Blind Joe Death
Blind Joe Death
It was one of the first albums recorded and produced by an independent artist. The recording of steel string acoustic guitar solos was "incredibly avant-garde" in 1959. It was released on Takoma Records, Fahey's own label. It was not marketed and made no impression on the American record-buying public. Its popularity, significance in guitar music, and critical reception has steadily increased over the years. The 1967 release received five stars in the second edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide. Music historian Richie Unterberger characterized the impact of Blind Joe Death, noting it as being "a very interesting record from a historical perspective...as few if any other guitarists were attempting to interpret blues and folk idioms in such an idiosyncratic fashion in the late '50s and early '60s." Richard Cook of the NewStatesman wrote "Only 100 copies were pressed.
Incredibly, it was still enough of a milestone to secure him an almost worldwide reputation." On April 6, 2011, the album was deemed by the Library of Congress to be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" and added to the United States National Recording Registry for the year 2010. Contents [hide] 1 History 2 Reissues 3 Reception 4 Legacy 5 Track listing 5.1 Side one 5.2 Side two 5.3 Reissue track listing (1996) 6 Personnel 7 References 8 External links History Initially released in 1959 in a very limited edition, one side of the record was credited to a mythical bluesman named Blind Joe Death, while the other side was credited to Fahey himself. It was one of the first albums recorded and produced by an independent artist. Self-released on Takoma Records, the label didn’t formally exist until 1963 when Fahey and ED Denson formed a partnership with record distributor Norman Pierce. Barry Hansen wrote in 1972, "John Fahey is the original underground musician. Dylan was still at Hibbing High School when John Fahey made his first record." Fahey's earliest recordings were released on custom edition 78 rpm discs on his friend Joe Bussard's record label, Fonotone.  In 1959 Fahey made his own record, recorded in his home town of Takoma Park, Maryland, and pressed by RCA Custom Recorders.
He pressed only 100 copies using money he earned pumping gas at a local station and a loan of $300 from an Episcopal minister. Some of the copies were broken on their way from the plant and others given away to friends. Fahey sent copies to folklorists and scholars around the country, as well as planting them in record stores and Goodwill bins for lucky customers to come across. The remainder were slowly sold over a period of four years. The material Fahey was playing and composing was unique in 1959.
As influential musicologist and friend Dick Spottswood related, "He was not someone who was going with what we perceived as the mainstream at that time. Don't forget those were the days when rhythm and blues were all of a sudden being marketed to the white audiences called by a new name, rock 'n' roll, and John certainly wasn't interested in doing any of that... he wasn't doing any of those things that people made a living at on that instrument in those days." The name for the mythical mentor came at a friend's suggestion. In an interview with Stefan Grossman in the 1980s, Fahey stated "The reason it said "blind" is because a lot of the people I learned from were on old 78 RPM records and a lot of them were blind, and their names were Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Joe Taggart, on and on, a whole bunch of them were blind.
Also I was thinking, when ever you print the word 'Death' people look at it and I was thinking of record sales already even though I was only going to have a hundred copies pressed." Years later Fahey related, "The whole point was to use the word 'death'." Blind Joe Death was my death instinct. He was also all the Negroes in the slums who were suffering. He was the incarnation, not only of my death wish, but of all the aggressive instincts in me." For years Fahey and Takoma continued to treat the imaginary guitarist Blind Joe Death as a real person, including booklets with their LPs containing biographical information about him including the "fact" that he had a guitar made from a baby's coffin and that he had taught Fahey to play. Fahey sometimes incorporated the myth of Blind Joe into his performances, wearing dark glasses and being led by the arm onto the stage. Reissues There are three different versions of Blind Joe Death. After moving to Berkeley, California, where he attended college, Fahey's career as guitarist began to take off.
