was no ordinary song, and too extraordinary and unclassifiable for mass consumption even in an era of relative experimentation in popular music. Groovy harpsichord and some churchy organ; that infectiously catchy melody – how could this song NOT be huge in a fair world? Maybe it was the brilliant lyrics and vocal delivery that swings from soul, to scat singing, to a blues shout. It was just too real for the radio. As a lyricist-poet Callier had a special talent for oscillating between earthy grit, tender nuance, and cosmic musings, sometimes all in the same song. The intimacy of “Golden Circle,” the darker burned-out realism of “Trance On Sedgewick Avenue” – Terry could make ordinary moments into something transcendent, then turn around and translate the abstract and spiritual into familiar, achingly human terms in the next tune. And it is no hyperbole to call him a genuine poet. You could try just reading the words to “Occasional Rain” to a room full of people and hear their cadence, see how they work as compositions even separated from the music:
There was rain today
And crystal blue was hidden by a cloudy gray
A sudden shower come to chase the sun away
Damn the weatherman
He seems to work against me any way he can
And he’s been dealing tear-drops since the world began
And occasional pain
And blue you, don’t believe I’m talking to you
The light is shining through you- still you will not see
Blue you- think I’m trying to undo you
When I only want to seek the Truth
And speak true
I can’t tell you when
But someday soon we’ll see the sun re-born again
And there’ll be light without as well as light within
And occasional rain
Fucking brilliant, isn’t it?
The record closes with the majestic “Lean On Me” that is arranged like a series of crescendos leading to one massive climax. It is kind of ironic that this record was released the same year as Bill Wither’s massive hit of the same title and of similar sentiments.
Speaking of which, the irony did not escape me of listening to this record over and over while the entire northeastern seaboard of the US was being drenched by a hurricane. It also struck me how listening to Terry Callier is like being sheltered from the storms of the world. His work had a certain warmth in common with other writers from the frigidly cold metropolis of Chicago, placed at the crossroads of Memphis and Detroit, New York and L.A., always a few steps removed the hype and the drama, and always carrying himself with grace.
Progama Ensaio (1999)
SESC São Paulo Collection
“A Música Brasileira Deste Século por sue Autores e Intérpretes”
2. A Briga do Cachorro com a Onça
3. Levando o Santo
4. A Bandinha Vai Tocar
5. Pega Pra Capar
6. Despedida de Novena
7. Cantiga de Lampião
8. Saudades de Caruaru
9. Esquenta Mulher
Sebastião Biano – Pífanos
João Biano – Zabumba
Gilberto Biano – Tarol
Amaro Biano – Surdo
José Biano – Prato
Recorded for Programa Esnaio on October 14, 1999, directed by Fernando Faro.
In this installment of the TV program Ensaio (audio-portion only here), the Banda de Pífanos de Caruaru play some of the career highlights of their repertoire and tell some interesting stories about the origins of the band, playing for the bandit / cangaçeiro Lampião in the early 20th century, playing the nine nights of a religious ‘novena’, and a kick-ass recipe for sarapatel. The band is still going today in 2011 although I’ve never caught them live. This is a good companion disc to the studio album on Marcus Perreira shared here last week.
in 320 em pee tree
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