Having recorded a minorly successful second album, Death Chants, Breakdowns & Military Waltzes in late 1963, Fahey decided to re-release his original efforts. However, he decided to rerecord much of the material, as he felt he had become a much better player. This second pressing claims that "On Doing an Evil Deed Blues", "In Christ There Is No East or West", "The Transcendental Waterfall", and "Uncloudy Day" are 1964 rerecordings and the rest ("St. Louis Blues", "Poor Boy Long Ways from Home", "John Henry", "Desperate Man Blues", "Sun Gonna Shine in My Back Door Someday Blues", and "Sligo River Blues") are the original 1959 versions. "Uncloudy Day" was actually the same recording, as was "St.
Louis Blues" in an edited version. The 1959 album contained a version of Blind Blake's "West Coast Blues", which (despite being rerecorded in 1964) was not included on the album. To fill the gap, the new version of "Transcendental Waterfall" was extended to over 10 minutes long, a glimpse of things to come. By 1967 Fahey had released a number of albums and was very successful. It was decided that his first two albums be released in stereo; they were both rerecorded, resulting in a third version of Blind Joe Death, with a new, shorter version of "The Transcendental Waterfall" and a new song, "I'm Gonna Do All I Can for My Lord". The 1967 version received five stars in the second edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide. It should be noted that the 1967 versions of Blind Joe Death and Death Chants, Breakdowns & Military Waltzes were actually recorded in mono, and briefly released on mono LP.
Later in 1967, these recordings were edited to create a stereo effect and released on stereo LP with new artwork. The 1959 album has only been re-issued on vinyl, under the original catalog # Takoma K80P-4447/4448. The 1996 Fantasy/Takoma CD release, The Legend of Blind Joe Death, contains the 1964 and 1967 versions of the album, with the exception of the later, shorter 1967 recording of "The Transcendental Waterfall", as mentioned above; a previously-unreleased 1964 recording of "West Coast Blues" is also included. Reception Professional ratings Review scores Source Rating Allmusic  Allmusic  Musician (not rated) Q Magazine (3 stars) Piero Scaruffi (5/10) Music critic Richie Unterberger wrote reissue liner notes for two of Fahey's later albums. In his Allmusic review of the 1964 release of Blind Joe Death Unterberger wrote, "The album's mystique probably owes more to the 1959 record's rarity (and utter oddity in the context of its era) than the music, in which Fahey's experimental blues-folk acoustic fusion is just beginning to take shape. It remains a very interesting record from a historical perspective, however, as few if any other guitarists were attempting to interpret blues and folk idioms in such an idiosyncratic fashion in the late '50s and early '60s." In its review of the 1997 reissue, Musician stated, "nobody had more emotional range or profound melodic gift than John Fahey....
Fahey's taste for the weirdly dissonant when dealing with foul emotions and his fascination with tone to the occasional exclusion of almost everything else is on fuller display here." Q Magazine gave the reissue 3 Stars, calling Fahey "a superlative acoustic guitar technician capable of blending elements of country, blues and ragtime into a style that in its spare, dark, haunting beauty was uniquely his own." Legacy On April 6, 2011, the album was deemed by the Library of Congress to be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" and added to the United States National Recording Registry for the year 2010. In a 2001 interview with VH1 discussing the influence and legacy of Fahey, Barry Hansen, a long-time friend and collaborator, said of Fahey's early career, "He basically started the whole idea of playing new music on traditional acoustic steel-string guitar. He was the original underground artist." Guitarist Leo Kottke said of Fahey "John created living, generative culture. With his guitar and his spellbound witness, he synthesized all the strains in American music and found a new happiness for all of us. With John, we have a voice only he could have given us; without him, no one will sound the same." Track listing Original 1959 track listing and credits as listed on the label: Side one 1."West Coast Blues" (Blind Blake) 2."St.
Louis Blues" (W. C. Handy) 3."I'm a Poor Boy a Long Ways from Home" (Barbecue Bob) 4."Uncloudy Day" (Josiah Kelley Alwood) 5."John Henry" (Traditional) 6."In Christ There Is no East or West" (Episcopal Church Hymn) Side two 1."The Transcendental Waterfall" (Fahey) 2."Desperate Man Blues" (arranged by Fahey) 3."Sun Gonna Shine in My Back Door Someday Blues" (arranged by Fahey) 4."Sligo River Blues" (Fahey) 5."On Doing an Evil Deed Blues" (Fahey) 1964 track listing: 1."St. Louis Blues" [edited version] 2."I'm a Poor Boy a Long Ways From Home" 3."Uncloudy Day" 4."John Henry" 5."In Christ There Is No East or West" [re-recorded] 6."The Transcendental Waterfall" [re-recorded] 7."Desperate Man Blues" 8."Sun Gonna Shine in My Back Door Someday Blues" 9."Sligo River Blues" 10."On Doing an Evil Deed Blues" [re-recorded] 1967 track listing--all tracks re-recorded: 1."On Doing An Evil Deed Blues" 2."St.
Louis Blues" 3."Poor Boy Long Ways From Home" 4."Uncloudy Day" 5."John Henry" 6."In Christ There Is No East Or West" 7."The Transcendental Waterfall" 8."Desperate Man Blues" 9."Sun Gonna Shine In My Back Door Someday Blues " 10."Sligo River Blues" 11."I'm Gonna Do All I Can For My Lord" The Legend of Blind Joe Death Compilation album by John Fahey Released 1996 Recorded 1964, 1967 Genre Folk Length 75:30 Label Takoma Reissue track listing (1996) 1."On Doing an Evil Deed Blues" (Fahey) – 5:07 2."St. Louis Blues" (Handy) – 4:53 3."Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home" (Fahey) – 3:12 4."Uncloudy Day" (Josiah Kelley Alwood) – 3:23 5."John Henry" (Traditional) – 3:20 6."In Christ There Is No East or West" (Harry Burleigh, John Oxenham) – 2:21 7."Desperate Man Blues" (Fahey) – 4:05 8."Sun Gonna Shine in My Back Door Someday Blues" (Fahey) – 3:32 9."Sligo River Blues" (Fahey) – 3:05 10."On Doing an Evil Deed Blues" (Fahey) – 3:56 11."St. Louis Blues" (Handy) – 3:15 12."Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home" (Fahey) – 2:23 13."Uncloudy Day" (Josiah Kelley Alwood) – 2:22 14."John Henry" (Traditional) – 2:05 15."In Christ There Is No East or West" (Burleigh, Oxenham) – 2:43 16."Desperate Man Blues" (Fahey) – 3:58 17."Sun Gonna Shine in My Back Door Someday Blues" (Fahey) – 4:39 18."Sligo River Blues" (Fahey) – 2:33 19."I'm Gonna Do All I Can for My Lord" (Fahey) – 1:24 20."The Transcendental Waterfall" (Fahey) – 10:36 21."West Coast Blues" (Fahey) – 1:25 Personnel John Fahey – guitar Pat Sullivan – engineer (1959 version) References 1.^ Jump up to: a b c Miller, Dale (1992). "Reinventing the Steel".
Acoustic Guitar (January/February): 46. Retrieved April 12, 2010. 2.^ Jump up to: a b c d Unterberger, Richie. "Blind Joe Death > Review". Allmusic.
Retrieved January 26, 2010. 3.Jump up ^ Cook, Richard (January 2000). "No words can express > Review". New Statesman: 137. 4.^ Jump up to: a b National Recording Preservation Board, 2010 Selections 5.^ Jump up to: a b Grossman, Stefan (1980s). "John Fahey Interview".
Retrieved April 12, 2010. 6.Jump up ^ Dunlap Jr., David (July 7, 2006). "The Cosmos Club". Washington City Paper. Retrieved March 10, 2010. 7.Jump up ^ Coley, Byron (May 2001).
"The Persecutions and Resurrections of Blind Joe Death". Perfect Sound Forever. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 8.Jump up ^ Dean, Eddie (February 12, 1998). "Desperate Man Blues: Record collector Joe Bussard parties like it's 1929".
Washington City Paper. Retrieved May 8, 2009. 9.Jump up ^ Dean, Eddie (March 9–15, 2001). "In Memory of Blind Thomas of Old Takoma". Washington City Paper.
Retrieved January 5, 2010. 10.Jump up ^ According to The Rolling Stone Record Guide, First Edition (1979), "there were only ninety-five copies of the record available for distribution." The Guide assigns the record 5 stars out of 5. 11.Jump up ^ Pouncey, Edwin (August 1998). "Blood on the Frets". The Wire (174).
Retrieved March 15, 2010. 12.Jump up ^ Fahey, John. "Original Liner Notes: Death Chants, Breakdowns, and Military Waltzes". Takoma Records. Retrieved January 5, 2010. 13.Jump up ^ Sullivan, John Jeremiah (2009).
Best Music Writing 2009: Unknown Bards. Seal Press. p. 29.
ISBN 978-0-306-81782-3. 14.Jump up ^ Gordon, Robert (2001). It Came From Memphis. Simon and Schuster. p.
128. ISBN 978-0-7434-1045-8. 15.Jump up ^ http://www.johnfahey.com/pages/bjd2.html 16.^ Jump up to: a b c Unterberger, Richie. "The Legend of Blind Joe Death > Review". Allmusic.
Retrieved March 6, 2009. 17.Jump up ^ 5-Star albums listing. Rolling Stone Record Guide. 1983. Second Edition. 18.^ Jump up to: a b "The Legend of Blind Joe Death > Review".
Musician: 90. March 1997. 19.^ Jump up to: a b "The Legend of Blind Joe Death > Review". Q Magazine: 137. July 1996. 20.Jump up ^ Scaruffi, Piero (1999).
"John Fahey". pieroscaruffi.com. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 21.Jump up ^ Gehr, Richard. "Tormented Genius John Fahey had Rekindled Creative Fire".
VH1. Retrieved March 29, 2009. 22.Jump up ^ Photo of Side one of the 1959 edition. 23.Jump up ^ Photo of Side two of the 1959 edition. External links Liner notes for the 1964 reissue. 1996 reissue liner notes by Glenn Jones. Blind Joe Death official website [hide] v · t · e John Fahey Studio albums Blind Joe Death · Death Chants, Breakdowns & Military Waltzes · The Dance of Death & Other Plantation Favorites · The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death · The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party & Other Excursions · Days Have Gone By · The Voice of the Turtle · Requia · The Yellow Princess · The New Possibility · America · Of Rivers and Religion · After the Ball · Fare Forward Voyagers (Soldier's Choice) · Old Fashioned Love · Christmas with John Fahey Vol. II · John Fahey Visits Washington D.C. · Yes! Jesus Loves Me · Railroad · Let Go · Popular Songs For Christmas and the New Year · Rain Forests, Oceans and Other Themes · I Remember Blind Joe Death · God, Time and Causality · Old Girlfriends and Other Horrible Memories · City of Refuge · Womblife · Hitomi · Red Cross 78s and EPs The Fonotone Sessions · Double 78 · The Mill Pond Live albums Live in Tasmania · Georgia Stomps, Atlanta Struts and Other Contemporary Dance Favorites · The Great Santa Barbara Oil Slick · On Air Collaborations The Epiphany of Glenn Jones · John Fahey Trio KBOO · John Fahey Trio, Vol.
One Split albums Leo Kottke, John Fahey & Peter Lang Compilations The Early Sessions · The Essential John Fahey · The Best of John Fahey 1959–1977 · The Return of the Repressed: The John Fahey Anthology · The Legend of Blind Joe Death · The Best of the Vanguard Years · The Best of John Fahey, Vol. 2: 1964–1983 · Sea Changes & Coelacanths: A Young Person's Guide to John Fahey · Vanguard Visionaries · Twilight on Prince Georges Avenue: Essential Recordings Tribute albums A Tribute to John Fahey · I Am the Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey · Friends of Fahey Tribute · The Revenge of Blind Joe Death: The John Fahey Tribute Album · The Great Koonaklaster Speaks: A John Fahey Celebration Related articles Discography · American Primitivism · Takoma Records · Revenant Records · Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 4 · Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues: The Worlds of Charley Patton Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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